By: Mike Weinberg
28-MINUTE AUDIO / 3,000 WORDS (9 PAGES)
Do you or your salespeople find that most of your sales efforts go to waste? Most sales divisions rely on existing clients instead of new business. When you understand the top reasons why people fail to generate new sales, you will no longer only babysit your current accounts and can then become a true sales hunter.
This book presents practical and hands-on tips and simple and structured approaches that can increase your sales revenue. Read this book summary to learn how to sharpen your sales weapons, the magic words to use during a cold call, and the most effective structure for your sales story.
TOP 20 INSIGHTS
Limit the time and effort you spend to respond to RFPs, or requests for proposals. Sales experts warn that although it can be exciting to get these requests, the rate of success with RFPs is low because you are probably responding to a request that your competitor helped the prospect write.
The number one pitfall in a sales pitch is self-focus. Identify whether this is a problem in your organization by this test: Ask your sales leaders what they can tell you about your company. If they respond with product or company attributes rather than customer issues, you have a problem.
Companies with premium priced products must be prepared to invest in the development of sales capabilities. A common excuse in these organizations is that salespeople lose out to competitors based on price. If this is a recurring excuse, coach your salespeople to tell a premium sales story to match the premium pricing.
Sales experts use this tactic to sharpen their language: As you prepare for a sales call, ask yourself "so what?" for each statement or bullet point on the agenda. Each statement you make must be clearly relevant to your customers’ issues.
This formula to craft a sales story has been proven effective at over fifty leading companies. First, list the client issues that your business can address. Next, detail exactly what you offer. Lastly, outline your key differentiators.
“Let me steal a minute” are the best words to use in the opening of a cold call. It is relaxed, somewhat informal, not overused, and openly acknowledges the fact that you are taking someone’s time unexpectedly.
“I head up” is another phrase that successful sales consultants recommend using. For example, “I head up our northeast division.” It communicates leadership, authority, a sense of ownership, and imbues confidence in those who use it.
Countless successful sales leaders attest that you should expect to ask three separate times in the same conversation before your prospect might agree to an in-person meeting. Asking three times for the meeting should not be viewed amongst your salespeople as overly pushy but rather the right degree of assertiveness.
There are three magic words to use when you ask for an in-person meeting over the phone: visit, fit, and value. Use “visit” instead of “meeting” because it sounds less serious. Discuss whether you might be a good “fit” for the customer. And, use phrases such as “perhaps we could add ‘value’ to your business.”
Before you invest time and resources to compile a proposal, clarify who has the decision authority in the organization, the timeline to make a decision, the available budget, and the degree of willingness to make a change. Such information greatly clarifies whether the proposal is worth your time.
Work backward to translate your sales goals into the amount of activity needed earlier in the sales process. Track your activity for a quarter to obtain these numbers for yourself and see where improvement is needed.
Next, translate your quarterly goals for closed deals into the number of initial proactive conversations you need to have to get there.
To strategically find new business, seek out potential customers that closely resemble your best current customers. It is more likely that you’ll bring a clear value proposition in those situations. Make sure that these target accounts are finite, focused, written, and workable.
Be aware of the “prisoner of hope” complex. That is, you are always holding out for one of those promising new proposals to hit. You become a prisoner of hope to a precious few deals and neglect the process to create new opportunities. This is one of the most common reasons salespeople fail.
When you spend too much time to be a good corporate citizen, you are likely trapped in another common pitfall. People who have a difficult time saying “no” tend to push new business development efforts to the bottom of the list.
Only 10-15% of the sales team in a typical organization can be classified as true A-player hunters when it comes to new business. Far too often, managers overload their sales team with tedious account management work. Unleash your A-players to find new business and experience growth instead.
To incentivize salespeople to find new customers, consider a compensation model that decreases the commission payout on existing business over time, with exceptionally high payouts in year one. Also dole out an extra bonus for closing a deal.
There are three organizational prerequisites for the sales division can do its job well. The business must have a clear strategy and market demand, the compensation structure must incentivize new sales, and the sales talent must at least be average.
If you struggle to hit your sales targets, consider the counterintuitive approach to sell to one level higher up in your customer’s hierarchy. These senior leaders may be more likely to see you as a problem-solver and business partner rather than yet another salesperson who tries to know down their doors.
To find your priority accounts, order your customers among the dimensions of 1) most revenue spent with you, 2) likelihood of growth, and 3) most likely to be at-risk. The customers that are at the top of multiple of these lists should garner more of your attention.
