It doesn’t matter how skilled your salespeople are; your close rate will never be a perfect 100%. That’s just the reality of it. If, however, you’re losing a lot of deals you should have won, there’s probably a reason – if not a few!
Fortunately, once you can identify these causes, you can improve your methodology and subsequently, your results.
So, now that we’ve got that covered it’s time to have a look at what the causes could be.
You’re trying to sell to everyone.
Everyone knows a good sales pipeline is about quality over quantity. If your prospects aren’t buying from you, you need to re-evaluate the quality of the opportunities you are going after. Have they been correctly targeted? Do you know why your product or service is a good fit for them? Or are you just trying to sell to anyone showing any sign of interest?
Although it may seem to go against your intuition as salespeople to walk away from any prospects, narrowing your focus to the most qualified will make you much more likely to succeed. Not only are these buyers much more likely to purchase, but a smaller group also allows you to spend more time on each one – letting you personalise each outreach and develop a compelling business case.
Tell-tale signs: ‘I’m not really sure my company needs [service/product]’
You’re driving your customers away.
There is a reason no one answers calls from numbers they don’t know: they don’t like to be sold to. And again, if salespeople use email as a spamming tool, rather than a means of making a genuine connection to help their prospects, messages from people they don’t know go unanswered too.
Dial back the fake enthusiasm that salespeople are notorious for, stop pestering your prospects. Instead, be yourself and provide real value. It might be helpful to think of yourself as a consultant rather than a salesperson. You should learn as much from your prospects as you can, so you don’t waste their time asking for information like how large their company is and what it is that they sell.
Tell-tale signs: ‘I’m not interested, please stop contacting me’
You’re not bringing objections to the surface.
We get it, digging for objections is scary. Once you unearth them, they’re out there – concrete reasons for your prospect not to buy. The reality is though, these objections exist whether you acknowledge them or not. And the best time to resolve these concerns is in the beginning of the sales process while your buyer still has an open mind.
Learn what’s keeping your prospects from purchasing by asking the right questions:
- ‘If we didn’t go ahead, what would the reason be?’
- ‘We’ve covered what you like about [service/product] – can we spend some time on what you didn’t like the sound of?’
- ‘It’s very normal to have some concerns about this sort of investment. Are you open to sharing yours with me, if you have any?’
Tell-tale signs: ‘Actually, XYZ is a big concern for us, so we’ve chosen to go with [competitor].’
You’re not creating urgency.
As salespeople, your product or service is your primary focus, for your prospect, it’s just another thing that is fighting for their attention. Without a reason to make a purchase now rather than later, your deal is likely to expire in its infancy. If you want your deals to pay off start asking probing questions that reveal why your prospect’s business well-being somehow depends on having your service or product.
Here are some examples:
- ‘What will happen if you don’t solve this problem by [X date]?’
- ‘Tell me about the consequences of missing [Y goal].’
- ‘Explain to me what’s riding on [Z strategy]?’
- ‘How long has this been an issue? Why are you choosing to focus on it now?’
- ‘Is [addressing/improving/fixing] this a priority right now? Where would you say it sits on your list of priorities?’
Tell-tale signs: ‘Maybe next quarter/year.’
You’re not helping them feel safe.
No one wants to put their neck on the line for something that they’re not 100% confident about. This is a fact that kills many deals; after all, think about what would happen to your prospect if they advocated for your service, got the budget and then the solution was ineffective or worse completely flopped.
It’s true they might not be out of a job, but their internal reputation would definitely take a hit.
That’s what part of your job involves making them feel comfortable with the investment they are making, and any of the risks involved. You can do this in several ways.
First of all, if your company offers any protection terms such as full refunds, trial periods, or your money back if you don’t see certain results then make sure to highlight these throughout your conversations.
You can also establish credibility by:
- Referring to current customers
- Sending case studies and testimonials to your prospects
- Offering to connect them with references
- Sharing positive online reviews
- Mentioning any awards or industry honours that your product or company has received
Tell-tale signs: ‘I’m not sure we’re ready for this yet’
You’re not selling the value.
As salespeople, you’re not selling your product or service, you’re selling the value that they can offer to your prospects.
The reality is your buyers don’t care about what your service is, or what features it has. They care about how that product or service is going to make their lives easier. You need to position your offer to be something that your prospect can’t be without.
As you work with your prospects, help them to see clearly how much simpler, better or easier life would be for them once they implement your offering. By selling from this angle, you communicate the value of your product. This in turn makes your prospects more likely to prioritise your service or allocate budget for it, because life without it seems much more expensive in the long run.
Tell-tale signs: ‘This isn’t a priority for us at the moment.’
You’re not listening to them properly.
Active listening is one of the most important skills for salespeople. If a prospect gets all the way to the end of your sales process and says, ‘this isn’t what I’m looking for’, somewhere along the line there was an opportunity missed to hear their perspective.
If you’re finding that your conversations with your prospects are all one sided, meaning you’re talking at them instead of having a conversation with them. You can likely get better results by incorporating some active listening practises during your conversations. On your calls make sure you are taking the time to:
- Repeat back what you’ve heard your prospect saying to confirm your understanding. ‘What I heard you say was… is that correct?’
- Ask questions to help the prospect communicate their own perspective.
- Pause throughout the conversation to give them ample time and space to share.
Tell-tale signs: ‘This wasn’t quite what we’re looking for.’
Your sales process is broken.
If you’re finding that many of your prospects don’t make it far enough into your sales process to raise an objection, that’s a really strong indication that your sales process is broken or that your funnel has a leak that needs to be addressed.
This could mean that your prospects are either not being properly qualified, or there is a missed opportunity to follow up and fully nurtured Leeds who are qualified. Work closely with your teams to go through your sales process step by step and identify the areas that need to be improved upon for a much better buyer experience.
