I was honoured to be asked by Ben and the team at Unifyo to contribute to their e-book for newly promoted sales managers. It’s a great topic to write an e-book on. So many companies’ “strategy” is to promote their best sales person, ask them to manage a team as well as their existing accounts and tell them to get on with it. Unifyo is a great tool that helps you leverage all of the relationships that your team have. I’ll probably get around to writing an in-depth review at some point.
You will recall that in late last year we looked at setting goals for the next 12 months. Well it may have escaped your notice but it’s getting to the end of Q1, so how are you doing? With a couple of weeks to go, now is about the right time to start worrying if you’re not there yet. So to help you along the way here are a few short term and longer term ideas to help you achieve your quarterly target.
- Don’t panic. It won’t help and customers, like dogs, can smell fear. If they know you’re desperate and it’s end-of-quarter, expect some “take it or leave it (until Q2)” low-ball offers.
- If you need to chase someone up to try and get an order placed, now is the time to do it. If you leave it until the last week of the quarter sure as eggs is eggs the one person you need will be on vacation.
- Take a systematic look at your Q1 numbers, particularly if you are coming up short. What can you sensibly try to pull in from Q2?
- If it looks like you are going to miss your numbers through something beyond your control (e.g. customer went bust) now is the time to try and negotiate something with your boss on your Q1 quota. When the numbers are in it’s too late.
- Now is the time to start setting your goals for Q2, although you may need to fine-tune them based on Q1 achievements. All too many companies wait until the dust has settled on one quarter before setting goals for the next. If you’re not careful those goals aren’t finalised until you’re midway through the quarter.
- Take the time to review goals for you and your team for the whole of 2010.
- Are they unrealistic?
- Has anything critical changed?
- Are they too easy?
- Do I need to re-deploy my resources based on Q1 performance and markets?
- Do I need to re-prioritise my customer list?
- Should I reset my goals for the rest of the year?
- Is there anybody in my team struggling? Do they need extra coaching or help?
Good luck with the end-of-quarter, I hope you hit your goals and have healthy bonuses to spend in Q2!
If you’re prospecting by email a key question is: what time of day you should send your mail? Like any hunter you need to put yourself in the shoes of your prey to be successful (think wildebeest and waterholes). That means understanding the email habits of your prospects. Intuition suggests that most people check their email first thing in the morning (bad idea!), at lunchtime and at the end of the day. If like me you are a inbox zero person you perhaps think that it doesn’t matter what time the prospecting email arrives, because all emails in the inbox will be reviewed and dealt with. But inbox zero people are few and far between.
In my experience most people operate the “infinite inbox” system. Actually that’s an insult to the word “system”. They let stuff pile up in their inbox, occasionally filing the odd email that they think they may need again. When they check their email they do a cursory scan of the inbox, only opening stuff that looks like it might be important, for instance from their boss. What this means is that emails from people that they don’t know, even with the most eye-catching subject line simply won’t get opened. When they next check their email a few more will have landed and the earlier ones will have scrolled off the page into email oblivion (kind of like your Twitter timeline).
For this reason it’s imperative to send your prospecting emails at the right time. Ideally you want it to land as they process their email, or slightly beforehand and when they have time to read it. Research from Pure360 suggests that actually the best time is between 5 and 6pm in your target timezone. You can either do this manually or use a tool such as Boomerang for Gmail or Outlook to schedule your mail. So remember, in prospecting, as in life, timing is everything.
David DiSalvo recently wrote in Psychology Today about the latest research on the role of eye contact in persuasion. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it appears that in some circumstances too much direct eye contact can be detrimental to getting your point across.
From a sales perspective, this makes sense to me. If you have a relationship with the customer you will automatically tend to have more eye contact. If you don’t know them very well, or they are raising an objection then using too much eye contact can be interpreted as “staring them down”. One thing that I’m certain about is that avoiding eye contact never comes across well.
How and when you look someone in the eyes is such an innate thing that it’s quite difficult to deconstruct what you’re doing (the researchers in the quoted study used the latest eye-tracking technology). Also the sales dynamic should be qualitatively different from that in the study where participants are passively watching a speaker. In sales we’re aiming for an active conversation with a customer not to just talk at them. So who is talking, who’s listening, who’s taking notes, who’s thinking, who’s presenting at any particular time will all affect eye contact.
In fact this scientific research seems to reinforce the old adage “telling isn’t selling”. Have a read of David’s piece (the first couple of paras are below) and let me know what you think?
Researchers from Harvard, the University of British Columbia and the University of Freiberg used newly developed eye-tracking technology to test the claim during two experiments. In the first, they had study participants watch a speaker on video while tracking their eye movements, and then asked how persuaded they were by the speaker. Researchers found that the more time participants spent looking into the speaker’s eyes, the less persuaded they were by the speaker’s argument. The only time looking into the speaker’s eyes correlated with being influenced was when the participants already agreed with the speaker’s opinions.
Geeky types (of which I am one) often debate the pros and cons of software tools. No more so than when it comes to presentation software. Powerpoint is so omnipresent that the word is now almost interchangeable with “presentation” e.g. “She came in and gave a Powerpoint”. However younger, more creative and frankly better-looking folks trumpet the benefits of Keynote when it comes to winning that advertising account. Meantime at the bleeding edge those in the know may use Prezi with its hypnotic, swirling transformations.
Despite my geeky tendencies I suggest that the best tool for sales presentations is a good old fashioned whiteboard. Let me explain why.
Should you be presenting at all?
As we are often reminded, we have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that ratio. Our most important goal is to understand the needs of the customer so that we can figure out if/how we can help them. Too often I’ve seen sales and marketing people arrive, exchange pleasantries and then launch with relish into an hour long Powerpoint presentation on how great their company is. Telling isn’t selling.
