When entering notes and history into CRM systems, I am an advocate of what I call the “bus” theory. If the salesperson working the account was hit by a bus on the way to work the next person to work the account should have all of the information necessary to close the deal.
Information that I feel is crucial is:
- Does the contact have budget approval?
- Who are the other stakeholders in the process?
- Is the sale tied to a project if so what is the go live date?
- What do the company financials look like?
- What competitors are in the bidding process?
- What are the next steps – a meeting or scheduled call?
- What are the prospect’s concerns and objections?
Other helpful information could be:
- The gatekeeper’s name.
- Facts that were discovered during bonding and rapport – hobbies or interests.
- Links to the prospect’s LinkedIN profile or Twitter account.
What I often find in CRM systems is information that is not only unhelpful but disruptive. Personal attacks of the prospect are not only damaging to the sales process but also your reputation. Entering comments akin to “the prospect is a jerk”, “this guy is a moron” or even worse entering swear words into your CRM is counterproductive.
When entering notes, you should imagine you are talking to your boss or coworkers. In essence, this is what you are doing. If you feel the prospect is a jerk, explain how the prospect is making the sales process difficult. This will not only help you better understand what is making the sales process so challenging but could also help the next person working the account.
When entering the counterproductive information you give your coworkers and superiors the perception you are inarticulate and frustrated in your position. You also give the appearance that you do not understand the customer’s obstacles and objections. The next time you are entering notes in the CRM system imagine the CEO of your company asked you for an update on the account. Ultimately, this is what you could be doing; the CEO might be the next person to look at that CRM record.
I have worked for some inspirational and influential people in my sales career. I have retained the knowledge they have passed onto me and apply it on a daily basis. One of the best tidbits that were passed on to me is –EVERYBODY SELLS. Everyone in your organization should understand that your team as a whole is responsible for driving revenue.
The boss and mentor that drove this point home to me gave me this concept in the form of a story. While vacationing on the west coast in the 80’s my boss had met a retired bank executive. What made this retired executive unique is he was barley in his 40s.
When being drilled for information on how he had amassed a fortune large enough to retire at such a young age he responded: “I make sure everybody sells.” Now this is not a foreign concept when applying it to your sales team; this guy applied it to his entire staff.
Every employee in all of his banks was selling. The tellers would ask you if you had seen their latest Money Market rates. Even the security guard by the door would direct your eye towards the rack of brochures by the door. The security guard would do this while asking if you were interested in a mortgage or a new car loan.
This is a relatively simple concept, and my old boss and mentor did successfully apply it to our company. He is now retired, go figure. If everyone in the company shares in the revenue, everyone on should contribute to the generation of revenue. This is even more important for your client facing employees.
Are your customer services and tech support people trained to identify upgrade opportunities? Do your developers spend their time fixing bugs or creating new features they feel will drive revenue? How much does your receptionist know about your product line and offerings? She is the first person every visitor to your company sees.
The formula is simple. More people in your organization selling equals more revenue being generated.
In a lot of cases, companies will send junior sales people to trade shows. Over the years, I have seen these babes in the woods make many rookie mistakes. While it is essential for new sales people to get live prospect exposure, it is also important for them to have superb mentoring. Make sure your trade show booth is staffed with the right mixture of your top sales people and your hottest newcomers. Tradeshows are not cheap and squeezing an ROI out of a show seems to be getting harder year after year. This makes it that much more important to seize every opportunity that is presented to you on the road. Here are some rookie mistakes I have seen time and again on the floors of a tradeshow.
Get out of the booth: Nothing irritates me more than seeing 2 or 3 people sitting in a booth all staring down at their phone screens. If your booth seems to have energy more people will be drawn to it. He is a simple trick. Stand on the outside of your booth and cause a log jam. It is easier to engage people when a table does not separate you. If you have 2 or 3 sales people talking to prospects in front of the booth, it will slow down traffic in front of your booth and a crowd will form. This will build excitement and curiosity about your product.
The cocktail hour is for attendees, not exhibitors: I remember a Direct Marketing Association show a few years back where the entire booth staff for one company was totally intoxicated. They were slurring their speech, unsteady on their feet and rude to prospects. They thought in their drunken stupor they were the cool kids. Everyone around them viewed them as donkeys. Making things more interesting the woman in the booth next to them called their company and asked for HR.
During your downtime sell the other attendees: When the show goes quiet during informational sessions this is your chance to strike. Not only is this an excellent time to get competitive information but a superb time to sell and network. When I was selling marketing products, one of the most successful shows in the company’s history was one where we closed ten exhibitor sales during the show.
I am not saying the three above practices will guarantee you show success, but they are a great place to start.
