Working in sales has never been harder and easier than before - you have CRMs, email trackers, phone dialers, proposal builders, inbound and outbound content marketing, to help you prospect. At the same time, these things are easily a distraction, keeping your CRM up to date and accurate can really bog you down, too many of us live and die dealing with email overload and there's enough content out there to keep us "engaged" for a lifetime.
What we as salespeople forget are that these activities and tools are part of the sales process, they are in place to help you close more deals - but they shouldn't suck up your time. Too many of us get caught up in the management and administration of a sales job, this can have a devastating impact on your success.
So how do you stay on top of it all, prioritize and ensure that as a salesperson you are focussing on the right thing?
Make it a habit of asking yourself this question every day,
How many prospects did I to speak with today?
Let me clarify some things here, I did not use the word engage because this is too superficial - engagement is a characteristic of a great client conversation. But there's so much more that happens when you actually speak with a potential customer - you can pick up on body language and the tone of their voice which can tell you a lot depending on the situation. When you speak with prospects and customers it's easier to establish rapport because they share things about themselves that you can't pick up from a LinkedIn profile or Twitter exchange. In a conversation you can tailor the value you can offer, in real time. When it comes to people you need to have real conversations, you need to be exposed to your customer's emotions and pain-points as much as possible, it's a big factor when they make their decisions.
Sorry - Emails don't count.
When I say "speak", it can be by phone or video conference as well, since we live in a world where business is global and it's not always feasible to be meet your prospects in person. It's important to put a face to your name as much as possible with your customers. What I don't mean when I say "speak" is email - it's very rare to close an outbound deal based entirely on an email exchange unless your customer is seriously motivated. Emails are electronic, in mass production and generally, lack the emotion salespeople need to do their jobs. Sure you can add emojis, fancy subject lines and create email templates to blast through your contact lists - but everyone's doing it and it's just a one-way exchange, where you're trying to provoke a response. Email is a means to an end to get in the room or on a call with your prospect, don't rely on it to hit your sales quota.
One tool I'm beginning to use more of to help force myself to engage better with prospects by email is Vidyard's ViewedIt tool - it's a browser plug-in that allows you to record short video messages that are embedded into your email, with tracking capabilities. It's easy to use and more importantly, it provides you the advantage of really personalizing your message with context, emotion, and less text.
Augment your sales process as much as possible with moments where you speak with your client or decision makers directly, preferably in a two-way setting.
Conversations need to have two-way communication.
In the world of SaaS and Software sales, live demos are a critical milestone in the sales process. Don't turn your demo into a lecture where the client doesn't have any input, they need to speak as much as you do since there is no one else better to tell you their own situation and problems. We often hear the term story-telling when it comes to marketing, but in sales when you are having conversations with your customers - its about story-sharing.
During an initial meeting, you should ask more questions of your customer, if you get them to open up at the beginning of a discussion you can pinpoint key issues early on and maximize the time you have with them. Clients usually don't need the 20 features you offering as part of your product or service, they probably need 1-3 features that are critical to their situation. What will happen when you invest time in speaking with and listening to your prospects, is that they will start to ease into the conversation and gradually let their guard down because they will begin to trust your genuine interest in helping them. Conversations allow you to get to know people, the more conversations you have, the better you know your prospect, the more you know about what their thinking and how to act.
Conversations 70% Everything else 30%
Conversations are your most important prospecting, negotiating, closing activity. The more time you spend in front of clients the more likely you are to be successful in meeting your quota. I would say if at all possible push to spend 80% of your time on conversations. The remaining 20-30% of your time can be spent on updating your pipeline, training and developing sales collateral - all important activities but not your main focus.
Have conversations and then reflect on them
Conversations are so great as they provide one of the most intimate touch points with your customers. You are delivering value, they are telling you their needs and desires, you're receiving a whole lot of information - so take notes, if not during very shortly after to ensure maximum recall. With the rise of CRMs, salespeople just log their meeting notes and minutes and never look at them again. It's not a management objective to log your activities into Salesforce so you don't get fired. Take the time to reflect on what you've learned from your conversations, look back at your meeting notes - try to find a pattern between similar clients, remind yourself of past conversations where key issues came up and most importantly share what you've learned in those conversations with your team.
For our customers, buying something is still an emotionally driven transaction - they have a need, a pain a desire to solve a problem we have. Having meaningful conversations with our prospects and customers exposes us to those emotions and allows salespeople to narrow down how they can help them. Don't get caught up with the tech and administration duties of your sales job. Selling still dominated by person to person interactions, so keep your focus on having as many conversations as possible.