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Why You Need A Sales Strategy? 5 Simple Strategies To Help You Build One

Why You Need A Sales Strategy? 5 Simple Strategies To Help You Build One

In the last two weeks I have visited with four different companies, meet with a number of leaders, only to discover while all have rock solid strategic plans not a single leader has a sales strategy. Not one of these organizations has a plan, a defined way of saying how they are going to acquire new customers, expand existing relationships and sell more products and services.

Oh sure those statements, those goals were part of their overall strategic plan, but there was not one clearly stated strategy of how those goals and sales objectives were going to be met. When I asked the question, do you have a sales strategy; all said yes it is in our strategic plan. But understand that stated sales goals and objectives do not make a sales strategy. When I pointed that out, the question then became why, why do we need a separate sales strategy?

Well, I don’t know if your sales strategy needs to be separate from your strategic plan, but it does need to have its own section and it does need to be detailed. Why? Because sales is the lifeblood of your business, understanding and communicating how you acquire customers and sell products and services, that is key to your success and key to your survival. Without sales you have no cash flow, you have no customers, you have no growth and in essence you have no company.

Because sales is so important, you need to clearly define what you want and need to achieve through sales, what market or customer base you want to go after, what you are going to sell, and then most importantly how you are going to sell it. Being clear not only gets everyone in your company on the same page, it ensures they are focused and clear on what needs to be accomplished, how they are going to accomplish it and why it matters.

In addition, if gives you, as the CEO or leader, a benchmark and a way to see if all the effort your sales teams and associates are investing is making progress. A way to understand if what you’re actively doing is putting you on target to reach your goals, and a way to know when you need to chance course or adjust your strategy. A sales strategy creates the vision, develops the path and provides the numbers and data to ensure objectives and goals are being met. So how do you create an effective sales strategy?

5 Key Steps To Build A Powerful Sales Strategy

#1: Set A Goal

You need to clearly define a sales goal or objective, what you are trying to accomplish and why. With a goal defined, you are clear about what success looks like and you can build the plan to get there. As Steven Covey said, begin with the end in mind. It is not until you know what you want to achieve that you can begin to understand how to get there.

#2: Define Your Target Market

Once you have your goal set, you can turn your attention to your target market. As you look at the products and services you have to sell, the areas of your company in which you want growth, then you can define which types of customers can help you get there. Here is a news flash, not everyone wants to do business with you, and here is another news flash, you do not want to do business with everyone. So use your sales strategy to clearly focus your team on who the right and best customers are, and those most likely to help you achieve your goal.

#3: Create The Path

Next you need to define the path, how you are going to sell, what you are going to sell and who is going to do what. Creating the path is about ensuring everyone on the team understands they are in sales. Defining what their role or position is as it relates to sales and what sales behaviors you expect from them. This leaves no confusion or miscommunication on the table. You and everyone else on your team understands exactly what is being done on a daily basis to achieve your sales goal. The other part of the path is about defining what products you are going to offer and what services you are going to sell.

#4: Embrace Accountability

Key to the sales strategy is to embrace accountability and integrate it deep into your culture. You need to ensure that the sales strategy is being executed and the sales behaviors are being don on a daily basis. Accountability is also about helping  people gain the skills and knowledge to be more effective and successful. Accountability is the story of your sales strategy, helping you understand what is working, what is not and giving you the information you need to flex, change and move forward.

#5: Reward & Recognize

And of course, a vital part of your sales strategy is to reward and recognize. Make sure that you are shining the light on the successes that you have, giving extra attention to those that are really going above and beyond, and that you are recognizing any and all efforts that are being made. All too often, as leaders, we are so focused on the goal that we forget to reward the small stuff,  the everyday progress our team members are making.


So there you have it, that is basically it! Oh yeah, we can get far more detailed and way more complicated, but when it comes to sales simple is better. A Sales Strategy is key to your success in today’s economy, and the discipline of writing it out, communicating it to your team and holding yourselves accountable to achieve it is your best strategy to ensure you succeed no matter what this economy does.

How To Conduct A Killer Follow-Up

How To Conduct A Killer Follow-Up

A proper follow-up can make or break a sale. It is also highly underestimated in its effectiveness. Without proper follow-up, many sales die. Rookie salespeople make the mistake of assuming that their job is done after the sales call when in reality that’s when the real job begins. An effective follow-up takes planning and tenacity.  In fact, it’s so important that only 2% of sales are made on the first contact. A whopping 48% of salespeople never follow-up with a prospect! Could this be why 80% of sales are made by 8% of salespeople?

Let’s discuss some techniques for a killer follow-up plan.

