Being in sales when you think you're NOT a "sales person"
So you have decided to start your company, now what?
I have had the pleasure to teach some very talented students, help numerous entrepreneurs start their companies, help others re-launch their selling efforts in this new economy, and work with many companies to integrate a customer-centric sales and marketing function so in support free market enterprise, so I have decided to document some of the best practices for others to use as they start their own companies to sell a product or service. These best practices are second nature to me from my education,experiences, and continued learning but I realized they are not necessarily common knowledge to business owners that find themselves having to become sales and marketing experts with little to no budget to spend. I have tried to take the "voodoo" out of sales and marketing and I hope you find these tips and tactics helpful. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 262-442-0896 if you have additional questions about where to start.
What exactly does it mean to be a "sales person"?
You are already on whether you like it or not!
Most people cringe when they here the word "sales person" and often think of the past experiences that they never want to be associated with like used cars, telemarketers, the annoying kiosk staff that thinks you are interested in them at the local mall...you get the picture.
When it comes down to it, you already are a sales person but just have not recognized it yet. If you are married, you made a sale. If you have kids, you already have repeat purchases. If you convinced your kids to do something that they did not want to do but was in their best interest, your a consultant and probably have all of the skills that you need to be successful.
Sales is three things and three things only.
1. Having a passion for what you do and why you do it.
2. Being able to communicate to others about what you do and why you do it.
3. Creating activity where their was not activity before.
To learn about creating activity where there previously was none, read the next article and where to start marketing.
What is your 1% Sales Activity to Drive Future Business Success?
Do you know where to focus your sales activities to get to the next level?
Most companies were successful in the beginning because of one or two main clients that represented 80% of their sales. Their second stage growth then came from employers from those first two clients that moved to other companies and pulled that company with as a supplier. But what happens when that organic growth stops and your company has to go find new customers to achieve that third stage of success? Would you be able to develop a plan, create new habits, and commit to the right sales activities that drive your sales funnel growth and sales funnel movement?
For every sales effort, there is an identifiable key sales activity that drives the growth and movement of the sales funnel. It is that one activity that if you repeat it over and over, success will follow. Example of 1% sales activities would include:
1. Presenting to ideal prospects and key strategic partners about value you can add to their business
2. Having lunch with key centers of influence to understand how they integrate with clients
3. Speaking at a business networking event full of people representing businesses that are in your wheelhouse
4. Meeting with a new ideal prospect to learn about their business and understand where you might be able to help them add value to their clients
5 .Making introductions for others to help grow their business
6 .Writing blogs to share your experience with the world
I refer to these activities as the "1%" since when they are completed, the other 99% of activity follows automatically. My personal 1% is having 3 meetings per week; One meeting with a business owner to learn about their business, one meeting with a center of influence or a service partner in the market to learn about what their challenges are, and one meeting where I am introducing two people that I know should be working together. If I have those three meetings per week, I know that my sales funnel will stay full through referrals, and that I will be scheduling meetings with potential clients to learn where I can help their business.
When was the last time you reverse engineered where your sales success comes from? Do you know what your 1% activity is? Do you know who you need to perform that 1% activity with? What do you need to clear from your schedule to make sure that 1% happens every week? Please feel free to contact me if you need help identifying what your 1% is and creating the right habits to make sure it happens.
Where and how do I start marketing?
Necessary active, passive, and direct selling activities
Q: What is the difference between marketing and sales?
A: Up until somebody hands you cash money for your product or service, it is all marketing.
You have undoubtedly developed a better product or service based on a gap you identified in the market, but now what? How do you go to market and start driving sales? Answer the following questions to help you get started:
1. Who is the target market?
2. What does the target market want?
3. How does the target market make their buying decisions?
The answer to these three questions will help you develop a unique selling proposition (USP) to you for your marketing message. Now you need to figure out where the target market looks for information and how they want information to be fed to them.
It is an on-demand world so you need to be top of mind when someone realizes they have a problem that your product or service can solve. How you do that can be quite different depending on what your product or service is but these general tactics usually apply regardless of the product or service.
1. Do you have all of the relevant social media channels built and are they all active and referring people to your website?
2. Are all of you closest friends, relatives, stakeholders, and centers of influence aware of what you offer and can they recommend anyone that you can talk to about what you offer?
3. Are you a member of and active in all relevant associations, service organizations, and causes with events where potential customers or potential strategic partners are?
4. If you have sales, where did they come from? Can you focus more energy and funds in those channels to get them to work harder?
5. If you have clients, when was the last time you talked to them (assuming they are happy with you) and asked them for a referral to another contact that could help you or buy from you?