But I’ve got to tell them something at some point!
Sure you do. At some point the customer will ask you about your company and products. The whole idea is to have a two-way conversation with them, so you can’t keep asking questions forever. It’s not the Spanish Inquisition! But you don’t have to do this as a major presentation. You can tell them the relevant facts about your company and products face-to-face and leave them with the collateral material to back that up.
So where does the whiteboard come in?
The whiteboard is excellent to help test your understanding of the customer’s problem/opportunity and how you can help them. If you start sketching this out on the whiteboard the customer will immediately start correcting you, filling in the gaps and giving you feedback. When you start drawing in how your product can help the effect is more immediate, obvious and relevant. It’s not unusual for a customer to grab a marker and join you… suddenly you’re working together!
- It’s spontaneous and enthusiastic so breaks up and enlivens what might
otherwise be a dull meeting
- Once you stand up and grab the marker you are in charge!
- It’s reliable. As long as there’s ink in the pens (keep one in your bag) a whiteboard can’t crash! We’ve all suffered from computer woes when presenting like this unfortunate TED presenter.
- There are no distracting special effects. Prezi is a very cool tool, but I often wonder if people are concentrating on the zooming and whirling effects rather than the message.
- You get to show your competence and understanding of their requirements. Any fool can read from a ppt slide
So it may not be right for every situation, but next time you get the chance leap to your feet and start “talking and chalking”.
I was recently honoured to be asked by Brad Patterson to contribute to an article over at evercontact. Contact management can sound like a trivial issue but nowadays when people are juggling contacts in email, CRM systems, LinkedIn, social media and even (believe it or not) on paper leveraging the value of your contacts is critical. Even more so when you are in a customer-facing role.
Click –> here <– to read the full article.
I recently came across this great infographic provided by my friends at Unifyo. It goes a long way to explaining why cold calling by phone is no longer successful and why warm calling by email is the way to go. Check out the infographic and then I’ll tell you more…
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.
Why prospect using email?
The fact is that prospects don’t want to be contacted by phone and are very resistant to buying when approached this way. Also modern comms technology means that it’s easy for people to hide behind voicemail, checking out caller IDs or just letting everything go to voicemail and then deciding whether to respond.
According to Unifyo’s research prospects claim they would far rather (77% vs. 2%) be contacted by email. The astute amongst you will be thinking that sending strangers emails is a far from certain way of winning business! So the issue is how we can successfully prospect using email?
Measure twice, cut once
If you’re going to prospect for B2B customers by email then your mails must be personalised. By this I mean it has to be specific to that person and company not just a merged email starting “Dear f_name”. You need to do some research to find the right companies, the right contacts and background on them. I’ve written on this before if you want to find out how.
Having done this I always start the email with “the hook” which is something linking me to that person and/or that company. There’s a pecking order in terms of the hook…
1. You know the person personally.
2. You have a contact in common.
3. You have a personal link to the person. e.g. you went to the same college.
4. If all else fails manufacture a link! E.g. You read in the press about their latest announcement (from the News section of their site) and felt moved to write.
- Subject: Eye catching, compelling and specific to them.
- The hook: above…
- The body: Brief and to the point summary of what you do and why it’s beneficial to companies like theirs. If you’ve done your research properly what you do/offer should be of interest to this person.
- The call to action: Short, simple and specific. A good one is to ask for a brief conference call at a specific time/date.
- The “get out of jail free” clause: Words to the effect “If this isn’t of use to you please let me know. I don’t want to waste your time”. It’s professional and better to get a “no” now than waste your time chasing them 10 times.
It’s not over ’til the fat lady sings
It’s not unusual to have a very low response rate to your first email. I get a far better response rate to the polite reminder that I send them a couple of weeks later. How long you’re willing to chase someone is up to you, but I give it 2 reminders and assume if they haven’t responded by then it’s unlikely they ever will.
It’s Q4 (where did the time go?) and whether you’re self-employed, a small business owner or a sales pro now is the time to be setting your sales goals for next year. Most customers are goal and budget setting as well, so it’s is an excellent time to sit down and set targets for the coming year. Here are some goal setting tips for you…
1. Top Down. If you have objectives set by your management they should, of course, be in there. If you have larger personal or life goals they should also feed into your 2010 sales goals.
2. SMART. Make your goals SMART ones…
- S = Specific. What, why, and how?
- M = Measurable. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it
- A = Attainable. You probably won’t really commit to a goal that’s out of reach. Too easy and you won’t get that sense of achievement when you get there.
- R = Realistic. Is it something that is under your control? If not it’s a hope not a goal.
- T = Timely. Set a timeframe. Include milestones along the way… don’t just set a year-end goal.
3. Make your goals tangible. What will it feel like to achieve those goals? Imagine what you will buy with the commission, what will you do on your President’s Club trip, how will it feel when you get presented with the Sales Person of the Year award at the next annual sales meeting? Use all of your senses here… imagine what that champagne will taste like!
4. Include professional goals as well as sales targets. What job do you want to be doing this time next year? Do you want to move to another company? Do you want to set up on your own as a rep? What new skills do you want to attain in the next year?
5. Learn from your mistakes. Take the opportunity to look back on the last year. What did you do well, what could you have improved upon and how? What will you do differently this year?
6. Reward yourself along the way. Regardless of what your company’s reward policy might be, give yourself some treats along the way for goals/milestones achieved.
7. Keep the number of goals manageable. Nobody was ever one-sixteenth committed to anything. Better to have two really crunchy, very specific, achievable goals than sixteen flaky goals including how often you should back-up your PC.
Good luck and good selling for the next year.