Even the best sales people need some tips now and then. When it comes down to it, the problem could simply be one of time management—your reps may be spending too much time chasing down leads that will never convert. The sales funnel shouldn’t be a black hole; make sure salespeople know when to persevere and when to surrender in order to improve sales productivity.
1. Do More with Less
According to Geoffrey James for Salesforce blog, you may need to refocus your time to increase sales. While it may seem counterintuitive, sometimes you need to reduce the number of opportunities you go after in order to increase sales. The problem with chasing too many leads is that you may not be giving each one the time they deserve. Instead, choose the most qualified leads and prepare sufficiently for each pitch.
2. Know Your Customer
This point goes along with the first one. Going after the right leads means doing significant prep work. Utilizing sales intelligence and good, old-fashioned customer research are the best resources. Make sure you are having a sales conversation based on the needs of your potential client, suggests Selling Power. To be able to pitch a meaningful solution, you have to understand what drives their market. In the same regard, if you’ve done the research and it doesn’t seem like your product is the right fit for them, odds are the company’s buyers will come to the same conclusion. It will be more beneficial to focus your efforts elsewhere.
3. Work on Your Pitch
Once you’ve improved your time management and started focusing in on the sales you can actually make, it’s time to work on the most basic part of your strategy: the pitch. If you’re not effectively closing sales, the culprit could be the pitch itself. The problem could be that your pitch is too much of a hard sell, and not enough like a conversation. According to sales training group Fearless Selling, a canned pitch can really turn off your prospects. Once again, you need to respect your potential clients as individuals with specific needs—remember to pitch your solution to their pain points, not your product. Your product won’t work the same way for everyone, and neither will your pitch. Try ditching your notes and having a real talk instead of giving a presentation.
When you really think about how you’re working and try to perfect each element, the results can be surprising.
Humans respond to narratives, and we are more likely to retain information when it comes packaged in a story; so, storytelling is one of the greatest tools in the sales and marketing toolbox to engage your customers.
In a video from Marketo called “Lead Generation Tips from 6 Really Really Smart Human Beings,” Lee Odden, founder of TopRank Online Marketing said, “Facts tell. Stories sell.” This is the kind of catchphrase you should write down on a post-it-note and stick on your computer monitor—it’s that important. You can use statistics about your product as a selling point, but your prospect’s eyes may glaze over. However, tie these numbers up in a compelling tale about how your product completely turned a business around in its time of need, and you are much more likely to grab their full attention. Numbers make people nod, but stories make them care—and people are more likely to invest in something they care about.
Do Background Research
In the same video from Marketo, Nick Westergaard, chief brand strategist and founder of Driven Digital, said, “Questions are currency.” In other words, what marketers really need to do is identify what their potential client’s questions are and provide an answer before the prospect even thinks to ask. But how do you do that? You do a whole lot of customer research: determine what’s going on in their markets and use big data analytics to get a sense of their industry climate. When you know your audience, you’ll understand what kinds of stories make them tick.
Where Do You Tell Your Stories?
If you haven’t noticed, narratives are pervasive in our culture. That’s because they work well, no matter what medium you use to tell them, be it podcast, text or video. Using them in sales pitches can be extremely effective too. When it comes to digital marketing, video is a pretty safe bet. Internet video is a huge part of marketing and unlikely to go away anytime soon. When it comes to sending a succinct, effective message, video is a medium unlike any other. Make a video to use on a landing page or share on social media.
How Do You Tell Your Stories?
Once you choose a vehicle for your brand story, it’s all about creating a narrative that will sell. The important thing is that it contains all the right elements to engage with the audience. According to Forbes, it’s important to create characters that your clients will root for. After all, a story without a protagonist isn’t much of a story at all. Make sure it’s someone with issues that will resonate with your audience. Remember in grade school when you learned that a story has a beginning, middle and an end? That’s still true. Don’t forget to craft a story arc. In the beginning, present a stable situation, which then gets upset by the introduction of a problem that your product will solve for them.
When we talk about stories in marketing, we’re not talking about fiction. Your stories should be rooted in real encounters. This may sound less interesting than writing the great American novel, but using real events actually makes the whole process easier. You probably have an entire file full of client success stories. Think about one of these sales from the company’s perspective. Rather than just being a percentage point in a sales record, this situation is a story waiting to be told.