Learning that it’s not them, it’s you, is never fun. But it’s important to figure out what’s going wrong so that you can take the appropriate action to fix it.
Published: 31st May 2021
As someone successful in sales, you’ve probably spent years perfecting your strategy. But picture this: you’re having roughly three meetings a day, then suddenly there’s no more follow-ups, no next steps, and no sales.
Just about everyone in sales has had that stomach-sick moment where they realise the usual process and tactics are no longer working. The key to continuing your success is changing course and re-evaluating your strategy when it’s no longer working. Doing this will help you continually make progress and avoid a bad quarter or year.
Identifying the moment.
Nothing ever stays the same. As a salesperson, it’s vital that you recognise when your usual tactics aren’t getting the expected results and then pivot.
When I think back to my first sales job, I was so hungry for success. My goal was to make sales and lots of them. I looked forward to putting up impressive numbers on a whiteboard and being at the top of the leaderboard on-call stats. My strategy was to make as many calls as possible, and that was the number my manager and I tracked.
When the deals went rolling through, I realised I was going about it all wrong. Well, sales is definitely a numbers game; I’d been looking at all the wrong numbers. You can make calls until you’re blue in the face and still get nowhere, or you can change how you play the game. It didn’t take long for me to realise I needed to start identifying higher quality prospects so that my calls were more likely to lead to sales.
I became much more selective and researched each prospect to make sure they met my ideal client profile. I then determined whether they were ready for a sales call or needed more nurturing.
By becoming more selective, I saved time and improved my win rate massively. Before I even approached a potential client, I knew they could afford my offering. And by digging a little deeper before each call meant I always had access to the right decision-maker who had the authority to say ‘yes’ to what I was putting on the table.
It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut and go down the same path even when you’re not getting the results you want. That’s why you need to have the self-awareness to take stock of your techniques, be honest with yourself about the level of success you are or aren’t reaching, and make changes.
These steps can help you evaluate your process:
Map out your sales strategy:
Start off by breaking down your sales process into stages. After writing down your process, go through each step. Ask yourself how is each stage working for you. Are you still getting the same results today as you were when you first started? Carefully consider how you could tweak this stage to make it more successful. Do this with every step periodically to ensure your sales process keeps up with your requirements.
Set clear objectives.
Holding yourself accountable is a lot simpler when you have clear, measurable objectives. We know it can be challenging – defining clear goals takes time and effort, and many people struggle with the idea that being too specific will set them up for failure.
Though you may feel this way, studies at the Harvard Business School have found that employees who make small wins against larger goals were much more engaged and successful. You can take advantage of this by setting a large goal for yourself and breaking it down into monthly or weekly targets.
If your annual goal is to deliver 200 proposals, figure out how many proposals you need to do per month. At the end of every month, you can see if you’ve achieved your monthly goal then evaluate that against your annual target. Making these small incremental wins helps to give you a stronger sense of progression and satisfaction in your work.
Be brutally honest with yourself.
Re-evaluating your sales strategy requires a lot of self-awareness and even more honesty. This is where most of us fail – making excuses or rationalising our lack of success at a particular step.
Use a CRM to track your activities for each of your sales process steps. This forces you to be honest about your results and helps you to identify your weak points better. It’s one thing to say that you feel like business is good; it’s another thing to know it’s good.
It takes courage to be honest with yourself and a lot of bravery to change your strategy. However, self-assessment is the key to career growth. It provides insight into your skills, knowledge, and competencies.
No sales strategy is entirely foolproof, and no strategy can be effective forever. The moment that you realise one of the steps in your process isn’t working, it’s time to make a change. Constantly evolving your tactics or help keep you on top of your game and ahead of your competitors.
Published: 24th May 2021
Guest Blog by Chantelle Stubbings.
So, before we get into how my personal growth helped my clients. Let me introduce myself! My name is Chantelle and I have worked within the sales industry now for a little over seven years.
I always knew that I wanted a job where I could focus on personal growth and contribute to whatever business I was a part of; that’s what led me to sales. My first sales role was working within the Telecommunications industry, offering phone lines and broadband to other businesses. I worked there for just over three years, but I had started to feel that I needed a change. My heart wasn’t in it, and my options were beginning to feel limited.
A Fresh Start.
It wasn’t long after that Darren (the founder of Intelligent Talk) approached me on LinkedIn. I met with him, had my interview and was quickly sold on the company. Intelligent Talk gave me the belief in the sales industry I was missing, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve now been part of the team at Intelligent for over four years.
I took to the training and coaching from Darren like a duck to water. And it wasn’t long before I started my first full-time business development campaign. This particular campaign was working within an industry that I wasn’t familiar with and required a lot of research before I started.
The campaign was to contact law firms and to speak with heads of conveyancing. Then to understand their needs and requirements before recommending the service we represented. The campaign was very successful, and I worked with them for around four months.
Personal growth pays off.
During this time, we had also started to work with Capita Integrated Business Solutions who specialised in Financial Management Software. However, the campaign wasn’t seeing the results we had initially expected, and I was asked to step in and support following my recent successes.
Through a lot of hard work, I maintained Capita as a client for two years. I was tasked with speaking to Financial Directors, Chief Financial Officers, and Procurement Directors within the Public Sector, contacting NHS, Councils and Local Government Authorities, offering Integrated Financial Solutions.
As time went on with Capita, the campaigns I ran began to change. For the first few months, it was solely the UK, then branched out into Ireland, running several different campaigns from arranging face-to-face meetings to organising webinars. It might sound easy, but this campaign came with a whole new set of challenges!
Each campaign requires a different focus and set of skills, meaning that my personal growth as a salesperson was always at the forefront of my mind. I wanted to do the best for my clients and meet any challenges that came my way.
