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
8 Tips for Remote Working Salespeople Straight from our Team to Yours
Maintain Your Routine.
While remote working, it’s easy to start to feel burned out. It’s hard to shut off when there’s no boundary between work and home, and you can end up working too many hours. There’s always this self-applied pressure to prove that you’re actually doing your job, and a lot of us overcompensate.
In a lot of ways, you are your own boss when you’re working remotely. So you have to stick to your start and finish times as you would in the office.
If you feel like you need support with this, ask a colleague to be your accountability buddy but make peace with putting in 100% every day without feeling like you have to prove you’re doing your job.
Since you won’t have structured breaks at home, you have to have the foresight to create your routine and be rigid about it. For example, get ready as you would on a day in the office. Make your breakfast, then put in your break times throughout the day scheduled in advance.
It’s easy to let the line between work and home get blurred. To make this easier to maintain, try using your calendar to block off time when you’re going to take lunch and when you’re going to start and end the day.
Create Your Remote Working Environment.
Without sounding like a broken record as a remote employee, the boundary between work and home is often marred. Which is why you should have a designated workspace and make it work for you.
Whether it’s a separate office or the kitchen table, maintaining a designated workspace can help create the boundary between work and home.
If you have a space, make sure to give it some love! Invest in your area; this could be with a new chair, better lighting, some plants or artwork to make you feel at ease, focused and ready to work.
If you don’t have a separate space, even just putting everything away at night and taking it out again in the morning can help you create the boundary between work and home.
Take Your Breaks.
Usually, working from home means you’ll have fewer distractions.
Although this might lead to higher productivity, it can actually make it harder to take your breaks throughout the day.
At home, you don’t have the built-in breaks you might have throughout the day at the office. Your friends and colleagues aren’t stopping by to grab a coffee. It’s unlikely that someone from a different department is going to show up at your desk and ask if you’ve got a few minutes to help with something.
We know it’s easy to get stuck in the trap of skipping breaks or working through lunch. But, this is a sure-fire way to feel burned out in your role. That’s why you need to remember to take breaks and recharge your energy.
One of the most significant drawbacks of remote working is the feeling of isolation.
To combat this, remember to be social during your working day. You can still network and chat with your colleagues while you’re all working from home.
Even just reaching out on teams or scheduling a video chat for a virtual coffee can help you feel more connected to your team.
When everyone is busy on the phones and don’t have time for a video chat, even sending a quick message to talk can be helpful.
Share Your Schedule.
One struggle you may face while working from home arises if you have roommates, partners, children, or even pets in the house.
If this is the case, it can be easy to get distracted. Plus, if you’ve got partners or housemates also working from home, it can be hard to coordinate working areas daily.
If this is the case for you, communication is vital.
Make sure you send your schedule to everyone in your household to plan who will be working in which space is. If you want to work in your home office, for example, let your roommate know that they can work in the living room or kitchen area.
Try and use a room that has the least traffic, and by sharing your schedule, you can let your housemates or partner know when they can and can’t interrupt you so that they don’t come barging in on any meetings you may have.
Although you’re working remotely, you still have to deal with all of your job’s regular stress and challenges.
When these problems arise, don’t be afraid to speak up.
It can be tough to reach out when you need help at the best of times, let alone when you’re working remotely; that being said, you should always speak to your manager or team as soon as possible. That way, you get the help and support you need when you need it.
Maintain consistent weekly meetings and use video chat to make the most out of your communications and ensure that you’re never too far away from a check-in with your manager should any problems arise.
Dress for Success.
The way you start your day can significantly impact your mood and productivity.
Getting up getting showered, and dressed just as though you’re going to the office can make a huge difference for you.
Although you may be able to get away with leisurewear working from home, you should maintain a certain level of professionalism if you’re going to be in meetings and representing your company on video chats.
Another difficulty of remote work can be that it’s hard to manage your own time and stay organised. The best way to deal with this is to use your calendar to block off time to complete important tasks.
To keep your deals advancing, it’s important to stay diligent with all of your tasks, whether you’re setting up calls, lead generating, or understanding your prospects expectations.
Remote Working Take Aways:
Although it can be intimidating when you and your teamwork remotely, it doesn’t have to be a difficult transition or damaging to your output. You can still collaborate, grow and connect as a team of remote sales representatives.