Whether you are making a pitch, creating a video or e-book, basing your marketing and sales efforts in stories is the way to go.
Navigating social media without analytics is like crossing the ocean without stars.
No self-respecting ancient mariner, or night-migrating bird for that matter, would try to cross from Knossos to Delos without use of the stars. The ocean is too large, and full, and dark.
But sales people are trying to follow their B2B customers on Twitter without the stars. They load up users and keywords into excellent B2C support apps like Hootsuite or Radian6, but still miss their destination because they can’t navigate the business developments by following people. To understand how your customer’s business, and so your target, is changing, you need to be navigating through all of Twitter and extracting out the B2B business trends buffeting your prospect.
That takes analytics. Analytics that process every tweet and figure out its meaning, in real time. Analytics that figure out whether it is relevant to you. Does it match your personal interests, does it have meaning to your business and your strategy, whether or not the keywords you put in are matched?
That’s what we’re doing at FirstRain; it’s all very personal. We analyze Twitter the way a Minoan navigator would study the stars 10,000 years ago. We’re finding you the path through Twitter’s ocean to get to your ultimate destination: revenue growth.
“Rapport isn’t ‘I like you.’ Rapport is ‘I am like you.’”
This word implies a mutual understanding and an ease of communication. If that doesn’t sound like the typical relationship your salespeople have with potential clients, they may need to work on developing empathy. There are several steps that go into developing this kind of trusting relationship.
What Does Your Customer Want?
With the customer research tools available today, it’s easy to discover what your customer needs. Take a look at some big data analytics and determine what’s happening out there in the potential client’s market. What are the big events and potential problems? Part of being a good resource for clients is having an in-depth understanding of what they do.
Trust Your Customer
It’s important to have some faith in your potential client. Salespeople can be often be condescending when discussing customers, but this is exactly the wrong kind of attitude to have. Often, sales reps have a low opinion of clients, believing that they lie or they’re uninformed. These preconceptions have a major impact on how salespeople interact with potential clients one on one, according to Dave Brock for his Partners in Excellence blog. In order to be a great salesperson, you have to understand that client buyers are people who make mistakes. They may not tell you the truth every time, however, this is likely because they’re misinformed, not because they’re trying to mislead you. To be a trusted resource, you have to be able to connect with these individuals as people, not just buyers.
Be a Good Listener
So, you have the background details that you got from your customer intelligence research. That’s great, but these numbers don’t always tell the whole story. You need a real person to fill in the blanks. Don’t assume you know everything about your customer’s market. Use the data you do know to ask pointed questions. Listening to the answers is what will earn you trust, not telling your potential client something they already know. Use their answers to guide the conversation.
Meet Them on Their Turf
Let your potential client determine how you will communicate. This doesn’t just mean the channel, which you should also take into consideration. It means their conversational style, says Selling Power. Do they like to start out a conversation with small talk, or get right into the meat of things? Are they laid back or chatty? Matching their energy is another good way to build rapport.
Smile and Be Funny
When it comes to customer service, smiling is one of the oldest rules in the book. While business-to-business often seems radically different from say, a restaurant, some parts are still the same. To a certain extent, people are programmed to mirror the emotions we see in others. Your smiling face should be the first thing the prospect sees. You don’t have to grin like an idiot the entire time, just be happy to see them. Humor is also a good icebreaker. Don’t go overboard with the knock-knock jokes, but be affable. Being self-effacing also portrays some vulnerability, which goes a long way in establishing rapport, according to Iannarino.
With a little empathy, you can gain the trust of your prospects, paving the way towards a mutually beneficial relationship. It all starts with building rapport.
Training your salespeople is vital to the continuing success of any business. Even if they can’t turn back time by flying around the world in reverse, sales superheros can turn a bad pitch into a closed deal. In a rapidly changing world, it’s a mistake to assume that your best sales reps don’t need any more training. Whether your salespeople are veterans or just entering the world of sales, it’s necessary to provide them with the training they need to best represent your company. Training sales reps is important for:
Here are some ideas for training your sales people:
Hire a trainer
Most businesses can benefit from hiring a trainer. However, be careful that you hire the right person, according to Geoffrey James for Salesforce. Different professionals have different areas of expertise. If they don’t have what you need, the investment won’t be worthwhile.