This focus on personal growth allowed me to build campaigns to a high level of success and seamlessly transition to others with the same high level of service and output.
Another happy customer.
When the time came to move on from Capita, I then went on to partner with a company called Cinos.
Cinos specialised in Video Conferencing for the NHS, and I was tasked with identifying high-level decision-makers such as CTO’s and IT Directors.
Working with Cinos required a multi-channel approach of making calls and developing effective LinkedIn messaging and email campaigns that proved to be very successful.
At this time, I also started to work with Refero, who offered a similar service. Refero offered telephone and video conferencing within the NHS, however, targeting clinical board members.
After running a successful campaign with Cinos, I was also able to extend the Refero campaign for another term. Unfortunately, we were forced to pause this campaign due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Through the pandemic, I started working with Finastra. As a company, we had worked with Finastra many times before, and this was the third time I worked with them. Each of their campaigns and their offerings has always been entirely different; however, the most recent campaign was very new to Intelligent Talk.
I was tasked with researching Challenger Banks and Foreign Exchange companies both within the UK and the US markets. Even though we had worked within the US market before, this was the most extensive campaign I have ever done.
I managed to identify numerous challengers banks and foreign exchange companies across the UK and the US and the correct decision-makers. I was tasked with speaking to the CEO, CTO or Managing Directors.
This again was a very successful campaign and extremely enjoyable. I was able to branch out into a completely new market and learnt a lot from it. When I started, I hadn’t worked in the US markets. I had to learn a whole new way of approaching business development, relationship building and tonality. Not to mention balancing different time zones!
I could not be any more grateful for the opportunity to continue my personal growth and increase the number of skills in my sales arsenal.
Being part of Intelligent Talk for as long as I have really has sculpted the salesperson I am today. I’ve learnt so much, and the many opportunities for personal growth have been invaluable.
Coming from a sales environment where it was just appointment after appointment no matter the quality, purely quantity over quality. To one where we genuinely care about our clients, their goals and how we as a business partner can support them. It is the quality of the relationship that matters for me, and to find a company that supports and encourages that was a breath of fresh air.
I have learned so much working with a diverse client base, offering different products. Not to mention speaking with all the wonderful people in other countries, at the top of their field! Each client, prospect, colleague, and service offering has taught me something new and helps me do the best I can for my clients every day.
Published: 17th May 2021
Your teams are having too many meetings.
Have you ever had days where you jump from meeting to meeting with little to no time for a break? Sometimes, this can actually be a symptom of poor communication and lack of collaborating between remote workers.
Typically, your team shouldn’t have to meet several times a week. In fact, plenty of meetings could just be an email.
keep in mind when scheduling a meeting that every person you invite needs to be there. If not, you could be wasting peoples time if their attendance is optional simply let them know. Plus, think about the length of your meetings if it can be shorter make it shorter if it can be an email make it an email.
It’s important to be intentional when planning remote meetings.
The digital body language is all off.
When communicating on video, it’s easy to forget about your body language and that of those around you.
It’s important to keep in mind that on camera, nothing is subtle, and it can feel like you’re under the spotlight. This means you have to pay even more attention to your body language: maintain eye-contact, speak clearly and keep your setting as professional as possible.
There are team members not contributing during meetings.
If your team meetings are always dominated by the same people speaking up it could be a sign of poor communication.
It could mean that there are people within your team that don’t feel comfortable talking during meetings.
While it’s important to consider that some people are more introverted than others, consider ways of including your whole team in discussions.
Your team isn’t collaborating.
Do you collaborate when the opportunity arises? From a management perspective, do you notice when members of your team aren’t collaborating?
If collaboration isn’t coming naturally to your team, it could be that they don’t feel Comfortable reaching out to each other or they don’t have the tools they need to collaborate effectively.
You could introduce systems such as Trello to keep track of your assignments with this tool you can easily collaborate with other team members when you need to lean on each other for expertise.
There’s a lack of communication throughout the day.
Being able to go days at a time without talking to other co-workers is a big red flag That your team isn’t communicating well.
The more you talk to your colleagues the more trust you’ll have. This makes it easier to reach out when you need help or a bit of extra expertise. That’s why it’s important to create an environment where your team feels comfortable communicating throughout the day even if it is just to send a GIF into the group chat.
Magazine why you don’t want to inundate your team with messages checking in every so often is a great way to build camaraderie and encourage team collaboration.
Your meetings lack structure or agenda.
Without an agenda or meeting structure you won’t be communicating effectively during your meetings making collaboration even more difficult.
Meetings should always be organised and structured so that they are productive having an agenda will help you keep things on track.
You may even want to schedule in 5-minutes of informal chat before the meeting gets started this will help team members to self-regulate.
Wherever possible you should always send the agenda prior to the meeting however this isn’t necessary with regularly scheduled meetings such as an end of week meeting where the expectation has already been set.
Your team hasn’t built psychological safety.
As part of a remote team, sometimes it can feel hard to feel included. However, the option to be included is so important for your teams’ mental wellbeing.
When people don’t feel included, they won’t feel comfortable speaking up or collaborating in team projects.
To build this psychological safety net in a remote meeting make sure you go around giving everyone the opportunity to speak. Try and focus on bigger picture conversations and ask individuals specific questions.
Additionally, you could also include more ice breaker conversations where everyone has to go around and answer a question. This can help people feel more confident about communicating further along in the meeting.
Your team aren’t showing their appreciation for each other.
Building connections is the most important part of communication and collaboration.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to express gratitude for one another. For example, your people should feel comfortable congratulating each other in a group chat.
You could encourage sending each other birthday cards and celebrating personal achievements or just create an email thread of appreciation.
Expressing gratitude is a great way to renew your energy and creates a safe space for your team.