By following these easy steps, you’ll be able to thrive while working remotely.
How many of these tips do you use? Are there any that you would add? Let us know in the comments below.
Published: 3rd 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
What is social selling?
Social selling is the art of using social media to uncover and engage with new prospects. Sales professionals can use social media to provide value to their prospects. This is done by sharing content, answering questions and responding to comments throughout the sales process.
If the fundamentals of ‘old school’ selling are made of cold calling, qualifying leads and sales demos. Then social sales are built on using social media to reach new prospects, educate them on how your business can help them grow or overcome a problem and nurture them with content.
The exponential growth of social media has been a huge factor in social selling being adopted as a means of B2B outreach.
Research completed by IDC found that:
- 91% of B2B buyers are involved with social media and are active on various platforms
- 84% of senior execs use social media to support buying decisions
- 75% of B2B buyers are heavily influenced by social media
How to use social selling to help you grow your business:
Ultimately, social selling is about building relationships. Not only that, building relationships in the right way and in the right places.
Step One: Choose the right network
It’s so easy to think you need to be on ALL social media platforms or get swept up in the next big thing. However, true social selling success comes from being active on the same platform as your ideal clients.
Start to identify the networks that match your client personas by demographics.
Although YouTube and Facebook have the majority of users across all age groups. However, research shows that a majority of decision-makers use LinkedIn and Twitter primarily.
So, you can derive from this if you sell products or services focused towards other businesses, chances are a majority of your potential clients are already on LinkedIn and that’s where your focus should be.
Step Two: Create your wish list of ideal clients and follow them
All salespeople dream of bringing on new mega-brand clients.
It doesn’t just have to be a dream though!
Almost all large corporations and small can be found on social media through company pages or employee accounts. By following and connecting with these companies you can keep up to date on company news, when they win an award reach out to congratulate them or when they ask for a product or service recommendation offer your help.
Create a wish list of 20-30 dream clients that are active on social media and start following them today. Like, share and engage with their content updates wherever possible and start building those relationships!
Step Three: Get instant notifications when potential prospects join LinkedIn
By utilising LinkedIn’s Saved Search feature, you can create a search based on your ideal client persona then LinkedIn will notify you each time someone joins that matches your profile.
Once you have created these search alerts you can choose the frequency and format or your notifications.
Step Four: Join and participate in LinkedIn Groups
With more than 660 million users LinkedIn is a platform full of opportunities from networking to referrals.
One of the biggest advantages lies within the groups but they are still one of the most under-utilised tools of LinkedIn.
Search for your topic of expertise and find relevant groups to join. Remember, these aren’t the places to be pushing your products, your aim should be to network and share knowledge and expertise with potential customers.
Step Five: Connect with your ideal clients
After starting to contribute in groups on LinkedIn, you will notice that more people will view your profile.
When this starts to happen, send them an invite to connect!
Always remember to personalise your connection request, even something simple like ‘Hi [Name], thanks for viewing my profile. Would you be open to connecting on LinkedIn?’ is a much better request than the default.
Personalising your request is a great way to start a conversation with a potential customer that has shown an interest in what you do.
Step Six: Contribute to conversations
Implement a social listening strategy and respond to what people are saying about your brand or industry.
Twitter is a great tool to use for this, search for a keyword then scroll the feed and start engaging by liking/retweeting or responding to questions they ask.
By contributing to conversations, you add value to your potential clients and get your name on their radar.
Step Seven: Provide value with content
More than 50% of B2B buyers look for information on products and services on social media.
Because of this, you have a great opportunity to create new content based on what your prospects are already searching for!
If a conversation you’re involved in asks for information on best practice, share one of your companies’ blog posts. If a LinkedIn group is discussing product recommendations, share a demo video or case study.
This is also a great opportunity to align your sales and marketing teams. Together they can create and share content based on questions, comments and industry topics being posted within their social networks.
These six steps to social selling will help you get started with finding and connecting with your prospects across social media, especially LinkedIn and Twitter where most decision makers can be found.
The best results of social selling come when you focus on adding value and building relationships with your prospects.
While it might be difficult at first, social selling is not a one-time activity and should be implemented alongside your other prospecting techniques.