  1. Always set a plan for follow up – don’t leave the initial meeting without a meeting set or clearly defined next steps. Plan for another phone call or in person meeting. This will help secure things and maintain accountability between both parties.
  2. Reiterate the value you bring to the table. – Don’t let them forget what it is you have to offer and what you’re going to do for their company. Reinforce the value proposition as it relates to their need.
  3. Offer free value as a follow-up – After initial follow up- send them a quick piece of advice personalized to their business. It sends the impression that you are actively thinking and engaging in bettering their business.  For example “Hey I was checking out your website and I noticed _____” Or, “I was speaking to ______ and I wanted to introduce you because _____”
  4. Connect on Linkedin – This small gesture can go a long way.
  5. Don’t be pushy – Nobody wants to do business with the pushy greedy salesperson. Following up doesn’t look pushy as long as its done in the right manner and systematically.
  6. Close The Deal – Now that you have established proper follow-up, you should be primed and ready to seal the deal!

Source * National Sales Executive Association

Sales Development: Build on Strengths, Eliminate Weaknesses or Acquire New Competencies?

Sales Development: Build on Strengths, Eliminate Weaknesses or Acquire New Competencies?

If you had only $1 to invest in the development of a salesperson, how would you spend the money?

It depends…

As are most decisions in business, it’s not a simple matter of choosing among a number of possibilities.

There isn’t only one answer. It’s normally a blend of the options available.

The most important criteria for choosing the “right” solution depends less on what the sales pundits pronounce as the essentials of sales, and more on the strategic context of the organization.

The approaches vary with each organization; a boiler plate solution is not only misleading, it can lead to dysfunctional sales results.

Sales does not operate in a vacuum; its function is to deliver their part of the strategic game plan of the organization.

The appropriate mix of building on strengths, eliminating weaknesses or acquiring new competencies is driven by what the organization is trying to achieve.

Decide on WHAT has to be done by your organizational strategy and THEN, if you must, go to the experts to help you get there.

If you are a sales manager here’s the process I suggest you go through as you create a development plan for each one of your salespeople.

First, double back on the strategy of your organization. Make sure you understand EXACTLY what it seeks to achieve.

Your role is to translate the strategy to the sales tactical level. Determine the role of sales in delivering the strategy. Unless you understand in detail what sales must do to fulfill its strategic role you will have no context to decide how your sales force should be “developed”.

Break down the sales role into the specific competencies each salesperson must have to contribute to the overall sales role.

Look at each salesperson in terms of their specific skills and competencies. Where they are in alignment with the requirements; where do they fall short; where are there new competencies that need to be acquired?

For each salesperson, create a development plan based on your findings. Each person will have a different mix of “build on strengths” vs. “eliminate weaknesses” vs. “acquire new competencies” based on where they are today.

A one size fits all simply doesn’t work. Everyone is at a different stage of development relative to the organization’s strategy.

And as the strategy changes (and it will) sales development plans for each individual will likely require change as well.

5 Attributes & Best Practices of Key Account Management that You May Have Never Heard of

5 Attributes & Best Practices of Key Account Management that You May Have Never Heard of

I am sure you know the 80-20 Pareto Principle. 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers and vice-versa. So, you are spending more time and energy in handling 80% of your customers who are just giving you 20% of your revenue. Does it make sense? Shouldn’t you be focusing on the top 20% customers and serving only them? These are valid questions that you need to ponder over.

But it may not be wise to quit the lower 80% market that gives you just 20% of your revenue and focus only on high value customers. Your next set of high value customers have to come from the next rung, say 60-80% level, of customers. You have to groom your customers. Growth is the only thing that will help you attain success in business. To achieve growth, you need to have growing customers with whom you can grow. Not just few customers who will demand high commitment for a huge top line and a poor bottom line.

#1: Key Account Definition

Each organization defines Key Account differently, but a definition is definitely essential. In simple words, these accounts should be the key to your growth and success. Without them, you will take a long time and effort to reach where you want to go. And these Key accounts should give you the credibility and should help you generate more business from their Industry.

#2: Key Account Identification

It is like picking stocks in a volatile stock market. If you are going to buy a stock after it has become a much talked about one, then you are probably not going to make much gains. Similarly, if you identify your key accounts after your competition has identified them, it is not going to help. You need to identify your key accounts much earlier. For this you need to understand the customers’ business, profitability, business issues, priorities, market share, growth projections, innovations, their industry growth projections, the people who are running the company etc. You need to be there before they call you.

#3: No. of Key Accounts

This is an important factor. You have defined and identified the Key Accounts. But now, how many of them do you want to handle as Key Accounts? Your leadership should take a call on this. This is because, when you have resources to manage only 100 Key Accounts you should not take up 200 Key Accounts to manage. You will not do justice and the purpose will be lost. Also, the most important thing to remember when you are deciding the number of Key Accounts that you want to handle is this: As the old adage goes, “don’t put all eggs in one basket”.