Projects are falling behind or through the cracks.
Did you start the year with a plan of all the projects that are due to happen in 2021 but none of them seem to be coming to fruition? Or perhaps you’re unsure of the status of these projects?
When this happens it’s usually a combination of lack of communication and collaborating between your team members. Alternatively, it could be a lack of technology to facilitate these projects.
Make sure you’re giving your team the best tools possible to collaborate on project management and track progress.
Your team has a high turnover rate.
If you can’t seem to hold on to great people, it could mean that your communication isn’t effective.
When this starts to happen, it’s important that you speak to your team so that you can figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Create an open discussion where everyone is able to voice their honest opinions without repercussion.
Working remotely can make collaborating with your team feel harder but it doesn’t have to be that way. If your team still needs a little boost, why not check out these remote working tips.
Published: 10th May 2021
A lot of people choose to work in sales because they think it will be easy money (wrong!), more freedom and less structure.
Money aside, they’re not completely wrong!
Working in sales does give you a degree of independence when it comes to how you go about your daily duties. You have to be flexible and willing to improvise, not to mention the most ‘fun’ part of sales.
Prospective clients can be overly cautious, picky, demanding, sometimes impulsive and even suspicious! That’s why salespeople need to have the creativity and emotional intelligence to adjust their sales techniques to suit each prospects needs.
With so many uncertainties, how can it work with a structured plan?
That’s what we’re hoping this article will do – prove that above all you need a formal sales process to make you work more effectively, improve your performance and close sales quicker.
What is a sales process?
A sales process is not unlike a recipe – if you use the right ingredients in the right order, you can get some great results!
Typically consisting of five to seven stages: Prospecting, Preparation, Introduction, Presentation, Objection Handling, Close and Follow-up.
To put it simply, it is your prospective client’s journey from realising they have a need for your product or service to actually making a purchase.
Now, this isn’t to be confused with a sales funnel.
A sales funnel is the visualisation of all the interactions and activities between a prospect and salesperson or business.
Although most sales teams recognise they go through a similar process, not all of them outline and standardise the process, leaving It at the discretion of each salesperson which steps they do or don’t take.
The logic is clear: as long as salespeople are generating revenue and closing plenty of deals, how they do it is up to them.
Unless you’re an absolute natural at sales, you can benefit significantly from a standardised process while improving the measuring, forecasting and management of your sales pipeline.
12 Ways to Create an Effective Sales Process
Sure, relying on your wits and resourcefulness is a good way to work sometimes. But sales is not a game of intuition, it’s a strategy and structured with tactics at each step.
Here is how you can establish those tactics into a standardised sales process for your team:
Interview Your Sales Team
The first step to creating your standardised process is gain a full understanding of what your sales team is currently doing to turn your prospects into clients.
- How are your salespeople connecting with prospects?
- What actions are they taking to close a sale?
Interview your salespeople to learn their language, strategies and techniques to incorporate them into your sales process that can be replicated and streamlined.
Get Rid of Waste
Having a defined process allows you to have a more accurate understanding of what things are and aren’t working for your sales team. By defining what actions cause your prospects to move from one stage to the next makes it easy for you to identify the right actions while also getting rid of bottlenecks and activities that yield little results.
Stay on Course
A sales process is often called a roadmap.
However, following a roadmap doesn’t mean that your salespeople will be told to ‘do this, then do that’. It’s more like a GPS system with clear steps and milestones. Knowing what each step covers will help your salespeople understand where they are in the process, when it’s time to move to the next stage and when to adjust the journey.
Utilise Your Sales Talents in Every Step
Having a process in place, does not cancel out the creativity of your team!
You can still use your cut instinct, skills and creative talents to get from one stage to the next. Your new process won’t dictate how to use social media for social selling, how to pitch, what to write in your follow-up emails or how to draft your proposals – that’s up to your teams!
Step into Your Customer’s Shoes
Most of the time when companies create their sales process it is a reflection of the way they want to sell, not the way their clients want to buy.
The most effective process is should be adaptable to suit different selling situations and client needs. Designing a sales process with your clients in mind will need you to answer the following questions:
- What are my main client groups?
- How do they differ in their buying patterns?
- How do we adjust the process to sell to new clients and for repeat business?
- What are the expectations of our clients at each stage and what can we do to meet them?
Use a Relationship Led Approach
Your clients don’t want to feel like just another number. When you earn the attention of a prospective client take a relationship led approach and articulate what that means for your salespeople.
Active listening, empathy, note-taking, trust building, and following up are great skills to build and deepen your relationships with your clients.
Find the Cause of Stalled Sales
By following a set process, it allows your salespeople to be able to identify the causes of stalled sales. By following this roadmap, you are able to analyse whether or not your actions were adequate and how many of them you actually needed and finally what proved to be a misstep or a waste of time.
Get More Qualified Leads
One of the greatest benefits of adopting a clearly defined sales process is helping your teams to tackle one of its biggest pains – filtering out low potential leads and identifying the prospects with the highest chance to complete.
More than 70% of B2B Sales cycles take between 4 to 12 months to close. That’s why identifying qualified leads earlier in the process will not only help to make your sales cycle shorter and more targeted, but it also helps your team to maximise their efforts.
Improve Forecasting & Revenue
Having a clear map of where your salespeople are in the sales process helps your team to come up with more accurate forecasting.
As the sales process is a set of repeatable steps, it gives a more consistent picture of how many deals your team closes from any number of leads. This allows you to predict your win rates and set targets with more accuracy.
Never Miss a Follow-Up
One of the most important parts of winning a sale is a timely follow up email.
During sometimes lengthy sales interactions, your team may forget to follow up with your potential clients. This alone can send an entire sale down the drain. Follow-ups keep the desire to buy alive.