What social selling techniques will you be trying? Let us know in the comments!
Published: 12th April 2021
What is a tyre-kicker?
A tyre-kicker is a person who appears to be interested in making a purchase but never progresses to making a purchase. Tyre-kickers frequently engage with sales teams by asking questions, raising objections and prolonging the sales process without committing to a deal.
They’re the people that beat around the bush, question pricing and generally waste your time.
These are the types of prospects to get out of your pipeline as soon as possible so that you can focus your time and efforts on better opportunities.
Quality over quantity.
Although working on every deal might sound like the best way to close the most deals. Your time is better spent on quality leads with a higher chance of closing.
But how do you separate the tyre-kickers from your fully qualified prospects? Use these strategies to identify them.
They don’t match your target client personas.
The first way to weed out a tyre-kicker is to check if they match your target persona. There are a few questions you can ask yourself when deciding if a prospect is a good fit:
Are they within the industry you are currently targeting?
Do they fit the demographics of your ideal decision-maker?
Does your product or service fix a problem or fulfil a need for them?
If they don’t meet these essential criteria that your company or team has set, then they aren’t worth your time.
They haven’t done their research.
Decision-makers within companies are more informed than ever. They will often research potential solutions or products before speaking to a sales representative.
Prospective clients often have a general idea of what your business does and the value it can provide for them.
While you shouldn’t rule out cold leads altogether, bear in mind that it will take much longer to nurture them through your sales process. It’s particularly challenging to work with a prospect who maintains disinterest past the first or second interaction.
It takes extensive time and energy to educate your prospects on your service or product offering. From discovery calls to marketing emails and sharing content. If you continue to try and chip away at poor quality prospects, it will cut into the time you could be using to nurture viable business opportunities.
There is no urgent need.
Identifying a problem that can be solved with your service or product isn’t enough; you also have to determine how significant that problem is to your prospect.
Are they motivated to solve it?
Do they have a determined timeline for when the problem needs to be solved?
Is there a different issue they care about more competing for their attention and budget?
If your prospect isn’t showing a willingness to act or demonstrating a need to solve their issue, they might not be ready to make a purchase. They would be better off being moved into a nurturing process with your marketing team instead.
There’s no budget.
One of the most common tyre-kicker objections is budget. This can be a strong indicator they’re not actually interested in your service. Or, they simply can’t afford it.
If your prospect presents a pricing objection, we recommend using the following:
‘I completely understand. The best products are often more expensive.’
Using this response the first time you encounter ‘it’s too expensive’ helps you separate those prospects who genuinely don’t have the budget and those who are just kicking tyres. It’s impossible to sell your service to a prospect if they don’t have the budget or authority to use it – focus your time on those that do.
Where there isn’t a budget fit, provide them with free tools or resources they could benefit from in the interim. In this case, just because they aren’t a good fit right now. It doesn’t mean they won’t return when the budget is right.
They waste your time.
When you finally reach a prospect on the phone, if they go off on unrelated tangents or stray off relevant topics, you might be talking to a tyre kicker.
While it’s crucial to incorporate what your prospects want to talk about into your calls and personalise the experience, it’s also vital for you to meet your goals for the call and respect your own time. Otherwise, you can waste your days talking to prospects with no buying intention.
It’s key to outline your plan for each call or meeting. But if your prospect consistently takes over the conversation when you speak to them, it becomes challenging to make progress with them and could be an indicator that it’s time to walk away.
This isn’t a completely exhaustive list of ways to identify timewasters, but you’ll save yourself time by keeping them in mind throughout your prospecting and qualification processes. Don’t ignore your intuition or the warning signs. Chances are, if a prospect is showing one or more of these traits, they’re likely to be tyre-kicking and won’t move forward with making a purchase.
Remember, the best salespeople are those who can walk away from a deal when they recognise it isn’t a good fit for them. Instead, they use that time to nurture better prospects and making deals!
Published: 5th April 2021
A study by Marketing Metrics found that there is only a 5-20% chance of turning sales opportunities or prospects into a client.
Not particularly positive, is it?
The only option to keep your pipeline full is to keep prospecting.
But when a sales opportunity slips through your fingers, what do you do?
There is a positive to all this, though:
The deal you just lost may turn out to be the best thing that could’ve happened to you!
