Right now, as we are still coming to terms with COVID-19 and the economic fall-out, making sales has never been more important to every business. Especially as corporate purse-strings have tightened. Businesses now need to strengthen their existing customer relationships. They also need to develop new ones. Everyone needs to develop a pipeline of opportunities. A healthy sales funnel will help businesses to navigate through the new normal, which is why it will pay to start developing the habits of successful salespeople.
There’s a common myth that great salespeople are born. Many people feel that extroverts make the best sellers, that somehow, as per the Hollywood movies, a naturally charismatic person will naturally close more deals. However, I’ve worked with many introverted yet exceptional salespeople. The simple truth is, it isn’t just your personality that makes a great salesperson. Just as great sportspeople aren’t born, nor are salespeople. If you haven’t come across it, I’d recommend reading “The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice” by Matthew Syed.
Daily habits beat talent
That’s right, to be successful in sales and client development, you’ll need to develop daily habits. Like hitting the gym regularly, if you do these things regularly, you’ll get fitter! And by fitter, I mean better and more skilled at building a pipeline of opportunities. To help get you started, below are the 5 daily habits of successful salespeople, for you to follow.
Know who you want to talk to the most
This is the starting point for all business development, sales or client development. To put this simply, if you don’t know who you want to talk to you, you have no-one to sell to. Start by determining the industry sector and size of organisations you want to target. However, this is more than just writing down a list of organisations you desire to have as a client. After all, you can’t actually converse with Mr Microsoft or Mrs Samsung. You’ll need to research who the people within that organisation are that you need to build a relationship with. Find out if they have the authority to purchase from you. This research and qualification is essential and needs regular attention. Doing your client homework is the first habit you need to cultivate.
Make time for prospecting
Sounds easy to plan. And it is. But it’s also very effective. In most cases 30 minutes a day is adequate. However, the trick is actually doing it. For many people, it can be daunting to reach out to new people, so having a daily structure helps take that fear away.
You also need to understand why it’s important. Many firms and people I’ve met with recently rely on their existing customers and the hope of referrals. This ticks along nicely in the good times, but falls-off a cliff in tougher times. You can only squeeze a limited amount of revenue out of your existing customer base. That’s why it pays to always hunt for new clients. It also makes your pipeline more resilient as new clients will replace the ones you have lost.
The habit you need here is to take time every day to plan who you want as customers. Next, start researching and then most importantly, contacting them. Contacting them in the currently changing climate will be more difficult. To get help with this I’d recommend reading this article on remote sales by Jeroen Corthout.
Making time to make prospecting a daily routine takes a lot of the fear away. This means in time it just becomes part of what you do.
Plan your sales time every day
Develop the habit of thinking about what you will do in terms of sales activities that day. Start to think about what your clients or customers will need from you. Also, think about how you will reach out to new prospects.
To put this into context. I remember one of my very first sales directors back in the late ‘90’s taking me under her wing and saying to me, “Do you know what I’m doing when I’m walking my dog every morning at 6am? I’m planning the day ahead, thinking about new opportunities and client follow-ups, that way within the working day, no time is wasted.” Now, you don’t have to get a dog, but get your day organised before you arrive at work and your productivity will soar.
Make your client’s success, your priority
Sounds obvious, but it is for many a big mind shift. Most people believe the reason they contact a client or prospect is to make a sale. That may be true for you, but it is of no value to your client. Instead, in every interaction, make it your priority to help them be successful. It may be advice, a shared contact, or some information (not always from your company) that you send them. After all, people hate being pitched to, particularly at the wrong time. So, hold back that sales presentation. In fact, I’d urge you to ditch your slide deck, to win more work.
To help you make this change in mindset, the following story may help. One of the best product salespeople I ever worked with had it spot on. She once said to me, “I really don’t want to work with unsuccessful or struggling clients. I mean if they aren’t doing well, and if our product or our help and advice can’t help them become successful, then really what’s the point? We’re just taking their money for no good reason and you can’t build a business on that.” So true, so eloquent, and it was hardwired into her DNA. So, start to think about your clients and how you can help them become more successful.
Be the master of following up
So, you had a great meeting with a client and prospect. There are some actions that you both need to do. As an aside if you both have actions that means you had a great meeting. You said that you’d send an email to summarize what you agreed. And this is something you absolutely should do. However, say you don’t send that email until about a week later. Guess what? That email gets ignored. No surprise, you showed your client that they are not a priority to you, so likewise, they now feel you aren’t a priority.
Therefore, get your follow-ups out immediately. If you agree to provide detailed information, that may take some time. But a short email saying what you agreed and letting them know when you will send the information across, can be done in minutes. It creates a great impression and lets them know when to look out for it.
How to incorporate the 5 habits of successful salespeople
The first thing to do is start straight away. Start getting your target lists together. Then block time in your calendar to do your daily activities, and hold yourself to account for it. Then start thinking about how you can help your clients. Post-COVID, this will really boost your credibility in the marketplace. With the business landscape in turmoil, we all need to have people we can count on to help us get through. Finally, never lose momentum, and send short follow up notes as quickly as possible.