A standardised sales process can remind you when to follow up with a prospect and keep a healthy pipeline. You could recommend a particular type of follow-up activity and even a template to use.
Provide the Best Customer Experience
It’s common that a sales team will push a prospect too quickly into the next stages of the sale Even if they may not be ready for it.
Not only does this damage the relationship, but sometimes it can completely break the deal. In a well-designed process, the focus is on the customer, this turns a haphazard and often pushy sale into smooth sailing with a great customer experience.
When based on your clients buying behaviours and expectations, a sales process will offer at each step: value, enhanced trust and create a stronger bond with your prospective clients – all at the right time.
Onboard New Team Members Like Pros
If instead of proper training, your new salespeople are asked to shadow their colleagues to learn how to sell, then you definitely need a sales process!
A defined sales process not only makes it easy to train newcomers but also to coach your existing sales team. It offers concrete steps for them to follow, but it also highlights what behaviours and skills are required for each stage of the sale, what outcomes are expected at each step, and what individual strengths should be utilised at different sales stages.
Defining your sales process can help you do the right things at the right time and know for sure what works for you and what doesn’t. Equipped with this knowledge you avoid making the same sales mistakes over and over again.
The long-term advantages of adopting a well-tuned sales strategy are plenty:
- Create and maintain long-lasting client relationships.
- Ensure higher client lifetime value.
- Reduce client retention costs.
- Get more referrals.
- Increase sales revenue.
Just don’t forget a good process is never set in stone.
It needs to be revised and adapted regularly, making sure that it still reflects the current state of your clients changing needs, your team skills, and your business goals. It should always remain a work in progress to ensure it stays effective for your business and adding value to your clients.
Published: 30th April 2021
I’ve been in and around business development for just over 20 years now, I’ve also been a Lighting Technician in live music for almost as long. I’ve been a Dad for half that time and many other things too. Including the opposite side of sales as a Purchasing Manager for several years.
I used to think each part needs to be kept apart, as separate personalities for each part of my life. That’s hard work though!
It took me far too long to realise it’s all me, each different part. And when combined, I can be so much better.
I’m meticulous as a lighting tech; I have to be for safety and not make a mistake and turn off all the lights in front of several hundred paying audience members in the middle of a song. Yes, I have done that, but only once!
So why not be as meticulous in Business Development too? Once I started thinking like this and took my time to make sure I had everything right and knew everything I needed to about my “audience” and my product, it made my life so much easier. When I called someone, I already had a fair idea that they would be interested in what I had to say.
It became less about selling and more about having a conversation with a person who does have a requirement, and to do that consistently being meticulous pays off.
When I started in sales, I was taught “the customer is always right” and “you should avoid saying no”. As a Purchasing Manager, I learnt very quickly that I was rarely right. How could I be if I was faced with a new product or service? Had every salesperson I had meetings with said yes to everything I asked, I’d have ended up with many undeliverable promises that I would then have to explain to my boss.
When I moved back into business development, I understood that my job isn’t to “sell”.
It was to help the person I’m talking with make their life easier and give them the chance to make a good impression within their organisation.
I learnt from being a dad and seeing my kids not respond when I talked ‘at’ them that that is not the way to help us all leave the house on time. My son wouldn’t button up his shirt if I just told him to. I needed to take the time to understand that while I can button up my shirt, he’s new to this. Getting down to his level, talking to him and showing how buttons work and making it fun is the only way to make sure we can leave the house on time (ish).
I use this in my work too. Instead of talking at someone, I needed to put myself in the prospect’s position and try to understand what they do and don’t understand. What do they need to make it easier for them? That can only be done with a conversation. Talking at someone is not a conversation. Communicating with someone from a position of understanding is.
Likewise, I take parts of my work into the way I am as a Dad. Though negotiations with directors are far more manageable than negotiating with a five-year-old to eat their dinner!
When I’m working with a new band, I talk them through my capabilities and ask what they are looking for. We work together to make sure the outcome for the audience is the best it could possibly be. Without me trying to take any of the attention away from them on stage with unnecessary flashy things.
I’m happy to sit in the shadows at the back and make it all about them. In business development, that’s what I want too. I want the person I’m working with to be the focus; I want to achieve the best outcome for their audience, be that their customers or their board of directors.
I’ve done some amazing stuff in my time, in all areas of my life. Things I can look back on that make me smile and think I would not have wanted to do that any differently. I’ll do a lot more cool stuff in the future too. As long as I make sure I do the best I can, using everything that makes up who I am.
I am Peter Knight: Dad, Business Development Manager, Purchasing Manager, Lighting Tech, Builder, Leader, Listener, Doer of Cool Things and hopefully all-around nice person.
Published: 19th April 2021
I have a love-hate relationship with sales.
I used to think salespeople were persuasive, persistent, and usually ignorant and irritating. Particularly believed this of telesales, always calling at the worst time with something I have no interest in.
It doesn’t help that the phone is a channel used for so many scams or pointless calls that now, unknown numbers are immediately answered with impatience.
That ‘car crash’ we’ve all never had springs to mind.
On the other hand, I believed that somebody who could be successful in a sales career would have many desirable characteristics. They would have to be organised, charismatic and professional as well as consistent and knowledgeable.
There was a conflict between my experience of being sold to and what I thought made up success for those in sales.
I had a go at a charity call centre briefly in and around studying at 6th form. I only ever felt like a nuisance; the scripting and pitches removed it from being a genuine conversation with a human (I usually enjoy those) into a robotic transaction of noises that I hoped would secure the campaign a donation.
The metrics used to measure individual success also made it tedious, hit this call number, and you become eligible for a bonus! I understand incentivising productivity, but in this instance, it was delivered in entirely the wrong way.
We were not trying to have quality sales conversations; we were trying to have many conversations.
