CLICK for the first set of tweaksÂ»
READERS: Similar techniques are described in the "Sales Machine Book", which is now available for pre-sale here:
- Research a Prospect in Ten Minutes
- The Ultimate Cold Calling Tool
- The Ultimate Prospect Qualification Tool
SET #1: TWEAKS THAT GIVE YOU BETTER SALES LEADS
If you're calling on the wrong people, you're spending time on "opportunities" that never had a chance. If your leads are higher quality, you're less likely to be calling on the wrong people.
A high quality lead is one that's highly likely to become a customer. Your challenge is therefore to figure out what constitutes a high quality lead for your offering, and focus on finding more of them.
- TWEAK #1: Hone your selection criteria. Look at the kind of leads that are working for you and then go back to your lead generation method and find more of the same. Generate a better lead scoring mechanism so that you follow up on your best leads first.
- TWEAK #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.
- TWEAK #3: Revisit your network. Everything changes, especially in the business world. Friends and colleagues who previously didn't know of any prospects may know of some now. You've also built up a customer base; enlist their aid in expanding your network and finding new customers.
- TWEAK #4: Help your marketeers. If you're fortunate enough to have a marketing groups that's tasked to generate sales leads, provide them with regular, direct information on who's interested and who's buying, along with all the specific details (like job title, industry, typical organizational structure, etc.), so that they can get you better leads.
- TWEAK #5: Improve your database. Because a CRM system tracks sales efforts, it can provide a treasure-trove of statistical data defining the current customer base and how effective you've been selling to it. Make sure your CRM records are up to date is in your own interest.
- TWEAK #6: Hone your sales messages. There's no sales message so perfect that it can't be improved. Every few months, try revisiting your core sales message, your elevator pitch, your qualifying questions and so forth. Based upon your current experience, try to make the better, shorter, and more effective.
NEED HELP? TRY THIS POST: Find Hot Sales Leads
SET #2: TWEAKS THAT IMPROVE YOUR PROSPECTING
Even if you're calling on high qualities leads, a certain percentage of them won't be potential prospects, usually because they don't really have a need for your offering, or they do have a need, but no money to buy. As you know, eliminating these "opportunities" from your sales cycle, means that you'll spend more time with real ones.
- TWEAK #7: Refocus on the elimination of bad leads. Make certain that you're not falling into the trap of thinking about prospecting as "getting as many as possible into the pipeline." Instead, realign your thinking so that your initial conversations with a sales lead are not for the purpose of selling, but rather to identify which leads are most likely to become customers - and which are least likely.
- TWEAK #8: Improve your listening skills. When a potential customer is speaking, listen carefully to what's actually being said, rather than waiting for something that will give you hope of making a sale. For example: if you ask: "how would you handle this problem if you didn't have a solution like ours?" and get a response like "we'd probably struggle along for a few more years", the prospect may not be serious about buying.
- TWEAK #9: Remember what's important. The key issue when developing an opportunity and making a sales is always value. First, the "prospect" must have the budget to buy, or at least some budget dollars that could be spent, if the need is great enough. Second, the prospect must have that need, and the need must have a financial impact that's overwhelming larger than the cost of your offering. Anything less, and you'll never be a priority, so you ought to move on.
- TWEAK #10: Reward yourself for disqualifying a lead. Remember, every lead that you ELIMINATE from your list is a victory, because it means you won't be wasting your time. Treat the elimination of a lead from your list as much a victory as the conversion of the lead into a real prospect. Celebrate the winnowing process! If you don't, you may find yourself sneaking questionable prospects into the pipeline.
NEED HELP? TRY THIS POST: The Ultimate Prospect Qualification Tool
SET #3: TWEAKS THAT INCREASE YOUR CONVERSION RATE
Even if you're calling on the right people, if you do or say the wrong things, you'll spend time and money on opportunities that don't pay off. Here's how to help ensure that you don't accidentally lose the deal:
- TWEAK #11: Research the competition. Once a lead is completely qualified as a prospect, then the prospect is going to buy, either from you or your competitor. Therefore, increasing your "conversion rate" for a fully qualified lead is always matter of outselling the competition. Ask the prospect who else is calling on them and if there's a threat, accelerate your sales activities to compensate.
- TWEAK #12: Hone your 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. In many cases, the losing sales rep failed to research and therefore understand the prospect's actual decision-making process, and who would play what role in that process. So don't assume you've got it right from the start. Make changes as you learn more.
