Today's guest post is by Karl Gustafson, CSO of SalesFitRx. Karl previously worked for Apple, Liveops, and Pearson, and has almost 30 years of experience in sales.
Do more with less – that seems to be the way of business these days. There are a lot of contributing factors that have gotten us to this state. The constant churn of new technologies coming available, reduced budgets, increased competition, and the list goes on.
While no industry has been immune to this trend, one of the hardest hit has been sales. As the lifeblood for almost all organizations, the demands on the salesforce have reached new heights. Quotas continue to increase, yet the time allotted to actually sell continues to shrink. This, combined with the influx of new tools that aim to streamline sales, automate customer relationship management, and “simplify life,” have completely transformed sales and marketing. Suddenly there’s more to manage and report, but also greater opportunity to reach and convert potential leads.
As such, those in sales have had to adapt their strategy in order to thrive in this dogged industry. There is a new set of rules for effective selling, but they have their roots in old-school tactics.
1. Be a Storyteller
People relate to stories. This may not be a new tactic, but, in today’s competitive marketplace, storytelling has become more relevant than ever. In many cases, it has become a key differentiator.
No matter what you are selling, chances are competition is high. Your targets are likely being pitched products left and right. And here’s the thing – no one ever really wins in a features war. Details, data and an endless list of bells and whistles can become overwhelming, and, at the end of the day, these don’t create an emotional connection.
People respond to (and create personal connections with) stories – personal stories, company stories, customer success stories – not features. This is important from an organizational standpoint as well as an individual standpoint. How can you weave your experiences into the customer interaction? Salesforce, the CRM software giant, employs this on a grand scale – teaching their new sales associates that stories can become the best form of defense in the face of objections.
2. Be Memorable
Make yourself unique. At any given moment, there’s a barrage of information and marketing messages vying for your customer’s attention. How do you break through the noise? Make yourself memorable.
An example of this is the story of a salesperson who presented to a group of prospective customers at a local hotel where he purposely staged the meeting in a room where the swimming pool was visible. During the meeting, a woman in the pool (who turned out to be his wife) began flailing her arms as if she was in distress. The salesperson excused himself, ran to the pool (in a shirt and tie) to the rescue. After he got the woman to the safety of the pool deck, he ripped off his shirt – exposing a t-shirt printed with his name and “I can rescue your business as well.” Sure, it may sound ridiculous, but you can bet those people left there talking about it.
It doesn’t have to be an outrageous stunt. It can be a compelling story or sending a prospect some sort of touch point – a link to an informative article, a physical book, a small gift – that shows you truly listened to them. Just listening and providing value these days can set you apart and make you memorable.
3. Cast the Net Wider
Purchasing decisions are rarely made by a single person anymore. In fact, more people than ever are now involved in the buying process. You never know who may be tasked to vet potential buyers, who may be entrusted with decision-making power, and who may influence that person’s decision. Someone who may initially appear as a gatekeeper just might hold the key to whether you make a sale. Don’t discount anyone in the sales process, but by y the same token, don’t rely on any one person as your champion. Champions change roles, move to new organizations, or jump ship for that next shiny object, so build relationships with as many champions as possible within any organization.
4. Create a Balanced Pipeline
Sure, landing that “whale” is important. They can be game changers when they come through – but they also come with great risk. A balanced pipeline is key. Focus on creating a solid mix of short- and longer-term opportunities. The value of those opportunities should span in size from average to larger deals (think of it in terms of a 2x2 matrix – never full, but never hungry). Keep an eye on your pipeline for good balance, and that should not only improve your odds of making or beating your number, but also help you avoid the dreaded “nothing in the funnel” realization.
5. Guard Your Time
Most studies indicate that sales professionals are spending less time selling today than ever before. According to CSO Insights, sales professionals are spending only 35 percent of their time actually selling. And this number has only dropped in the past few years. Sales professionals have access to more information than ever before, but this also means it’s easy to get sucked into research and reports versus actually selling.
There are all kinds of internal and external demands to selling time that sales professionals are asked to address. Be cognizant of where and how your selling time is being lost to other activities that detract from your ability to close the deal. Look for tools that can help measure this so you can identify these time-robbing activities. Hopefully, you’ll uncover the activities that yield the biggest results for you in the process.
While new demands and tools have changed the landscape of the sales industry, applying new rules steeped in some of the time-proven tactics can help keep you on track to meeting (and hopefully beating) quota. But you need actual selling time to be able to implement these rules.