It wasn’t a problem to buy into the purpose of my calls, the charities requirement for donation. It was just too easy to disassociate from that cause while meeting personal targets set by the organisation.
At the time, I chalked it up as a learning experience; I did not suit the telemarketing industry. University on the horizon and anticipated I would find more engaging, compelling lines of work to build a career within.
I went on to study Psychology and Sociology at Brighton University, a reprieve from working and an opportunity to learn a little more about myself and what I could offer.
My degree had lots of fascinating insight into human behaviour, but by far, the most captivating for me was learning about non-verbal communications and discourse analysis.
Being able to identify the subliminal messages delivered around the words in a conversation was exciting.
I began to pick up the indicators for discomfort, misinformation and somebody glossing over the finer details. I realised I still wanted to work in a role focused on communicating with people, somewhere I could put this ability to detect additional information to use.
A ‘graduate’ business development opportunity within a local engineering organisation came up. The job description struck a chord with me, and I had a job offer within a day of the interview. I was excited to kick off a long and fulfilling career, leading my small local company to untold riches.
There is no exaggeration when I say it was a train wreck.
The realisation of becoming the ignorant and obnoxious salesman I used to hate answering the phone to. I had very little consideration of who I was approaching or whether they needed what we could offer. My entire strategy relied on persistence and fortune; the latter I rightly did not get much of.
It quickly came to an end for everyone’s benefit. I had had my fingers burnt and decided if I were going to get back into sales, it would have to be a vastly different, much more considered prospect than this.
No more scrambling for data or cramming information down the phone to uninterested contacts. I wanted to talk, ask questions and get to know people. With my activities and trust-building leading to relationships that would develop into opportunities organically.
My interview at Intelligent Talk was revolutionary in many ways. The business had a refreshing approach to their marketing campaigns; a good call, for instance, does not necessarily mean booking an appointment for a client or closing a sale.
Those will always be successful outcomes in business, but they are not the only valuable ones.
A great call is the genesis of a relationship between two mutually invested parties. An exchange of information and ideas to better understand what would most benefit the other with the opportunity of collaborating an arbitrary option in the right conditions.
My approach went from telling someone they need what I am offering to exploring their business, jobs and lives to understand better if we can support them.
It is an actively celebrated result to learn that our client’s product or service doesn’t suit a prospect.
We have secured valuable information for our client; we empower our campaigns to be dynamic and responsive by analysing these results.
The anxiety of trying to get wins’ is removed from the process. As a result, the success becomes conducting ourselves correctly in those conversations and representing our clients in the best way. We build a reputation for ourselves and our client in every call, and success lies in the relationships we carry forward.
Of course, it is nice to know that you’ve uncovered an opportunity. Still, it’s far more satisfying to discover the demands and requirements of a company or particular industry through engaging conversations with our contacts.
I no longer think those who work in sales are all ignorant and irritating anymore; myself and the team around me aspire to be evidence of the contrary every single day.
Published: 8th March 2021
In general, 2020 is regarded as a year that no-one would want to revisit.
Sure, there have been worse years in history. But nearly all of us alive have seen nothing even remotely close to last year.
To give a little context:
- You would need to be over 100 years old to remember the devastation of World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic.
- You’d need to be about 90 to have a sense of the true deprivation caused by the Great Depression.
- Finally, you’d have to be in your 80s to have any memory of World War II and the horrors it brought with it.
The rest of us had no frame of reference and no training for what occurred. The natural disasters, the civil unrest and of course the virus that turned the whole world upside down and to date, has ended the lives of around 1.5 million people globally.
If 2020 were a dystopian movie, you’d probably turn it off.
It wasn’t the thrilling, action-packed apocalypse we were conditioned to expect. It was, despite being woven with immense pain, maddeningly mundane for most, the average every day turned against us all.
Businesses that could, worked out how to set up their operations remotely. Many didn’t have that privilege and were led to making redundancies or closing up completely. Meanwhile, we realised just how essential our NHS heroes, supermarket workers and logistics staff really are.
But we’re not talking about ‘history’ here, not how you’d normally think of it. This was last year; you don’t need reminding what happened, you were there.
No one knows for certain what the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be. And it will be quite some time before we do.
However, the history of previous calamities and disasters tells us two things; Firstly, even in severe economic crises, downturns, and recessions, some companies gain an advantage and are able to grow. Secondly, crises not only produce a multitude of short-term changes but also some lasting ones.
So, what’s already happened?
Businesses innovated to help the world cope with the pandemic.
As the pandemic worsened, it put global supply chains under an unprecedented amount of strain. Items needed most, medical equipment like masks and gloves, ironically, were often produced in locations such as Wuhan, China and these links were severed by the virus.
Companies of all sizes adjusted quickly and went into overdrive to help provide medical equipment and support.
Companies such as BrewDog utilised their distilleries to switch from producing alcohol to hand sanitiser. Ford collaborated with several other companies to build respirators and ventilators. Clothing companies switched to making medical gowns and masks. Tech giants IBM created the High-Performance Computing Consortium to offer high-class computing resources for the medical and science communities.
The business world said “Black Lives Matter”
The awareness of racial injustice took a huge leap forward in 2020. In some ways, CV-19 played a part in this as BAME communities were some of the worst hit by the virus and are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 in the UK. But the cold, undeniable video of American George Floyd’s murder was a tipping point.
Along with protests and marches across the globe, nearly every organisation felt a need to say or do their part in supporting Black Lives Matter, showing their commitment to justice.
Many companies did this by committing to raising the level of Black representation in management or buying from and supporting more Black-owned brands. There is a more comprehensive list of actions here.