- TWEAK #13: Increase the number of meetings. It's common practice for sales reps to communicate with a senior decision-maker at the beginning of the sales cycle, and then revisit that connection at the end of the sales cycle, in order get final approval. However, if your contacts are limited during the middle of the sales cycle, you may lose track of what's going on. Be in regular communication with decision-makers so you always know what's changing inside the customer account.
- TWEAK #14: 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. Follow-through is the only way that a potential customer can learn to trust you, and that makes the customer more likely to buy.
NEED HELP? TRY THIS POST: Research a Prospect in Ten Minutes
SET #4: TWEAKS THAT INCREASE THE DOLLAR VALUE
There is a fixed amount of time and resources connected to every sales effort. While it may take more effort to cut a $1 million deal, it's usually not nearly ten times as much as effort as cutting a $100,000 deal. Therefore, the more money you can make on each sales opportunity, the more you'll make overall.
- TWEAK #15: Uncover the entire opportunity. You must fully develop the customer account during the sales process. This means giving each account your full attention, and spending enough time on it to be able to uncover the full opportunity. BTW, the key to doing this is only focusing on fully qualified prospects, because if you're selling to fewer prospects, you've got more time to dig deep.
- TWEAK #16: Keep doing your research. Continue this research process as you continue to develop the account. That way, you'll be constantly looking for (and 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 after the initial sales has been made.
- TWEAK #17: Use discounts sparingly. In the case of standard discounts, that drop in margin is already reflected in the business model. However, extraordinary discounts offered merely to secure the sale may not only make the current deal smaller, but (if publicized) can result in discounts (and smaller deals) from future customers.
NEED HELP: TRY THIS POST: Which Comes First: Budget or Solution?
SET #5: TWEAKS THAT COMPRESS THE SALES CYCLE
There are two types of "time" that are at issue. The first is the elapsed time that it takes to move a prospect from initial contact to closing the deal. The second is the work-hours that you actually spend on that opportunity. Most sales reps focus on the elapsed time, believing that they can influence the customer to buy more quickly.
However, in most cases, the customer already has a time frame in which they intend to buy. Because of this, efforts to "speed the process along" are usually a waste of time. As such, they add to the number of work hours that the rep spends on the account, with no particular payback.
- TWEAK #18: Focus on work hours, not elapsed time. Focus instead on the "work-hours" that you spend on each account. Find ways to make your interactions with each customer more intense and more productive. Schedule multiple meetings on a single visit. Use web-conferencing to reach remote individuals. Don't reduce the amount of service you're providing; just find a way to spend fewer work-hours doing it.
- TWEAK #19: Find the trigger events. While you're interviewing and meeting with decision-makers, try to find out if there is a "compelling event" which will actually trigger the buying process. For example, a prospect might have a certain amount of budget to spend in the current quarter, in which case the "compelling event" would be the end of the quarter - after which the money will disappear. Similarly, a prospect might be waiting for an order from a large customer before making a purchase of additional component.
- TWEAK #20: Arrange your schedule to match. As you learn more about your customer's buying process, and the compelling events that will cause them to buy, schedule your activities backwards from that event, so that you spend the right amount of time (neither more nor less) developing the opportunity. That help ensure that every moment you spend with the prospect (soon to be customer) is productive.
HOW TO INCREASES SALES GEOMETRICALLY
If you pick one tweak from each category, their impact will be cumulative, and you'll make geometric improvements in your sales performance.
Let me explain.
Suppose you spend 1 day a week prospecting and 4 days a week selling. Your prospecting results in 10 prospects, of which 2 turn into customers by the end of the week.
You spend 1 day of time to secure each customer, and 2 days of time on the other 8 customers who didn't buy. Each of those two customers spend $10,000. Your commission is 10%, so you just made $2,000 in that week.
Now suppose you implement the changes above, and still keep to the same basic schedule. Your 1 day a week of prospecting still results in 10 prospects, but they're all better qualified and thus more likely to close.
Because you're spending less time on each customer, spend 1/2 day each, to close 6 customers, while 2 fall by the wayside. Each of those 6 customers spend an average of $15,000.
Your commission is still 10%, so you just made $9,000, which is geometrically more than what you made before - for the same amount of time and effort!Wide Horizons for Children, an organization that facilitates foreign adoptions and orphanages.