#4: Key Account Strategies

What strategies will you adopt once you have identified your Key Accounts? Create a process that you will follow once you are in. But have the courage to change course if that process doesn’t suit the customer. Some of the strategies, you can consider are:

  1. Partner with the client.
  2. Implement a Consultative Sales Methodology.
  3. Identify projects that would give maximum impact or return on investments [ROI].
  4. Be there early in the Buying Process. Better still, be there before they identify their needs.
  5. Educate the customer at regular intervals.
  6. Become an authentic source of information from your Industry for your client.
  7. Understand the business scenario and identify the pain points before the client does.
  8. Have a methodical approach. Don’t rush things.
  9. Map the entire Organizational Hierarchy. Identify the Decision Makers, Budget Holders, Influencers, Consultants, Users etc.
  10. Communication has to be of the top order.
  11. Commitment from your Top Management, at optimum intervals, is important to get the relationship going.
  12. Don’t be transaction oriented.
  13. Always look at the opportunities with these ideas – 1) That you can make a case study and implement similar projects in other client places in the same industry or 2) That you can identify some issues or repetitive tasks and make a product for this pain point.
  14. Focus on Customer Life Time Value [LTV] than just the top line.
  15. Meet all the Contacts at regular intervals.
  16. Develop friendship with all your Contacts.
  17. Provide them value in each interaction.
  18. Be interesting always.
  19. Be enthusiastic at all times.
  20. Be a Powerhouse of energy forever.
  21. Be a mobile university for your clients.
  22. Be the “Go to Guy” for all your contacts.

#5: Grooming and Growing your Key Accounts

  1. Make your Key Accounts look good [isn’t that Grooming] in front of their customers.
  2. Make your customers respond faster to their clients.
  3. Help your customers attend to their customers’ issues.
  4. Share ideas for improving your clients business.
  5. Get your customers to stand out from their competition.
  6. Be creative. Crack some of their pestering problems.
  7. Create new opportunities for your business.
  8. Don’t sell on price. Sell on value.
  9. Act and work like a partner. And not like a vendor.
  10. Invest your time, energy and resource to grow the account.
  11. Get to know their strategies, next moves, new products, innovations before the market gets to know them.
  12. Service, Sacrifice and Satisfaction are the routes to success.
  13. Be there before they need you.
  14. Be one of them.
  15. Laugh with them. Eat with them. Play with them. Whatever you do, build TRUST.

Key Account Management calls for focused efforts and specialised Sales Techniques. Providing value on a consistent basis is the key to success, in short.

Open More Doors, Close More Sales. 3 Strategies To Turn A Prospect Into A Customer

Open More Doors, Close More Sales. 3 Strategies To Turn A Prospect Into A Customer

These are at best challenging economic times! When I think about the pace of change, demanding customers and increasing competition, I think sometimes it is easier to find Waldo than it is to find new business. Add to that the expanding regulations and threat of changes (up or down) with interest rates, it can be even more difficult to get our prospects to make a decision and to actually get them to close the deal.

There is so much that can impact our ability to bring in new business which is out of our control, but that still does not change the fact that we have goals to meet, business that needs to get done, and bottom lines that need to be built. Despite all of the economic challenges and uncertainty we are facing these days, I still do believe this is one of the best times to grow your business and bring on new clients. You just need to understand this new economy, and understand what it takes in today’s highly competitive market to open more doors and close more sales!

First you need to understand this economy is not up or down– it is different, radically changed. This is an economy where the consumer, your prospect, is in control. They believe they can buy anything they want whenever they want, wherever they want and from whomever they want. That makes what we sell, what we offer, no matter how amazing or different we think it is, to the average prospect it has become a commodity. When our products and services become a commodity, it is not what we sell, but how we sell it that makes the difference. It is the how we do things that gives us our competitive advantage.

So how do we sell in this economy? How do we open more doors and close more sales? Here are three strategies you need in this economy to turn more of your prospects into your long-term customers.

3 Strategies To Turn A Prospect Into A Customer

#1: New Sales Funnel

First you need to understand that today’s sale cycle is dramatically different, the sales funnel has changed from an actual funnel to work more like an hour glass. In years past our sales strategy was to call aggressively on prospects until we got them to buy one product or service, and then we declared them a customer and moved on to the next prospect.

In today’s economy moving too aggressively will push prospects away, and not staying actively involved once they become a customer will send them to your competition. So the sales funnel you need to work today is different and the actions you take unique. It starts with relationship building and pulling the prospect into wanting to get to know you. Remember the only thing differentiating you from your competition is your ability to get the prospect to know, like and trust you, and to do that you need to give the relationship time to build and grow.

Once the prospect decides to buy a product or service with you, you need to understand this is your moment to shine. The Close-more-salesprospect has moves in the neck of our new sales funnel and they are “trying you out”, giving you a shot to win their long-term business. The first experience your prospect has with you will determine if this is a one-time transaction or a long-term relationship. If you do it right, if you deliver an amazing experience, your customer/prospect will slip into the base of the funnel. And the base of the funnel is where trust is built and the selling process begins.

In today’s economy, once customers trust you, they are ready to buy from you and they are ready for you to aggressively sell. With the relationship built, customers expect you to proactively suggest products and services.

#2: Invest Before You Ask

In today’s economy is not what the prospect can do for you, but what you can do for your prospect. When it comes to sales we hear so much “me” language, and we learn so many skills about how the customers can help us achieve our goals. To sell today you need to slow the sales process down, invest the time to really listen to the customer and hear what is important to them and what they need. Doing that accomplishes two things, first it tells the customer you care, you are interested and that this relationship will always be more about them than it is about you. Second, it gives you the exact information you need to actually sell the customer. If you listen to the customer, invest in them, they will tell you exactly what they want and need. All you have to do is take action.