Make development of sales staff a part of every sales meeting. Try to set a goal for how much time you’ll spend on it. According to Caron Beesley on the government’s Small Business Administration website, one training session is rarely sufficient. Make sure your reps are up-to-date on the state of the market and even new research that would be beneficial in sales tactics.
Remember competitors An often overlooked way to increase the success of your sales team is to make sure they know your competitors as well as they know your company. As Beesley says, it’s a good idea to encourage role playing exercises that involve competitive selling techniques.
Make training part of your routine
Have sales reps incorporate training into their day by encouraging them to share information via social media or over group lunches.
Saying the Wrong Thing
You want your social media presence to have personality. While whomever is running your channels may be tweeting or posting under the name of your brand, people want to know there’s a real person behind it. However, you need to pick a professional who knows what they’re doing. Most people have their own Twitter or Facebook, and it can be disastrous when someone posts personal content under their employer’s name. Nevertheless, it happens. Another tragic error, according to John McMalcolm on Marketo’s blog, is to post something insensitive or offensive. While world events can often be a great excuse to plug your products, never use any event in which people were physically harmed or killed, like Kenneth Cole did. The brand used riots in Cairo as an excuse to advertise its spring collection. Naturally, it garnered widespread criticism for its insensitivity.
To avoid these missteps, companies should always plan out tweets in advance. If your social media expert has a history of creating questionable content, have someone read over their work before it gets published.
Sometimes when businesses start out on social platforms, they simply have no idea what they’re doing. This can lead to situations like those above, but other problems can result, as well. Some companies don’t know the rules of the game they are playing. For instance, you don’t simply jump onto Twitter, search for anyone who may be interested in your services and start following them – or worse – messaging them directly.
Social media isn’t self-serving, it’s about establishing relationships that help you know your customer and ideally, help them get to know you too. For every post you make promoting your own services, reblog or share a news item from your industry or community that may interest followers.
Before implementing a social media campaign, do proper research about the channel. See how people behave on it, and which companies are using it effectively.
Using the Wrong Data
Having thousands of followers doesn’t guarantee prospects are actively engaged with your company. According to Jeff Bullas, not all customer analytics are created equal. Applying the normal metrics to social media may not yield the same results. Check to see how people are actually responding to what you put out there, don’t just assume followers have seen it.
Connecting All Your Accounts
Many companies use too many different platforms. In an effort to save time, they end up linking them up to publish simultaneously. This can be very irritating for those who follow you on multiple channels. It can also be annoying to those who don’t. Most platforms link up, but in less-than-ideal ways. Do you really want your Twitter feed to tell followers “I just posted a video to Facebook” every time you upload something? Everyone knows the message is automated, and it comes across as lazy. Similarly, when users link Twitter and Facebook status updates, anyone who follows both will see the exact same message.
As a best practice, write posts individually, keeping in mind what makes each platform unique. Instagram and Facebook are great for visual media, while Twitter may be better for linking news items and blogs. Better yet, don’t take on more channels than your marketing department can manage.
Customers want to be heard, and equally as important, understood.— Shep Hyken (@Hyken) January 23, 2014
As a salesperson, you’re constantly told that you need to listen to what your customer needs instead of just talking at them and drowning them out. That’s definitely true—how are you supposed to be an effective salesperson if you can’t address their specific needs?
Instead of simply listening to the customer, you should really aim to understand them. When client-facing employees actually understand their customers, they have a better idea of how to help their customer achieve their goals and, therefore, a better chance of making the sale.
What I mean by “understanding” is this: you can hear what the client is saying, but do you really know why they’re saying it? You need to be familiar with what’s going on in their business; once you can put their pain points in context you can help your customer use your product in such a way that will give them the most benefit.
Video is a fun and engaging way to find sales opportunities, and it’s not just for B2C anymore. B2B companies can harness the power of movie as well. According to Janine Popick for Inc., 92 percent of B2B customers watch videos online, and 43 percent of B2B customers watch videos when researching products and services.
You don’t have to outsource a video production company to make a great video, although that’s certainly an option. You just need to create content that people want to watch. Put someone in front of a camera, and demonstrate what a font of knowledge they are. Sales reps are generally pretty dynamic individuals, so get one of them to be your spokesperson. Having a genuine employee in front of the camera will also make you appear more authentic.