Make a list of the all the activities you "should" be doing, prioritize them, and start making calls and booking meetings and events to go to. There are infinite possibilities out there but your limited resource is going to be time so make sure you are spending it wisely.
Skills you are going to need to be successful
What if you could be a sales and marketing oriented CEO?
There are plenty of books and seminars that will help you work on one aspect of your business but does that really help you?
When you start a business like I have done and many others have done, you know that you have to do everything from marketing to delivery, from taking a client from the "Awareness" stage to being a "Zoom-Zoom" top client that helps you grow. It's not until you start adding employees that you can start to add people that are complimentary to your skills so you can hand over the activities that you might not be so good at. For me, it the the administrative and accounting functionality of my company. I hate doing it but I have to do it until I get to a growth level where I can afford to bring on a support role. I work "in" my business much more than I work "on" it but I have to do so for now.
I have found that I have used all of my education to run my company and help others build their companies. The following is a list of skills that you should at least have a basic level of understanding about to be able to run your company in all roles as well as be sales and marketing oriented:
1. Successful Sales Characteristics
2. Sales Skills
3. Defined Sales Systems & Process
4. Business Skills (How you make money)
5. Time Management Skiils
6. Strategy Tools/Strategic Planning Skills
7. Decision Making Skills
8. Problem Solving Skiils
9. Communication Skills
10. Leadership Skills
11. Team Management Skills
12. Creativity Techniques
13. Learning Skills
14. Marketing Skills
You may be using some of these or even all of these without knowing it. I have found that putting form to function has helped me identify my weaknesses to know when to seek help from others. You should make a list of what you are good at and then target some training for what you need help with or find your first employee that can pick up the slack.
13 Free Sales Tools to Help Build Your Business
Don't spend money when you are starting your business when these tools are available
Having worked with these sales tools in by own business and helping my clients integrate these sales tools into their own habits, I sometimes take it for granted that everyone knows about them. These should not just be tribal knowledge and I hope these help you in your own selling efforts to the markets you are targeting.
Jigsaw is a user-generated database that is continually updated by its members. It gives you the name, title, postal and email addresses and direct-dial phone numbers for individual contacts you can't find directly. This allows you to find the direct contact information for decisions makers you are targeting without going through the gatekeeper and wondering if you message is even being received.
InfoUSA is a sales tool available with just a library card through your library system. Not only is this tool useful for finding information on your target customers, but it also give you a list of management names, their competitors, and their SIC and NAICS codes to be able to download searches for even more target customers that may not appear on other search tools.
MyBrainShark is a website that allows you create a voice-enriched multimedia presentation or podcast. It also makes it easier for you to record your PowerPoint presentation for online display purposes. This allows the market to view and hear your message and learn from your expertise 24/7.
Firefox SuperSearch is like the the"Swiss Army Knife" of search engines. It allows users to perform web searches, people searches, reverse lookups, public records searches, due diligence and background research, using over 160 of the internet's best search engines. This allows you to learn a lot about your prospects and customers before you engage with them.
Google Analytics generates detailed statistics about the visitors to your website. It can track visitors from all referrers, including search engines, display advertising, pay-per-click networks, email marketing and digital collateral such as links within PDF documents or other downloads. This will help you identify how your website is connecting with in your market and help you identify what content you need to change.
Xobni is a free add-on to Microsoft Outlook that turns it from an email system into a powerful sales tool. It creates another window in outlook that displays a profile of whoever sent you the currently highlighted email by grabbing that person's photo and telephone number from LinkedIn, Facebook, or several other social networking sites. It also shows a string of communications that you've had with that person. If you use outlook, this is the easiest way to start "social selling" using all of the social media tools.
Hoovers is a database of companies and other organizations, which includes top level data on financials, strategies, competitors, key executives, market dynamics, and so forth. It's built on a database of information on more than 30 million corporations and organizations, and more than 35 million people. This is a great place to learn about a customer or a competitor, without having to dig through the SEC reports.
Zoho CRM is a Customer Relationship Management tool that has all the features you'd expect in a world-class CRM product, including marketing campaigns, lead management, sales pipeline, forecasts, etc. This will allow you to keep track of all of your opportunities and activities in one location and you can even have up to 3 people on the same system before you have to pay for it. I have 3 clients using this currently as their first CRM tool and it works great for a sales management function.
Demandbase Stream is a nice little sales tool that works like a news ticker displaying information across the desktop about which businesses are visiting your Web site, along with their interests, and contact details for the most appropriate decision makers to contact for follow up. You can also flag existing customers, prospects, partners, and competitors, so that you're aware when they're doing something on your website. This helps you act fast when someone is interested in what you have to offer.