Now, we can feel the cynical eyebrows being raised from here but hear us out:
Picking yourself up and dusting yourself off, ready to go again, is the most classic attribute of a successful salesperson. But upping your game to the next level – the level your competitors aren’t reaching – is understanding that the loss of a sales opportunity can be rewarding, proving you handle them the right way.
Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to turn lost sales into opportunities.
Analyse your sales process:
No matter which way you cut it, B2B sales is a numbers game.
That’s why it’s essential to evaluate your ‘lost opportunities’ data.
If you are using a CRM system to track your sales process, the information you need to evaluate your actions is easily retrieved.
You can search through the data available to you and see which deals were won and which were lost – this will help you to identify which steps were not effective.
By taking this step back to analyse the data, you can pinpoint which part of the sales process your prospect dropped off. Once you have this, you can make the required changes to your approach to improve your chances in the future.
Focus on the right sales opportunities:
That’s a scary fact on its own, but pair it with research from TAS Group that shows it takes on average 50% longer to lose a deal than win one, and it becomes genuinely shocking.
If you’re spending more time losing deals than winning them, you’re not using your time effectively.
So, as the data shows, salespeople spend valuable time managing prospects that simply aren’t ready or willing to buy. As such, the opportunity wasn’t lost – it was never going to be won in the first place!
Prospecting isn’t just finding people to sell to; it’s about finding the right people to sell to.
Start by understanding your ideal clients, then identify ways to reach prospects who fit into this profile.
Once you have this more detailed view of your ideal, be proactive and identify the lost deals way before you actually lose them.
This mentality is summarised perfectly in this video by Tony J Hughes, who coined the term ‘Lose fast – win slow’.
Understand the no’s:
The most important lessons of all can be learned from the prospects that tell you ‘no’.
Despite this, 60% of marketing and sales representatives admit they don’t conduct interviews with their lost clients.
Asking lost prospects for feedback is a huge opportunity to tap into. What doesn’t work for one prospect is likely to not work for others too.
Feedback can include questions such as:
– What were your reasons behind choosing a competitor?
– Was there anything missing that could have changed your mind at any stage?
– What was the main reason for not buying from us?
Put your prospect at ease by letting them know you’re not going to try to change their mind, and you have accepted the loss. Remember to be gracious during these calls and try not to become defensive; your job is to learn what’s really going on, which will help you in the long run.
Keeping the conversation going:
63% of prospects requesting information from your company will not purchase for at least three months, and 20% will take more than a year to buy!
Sometimes if you’ve lost a deal, it may just be that your prospect wasn’t ready at that time.
That’s why it’s important to follow up and stay at the top of their mind.
If you do, once they are ready to buy, you’ll be the first person they think of!
Master the follow-up by engaging with your prospects and providing relevant content when they need it.
This type of lead nurturing can have a significant impact on your future sales:
– Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases.
– They also produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities.
Reconnect with lost prospects:
Our final tip – don’t give up!
It is always worth reaching out again to lost prospects. By allowing time to pass since they told you they weren’t interested, their situation may have changed. Companies develop new problems and needs all the time – be ready to help solve them.
Build a follow-up system for every sales opportunity, schedule a check-up call. You want to make sure the follow-up allows for enough of a cool down. This will depend on the type of product or service you are offering and the individual clients situation.
For example, suppose your prospect rejected your offering based on an existing contract with a competitor with nine months left on it. In that case, you need to get back in contact after six months which is around the time they would start to consider their renewal. If you wait until the nine months have passed, it could be too late, and you will have lost out again!
No one likes to lose deals:
No matter what the reason losing a deal you’ve been working on for months can be a real kick in the gut. But it can also be a growth opportunity!
Each time a deal is lost, don’t just forget about it and move on. Take the time to analyse and reflect. By determining what went wrong and implementing changes, you can make sure you never lose a deal for the same reason in the future.
This makes your offering more valuable to future clients and proves to your lost prospects that you listened to them and may even bring them back to you later on down the line.
Published: 29th March 2021
Prospecting is one of, if not the most crucial, stage of the sales process.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most difficult.
A report from HubSpot showed 42% of sales representatives named prospecting as the most challenging part of the sales process.
