Unpredictable financial markets, a tightening global economy, and companies faltering or laying off employees at every turn . . . for those of us who've made selling our profession, these are trying times to be sure! Each day seems to bring news that makes our customers less certain about their future and more hesitant to move forward with whatever proposals we present. What is currently happening in the marketplace is a reminder that there is much that is beyond our control.As sales professionals we have never been in control of the economy, government regulation, or our customer's behavior. We have control over exactly those things we have always had control over: our own attitude and activities. We can control how we think and what we do. That’s it. Fortunately, that’s all we need.
The first step in surviving and thriving in our current economic climate is not accepting the notion that we are helpless to determine our fate. It’s one thing to acknowledge “times are tough.” It is another to sit and wait for things to “turn around.” As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Your attitude is a direct result of what you listen to, the things you read, and the people you associate with. So, start to manage your own attitude by being more selective.1. Regulate your exposure to the negative. Be careful not to overdose on news and “talk” about the news. Every depressing piece of information which suggests your customers might be resistant to buy becomes another subconscious reason not to reach out to a new prospect. Enough of this can lull even the most experienced salesperson into inactivity.2. Read the classics. No offense to Tolstoy and Dickens, but the classics of managing your attitude are:
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
The Magic of Believing by Claude Bristol
How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger
These books have inspired millions. Develop the habit of reading 20 minutes each night just before you fall asleep. This alone can have a huge impact on your outlook.3. Spend time around people who are successful and optimistic. They may be hard to find, but identify those people around you who are enthusiastic about their present and their future. Optimism is contiguous. Catch it!
When the economy starts to tighten, and customers begin to hesitate, the natural tendency is draw back and wait. We have to fight this tendency with everything we’ve got. This is the time to increase your sales activity. Reach out to some new customers. Broaden your relationship footprint within each account. Engage in some good old-fashioned reverse planning.Start by laying out your revenue goals for the year. If you’re on a quota, this step is already done for you. Then, figure out how many sales opportunities (of an average size) you will need to close to reach that goal. Determine how many new sales meetings (or telephone discussions) it will take to find enough new opportunities. Then, estimate how many new prospects you need to approach every week to secure enough new meetings or telephone discussions.The biggest challenge of reverse planning is we tend to drastically miscalculate what it’s going to take reach our goals. If you overestimate by thinking that you can close 60% of the opportunities you try to close, but you actually only close 30%, you’ll fall short of your overall goal. Likewise, if you underestimate your success rate at each step in the process, you’ll come up with an impossible number of new prospect approaches and scare yourself into inactivity.The only way to get good at reverse planning to track your success in each major step in your process. Where performance is measured, performance improves. Overtime, you’ll find that your success rates will improve and your ability to manage your activity and control your revenue results will improve substantially.
We don’t have the luxury of selling the same way we sold five years ago – or even two years ago – and simply doing more of the same. We must continually evolve and rethink how we sell so that we are not just selling more, but selling better every single year. Consistent sales activity is vital to sales success, but just being busy isn’t the objective. Don’t fall for the assertion that sales is simply a numbers game. Evolving as a sales professional requires more than just a firm resolve to “do more;” it requires us t learn to “do different” in order to produce different results.
In our workshops we teach eight habits that sales professionals and their managers must develop to survive and thrive in our current global economic climate. Mastering these will help you become an even better sales professional than you already are:
1. TAKE CONTROL of what you can control. Use the suggestions above to create your own situation. Don’t let other people or outside circumstances determine what kind of a year you will have.2. RETAIN your best clients by treating them like new clients. Go back to the beginning. Understand your customer’s “new” current state and help them create a vision of a desired future state which you can help them achieve.3. CREATE new sales opportunities within both new and existing accounts. It seems almost too simple, but everything – even your attitude – gets better when you add a couple of new sales opportunities to your pipeline. Make a commitment to consistent prospecting and business development.4. PENETRATE new and existing accounts to broaden your relationship footprint. The more people you know within each account, the more influence you will have and the better you can qualify opportunity.5. SCRUTINIZE every sales opportunity with a systematic approach to qualification. Improve your skills in diagnostic questioning to really evaluate your customer’s world. The better you are at understanding both why they would buy and how they would buy, the more effective you will be bringing business to closure.6. PRIORITIZE your investment of time and effort in the best opportunities. All deals are not created equal. You can’t afford to spend your time on opportunities that don’t offer a high probability of success.7. MANAGE the events and milestones of your customer’s buying process. Get more involved in helping your customers buy. Figure out all the steps your customer must take in order to buy, and help them take those steps one at a time.8. PROTECT revenues and profitability through more effective negotiations. Don’t just hand over profit. Make sure that you are asking for something of equal or greater value in exchange for anything your customer asks for or demands from you.About the AuthorBill Stinnett is the founder and president of Sales Excellence, Inc. and is a highly sought after speaker appearing at sales meetings, conferences, conventions, and annual sales kick-offs world-wide. He is the author two best selling books: Think Like Your Customer (McGraw-Hill 2005), which has been translated into nine languages, and Selling Results! (McGraw-Hill 2007). His clients include General Electric, SAP, Microsoft, IBM, Verizon, Harvard Business School, and many others. Bill also serves as a faculty lecturer at the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
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