Ask a sales trainer or a management consultant what’s needed to increase your sales productivity and you’ll get a pitch for a massive change in the way you do business.
That’s fine (hey, they have to quota, too), but in most cases you can improve sales productivity by making minor tweaks in what you’re already doing. Here’s how:
1. Tighten your lead selection criteria.
Use your CRM system to identify the type of sales leads that tend to convert easily to customers. Use that profile to create a lead scoring mechanism that helps you know which of your new leads you should pursue first. Base recently introduced Lead Scoring to make it easy for you to prioritize the leads that are most important to your business.
2. Enhance your research tools.
Periodically revisit the online tools that you’re using to find leads, and research companies and individuals. New tools are being introduced into the marketplace every day, so do some research… on how to do better research.
3. Revisit your personal network.
Everything changes, especially in the business world. Friends and colleagues who previously didn’t know of any prospects may know some now. If you’ve built up a customer base; enlist their aid in finding new customers. A while back, Paul McCord wrote about the importance of referrals in your network for generating more business.
4. Clean up your CRM database.
Because your CRM system tracks sales efforts, it can provide a treasure-trove of data… but only if that data is updated and accurate. Make a pass every month or so to clean out the bad data.
5. Hone your key sales messages.
There’s no sales message so compelling that it can’t be improved. Every few months, revisit your core sales message, your elevator pitch, your qualifying questions and so forth. Make your message tighter, shorter, and thus more effective.
6. Eliminate bad leads more quickly.
Don’t treat prospecting as “getting as many leads as possible into the pipeline.” Realign your thinking so that the purpose of the initial conversation with a sales lead is for you to identify if they’re NOT a possible customer.
7. Reward yourself for DISqualifying leads.
Every lead that you eliminate from your list is a victory, because it means you won’t be wasting your time. Celebrate the winnowing process because if you do it well you’ll only have hot prospects in your pipeline.
8. Flush out the competition more quickly.
By definition, a fully qualified lead is going to buy…either from you or your competitor. Ask the prospect who else is calling on them and if there’s a threat, accelerate and adapt your sales activities to compensate.
9. Create and update a sales campaign document.
The most frequent reason sales reps are outsold is that they didn’t talk to the right people – and the competitor did. Research, understand and (most importantly) document the prospect’s decision-making process.
10. Improve your follow-through.
Many deals have been lost simply because the sales professional forgets to follow up on a commitment. If you make a commitment, log it in your schedule, and make sure that you do it, no matter what.
11. Sell just a bit deeper and just a bit broader.
Continue to research and understand your customers until you find additional ways that your firm can help that prospect. As you find these, either work to have them added to the current deal, or position them as the next element in your sales campaign.
12. Stop discounting.
Contrary to popular belief, discounts can slow the sales process down by introducing questions about quality. Rather than dropping your price to make the sale, build the case that what you’re providing is unique enough to command a premium price.
13. Spend LESS time on each account.
Make your interactions with each customer more intense and concentrated. Schedule multiple meetings on a single visit. Use web-conferencing to reach remote individuals. Provide a greater level of contact, but spend fewer work-hours doing it.
14. Work backwards from the buying decision.
As you learn more about the steps in your customer’s buying process, schedule your activities around those steps so that you spend the right amount of time (neither more nor less) developing the opportunity.
The list above may seem a bit basic, but that’s the point. Your success in selling is almost always more dependent upon the basics than upon the fancy-schmancy stuff you get in a pricey seminar or consulting session.