#3: Follow-up & Follow Thru

The chances that you are going to call on a prospect at the exact time they need your product or service are slim to none. So if you want to turn more prospects into customers you need to follow-up and follow-thru. In other words you need to stay in the game. The goal with sales is to again build the relationship, but then continue to add value to it in a way that ensures you are the person your prospects think of when they are ready to buy!

So yes, these are challenging economic times, but it does not mean it is not a great time to grow your business. If you understand this new economy, understand how your prospects and customers have changed, and follow these three strategies then you will open more doors and close more sales. Remember, it is not what you sell, but how you sell it that is going to turn your prospects into customers.

New Business Strategy: Where to Focus

New Business Strategy: Where to Focus

It seems like everyone is looking for a one-size-fits-all strategy for outbound. And unfortunately there are plenty of sales experts encouraging this idea by claiming that they have ‘the magic formula.’ With multiple variables like a prospect’s vertical, state of the market, target buyer personas, etc. a company must consider many factors before selecting which initial approach is best suited for their business.

There are several distinct prospecting methods to choose from: mass, customized, personalized or enterprise strategy. It is easy to understand how companies can get off on the wrong foot.

The following three steps (along with potential obstacles) will help you stay focused so you can determine the most effective initial outbound strategy for your business.

As my mentor, author of Predictable Revenue, Aaron Ross says, you’ll want to focus outbound efforts “on the largest deals that have the highest probability of closing.”

#1: Define your niche by focusing on the types of deals where you have had the most success

Zero in on specifics including vertical, size of company, buyer personas, key indicators and various technologies used. Generating conversations with net new prospects will be easier if you’ve already closed a handful of deals with recognizable competitors.

Companies often make the mistake of making their niche too broad, lumping together a wide range of different sized companies into one campaign. Early stage companies will have unique problems and concerns compared to later stage companies in the same vertical. For example, a Medical Device company of 10 people has very different objectives than a 100 person Medical Device company. The messaging in an outbound campaign selling quality management software will be different in early vs. later stage companies even though they are in the same vertical. Thus the more narrow the niche, the better you’ll be able to position your solution in a meaningful way for your key stakeholders.

#2: Apply this same level of focus to building your list

Whether you’re buying lists from data providers, have the prospectors creating their own lists, or outsource the list building– expect to keep a laser-like focus on building out one vertical at a time.

More often than not, companies tend to lose focus when it comes to list building. Companies make the mistake of building their prospecting list including several verticals instead of one. Even though your unique value proposition remains same, the keywords, positioning and proof points will vary with each vertical. For example, you may be selling a website optimization solution. Your campaign’s messaging will differ if you are reaching out to retailers, publishing companies, or financial service companies. Every vertical has its own nuances. It is most effective to tackle one vertical at a time.

#3: Determine the size of your total addressable market within your niche

Does your market represent tens of thousands of ideal prospects or a couple thousand?

A common mistake I see with companies launching outbound, is assuming their ideal market is bigger than it actually is. As a result these companies may select an ill-fitted approach to reach their ideal prospects. For example, a recent client wanted to launch their outbound program with 3 prospectors. They were certain their market consisted of endless retailers and wanted to use a mass approach. However after we zeroed in on their first vertical and list building criteria, we discovered their ideal list was actually about eight hundred companies. With that small of a market, the content needed to be thoughtful and engaging. Thankfully we had already begun crafting a customized content strategy. Otherwise we would have needed to recreate our content, potentially delaying our launch date further.

Both the ‘size of your niche’ and ‘state of the market’ are great indicators of the level of customization needed in your outbound approach. In both small and highly competitive markets, every touch matters. It becomes critically important to create compelling content tailored specifically for your key stakeholder’s needs. The noisier the market, the more personalization becomes a ‘must have’ in order to stand out from the hundreds of competitors attempting to connect with your prospects.

There are many paths to building a successful outbound sales machine. Each approach whether mass, customized, personalized or enterprise involve a process of testing and iteration before you’ll be able to establish a repeatable process for generating consistent qualified opportunities. The most essential component to constructing your unique outbound formula will be maintaining focus.

Sales Force – Utilizing Strength for Maximum Productivity

Sales Force – Utilizing Strength for Maximum Productivity

The sales force is a backbone for any corporate player. No company can afford to demoralize or de-motivate its sales force since it can directly impact a company’s performance momentum and can decline growth. Someone nicely quoted – The sales team is the biggest strength for any company but at the same time it is the biggest weakness as well.” Being aware of the ground reality importance of sales task force, almost every company take care of every person by introducing different attractive employee friendly policies and by expressing personal interest in motivating them. Companies are always keen to identify certain ways how to utilize the maximum strength of its salesforce and how to achieve the maximum out of it or try to figure out sales force productivity metrics.