Salespeople who are responsible to generate new business are struggling. Some buy into the myth that search engine optimization and digital marketing have made their jobs obsolete. They also lack seasoned mentors to coach them. Most important of all, many have lost focus on how simple it is to go after new business. Sales veteran, expert, consultant, and coach Mike Weinberg outlines a simple and effective strategy to find new sales: identify your target accounts, sharpen your sales weapons, and attack your targets. Learn practical tips, tricks, frameworks, and tactics for succeeding at each of those steps in this book summary.
The Three-Step Approach to Generating New Sales
Finding new customers can be uncomfortable, and it is easy to default to “babysitter” mode in servicing existing accounts. This can put your business at risk in the long term. Generating new sales does not have to be complicated. Sales expert Mike Weinberg outlines a simple three-step process. Even if you aren't in sales yourself, this approach can be helpful for individuals at any level of a company, including those running small businesses. The insights shared here can also be applied to those hunting for a new job or potential investors, anyone putting together a communications or marketing plan, or a human resources manager searching for a new way to reinvigorate and incentivize employees. Here are the three steps for generating new sales.
Step 1: Select Your Target Accounts
Step 2: Sharpen Your Sales Weapons
Step 3: Attack Your Targets
Step 1: Select Your Target Accounts
How to Strategically Select Your Target Accounts
Most sales activities are repetitive and tactical. Selecting which accounts to target is a strategic and exciting exercise. It is also an opportunity to engage senior leadership in decision-making and participate in moving the vision of your company forward. The accounts that you spend the most time and resources pursuing should be the ones that “look, smell, and feel” like your best existing customers. Your best customers may have one or more of the following qualities: they spend a lot of money with you, the relationship is a true partnership that produces value for both parties, they have been giving you business for a long time, they provide you with referrals, or their spend with you has been increasing over time. Once you’ve identified your best customers, profile those customers by answering these questions about them: Why did they initially become customers? Where are they located? Are they a particular size? Are they in certain vertical markets or niches where we have a higher rate of success? Where can we find potential customers with similar profiles?
This exercise initiates the process of creating a target account list. Some other sources to consider when searching for companies to pursue include local business journals published by American Cities Business Journals. These local business journals often put out a “Book of Lists” annually with business and contact information and are a great source of information for profiling potential targets. Hoovers is also a go-to database for online, up-to-date company information. Also, don’t discount old-fashioned trade shows or industry associations as part of your search for finding new business and staying up to date.
The Qualities of Your Target Account List: Finite, Focused, Written, and Workable
To gain traction and close deals, your list of the strategic targets you are pursuing needs to be finite. That is, it must have an end. The most successful salespeople relentlessly go after their finite lists and do not give up and start fresh once they've exhausted the list. Instead, they keep working their finite list and, after eventually getting noticed, get deals to go through. It is a mistake to continually look for new contacts to pursue after having already identified your strategic targets for good reasons.
Sales experts share that periods of high yield and success in pursuing new business often occur as a result of an intensive, focused effort. Focused in this case means honed in on a specific vertical market or type of company. Once the product or service resonates within a given niche, it is smart to begin focused efforts on other companies similar areas.
It may sound crazy in the age of iPads, smartphones, and comprehensive CRM systems to ask salespeople to carry around or post a written target account list. But in reality, it is still effective. Scrolling through screen after screen of the CRM is no substitute for handwriting your one-page list of target accounts, or printing it off and posting it by your desk.
There is no right answer to the exact number of accounts a salesperson should be working at any given moment. Key factors include: type of sale, the sales role, and the sales cycle. Depending on each of these, the number of accounts assigned per salesperson could flex up or down. The right balance allows the sales team to reach each of their accounts in a reasonable time frame.
Step 2: Sharpen Your Sales Weapons
Why You Need Sales Weapons
Working in sales becomes less intimidating when you understand that it is an exercise in deploying sales weapons to reach your targets and ultimately help solve their problems. To maximize effectiveness, you must have a variety of sales weapons at your disposal, they must be high-quality, and you must be adept at using them. The ultimate weapon is the sales story because it can be altered to fit most any of the other sales tools. Other sales weapons include email, social media, the proactive telephone call, voicemail, traditional printed marketing materials, digital marketing tools (blogs, podcasts, webinars), white papers, case studies, samples, and trade shows, just to name a few.
The Sales Story
Stop talking about yourself and your company and begin leading with the issues, pains, problems, opportunities, and results that are important to your prospect.
