ETNT prompted me to make the switch from Butterfingers to fun-sized York Peppermint Patties.
After the first few days of no longer indulging in my favorite treat, the initial shock was gone, and with Yorks in hand, my mood stabilized (I am now a confirmed junkie). My sweet tooth was still getting fed, just with not quite as many calories.
While none of today’s sales practices are “junk food” per se, there are some areas that can be similarly tweaked for better results. And like my experience, the hardest part can be making the jump; once the changes are normalized, the result is often a healthier sales organization.
With my candy experiment in mind, I present to you, “Do This, Not That: Sales edition.”
Do This: Research prospects before your first encounter
Not That: Go into a cold call completely cold
As Linda Richardson wrote in her latest book Changing the Sales Conversation, “Today, clients will respond to straight discovery questions and product talk with impatience.” Salespeople should aim to learn as much as they can about prospects before they pick up the phone, send an e-mail, or swing by the office. With so much competing for potential buyers’ attention, salespeople who diligently do their research will stand a much better chance of being met with interest rather than brushed off with annoyance.
Do This: Seek referrals
Not That: Wait for them to trickle in
Customer referrals are a remarkably effective channel to grow sales pipelines and revenue. Yet, salespeople are often hesitant to ask for referrals because they feel awkward or because they’re loath to spend time cultivating customer relationships when a new month’s quota is on the line.
But, according to sales coach Rick Roberge, salespeople should proactively seek referrals (albeit gently). And it’s not as awkward if you work in the expectation from the start — Rick advises salespeople to bring up the topic of referrals even before a contract is signed.
Do This: Optimize social accounts for social selling
Not That: Use them as online resumes
Social selling isn’t just learning how to spot a lead on Twitter or LinkedIn and following up in record time — it’s also about using these channels as a way to gain and demonstrate knowledge of your prospects’ industries and pressing issues. Therefore, social profiles and activities should be optimized for buyers, not for sales recruiters.
Social selling expert Jill Rowley recommends that salespeople engage with buyers, thought leaders, and other industry influencers by commenting on, liking, and sharing their social posts, in addition to writing vivid profile headlines and summaries that are more than just mini-resumes.
Do This: Read every day
Not That: Stop learning when training ends
Since buyers are much more informed about products and services today thanks to the abundance of online information, salespeople need to add value in other ways. Linda Richardson espouses the importance of insights — information that disrupts a prospect’s status quo by revealing a problem they might not be aware exists. Delivering insights sets the stage for trust and, potentially, a sale.
Google can’t serve up insights — only a human can do that. Salespeople should keep up with their buyers’ industries by reading trade publications and following relevant influencers. Strive to set aside some time for reading every day.
Do This: Conform your sales process to your prospect’s buying process
Not That: Force buyers to fit your sales process
Just like researching individual prospects and companies before you reach out, you should also learn as much as you can about your target audience’s buying process. This enables you to provide relevant information or assistance at just the right time and increases your chances of being treated as signal rather than noise.
Do This: Recognize that sales hinge on you
Not that: Rely on your product or service to make the sale
In today’s sales environment, differentiation is no longer the realm of a product or service — it comes from the salespeople themselves. As Jill Konrath wrote in her book Agile Selling, “You know what buyers pick as the differentiator in their decisions? The sales experience — what it’s like working with you.”
So, how can you become a differentiator? With your knowledge. Buyers are looking for more than a canned sales pitch and a demo; they want people to work collaboratively with their team to solve business problems. If you develop the know-how to recognize and fix problems specific to an industry or type of company (here’s where reading comes in), buyers will take what you have to say — and sell — seriously.