As a VP of sales who has worked in all functional areas and trained hundreds of sales people all over North America, the question people ask me most is: What do I need to do to be successful? The answer is fairly straight forward, and here are 7 secrets to customer acquisition & ongoing customer satisfaction:
1. Have a Process
It’s amazing how many sales professionals work with clients from start to finish each day and do not have a sales process. This goes for both individuals and organizations.
A process drives consistency, its helps scale, it helps understand where your gaps are as an organization and helps with sales forecasting. A simple and straight forward sales process is a great start. It doesn’t have to be too complicated. Perhaps the most important part of your process is to understand your company messaging within your sales process. It is also important to understand your customer buying cycles and process. Generally customers have a buying process to understand how to get the most value out of you, so you need one as well.
2. Have a plan
Many organizations have a yearly sales planning cycle. Unfortunately, many times those plans are left at the conference room table the minute the meetings are done. Often times it is something the boss has asked for and a check mark on the list for us as workers.
The best sales people have plans. They don’t have to be too complicated, but do include overall goals and objectives that are broken down for the year, quarter and maybe even weekly. Of course like any plan, you revisit it as needed and adjust to current conditions.
3. ROI and Industry Insight
As a result of the downturn of the economy in 2008, it has changed the way people buy. No matter how long you have known a customer, no matter how good a friend you might be, customers need and want more. There is more scrutiny on purchases, more people involved in the process and more than ever people want to see a return. It is essential to determine their goals, objectives, pain points and how you can solve their problems while also saving them money. They want you to demonstrate their Return on Investment.
Companies are also looking for Insight, not just into your products and services, but into their own industry. They are looking for people like us to give them insight or intelligence into their business and industry while also providing solutions to help drive their businesses.
4. Ongoing Development
Many people come into the sales profession without planning it and because of the fast-paced nature of the work, they lose sight of the need for continual professional development. To stay ahead of the curve, highly successful professionals always have to work to get better, learn new skills and break bad habits. It can be as simple as reading a good sales book. For example, I would recommend The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation. Other options include subscribing to sales blogs, taking a course, etc. Regardless of what method or methods you choose, never stop pushing yourself to develop your skills.
Nothing beats hard work. Through experience I have encountered many reps who tell me they like to take a “strategic approach” or they have their own “system”. When I hear these words I think: “lazy.” Having a plan, being strategic, having a system, as well as having a high aptitude for sales are part of the foundation, but you still need to work hard. I think it was our good ole Wayne Gretzky that said: “nothing beats skill like hardworking skill.” When your competitors are working “strategically” you need to be doing the same, but working harder and in doing so closing more deals.
6. Perception Is Reality
Very important: Do your customers consider you their equal? Are you perceived as a Vendor? A Business Partner? Or, a Strategic Resource?
Ideally you are a strategic resource – one that provides value without selling anything. If a customer will call and ask for your advice on an issue unrelated to your solution, this demonstrates just how highly that customer thinks of your opinion. But how do you get to be that trusted resource? Be a professional, provide value before asking for anything, provide insight, and articulate ROI.
7. Use your Tools
There are many great tools available to us today from a sales enablement perspective. Because we have so many options, choosing the right tools becomes critical. To make the right chose, determine your needs first. Ask questions to determine where you need to be, or would like to be in order to be more efficient and then scope out possible solutions. The more you understand your needs the better the results will be to narrow the field and make the right selection.
To put things in perspective, you can be making decisions around any number of these tools: social media, CRM, list acquisition, contact acquisition, marketing automation, lead and demand generation and resources, auto call/email/voicemail…. You get the picture. You need to understand your needs and where you want to be.
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About Chris Cummins
Chris is the VP of Sales with Skillsoft. With more than 20 years experience in nearly every function of sales, he is a professional sales person and has made a career in an environment that he immensely enjoys and thrives in. He has interviewed, hired, trained, coached and managed literally hundreds of sales people all over North America.