Making Sales Efficient - dummies

By Anna Kennedy

Whether you have a sales team or you’re handling sales yourself, you need to spend time where it’s going to make the most difference. Avoid the pitfall of equating ‘busy’ with ‘effective’. You can all too easily spend time in areas that don’t make any difference to your goal – getting new customers.

Really outstanding, grade-A salespeople are rare. They have a focus on priorities that frightens most people right out of their socks (shame that sock suspenders are out of fashion!). The chances are that you don’t have one of those superstars. That doesn’t mean you have bad people, just that they’re grade B or C.

At the extreme end of the scale, at grade D or E, salespeople do certain things to ‘look busy’: it’s their strategy for hiding their lack of performance. They point to their activity and say, ‘See? I’m trying really hard. It’s not my fault that I can’t close deals.’

As long as you have a really valuable service and very happy customers, you should be able to find prospects and close them. It’s not a slam dunk, though: it takes hard work and focus and not wasting time on hopeless tasks.

So what are those grade-D and -E folks up to? Use this checklist to score your salespeople, or your own performance:

  • The sales pipeline is packed with opportunities that aren’t moving. Your salespeople are padding the pipeline to look good. When you ask ‘What’s the next step for this opportunity?’, the answer is weak and unconvincing.

  • Salespeople are making lots of calls without generating any noticeable results. With no apparent strategy behind the effort, it’s probably a complete waste of time.

  • Salespeople are writing quotes and proposals, but customers aren’t buying. If sales is just sitting waiting for the customer to say yes, the opportunity is already lost.

Sales is a mix of art and science – some science is necessary to build a good sales process and some art to think what to do when things aren’t proceeding as the process states.

In contrast to the above list, here’s what grade-A performers are thinking:

  • Eliminate prospects early if they aren’t a fit. Although you may be tempted to hold on to every opportunity, you have to spend 90 per cent of your time on those deals that can close and give you amenable and profitable customers. Better a ‘thin’ pipeline of quality than one stuffed with junk.

  • Be fearless in discussing price. Great salespeople discuss price early. That doesn’t mean giving the farm away, just being open and upfront with the prospect about what you typically charge for your work. It flushes out the ones who don’t have the money, so that you can focus on the ones who do.

  • Use your chances with prospects effectively. Meeting with prospects is your chance to shine. This doesn’t mean making a big noise about how good you are; it means being in control of the meeting. Great salespeople are well prepared. They research the prospect, create and set the agenda, and set expectations. They capture questions and action items and they wrap up meetings with a summary of next steps and who’s going to do what and by when.

  • Follow up with diligence. If you want your sale cycle to be as short as possible, you do what you say you’ll do and on time. That allows you to demand the same from your prospects. If they owe you some information, remind them the day before. If they don’t deliver, set a new date, but hold them to it. If they go silent on you, let them know that you’ll be withdrawing your offer/effort unless you hear from them by a certain date. If they’re really interested, they’ll comply. If they’re not, you wouldn’t have won this one anyway.

  • Keep meticulous records. Even the best salespeople don’t have the memory of an elephant. They know what to do next because they know what happened up to now. That means keeping extensive notes and activity information in the CRM (sales tool, such as Salesforce). These notes are also very valuable when the deal is signed and a delivery team needs information about the customer.

Can grade Bs and Cs go up a notch? Yes, they can, if well-led and coached. If you have grade Ds and Es, put them on a performance plan and if they can’t shape up, move them out.