Since last decade, the productivity of the sales team has emerged as one of the key concerns in the industry. Sales productivity is the rate at which a salesperson generates revenue for the company. Rather than pushing salesforce to work more and work harder, an increase in sales productivity is concerned with the sales force using their time smartly and more effectively. In order to sustain or to boost the productivity rate, the companies have to set some realistic as well as practical goals like I described below.

An Ideal Game Plan

To improve sales productivity, companies can consider many factors. The responsibility of rising in salesforce productivity does not lie solely with the sales team only. The company is also equally responsible for the same and should invest equal efforts as well. The company can hire some specialist or can use sales productivity software which can be a positive move toward increasing sales productivity.

When it comes to your sales force, productivity is all about making sure you keep your men busy in activities that lead to sales outcomes. It’s up to you to remove as many of the obstacles that prevent sales professionals from selling as is possible and that you keep your team motivated and determined to surpass the sales targets that have been established.

Oneil Williams, Demand Media

An inter-department communication can be improved to let the sales team access all necessary information. Companies can also support sales teams with the required technology when and where it is needed if sales productivity is to be successfully addressed.

The sales team may require frequent refreshment and motivation in order to maintain the momentum on the field. Companies must be very well aware of this fact. Picnics, parties, plays, movie sessions of package tour can be offered to the salesperson. A mentor can also be hired to conduct motivation sessions.

Before this multi-pronged sales productivity strategy can be implemented, a set of clearly defined sales force productivity metrics needs to be established. Because companies that successfully raise their sales productivity, often establish a roadmap and a set of processes based on which future revenue growth can be achieved.

The Speed Breakers and Roadblocks

Before implementing any new or revolutionary strategy, companies need to identify possible loopholes or roadblocks hampering their sales productivity. Some studies and research have shown that salespersons actually spend only 41% of their time selling every week. What then consumes the rest of the sales person’s working time?

There are a number of factors that may lead to this misallocation of time. Each meeting that sales reps attend should be assessed. Because it’s possible particular meeting may unnecessary sometimes. If their presence isn’t absolutely necessary perhaps the meeting can be struck off their calendar. Companies must also ensure that any administrative tasks that can be automated are not being performed manually as it can reduce the load on a salesperson. For example, sales reps can leverage their unique salesforce software email address by sending a blind-copy of any email to outbound customers or prospects to themselves. By taking this step, it will automatically get updated the activity on the contact or lead’s record, meaning the salesperson does not have to waste time on a manual update. This is just a common example of the non-selling activities salesperson might be engaged in.

If a salesperson is spending more than half of his time in non-selling activities, there might well be a number of other tasks that are unnecessarily being performed manually. One way to identify this wastage is for sales managers to perform a ride-along with their teammates. This minor commitment by the sales manager can free the salesperson from multiple non-selling activities which are actually damaging sales productivity. Entire sales teams may need to undergo a training session or two to incorporate a set of automated tasks into their processes. Through a simple analysis of sales team’s non-selling activities, a salesperson can refocus previously wasted time on engaged selling.

Sales Force Productivity Metrics

The solid step to boost sales productivity is related to the establishment of a set of clearly defined salesforce productivity metrics. The metrics should include sales targets as well as sales productivity adoption techniques like use of CRM and smartphone salesforce apps. The sales team can be trained to get familiar with these types of software. The whole salesforce can be restructured into groups based on individual KPIs. Each group can work independently in parallel.

Such adoption of metrics can be as simple as running a report on the company CRM system and shouldn’t need to involve the other units of the company. It can also help to instigate a system that rewards sales reps for utilizing these new techniques.


Once all these strategies and techniques applied, a review exercises should be carried out by the company to evaluate the impact on sales productivity and to check whether the adopted set of best practices can be enshrined as a roadmap for sustained sales productivity or not. A concerted effort from all departments of the company can increase sales productivity rapidly along with systematic approaches, however, each company does not face same challenges and issues so there are no precisely written steps to boost sales force productivity.

Building a Solid Relationship with Your Clients

Building a Solid Relationship with Your Clients

To exceed your business expectations aim to bring more and greater value to your clients, do not hold anything back. This is the simplest and most effective way of truly building a solid relationship.

Some strategies to create more valuable and long term relationship with clients:

  • Really understand their needs, you got to think like a client yourself.
  • Really try your best to examine and be aware of their expectations of your products and services.
  • Deliver over their expectations with every single interaction you have with them
  • Be aware of the changes that affect them (importantly technology changes)

If you can ace and cover all these areas then you will earn their loyalty then you can focus more on gaining new clients and growing your business.

Important questions to help you create more value and long term relationship with client (old & new)

  1. What’s the main problem you’re experiencing right now with your clients?
  2. Do you know who your clients are?
  3. How well do you really know your clients?
  4. Do you really understand each and every one of their needs?
  5. Do you do regular follow ups with each of them?
  6. Do you know how to resolve each of their problems?