Super Pages has proven useful for search for companies that are typically hard to find because they do not "fit" into a specific market segment. You are able to search for companies in specific geographic areas using key words of the service they may offer.
LinkedIn continues to be a valuable sales tool for business development as more and more companies are joining and senior leadership begins to adopt it as a tool themselves. Although they have removed some of the features since going public like Events and Answers, you can generate plenty of activity with a target audience by posting useful information to help your network or take part in discussions within the groups you belong to. Make sure you join 50 groups that are relevant to your expertise, industry, and interests to get the most reach. Chances are, if I do not know something, my network or fellow group members do and I get an answer very quickly.
Evernote is a great way to keep your projects and to-do list organized. You can access it through both a desktop and your mobile device to add activities and make new notes when you think about them so you do not forget about them
Xmind is a mind mapping tool that helps you visualize strategic plans, build organizational charts, develop fish bone diagrams for processes, and even can be used to map a potential website site map. This is a great tool for those of us who are more visual learners.
Please feel free to contact me if you need any help with these or just want my library card number.
Do you know your "why"?
People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. It is why I have had success through working with and supporting a local veterans support service that has a similar mission but different target audience.
How many people do I need to call?
How to figure out what activities to commit to
I get asked all the time: "How many calls do I need to make and how do I know who I should talk to?" When you have to start selling, it can be very confusing about where you should start, what you should do, who you should talk to, and how you find the people to talk to.
The attached picture is a great tool for you to use for answering just those questions but you will need to know a few things about the business you have landed thus far.
What is your goal?
What is an "ideal" client worth?
Where did you last 5 sales come from?
How many quotes did you produce to get those 5 clients?
How many people did you meet with to get those quotes?
How many people did you call to get those meetings?
Where did you find those people?
Plug the answers to those questions into the calculator and you should be able to identify what activities you need to do, who you need to do them with, and how many of them you need to do to reach your goal. You can call me if you would like help walking through this exercise.
Why can't I close sales faster?
With sales cycles getting longer, understanding the problems you are faced with will help you change the way you sell.
1. Your sales process is not aligned with your prospect’s buying process. Most companies design their sales process on how they sell to the market without regard to how the market buys from them. If you start to think as a buyer, you would be able to identify potential obstacles earlier in the sale and develop solutions around them.
2. You do not follow your process. When you do not follow all of the steps when building a model or replacing your brake pads? What if pilots and surgeons ignored their processes and checklists? Experts say that it takes 10,000 hours to master your profession, so until then you should probably follow the steps.
3. You have not created a sense of urgency by discussing “risk” with the buyer. The best question you can ask if you feel an objection to your solution: “What is the cost of not doing this?” If you can you’re your prospect that the rewards outweigh the risks, you will help them say “yes” faster.
What steps should you take to correct these problems?
1. Define how your customer buys. If you ask “What would you like to see from me to help you make your decision”, you will save a lot of time trying to figure out what they want.
2. Have a goal for each and every sales call. When you understand all of the stages a prospect goes through in their buying process, you can identify milestones that need to be met for the prospect to reach the next stage. What needs to happen in your next call or meeting to make that happen to keep the sale moving?
3. Talk about rewards with your prospects. Companies are always concerned with committing funds to something that is not necessarily tangible. Help your prospect understand the opportunity costs of not saying “yes”.
By aligning the way you sell to the way your prospects buy, following a repeatable process, and helping the prospect see the rewards of saying yes, you will close sales faster.
Why are my sales stagnant?
Top 10 reasons your selling function is complacent
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
1. You do not have regular sales meetings.
2. A member of your team quit and you have no CRM to access account information.
3. You spend less than 60% of your time with customers.
4. 20% of your selling efforts accounts for 80% of your sales.
5. You recently lost sales because you did nothing.
6. Your sales cycle is longer than last year.
7. Your customers are buying less.
8. Less than 25% of your sales come from new customers.
9. You have seen less than 4 customers and prospects in the last week.
10. You do not subscribe to any sales blogs or read any books on new ways of doing things.
If more than 3 of these reflect your organization's selling function, you may want to consider making some changes to your selling processes, changes to your structure, changes to your compensation plan, and investing in some training.
Good reading to help you build your own sales function
Leaders read and so should you. In business, the easiest way to improve is to replicate and improve upon what is already working. Here are a few good books that I recommend to everyone I work with and help.
Everyone is in sales whether you recognize it or not.
You need cash flow....focus on sales first and then build the rest.
Focus on doing the right things for the right reasons and profits will follow.
Set a goal, create a rhythm, and measure results.
Givers always win.....stay dedicated to others and success will follow.