Being able to tell your story as a company is among the most valuable assets you can have. Most salespeople, not to mention business executives, have not yet mastered this. It becomes apparent that the company lacks a compelling story through the report-backs of salespeople. They are on the frontlines and can identify most accurately if the elevator pitch they've been trained to deliver is resonating with customers. The number one most common mistake in the sales story is self-focus – making the pitch all about you, your company, what you offer, how great you are, etc. The customer is concerned primarily with themselves and their bottom line. How can you help? Here is a quick tutorial on creating your own sales story: Think of your sales story as the foundation of all your sales and marketing tools. Once the sales story is set, the rest falls into place easily. There are three parts to the sales story that you’ll need to assemble: 1) Client issues, 2) Offerings, and 3) Differentiators.
Client or customer issues always come first. This begins your sales story in a customer-focused, not self-focused way. Starting with their issues grabs their attention and positions you as a problem-solver and partner. To identify these for your company, ask yourself the following questions. Why did your best customers initially come to you? What business problems were they facing? What results were they looking to achieve? To dig deeper, consider additional questions such as: What problems do you see prospects experiencing from trying to do for themselves what you should be handling for them? List all the answers to these questions that come to mind. If you have several distinct customer segments, consider the questions from their separate perspectives.
The next part of the sales story is simply stating and identifying what you sell. This section should be straightforward. What are your products or services, and how do they address the customer pain points you’ve identified?
The last section is your differentiators. Like the customer issues section, it is helpful here to brainstorm with a couple of questions in mind. What are all the reasons that you believe your company, product, service, or solution is better and different? Consider multiple dimensions, including aspects like the level of service you provide or the unique culture of your company.
Now that the three component parts of your sales story are in place, it’s possible to tailor any number of sales weapons and be prepared for a variety of situations. You are ready to attack your target. The next section provides pointers about how best to do this.
Step 3: Attack Your Targets
The Cold Call
After making hundreds of cold calls in his lifetime, sales expert Mike Weinberg has a couple of tips. It is easy to detect someone’s mindset over the phone. Begin with a positive mindset and your voice and the appropriate tone will follow. Although a strict script isn’t recommended, call outlines and talking points can help structure the call. Of course, now would be a good time to share some snippets from your sales story. Make sure you are clear on the objective of your call. In most cases, this is to get an in-person meeting. As mentioned earlier, expect persistence. You likely need to ask for an in-person meeting three times before your prospect agrees to it. Regarding voicemail, take this in stride and anticipate it as a regular part of the cold-calling process. Plan to leave more than one voicemail over time, and strategically drop elements of your sales story within each one. Lastly, be human. Prospects may finally give you the call back if you weave a bit of humor or light-hearted guilt into the voicemail.
Meeting in Person
If you get an in-person meeting, own the agenda so that you can own the sales process as well. A couple of tactical tips include ditching the projector in favor of a pad and pen. Treating the meeting like a dialogue rather than a presentation will work in your favor. On that note, be sure to listen much more than you talk. Consider sitting on the same side of the table as the prospect to dial down the formality as well. The core parts of your agenda will be delivering your sales story in three minutes or less, asking probing questions to understand fit and identify any specific roadblocks, and doing the actual selling.
How to Get It Done
It’s highly unlikely that, given options with how to spend their working hours, anyone would default to prospecting mode, making cold call after cold call and experiencing rejection. To reap the benefits of the tactics outlined in this book, you’ll need to follow a few guidelines to ensure you make the time for the right activities. First, practice time blocking. Proactively place a hold on your calendar for the regular days and times when you’ll be making these proactive telephone calls, preferably in ninety to three-hour time frames. Second, do the math to understand how frequently you need to be making these phone calls to close one deal. Third, put your goals on paper in an individual business plan. Include your goals, strategies, actions, potential obstacles, and personal development.
List things like your revenue targets, the number of new accounts you plan to acquire, or the total compensation you hope to earn for the year as a result.
Include ideas like specific accounts you will aim at, new geographies or verticals that are growing, or new modes of connecting with prospects.
What specifically will you do? This could be a dedication to time-blocking, a goal for the number of calls made per day, or a set number of visits you will make to a particular market.
Proactively plan for the challenges you will encounter. You probably know what they are, so it's better to list them and problem-solve for ways to mitigate them.
Part of staying at the top of your game is investing in your personal development, such as through conferences, training, or reading. Planning for this not only re-energizes you personally but also sharpens your skills and increases your success.