Some Strategies to help answer these questions:

  • Surveys and feedbacks are still the greatest way to identifying each client’s problems so that you better serve them. Keeping in mind that each may not have the same problems as the other.
  • To effectively identify your client and who they are, study your product information and list down what your target client might find special and interesting. You can also get feedback with existing clients and add to your list.
  • One-on-one interaction is the best way to find out more about each of your clients. Once you have a better understanding of them, then you can review your products and services to better suit various areas of their business.
  • Depending on how much clients you have, you may need to create for each client or each client unit a particular approach and follow up system.


For 2016 small businesses as well as older businesses should focus more on reviewing their products and services and really create a new and strong message around “WHY US”.

Technology changes are so rapid in this day and age; product upgrade and tracking of customers’ behavioural pattern is now a greater importance. This helps you prepare more new value to deliver your client and their business, so you don’t lose their loyalty.

While catering for the new changes that will affect the client’s needs, you also have to consider altering your sales processes and a good recommendation is to introduce Pipeliner CRM into your business.

Seventeen Things to Do Before Engaging a Prospect

Seventeen Things to Do Before Engaging a Prospect

They say that people buy from people they like and people like people who know them. More and more B2B salespeople must become trusted advisors rather than transactional order takers.

A lot is written about the customer journey and influenced them over the course of that journey with content designed to inform and influence their decision-making. Whether you are about to engage a prospect at the beginning or towards the end of their journey, it is critical to know as much about them as possible to differentiate yourself from competitors. Preparedness can impress and give you an edge.

The following seventeen things can help you prepare in engaging a prospect.

#1: Google Them

While it may seem like stating the obvious, people often overlook the power of Google and the information it can illuminate for them. There is a joke that says the best place to bury a body is on page two of Google search results. Take the trouble to go to page two and beyond if there are still pertinent results worth pursuing.

#2: Review their LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn has gone from an online job board or the electronic equivalent of the Chamber of Commerce to one of the most critical professional networking platforms. Many LinkedIn profiles are rich with data that is free and readily available to you. Why not take advantage of it?

#3: Look for mutual connections

I used to work in film and television and the only way you found work was by who you knew. Without LinkedIn and the Internet, networking your way to a new job was challenging and took much more time. LinkedIn makes networks transparent so you can leverage mutual connections to map your way into an account. You can also identify the best referral source based on the number and/or strength of your shared connections.

#4: Where they went to school

You cannot underestimate the value of alumni. What if during your review of their LinkedIn profile or research, you learned that you went to the same university, took the same program, or both have an MBA. Any of those things in common could help you make a connection and build rapport with your prospect.

#5: Past roles

Look at their previous roles to see where they worked, who might’ve worked with them that you already know, and what kind of intel you can gather as a result.

#6: Recent Activity

Check their recent activity to see what they’ve shared, liked, or commented on to get a gauge of their interests and the kind of content and news that gets their attention. Look at the Pulse channels and influencers they follow too. They will also give you some insight into their interests and what gets their attention.

#7: New connections

See who they connected with recently, especially if it was with a shared connection or competitor.

#8: Groups

Take a look at the groups they are members of to see if you share any mutual groups or to flag groups you should consider joining as an indirect way of targeting them.

#9: Contact Information

You would be surprised how many people don’t bother checking the contact info section of someone on LinkedIn to see what they include. Sometimes they provide their email and/or phone number. That’s a gift for salespeople! They might also share the social account information or links to their blog or some other sites containing valuable information. You just have to look.

#10: Chrome Extensions

There are some Chrome Extensions that can help make you more productive with your prospect profiling. Here are just a few. Discovery will show you if someone on LinkedIn shares any friends on Facebook, bringing another connection path to your attention. LinkedIn Connection Revealer will give you an idea of how many connections someone has. Rapportive for Gmail will reveal their social profiles within your inbox. eLink will automate some of your interactions to introduce you to prospects and build engagement. JustClipIt will enable you to capture profile data for a variety of social networks including LinkedIn.

#11: Twitter

Sometimes people are more easily engaged or connected with via Twitter than LinkedIn, so it is worth considering as another avenue for making connections and building rapport. Furthermore, you will be able to get a better sense of them by who they follow, what they share, and with whom they interact.

#12: Instagram

Since Instagram has grown to be the number two social network in the world, there is a good chance that your prospects have an account there so check it out. See what they are sharing and learn more about their interests.

#13: Snapchat

Just like Instagram, Snapchat is growing, and you should, at least, be paying attention to it. Its membership may skew to high school and college-aged people right now but increasingly brands and organizations are establishing a presence. Ignore it at your peril.

#14: Industry or Trade Associations

Just because a lot of new and emerging platforms are mentioned here, it doesn’t mean the tried and true approaches like leveraging industry or trade associations should be ignored. They say to fish where the fish are so if they happen to be members of industry or trade associations then give some thought to how you can navigate your way to your prospects via those same associations. See how much you can learn about the members of an association from the association’s website. Sometimes there’s a searchable directory.

#15: Slideshare

Presentations hosted on Slideshare garner engagement and can be embedded within LinkedIn profiles as well as websites. Look at Slideshare to see if your prospects or their companies have shared any presentations from which you can derive valuable information.