Here are some tips for engaging your customers and generating leads with video:
Create awesome content
If you can’t come up with a reason to use video marketing, you probably shouldn’t do it. If you don’t have a wealth of information you’re dying to share, video is useless. However, if you have tons of ideas and need an engaging outlet to reach your audience, video is perfect.
If you need ideas, using customer intelligence analytics can help you determine what kind of information your customers really need. The best content will anticipate the problems customers have and provide them with solutions.
Make the video engaging
According to Jeff Molander in Target Marketing Magazine, many marketers fail using video because they overthink what they are saying and forget to consider how they will say it. It may be easier said than done, but in order to be successful on this channel, you need content that really says something interesting while keeping the viewer’s attention.
Try telling a story. The human brain is programmed to respond to narratives, and they tend to be more memorable than straight facts. In the Salesforce Blog, Jeff Ogden notes how popular television show The Walking Dead consistently gains more viewers than the NFL. This compelling narrative of a small group of survivors outrunning bloodthirsty zombies tells a story that is both gripping and visually engaging. Just remember, you don’t need gore to create videos that users want to watch.
Finish off videos with a clear call to action to find potential buyers. Once you’ve hooked users on your fantastic video channel, you can even require a user registration so that visitors have to give you an email address in order to continue. YouTube allows you to overlay ads if you are a Google Adwords advertiser, according to Popick.
What is gamification? According to Forrester research, gamification can be defined as “the insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior.” In layman’s terms, gamification is making the boring aspects of life more fun by adding points systems, badges and other hallmarks of game playing. It’s a way to make often less-than-interesting aspects of business life more engaging for clients and employees alike.
If you’re still unsure of exactly what gamification might look like, Foursquare is a good example for consumers. This social platform essentially transforms the act of visiting new places into a game by allotting points whenever a user checks into a named location. You can unlock badges by visiting a certain number of locations in a similar category. For example, you can unlock a badge after visiting 10 different Mexican restaurants, or 10 different movie theaters. Whenever a user checks in, he or she receives points that allow friendly competition between users. While this platform is designed for consumers, it is an excellent model for the way gamification can be applied to training.
Using gamification to improve sales productivity When training salespeople, you often have goals in mind that you would like them to reach before sending them out into the trenches. Gamification is a great way to help novice sales reps achieve these benchmarks. It’s a good idea to create metrics and other measurable goals for new salespeople. Every business does things a little bit differently, so things like CRM protocols can also be included. Naturally, measurable goals make it easy to implement a game. According to Bob Marsh for Salesforce blog, creating a leaderboard is a great way to engage new salespeople. Add a point system for each goal, and display the results in a public setting.
Displaying these outcomes in the open can help sales reps learn from each other; it also creates a culture of open communication. There is no shame at being at the bottom of the leaderboard in the context of a friendly game, but it may help the new hire see that they need to work on some key skills. You can also include more seasoned associates in the game.
Customer engagement and lead generation According to David Kirkpatrick on Marketing Sherpa, B2B companies can use gamification just as well as B2C. Implementing a captivating game online is a great way to get users to get engaged on your company’s website, and it can be as simple as offering rewards for persisting in certain behaviors. As an example, Kirkpatrick notes how software company SAP made its online community more active by integrating game dynamics. The community message board was already very active and users would frequently answer one another’s inquiries. The company assigned the title of “expert” to certain users with a track record of responding frequently.
Adding gamification strategies can be a good way to find sales opportunities. Kirkpatrick recommends giving users a set of goals to reach. Once users download a white paper or watch a promotional video, you can have them take a quiz. Allow them to unlock expertise badges about your products. Once they reach a certain level, offer them some kind of reward.
You can also gamify normal social media posts. In an example cited by Corey Eridon on Hubspot, a business posted a statement on Facebook, requesting that users respond whether it was true or false. Out of the correct answers, the company randomly selected someone to win a gift card. The initiative ropes in prospective clients and keeps current ones engaged.
Rewards It’s a good idea to provide an incentive for people to play. While achieving the highest status, or the highest number of points can a good enough reward, shelling out for gifts can make the experience even better. Whether your reward is aimed at your own salespeople, or potential leads, chances are giving people a concrete reason to play your game will improve the outcome. For customers, offer early access to white papers and other content, or even a discounted rate.