Many symbolic statements were just as important. One that really stood out came from the most unexpected source of BabyNames.com. Usually a happy place for expecting parents to explore names for their newest family member, the site posted a black box with white lettering; listing dozens of names of black men and women who had been tragically killed by police or white supremacists. This was joined with a simple statement: “Each of these names was somebody’s baby.”
The definition of corporate responsibility has hugely expanded.
Companies are increasingly being held responsible for a much broader spectrum of their ‘impact’ on society outside of the usual physical aspects such as treatment of workers, land use or pollution.
This was made clear when Disney launched the live-action remake of Mulan last year. Part of the movie was filmed in areas of China that have detained at least 1 million Muslim Uighurs, one of the world’s biggest human rights disasters.
They received an enormous amount of criticism and push-back because of this decision and became a lesson in the new expectation of companies. How a company treats communities, social issues, and the natural world is increasingly under scrutiny and is now key to how the C-suite and business entity as a whole is judged.
Reassess your business growth.
Businesses now need to reassess their growth opportunities in the ‘new normal’ and adapt their business models to better understand and take advantage of new types of opportunities.
The pandemic has not only disrupted global business practice and consumption; it has forced and allowed people to unlearn old habits and adopt new ones.
Most studies show it takes between 21-66 days to fully form a habit, which means each lockdown has lasted long enough to significantly change habits that had previously been the foundation of your client relationships.
To emerge from the ongoing crisis in a stronger position, you must develop an understanding of the changing habits of your existing and prospective clients. For many, that will require new processes to detect and assess those changes before they happen.
Unless you sensitise yourself to these new habits and their ongoing effects on your client’s decision making, you’ll fail to identify upcoming problems and miss opportunities in new areas.
Take a new perspective.
By taking a new perspective outside of what you’re currently focusing on, you can identify potential blind-spots and further opportunities.
Who in your industry is doing well? What are they focusing on? What products are they pushing, or are they launching new ones?
The same goes for your clients too: Who has stayed loyal? Which are showing a change in behaviour or a withdrawal from your service? Are there any new needs emerging due to the crisis that you could provide support for?
Don’t forget your own teams: What workplace changes are being adopted by leading companies? What new challenges are your employees facing? What new methods are your employees responding well/badly to?
Once you’re armed with this new knowledge, you will know where your opportunities lie, and you can reshape your business to make the most of them.
Get comfortable with hybridisation.
Even pre-pandemic, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the traditional 9-5 office set up. When the age of COVID-19 dawned, the future of the office was thrown well and truly into limbo.
Remote working became the new normal instantly for most companies that could make the switch. Employees retreated to home offices, kitchen desk setups and other makeshift alternatives to complete their roles as best they could.
Many have thrived under these new circumstances. A recent study by Citrix found that 69% of employees working remotely reported to be more productive now than when they were working from the office. Others have found the switch incredibly difficult due to loneliness, poor conditions and declining mental health.
The only certainty through this pandemic is that things cannot stay the same as they were before.
We feel that the solution will lie in a middle-ground of flexible working. One that caters to each individual’s strengths and habits – the hybrid office.
In its most basic form, a hybrid office allows employees to work in the workplace and remotely. It is a versatile solution that can be adapted to suit the needs of almost all companies.
For some, it could mean a fixed office building with hot-desks available for ad hoc usage; for others, it could be more dynamic, allowing for alternating hours or a rota schedule.
Most importantly, it caters to flexibility, allowing employees to choose where and how they want to work.
When done right, this hybrid approach combines the use of a physical space and digital technology to create an innovative and agile workforce. Taking the best elements of the traditional setup and optimising them with remote working. Thus allowing the business to exist as successfully in the digital realm as it does in the physical.
Many larger companies have already adopted this approach. Implementing 2-3 remote days weekly with individuals working from the office the rest of the time. Although the hybrid solution does feel like the logical next step for most. It’s important to remember it isn’t a one-size-fits-all method and any decisions should be made with the input of all employees and with their best interest at its core.
What does this mean for sales?
With all of these changes coming and some that have already arrived, what’s next for sales? One thing we can be sure of is the gap between businesses and their clients has never been broader. Sales and business development must adapt to bridge that gap.
Technology is evolving, but research is still king.
Technology is always evolving; it has its place and it’s okay not to know the answer to all your client’s questions all the time. Learn to ask questions, actually listen and add value in your response – trust us, your prospects will thank you. To do this well, you have to do your research.
At Intelligent Talk, we’ve written numerous posts and shared templates on how important your research is and how to go about it. This hasn’t and won’t change – people buy from people they like; you get them to like you by getting to know them.
Efficiency will lead to a greater need for training.
To grow and be successful in a post-COVID landscape, salespeople will need to be efficient, technology-supported and effective. Those that aren’t will probably be replaced by technologies put in place by those that are.
This means there will be a much higher need for sales training. These will focus around navigating new and complex sales processes efficiently and around the ever-important conversational skills.
More sales = more specialised.
Sales will need to become more specialised in order to continue adding value to your clients. Expecting one person to specialise in research, prospecting, outreach, discovery, negotiation, closing and account management is simply unrealistic.
Now more than ever, it is important to have the right people doing the right jobs. Invest in your marketing efforts to generate leads and support your prospecting. Have project managers to research and conduct pre-sale activities. Develop your account executives, so they become fully comprehensive account managers, delivering the best service to each client.
Get more leverage by using technology.
Evolve your services to include data-driven automation. By accessing more data and expanding your sales stack, you facilitate your sales and business development reaching a higher level of success in spite of less-than-ideal circumstances.
Companies unafraid of expanding their use of technology will come head and shoulders above their competitors in the years to come.
In times of crises, it’s often the go-to to relapse back into old habits, to when things last felt secure.
But this is the time where new approaches are the most valuable and need to be embraced.
While preparing yourself or your company for the ‘new normal’ don’t allow yourself to be limited by traditional information or behaviour.