#16: YouTube

While many people have spent time on YouTube watching cat videos or videos of dogs on skateboards, it is worth remembering that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world filled with valuable information. Take a few moments to see if there are any videos about or containing footage of your prospect.

#17: Vimeo

YouTube might be the larger video platform, but many organizations choose Vimeo because of it has a more professional look and feel. It is not overrun with ads, and the videos tend to be of more professional quality. There could be a good chance that your prospect and/or their organization chose to use Vimeo instead to host their video(s).

Now I recognize that giving seventeen things to do before engaging a prospect would seem like a daunting list, at first, glance. Many would dismiss one or more of them as a waste of time. I am not suggesting that you spend hours using all of them to learn more about a single prospect. However, I am suggesting that you try as many of them that spark your interest at least once and keep what works for you. Not every one of your prospects will be active in social media so you may not want to devote too much or anytime to seeing what their digital footprint might be if is going to be nonexistent.

It is not about spending an inordinate amount of time on researching your prospects. It is about being more productive and efficient using tools and methods that your competition may have ignored. It is about finding insights about your prospects that will enable you to build trust and rapport better and more deeply than your competitors.

Are you up to it? Do you have other tools and methods that you would like to add to the list? I am all ears.

Activity Versus Progress

Activity Versus Progress

Economist Fredmund Malik said, “Results should give pleasure.” People often get distracted or confused in certain selling activities. Top performers seem to have a sixth sense about when buyers or committees aren’t going to buy and will remove them from their pipelines. B and C Players, on the other hand, get excited just because prospects are willing to talk or have a meeting with them.

In my mind progress in determining if opportunities are qualified should be measured with buyer actions. Mediocre sellers are delighted to receive a blind RFP’s inviting them to bid. Better salespeople realize RFP’s are likely to have been wired by other vendors and realize that if they are unable to influence the requirements they in all likelihood have about a 5% chance of winning the business. In this case, A Players will contact the person overseeing the RFP to request access to 2 or 3 likely titles that would be involved in making the decision. If access is refused, the best course of action may be to send a written response saying that without understanding the business issues it would be impossible to make a professional response, so the seller respectfully does not bid the RFP.

Another example of activity is having several calls with lower level staff that cannot buy. B & C Players will expend resources, provide pricing or even submit written proposals without gaining access to higher levels. Fairly early on in the process, if a prospect requests a demo the seller can offer a quid pro quo such as: You had indicated that (higher level title) would have to approve budget. If you like what you see in the demonstration would you be willing to schedule a meeting with him/her?

While there are many examples of activity vs. progress, I’ll leave you with what I feel is one of the most important buyer actions. This applies not only to direct contact sellers have with prospects. It’s also relevant while nurturing website visitors and is based upon the first core concept of CCS®: No goal, no prospect. The question comes in two variations based upon the level of the prospect:

  • Ask Key Players: What are you hoping to accomplish with (the offering)?
  • Ask non-Key Players: What is your organization hoping to accomplish with (the offering)?

Having prospects share a goal or problem they’re willing to spend money to achieve or address starts buying cycles and is the start of helping a buying committee see the potential value of offerings. With absent shared desired business outcomes, how likely is it that prospects will ultimately spend money?

These and other buyer actions are sanity checks for sellers and their managers to try to ensure opportunities are worth a seller’s time, effort and resources.

10 Ways to Transform Your Customer into a Raving Maniacal Fan

10 Ways to Transform Your Customer into a Raving Maniacal Fan

Not by the hard sell that’s for sure.

When you flog a product or service at them with heavy pressure tactics, they run for cover; they don’t lean in to you with a willingness to listen, buy and refer you to others.

It doesn’t have to be like that.

Even the toughest customer can be turned to be your strongest and most passionate advocate but it requires you consistently perform THESE acts:

  1. Be “on their team”. You can’t be perceived to have only the best interests of your company in mind; place your customer in the number one position. They must believe your organization exists to serve them.
  2. Balance short and long term demands. Your bonus plan is most likely based on how well you perform over the next 12 months and how many products you sell. Regardless, take a longer term perspective and provide solutions that will stand the test of time. If they feel you are trying to bulk up your short term performance they will never advocate you.
  3. Fight for them “on the inside”. You probably don’t like getting involved in chasing down a client problem inside your organization. Order errors, billing irregularities etc. can consume an inordinate amount of time and is “painful”. You would rather pass it to the service guys, so you can get back to selling and earning your bonus. But understand that your customer expects you to deal with your internal team to sort things out. They don’t appreciate being passed around.
  4. Take time to get to know them. The transformation from customer to fan is driven by intimacy which builds trust. There is no short cut here; put in the time.
  5. Be available when they want you. YOU serve THEM; if you can’t be reached, in their time of need they will likely reach out to someone else.
  6. Focus on what they “care” about. It’s more than what they need. Satisfying needs deals with only the first layer of relationship building. You must dig deeper and discover what drives their emotions. Find THAT; deliver on THAT and you will create a “sneezer”.
  7. Surprise them. This is probably the #1 thing that fuels customer delight. A tired relationship can cultivate entitlement. Spice it up by surprising your customer from time to time with something they care about. They will return the favor with their undying support.
  8. Do the “little things”. Do more than the heavy lifting as often, it’s the little things that annoy or please customers. Determine their pet peeves land special likes and take care of them. They expect you to deliver the “big” solutions; they will be WOW’D! when you get involved in the messy details.
  9. Give them what they DON’T expect. Counterintuitively, maniacal fans are born when you DON’T meet their expectations. Delivering what they expect will only earn you a ‘C’ on your report card; blowing them away with what they aren’t expecting will get you an ‘A+’.
  10. Lose a sale. If you can’t deliver exactly what they need, find another provider who can. This act will keep you in control of the customer relationship, show them that you have their best interests at heart and earn you the right to sell to them again.