But why is it so difficult?
Without a pipeline full of good-quality leads, no new deals are going to drop. That’s why it’s so crucial to understand that prospecting kick-starts the entire sale and determines, in many ways, whether or not the deal will go through.
It’s simple maths, the more prospects and leads you generate, the more chances you have to close a deal.
Salespeople have to embrace prospecting and generating leads.
The C-Word Vital to Prospecting:
Leads won’t just land in your lap; you’ve got to take action and stick with it.
Just like going to the gym once won’t give you’re your ideal body, prospecting once isn’t going to fill your sales pipeline.
You need to work at it every day consistently, put time aside every day in your calendar for lead generating, and it will pay dividends in weeks and months to come.
Research has recently demonstrated that almost 82% of top-performing salespeople spend four or more hours per day on sales-related activities.
Prospecting isn’t always the most engaging of activities, so booking time in will help to ensure you’re sticking to it on a regular basis.
The benefits of maintaining this discipline: a sales pipeline full of leads, higher conversion and win rates!
The 10 Ultimate Prospecting Tips:
Although one of the most time-consuming and challenging parts of the sales process, done correctly, prospecting can be an exciting activity that hones your sales skills and allows you to find the right clients that are the perfect fit for your company.
Create an ideal prospect persona.
Take some time to identify the profile of your ideal client.
Starting within your own database. Who are your most profitable clients? Who are your worst? Which are the least profitable? Create a profile around each of these criteria.
However, please don’t assume that they’re a good fit for you because they’re in your system. Ironically, studies have shown that potentially 50% of your prospects aren’t a good fit.
You also need to think in terms of solutions – what pain points do your ideal customers have, and how does your product or service solve them?
Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to use these profiles to find businesses well matched to your company’s services.
Get in front of your ideal prospects.
Start off by identifying where you ‘met’ your best customers. Was it through networking at an event? Was it a referral? This will help you to identify your most lucrative prospecting channels.
Another good place to start is identifying their digital presence: what social media channels or publications do they frequent?
For example, if you’re working in B2B sales, the likelihood is that your prospects are on LinkedIn. That means you need to have a strong presence there too. LinkedIn allows you to warm up your approach by connecting on the platform first and finding out a lot of information about them and their company.
All this information allows you to map out where you need to show up to meet your ideal clients.
Actively work the phones.
Never underestimate the power of a phone call! 82% of buyers accept meetings with salespeople that reach out to them, and 27% of salespeople say that making phone calls to new prospects is very or extremely effective.
You’ve got your cold lists, your warm lists, your hotlists.. take time each day to call these people and start or build on those relationships!
Another great tip is to have a list of open-ended questions relevant to each list.
Did you know? Asking between 11-14 questions during a lead call will translate into a 74% greater success rate?
You don’t need to focus so heavily on your sales pitch, but encourage a dialogue where you can learn their pain-points, goals, and most importantly, where they are in their decision-making process. If you can maintain an engaging, client-centric conversation, your lead qualification becomes much easier.
What solution are they looking for? Do they have enough information from you? Is there anything you could send over to make their decision making easier?
Focus on these questions and not about ‘making a sale’, and you’ll be turning lukewarm contacts into hot leads in no time at all!
Email, when done correctly, is alive and kicking! In fact, 80% of buyers say they prefer to be contacted by salespeople via email.
Although there is one form of email that is well and truly dead – mass or bulk emails!
Personalised emails are now running the show, leaving their archaic predecessor in the dust.
Firstly, you need to make sure that your content is personalised to each of your prospect’s needs. Your job is to impress them with how much you know about their industry or company. Make sure your emails are specific and address the needs of your prospective client.
Second, in order for your leads to open and read your email, make sure that they look great on mobile devices too, as more than half of all emails are read on the go. Emails optimised for mobile generate around 15% higher clickthrough rates than those that are not optimised.
Lastly, for your emails to hit the mark, you need to know how to write well and what to say. To help you, we’ve put together this guide full of great messaging tips and tricks.
Ask for referrals.
If it seems simple, that’s because it is!
Nothing is a better advertisement for your company than a happy customer.
91% of B2B buyers are influenced by social proof when making their buying decisions, pair this with a referral-based closing ratio of 50-70%, and you’ve got a highly effective source of quality leads.
