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A Guide to Sales Prospecting

Sales prospecting whether using cold calling, social selling, emails or referrals is a vital sales tactic especially for new or small businesses.  Prospecting and sales are not the same thing, prospecting is solely focused on searching and engaging with potential customers in order to nurture a relationship. The sales event happens once the prospect has passed some qualification criteria.  The act of picking up the phone or sending a cold email can seem daunting to a salesperson, especially if they work for a company whose product or brand name might not be instantly recognizable.

50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting. [Source: The B2B Lead]

So, here is a guide for sales prospecting success:

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Use Social Selling and Digital Selling to counteract lack of name recognition.

Using social selling and digital selling tactics can overcome many of the bigger obstacles for new or smaller companies. As Confucius stated “Worry not that no one knows you; seek to be worth knowing.” So, start by really understanding your value proposition and be clear about the buyer pain points and business challenges your company solves.
Givers Gain. The ability to demonstrate (visually using video or content on social media) that you understand your prospects challenges and that you can be a useful source of information to help them improve their business will result in increased relevant connections.

Share first, sell later. Sharing insights and quality information without a big sales pitch is what will get attention from buyers. Use video, case studies, whitepapers, references etc to gentle highlight the benefits of considering your business. Give examples of what makes you different, whether it is a unique product, free trials, lower cost of ownership, proof of concepts or improved performance. Seeding the benefits of doing business with you that can be viewed online will only reinforce your other sales prospecting efforts.

The first step is to create a list of unique benefits and values that will displace any perceived lack of recognition or recall. Building a social selling and digital selling strategy aimed at specific audiences will position the business as one worth considering when it comes to looking for new providers.

Know who you sell to and who will buy from you

Knowing who you want to sell to and who will buy from you are not the same. If you want everyone as a customer, you will sell to no-one. Create 1,2 or 3 Ideal Customer Profiles. In fact, focusing in on who you want to engage is probably THE most important aspect of sales prospecting. To maximize your success, ensure that you prioritize the prospects and profiles in order to improve the chances of providing value to them and their challenges.

Effective Sales Techniques Tips Video from The Digital Sales Institute

During the research stage, the goals to work towards include:

  • To determine if the prospect is worth investing time in
  • List, score, and begin to prioritize prospects
  • Identify touch points (via social or otherwise) to develop a connection through content, message personalization, nurturing and influence development

Seek to Be Useful, Valuable and Relevant

Regardless of whether you try to engage via cold calling, email or social selling, you should seek to be a useful, valuable and relevant contact. Learn how to social listen so you can research their company and understand their business. What trigger events can you uncover that would warrant engaging with you. Have they just launched a new product? Hired a new CEO, moving to a bigger office, Acquired a new company? Trigger selling is where you leverage specific information to make a prospecting touch point relevant, more informed, and less cold.

Become skilled at Social Selling and Digital Selling

The fact is that while still they still deliver results, cold calling and unsolicited emails are not as powerful as they once were. They still have a place in sales prospecting if used in conjunction with social selling. This activity involves the use of LinkedIn, Twitter and increasingly Facebook as part of the sales process to raise buyer awareness towards a business and then gradually cultivating new connections. Learn to use social media to build relationships before a prospect even starts a buyer’s journey, to close the conversion gap and eventually move online social conversations into offline sales conversations. Social selling is an additive process to connect with all stakeholders, decision-makers and influencers as the buying process moves from status quo, to awareness and onto consideration.

Using your Ideal Customer Profiles, locate and list your prospects on LinkedIn, then begin by sharing quality content, be seen to add value to conversations prior to sending out a connection request. Using a highly personalized message, referencing something that will twig their interest will greatly improve their likelihood to accept your request to connect to them. Now, this can turn your first ‘cold’ call touch point into a warm call and increase the percentage of appointments or demos.

Multi-Channel Sales Prospecting Touch Points

Not one single sales prospecting touch point (Social Selling, Emailing or Cold Calling) should be your entire tactic. C level executives receive over 100 emails a day and try to avoid numerous cold pitches so the likelihood of success by simply focusing on one tactic will probably deliver slim pickings.