You won’t transform your customer to a crazy advocate overnight, but if you have these 10 plays in your playbook it will happen.

If you are looking for a “hail Mary” forget it.

5 Questions to Help CEOs Evaluate the Effectiveness of Their Company’s Sales Strategy

5 Questions to Help CEOs Evaluate the Effectiveness of Their Company’s Sales Strategy

A Japanese CEO of a manufacturing company was once asked how far into the future the company’s sales strategy was planned. His answer was, “Five hundred years.” While planning a strategy that will guide a company for the next five hundred years is a little long for most CEOs, it does point to an important principle—the core purpose of strategy is to accomplish long-term goals and to clearly set a framework to guide the stream of decisions to reach those goals.

Developing a sales strategy is challenging because it may feel like you don’t have as much control over the strategy as you might like. You may feel that the sales strategy for your company is in some ways set by the market itself and your company is just a ping pong ball bouncing between a variety of shifting factors outside of your control. Even if this perception has some truth to it, you can still build a framework that guides the stream of decisions that will help your company take back control of your sales strategy.

To determine if your strategy is strong enough to win, it has to withstand some challenging questions. Below are five challenges you can use to push against your sales strategy to determine its strength:

#1: Is it flexible?

Let’s agree that the marketplace is always changing and that the speed of change is increasing. Competitors, product demands, customer needs, technology, and costs are ever shifting. Your strategy must be flexible enough to move within any market and respond to unforeseen changes. A few of the points to push on in examining this question include:

  • What is our early warning component for identifying market shifts and threats?
  • What speed of response thresholds must be built into the strategy with goals to be faster for customers and prospects?

#2: Is it a system?

If you have a system in sports, then injuries to key players do not ruin an entire season. With a system, you have a game plan for replacing an injured player with another player to maintain a successful team. The same is true for a sales strategy. If your strategy is built on the strengths of a few sales people and their key sales relationships, then your overall sales success is always at risk. That is a “people-centric” approach to solving the challenge of sales growth. It is not a strategy; it is a tactic. When people-centric companies experience a change in the sales team, the entire company is at risk, and new talent is hard (and expensive) to find. Instead, consider developing a process-based systems approach that allows room for the natural shifts in personnel without jeopardizing sales performance. A system-based framework gives strength back to your company and will guide long-term, strategic decision-making.

#3: Is prospect qualification clearly defined?

There was a time when selling to all prospects in a market was commonplace, but that is perhaps the most inefficient way to sell. To guide the decisions for the sales strategy, it is important to define both ends of the qualifying spectrum: ideal characteristics of the prospects we most desire and characteristics of prospects that do not fit the defined target profile. This is a real challenge for salespeople and organizations. They are naturally motivated to sell, and it is in their DNA to do so. However, because strategy guides decisions, the greater clarity in the area of prospect selection, especially defining who is not a target, gives a higher likelihood of spending resources with intention.

#4: What is the leverage pivot?

Where will the most substantial sales growth come from? How does your sales strategy balance the revenue generation between selling to new customers, penetrating current customers, and introducing new products? Of course, as CEO your desire is to win in all three areas, but it is likely that there is one or two areas that provide the most potential for growth. The question is, “What will be the sales strategy for guiding your company in investing time and energy for the greatest return?” In other words, what is the key leverage point your sales team should use to generate the maximum amount of revenue efficiently?

#5: What are the linchpins of weakness?

Salespeople and sales leaders are pathologically optimistic. If they have participated in the sales strategy development, then it is likely that the sales strategy is also duly optimistic. For you as CEO, that means finding the weak points of linkage is your responsibility. Is your sales strategy too reliant on a single customer, a star sales person, one product, a promising marketing campaign or something else? Watch for points of optimism that rely on a single area that is “guaranteed to work.” This is usually the linchpin that requires the most scrutiny.

CEOs look at strategy differently than sales leaders and sellers because CEOs have a higher level view that includes insight into the interactions of multiple streams of decision-making that impact the company’s ability to reach set business goals. Pushing, poking and prodding the sales strategy in theses key five areas increases the chances that your company will develop a strong sales strategy. With a strong sales strategy, you set a clear framework that guides the stream of decisions to reach your ultimate business goals—no matter how far into the future they may reach.

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