Challenge your own thought processes, revamp your business strategy and invest in the right areas to not only survive but thrive in a post-pandemic world.
Whatever the future of sales is, there has never been a more exciting time to be a part of it. It’s clear to see that the future still holds plenty of opportunities for those willing to innovate.
Published: 29th January 2021
Anyone who works in sales will tell you, it can be tough!
Sales is still hard work in summer but when the sun is shining and it’s light until 10pm everything just seems… better.
As the days get shorter with gloomy mornings and darker evenings, let alone with lockdowns constantly looming, you might feel yourself going into ‘hibernation mode.’ With the grey, chilly weather, you might not be feeling your best.
The ‘winter blues’ is a real thing – it’s characterised by feeling more down, sad, or just less energised than usual.
So, how can you get rid of that ‘blah’ feeling, banish those winter blues and keep making sales like it’s still the summer of ‘19?
It all starts with your morning routine.
Now, we’re not going to reel off how you should wake up at 4am and you’ll be instantly better than everyone else through moral high ground alone, like those many, many LinkedIn posts we love to hate.
But having a decent routine will improve your morning.
If you’re getting the first part of the day right, then chances are the rest of the day will follow. Next thing you know, you’ve strung a few of these good days together and you’ve built a great habit of positivity!
That means a more focused, prepared and energetic you! In sales, we all know that is what’s best for you, best for business and best for your clients.
To achieve this, your morning routine needs to focus on your physical health, mental health and the day ahead.
Once you’ve broken down your routine into these categories it’s easy to achieve something for each one, no matter how small and fit it into the time you have.
This year, our physical health has been difficult to maintain with the gyms being closed, lockdowns and working from home for a lot of people.
By introducing a small change into your morning routine, you can boost your energy and create a healthier habit than shuffling from the bedroom to the living room to work.
- Drink water as soon as you wake up. Come on, this should be common sense by now. Your brain is 78% water, you want it to perform, you’ve got to keep it hydrated!
- See the light. There’s not much sunlight around at this time of year, so it’s important to get that sweet vitamin D where you can – open those blinds, sit by the window, get out for a walk if you can. You can also bolster your intake from other sources such as your diet. Vitamin D helps encourage the production of serotonin, the happy hormone.
- Eat healthily. If you’re struggling to get up in the morning, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients. A balanced breakfast will set you up for the day.
- Exercise. You don’t have to go run a marathon or lift weights for an hour and a half – if you do, amazing! But for most of us a small period of activity will have a dramatic impact. Walk the dog, do some star jumps, find a quick work-out on YouTube and follow it. Whatever you enjoy, do it!
I know you’ll probably feel like just curling up on the couch with a share bag of Doritos this winter but it’s good to keep as active as you can to combat the winter and lockdown blues.
Building healthy habits will keep you positive, you’re achieving something good for yourself and also releases serotonin!
Mental health awareness has probably had its best year yet, with celebrities sharing their experiences, viral hashtags and a huge number of campaigns, we’re slowly but surely turning the stigma on its head and realising that mental health is just as important as physical health.
Whether it’s working from home, isolated from your family and friends that chips away at it, being on furlough, a dip in business, or working as a key worker through a pandemic – everyone’s mental health has been affected this year.
Taking a few moments each morning to bolster your mental fortitude will help keep you going at full strength, so you can carry on being the best you can be, despite the circumstances.
- Make your bed. William H. McRaven, a retired US Navy Admiral famously gave a speech detailing the benefit of making your bed. You can watch the full video here. “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task. And another. And another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”
- Meditate. I’m not talking about sitting cross-legged in a field with flowers in your hair, so you can stop sniggering. Take a few minutes in the shower to clear your head and order your thoughts. Have a moment to yourself while the kettle boils or whilst you’re getting dressed, be mindful and focus purely on the task at hand. There are countless studies that show mindfulness and meditation improves focus, mental health and general wellbeing.
- Keep in touch. Making sure you keep in touch with your family and friends helps you feel more connected to the world and less isolated. This goes for your colleagues too, with so many of us working remotely it can quickly feel like you’re not part of a team anymore. Drop a voice note over to a loved-one first thing, book a virtual lunch break with your colleagues to have something to look forward to or arrange your morning Zoom team meeting to start a couple of minutes early so you can have a natter and a coffee together like old times!
The Day Ahead:
The final part of your morning routine focuses on the day ahead of you, it sets the pace and tone for the day leaving you feeling in control.
- Plan your day. This subject has been done to death but spending a couple of minutes to order out your day, plot in your breaks and refresh yourself on any meetings you have will ensure you are prepared for your day, not rushing around without focus or twiddling your thumbs not knowing what your priorities should be.
- Eat the frog. This means, identify what your hardest/most time consuming/off-putting task of the day is and get it done first! When you get the worst things over with first thing, the rest of your day will feel a lot smoother and easier.
- Do something for yourself. Read a chapter of the book you’re currently reading, listen to your favourite song, spend an extra minute with your loved ones, play with your dogs… whatever it is, set aside a few minutes to do something for yourself and your day won’t feel so overwhelming. Raising your mood before starting a busy day kick-starts a positive mindset that will last much longer than the activity itself.
You might find some of these tips a little unorthodox or like you don’t have time to fit three extra things into your morning routine but once you start, you’ll realise that you have more time than you think.
These are just some suggestions, whether you have 30 minutes or two hours – try different things, change it up or create your own! The best morning routine is one that works for you, adds value to your day and doesn’t feel like a chore.
A lot of things have changed this year, out of our control and a lot of the time for the worse.
Let’s all take this opportunity to change something for ourselves, for the better.
If you’re looking for more ways to stay motivated – check out another of our blog posts on motivation here!
Published: 1st December 2020.