This is an entirely free opportunity you simply don’t want to miss out on – ask your existing clients for referrals!
The ideal time to do this is just after the deal has closed; the sales experience is still fresh in their mind. A massive 83% of clients would happily provide a referral if their experience with a company is positive.
With your existing clients, make sure you’re providing a top-quality service to them too! Invite them to events, send them relevant content your teams are creating or set up a check-in meeting to ensure they’re completely thrilled with the service you’re providing.
Keeping you at the top of your clients’ mind will ensure they know exactly who to recommend when asked!
Become a real know-it-all.
To keep those referrals heading your way, you need to become more than just a supplier or service provider. You need to be a trusted partner and provider of solutions.
This means being a champion of knowledge in:
Your target industries: Recent research showed 51% of top-performing salespeople are regarded as an ‘expert in their field’.
Your prospects: Everyone likes positive attention and feeling understood. That’s why you need to know not only about your prospects needs but also their achievements. By thoroughly researching your prospects, you can use that knowledge to reinforce your value proposition.
Your own product: 54% of prospects want to find out how a product or service works on the first call. With that in mind, you need to be ready to discuss your product or service’s functionality, answer implementation questions, and give examples that show the value of your services.
Build your socials.
LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are all channels that your prospects will use to find information when they are looking to buy. So if you’re not on there, someone else will be!
Some key social selling statistics (source):
- 91% of B2B buyers are now active on social media
- 84% of senior executives use social media to support purchasing decisions
- Using social selling can increase deal sizes by 35%
Social selling works!
Start small and create a profile on one of the social media channels where your prospects spend their time.
For B2B sales, LinkedIn can be particularly powerful. Investing time into your LinkedIn profile is so important as 82% of buyers look up companies on LinkedIn before replying to their outreach efforts.
Add value with content.
We know that content delivered to prospects at the right time in the right way helps to move prospects down the sales funnel quicker.
The best way to figure out what will work best and when you need to answer this question: What are you trying to achieve during this particular prospecting stage?
You want your prospective client to either pay attention and give you the opportunity for a meeting or move to the next stage at least.
This means that the content you send needs to address specific situations and pain points of your prospects.
Most companies’ content focuses solely on their own services, features or products – rather than focusing on their customers’ pain points!
Demonstrate your skills through video.
People buy from people – So, show them the real you!
We’re not talking hyper-professional, corporate demos with model businesspeople shaking hands and unnatural smiles.
We’re talking about you, as an SDR, showing your face and offering information. Quote your numbers and give your best pitch. Everything you’re used to doing over the phone, just in a slightly different format.
All you need is your smartphone!
96% of buyers find videos helpful when making purchasing decisions, and prospects who view a product or service video are 85% more likely to buy.
Take full advantage of this trend – in your email marketing, your prospecting and your social selling.
Follow up, follow up, follow up!
It’s extremely rare for a sale to happen after the first contact. Moving a prospect through your sales funnel requires work. This means follow-up emails, calls, sharing content and more!
Following up is a reliable way to build relationships with your prospects and demonstrate your determination. Anything from an email thanking them for their time after a recent call, sending proposals and requested information on time – it all goes a long way in increasing your trustworthiness and your chances of making a sale.
Research has shown that if you haven’t had a response to an email within 24 hours, it’s essential that you follow up. That’s because you have a 21% chance of getting a reply to your second email if your first goes unanswered!
So that’s Prospecting 101!
Prospecting, lead generating, business development, whatever you call it, is essential to all businesses. It’s also hard work and requires a deep understanding and plenty of time and resources to get the results you want. But there is another way.
A partnership with Intelligent Talk.
We’re not your average appointment setters or telemarketers. We are business development consultants who are excellent at what we do and are unique in our approach.
What we do is bespoke to each client, supporting a multitude of sales channels dependant on requirement. We find you genuine opportunities with the right decision-makers currently looking and in the market for what you offer, and if they are not, we put them in your future pipeline.
At Intelligent Talk, we pride ourselves on helping our partners to thrive. Serving as an extension to internal sales teams or as a wholly outsourced division, we care just as much as you do. We are respectful, honest, collaborative and always have our client’s best interests at heart.
Published: 22nd March 2021