Saturday, 1 February 2014

Sales Activity Not Working?

Are you finding your sales generation activity isn't working or has stopped working?  It happens to us all...sometimes it is just the ebb and flow of business cycles and this is normal.  Other times it can be because some things have decoupled in how you go about your sales.  Whether new to sales and you're being asked to go out and find some business and what you're doing isn't working, or an old hand that has found themselves in  a rut - have a look at the below as common reasons why you're sales generation has stalled or not fired:

No Clear Targets

When we're told to sell, the first thing people often think to do is pick the phone up and ring someone.  You shotgun the sales process aiming to ring many to find the one that wants to work with you.  You have no clear line of sight to your ideal clients.

In order to be more successful in your growth activities, the first place to start is to develop a list of those clients who you wish to work with and you think you can add value to.

Sales generation is much easier if, in your own mind, you've determined you wish to deal with the client.  Your activity has more conviction.

No Plan / No Process

Again, like the above, sales activity often happens in a scatter gun approach.  It is done when we're quiet, have some spare time, have the pressure put on from above, when we're in the hole in our pipeline et al.  A scatter gun approach gets scattered results!

The best approach is to treat sales activity seriously.  Block time out of the diary regularly, plan who and why you're calling businesses, research them, find the appropriate person to call, work out your approach.

Following up is as important as making the call - actually more so.  You are far better off to keep a promise to an existing prospect (eg a planned call) than to ring a new prospect - why?  The new prospect has no expectations yet.   So it is important you treat the sales process with respect.

The old adage of 'failing to plan' is very true in sales.

Too Little 

Many sales people do 'just enough' sales activity to keep the wolves at bay - but seldom go much further.  Their manager or business tells them to make three calls - so they make 3 calls - no more, no less.

Using an example in golf - when you start playing golf, it may take you 120 shots to get through the 18 holes.  A professional can do it in the 60's.  Sales isn't different.  Sometimes you need to do more activity that the 'prescribed' minimum to be successful.  Your inputs should be reflective of your outputs, not the other way around.  As you get better, you get more efficient.  But you have to hit the ball 120 times to begin with!

Also, like a golfer that only plays one game of golf every few months - you may have the odd good round, but you won't get much better.  Also, one bad round shouldn't deter you.

More activity, if done properly, equals more results.  More importantly, practice makes perfect.  As per the above when planning, block out enough time to do all your calls together.  Sure the first call may be hard to kick off, but you'll be on a roll by the last one.  You get better by doing more activity - and, of course, you tend to get more results.

Your Why Is Flawed

Some people undertake sales because they view they have to, or they're told to.  Some people are in sales roles, but don't like the sales activity.  If you call or approach a client from this position - customers feel it.    Sure, you can say all the right things, but do you mean them?  Do you want to help the client and make a difference to them and their business?

Undertaking sales activity because you have to or are told to isn't sustainable.  It is human nature to resist being told to do something.   You either need to adjust your mindset to want to do it, stop doing it, or leave your role.

When I say 'want to do it' - I don't mean the activity of making the call/contact.  I mean the act of connecting with a person and business to understand can you add meaningful value to their business.  This is the why.  The call is just the how.

When you get your 'why' right - sales is not only easier, but far more enjoyable.  You ask questions wanting to know and act on the answers, you drive solutions to problems and create opportunities.

Its All You

Sales activity is demanding - especially if you try to do it all yourself.  You can become task focused in sales - ring this client, ask for this referral, close this deal.  The weight of targets can weigh you down - the blinkers start to close in.

Professional sports people have coaches - even those at the top of their game.  The people around you can coach and support you in your sales activity - often you just need to ask.

Whether this is internal support like a sales manager or a colleague who's knowledge can support a customer or proposal.  Also, good sales people know how to use their network effectively.  To gather information, introduce you to prospective clients, to solve customer problems or help capitalise on opportunities.  Who you know is often more important than what you know in sales.

It is useful to review this regularly as often it is one or a few of these things de-railing which slows or stops your sales success.  Some are easier to fix than others but, like many things in life, identifying the problem is the first step to fixing it.

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