Understanding procurement professionals is a major step in the sales cycle. I have heard the words “It is a done deal. It is in procurement” uttered by many salespeople of varied skill sets and levels. Getting a deal to procurement is not getting it done. There are many ways a contract can die on the desk of a procurement person, let’s look at a few.
If you have a product or service that can be provided by other companies you still have a lot of work to do in pushing that deal to close. The first and most often reason sales die in procurement is, your deal is not the only offer being considered. Your contract could be sitting next to offers of your competitors as the procurement professional dissects each contract line-by-line.
The procurement professional will look at each line item on the contracts weighing the value of each entry. If your company is offering free training or free support with a product or service, add a dollar value to it. The training or support can then be balanced out later as a one-time promotion or discount. Free training or support could also be your final negotiating concession. Your competitor is probably charging for these services; this will further validate your cash assessment of these line items.
The second assumption many sales people make is thinking a procurement professional is a finance clerk rubber stamping contracts. This conjecture is, o-so wrong. Most procurement professionals are sent to many sales trainings. In some cases, procurement professionals get more negotiation training than most salespeople do. Trust me when I say procurement professionals have seen and heard every close.
Most procurement professionals receive promotions, bonuses and commissions based on the percentages they get sales people to slash their contracts by. With this in mind do not let you bottom-line deal get to procurement, leave yourself a little room for the final agreement to negotiate. If you can help the procurement professional show they were able to get an additional 5 – 10% saved on the deal it becomes a win-win for all parties involved.
The bottom-line is just because the deal has left the end user’s desk doesn’t mean it will get done. There are multiple places within legal and procurement a deal can die. My best advice is to prepare for these contingencies and do not assume there is a rubber stamp anywhere in the process.
Knowing your prospect’s buying power or signing authority can seal deals and shorten sales cycles. I think back to a software deal I had on the table with a wireless cellular carrier years back. The invoice price for the total solution was $50,000. The deal dragged on for a few months until I got a call from the prospect at 2 P.M. the day before Christmas.
The prospect told me the since procurement was out of the office for Christmas Eve he could use his buying authority to sign off on anything under $25,000. He suggested if we broke the deal into two invoices for $24,900 we could get it done that day.
Not wasting any time I raced across New Hampshire back to my office, generated the paperwork and got the deal done. Making the day even sweeter, our company’s CEO came into the office to pick up Christmas gifts he had stashed in the office as $50K was pouring off of the fax machine. I learnt a valuable lesson that day.
I took this understanding of prospects’ buying authority with me throughout my career. When dealing with government agencies, healthcare, and educational institutions, I have noticed if you can keep the proposal below a certain threshold you avoid having the RFP from going out to bid. You could lose revenue in the bidding process or even worse the deal and account itself.
If you can keep a deal out of the bidding process or out of procurement, do it at all costs. Less red tape means a shorter sales cycle, be creative when sending proposals to larger companies. Have the conversation with your prospects about their budgets and signing authority. Sometimes putting goods and services on separate invoices may get the deal done. You might even want to consider using a channel partner to handle part of the deal
I watched Matt Damon’s new film Promised Land this weekend with little expectations. Damon is a talented actor and typically turns out an excellent product, what I wasn’t expecting was a valuable lesson in sales. Matt Damon plays a top real estate negotiator in the film. His sales skills are impeccable; his negotiating is ruthless. Where his character lacks in his arsenal of sales skills is simply put, character.
Promised Land is a story of sales integrity on par with Glengarry Glen Ross. I am not one to post spoilers so I will leave you to watch the film yourself. What I will say, as we learned in Glengarry Glen Ross, without integrity, honesty, and transparency a sale cycle and/or a sales career will be short lived.
I know a lot of great sales people that are fantastic at building strategic account plans. These leaders in their chosen profession create and map plans of attack detailed in every aspect of the sales process from the initial call to the close. What many salespeople fail to do is analyze the deal once it is complete.
By analyzing our wins we can refine and tune our entire process. This is not only good for the sales person but also beneficial to the customer.
Our prospect’s time is just as valuable as ours. By eliminating unnecessary steps in the sales process, we deliver mission critical solutions to customers sooner, hopefully, before our competitors do. In streamlining our strategic account plans, we can also expect shorter sales cycles and more wins. Remember, time kills all sales.
My advice for the day is looking at your top 3 wins and dissect the process that helped you win the accounts. Once you have a clear understanding of how you won the deals… wash, rinse, reevaluate, and repeat.
I have been putting together my 5-year plan. My ultimate goal is to increase my gross sales 20% year over year. To do this particular disciplines must be in place. My first objective is to do at least one “educational” sales activity per day. Activities on my to-do list are reading a chapter from a sales book, doing an online webinar or attending a networking event.