If you want to immediately make a difference in the effectiveness of your sales force, put any one of these tips into practice.

1.      Sales People Act in Their Own Best Interest – Your sales people, like everyone else, will do those activities in which they see the biggest reward. Take the time to examine how you pay and motivate your selling organization. Are you recognizing them for ineffective activities or unprofitable pursuits? Then don’t be surprised if that’s where they are putting their time and effort. Make sure that your organization’s system of rewards and recognition causes the type of activity that you want emphasized.

2.      Show Some Passion – Just because we are at a down time in our economy doesn’t mean that you have the luxury of reflecting it back to your customers. It is crucial during this challenging time for you and your sales force to build up the spirits of the internal staff as well as the customers. The sales team is the face of the business as well as its driving force and the whole organization will take its cue from them. Besides, your customers will be more inclined to buy from someone who is fired up!fruit-ladder

3.      Do It Now – In order to increase sales, you must do more of those activities which cause people to buy. Cleaning your desk (again) and organizing your business card collection (again) will not get you any appointments. Finding new prospects to call and calling them regularly will get you appointments – appointments will people who have never heard your story. Appointments then lead to sales. Quit fooling yourself that you are actually working. Get out and accomplish something!

4.      Ask Better Questions – Too often when I work with sales professionals I find that they are anxious to tell about their product or service before they truly understand the needs and desires of the prospect. Only by asking an organized and pertinent series of questions will you be able to get to the key needs of the client. Before your next appointment, write out and organize the questions you will ask so that the prospect can reveal their needs to you. Only then can you tie your product to their needs.

5.      Listen – The flip side of asking better questions is to them intently listen to what they are telling you. It is all too common for a sales person to be so intent on asking their questions that they fail to listen to what the prospect is saying. I have even seen them ask the next question on their list even thought it was just answered! Listen to the client and take notes on what they say. This information will be crucial as you develop just the right solution that will meet their needs and close the deal.

6.      Focus On Their Greatest Need – Customers can confuse us with all of the different buying motives they mention and they can confuse themselves. This lack of focus can push us into selling to five or six different needs. For the customer this can really muddy the waters, and a confused customer usually puts off they decision until later or never. During your dialogue with the prospect, find out what is the one overwhelming desire that they want you product or service to fulfill. Once you recognize that issue stay on it no matter what other questions or situations the prospect raises this will also help them get focused. Show them how you will help them solve that big, overriding issue and they will buy.

7.      Get to the Decision Maker(s) – Every sales person has found that themselves in a sales situation that was going great – until they found that they were talking to someone who didn’t have the authority to cut the purchase order. This is frustrating, and in many cases a waste of time and effort. Sometime early in the process you need to determine if the person with whom you are working can finalize the deal. I find that the question, “Other than you, who else will be part of the final decision?” brings out the names of the other interested parties without insulting my initial contact.

8.      Build Little Yeses to the Big Yes – Momentum is a big part of selling. Prospects that are thinking positively are more likely to buy than those that are seeing the barriers. As you are moving the client toward the ultimate decision it is important to get agreement on many little items so that they are predisposed to agree with the ultimate decision. A friend of mine calls it “nodding them in”, meaning that if you get them “nodding” in agreement first, it will be easier to make the sale.

9.      Network – For years I hated the idea of networking. I wasn’t good at small talk and I felt I was wasting my time attending meetings and networking groups when it seemed that it was mostly other sales people. But in a world where our prospects are being inundated with all kinds of offers and propositions it is crucial that we break through the clutter with a personal introduction. Meeting decision makers in a less threatening social environment will facilitate the appointment you want make. When I finally did a better job of discerning the right networking situations, I found it to be my best opportunity for finding new contacts and new clients.

10.    Don’t Let Your Customers Forget You – Not only is it costly in time and effort to find and develop a new customers but it will be quite a while until they will provide you with full value. The most valuable resource of any business is their satisfied client base. From them we can receive: continuing business, our best opportunity for new product sales, an enthusiastic witness to new prospects and a priceless resource for new clients. Keep in contact with your clients, even if you have a separate client services team. They will assist you in ways you can’t even imagine.

The news in the past few weeks has shown the devastation of a weak economy on companies and the jobs they provide. In the Twin Cities market we have had a number of major employers announce job cuts and layoffs that are nearing 10,000! As I’ve read these announcements a common theme has become clear. All of these organizations are attributing their cuts to lower sales. Some examples: Tennant, “expects sales to drop 15 to 20 percent in the fourth quarter”, Graco, “incoming orders have dropped 15 to 20 percent”, Pentair, “expects fourth-quarter sales to drop by $70 million”. While it is understandable that sales can decrease in a faltering economy, what this also communicates to me is that the sales teams in those (and many other) companies have failed to do their jobs. Unfortunately, that failure is now affecting the entire organization. Competition has gotten tough and the low hanging fruit is gone! No longer can your sales organization be made up of “order takers” or “account service” people. They need to get re-introduced to the difficult, time consuming and rejection filled (but ultimately satisfying) world of sales. Now is the time to re-train your sales team and get them out into the marketplace with the tools they need to compete.

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