Successful sales prospecting is about communication and getting commitments. There will always be person to person personalised communication, so learn the multi-channel techniques to overcome any lack of name recognition on calls and mails. The buying committee is now on average made up of 5 to 6 people, so think multi prospecting touch points to multiple people as part of your sales process if you want to build recognition for the business.

As buyers self-educate, getting their time and attention isn’t easy, but perfecting the channels and timing of when to engage them will dramatically close the conversion gap and increase the number sales conversations you secure.

Learn the Sales Habit Loop, Set a Daily Schedule for Yourself

It takes 66 days on average to learn a new habit, so as basic as it sounds, plan your day, book time slots for different prospecting tactics in your calendar, daily. Then persist with it and prospect. Make it part of your daily routine and give yourself a reward not just for the success but also for the effort.  Selling is a repetitive job, it can be easy to dedicate ourselves to the “easier” sales tasks. Even when your sales pipeline seems full, remember over 80% of prospects make it all the way through the sales process and never make a decision. So, you must have a sales habit loop that consistently refreshes the number of sales prospects you are planning to or are currently engaging.
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Never stop Learning

Take time to reassess your sales prospecting process to see what activities generated some return and which ones did not deliver.

After each prospecting campaign, take time to assess how well we:

  • Found a pain point or trigger
  • Were able to engage in meaningful conversations
  • Uncovered challenges
  • Understood the buying committee and decision process
  • Gave buyers reasons to move out of their status quo
  • Closed the conversion gap

Persistence. Learn, have a routine, Try, then try again, reflect, refresh, adjust and go again. And again, and again. Taking time to self-reflect will serve to further improve sales prospecting techniques for future campaigns. Here are some more sales training articles and videos. 

Powerful Sales Techniques

Insight into some powerful sales techniques to help prepare when it comes to engaging a customer or prospect. Whether you are a seasoned sales professional or new into sales, you need to have a set of sales techniques you can draw upon to hit those sales targets. The list of techniques to follow should help increase the approach and interactions to improve sales performance.

Sales Techniques begins with Planning and Preparation.

Sales is a process, not an event, meaning that planning and preparation are sales techniques. This technique is about learning to gather information and insights about a contact plus their company. Being competent to have an in-depth discussion about a customer’s industry, markets, news and trends is often one of the sales techniques salespeople struggles with. Coming armed with insights will not only help build credibility with the customer but also show that you have a genuine interest in their business.  Start by using social media to gather some insights, use Google news or companies blog for announcements, research their industry for trends and forecasts. The more information, the better as it can help build a picture of the customers challenges etc. Now plan out the steps, questions and discussions for the call, meeting or presentation. Using the insights, you have gathered, create a personalized value proposition for this customer and what is it in for them to listen to you.  Don’t forget to also plan out the opening statement and 3 or 4 discovery questions so you can get their awareness and attention based on your knowledge.

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Challenge the Status Quo.

Learn to challenge the customers status quo because in sales the biggest competitor in securing a deal is not the competition but the buyers status quo position. Status quo comfort or the natural inclination for people to avoid change is one of the biggest obstacles in sales. On a scale of 1 to 10 for sales techniques difficulty, this one is an 8 or 9.  The sales skill here is to understand the customers status quo then uncover everything that makes up their status quo to determine how, if, why and when any change would be required or more importantly accepted internally. To master the sales technique of challenging the status quo, we need to change our mindset to “Servant Sellers”. Servant sellers are willing to work with the buyer as a change agent. This involves undertaking all the grunt work, the running around, the gathering of information from multiple parties and other members of the buying committee who will also not have shifted their status quo position.

The sales techniques include magnifying the pain points, making the challenges, obstacles or opportunities as real as possible plus positioning the true cost of doing nothing as unbearable.  The result we all look for is that our proposed solution gets moved up on the customer’s priority to-do list.

A few questions to note are:

“How would you describe your current situation? (in relation to your product)”

“What is your process for [name it] right now?”

“Which improvements would you seek if you had a choice?”

“Is there anything about your current solution to [name it] that you wish was easier?”
“Could you help me understand this better?”

“What is the impact of leaving things as they currently are?”

“What would you consider to be the obstacles in finding a solution?”

“What is the knock-on effect and cost to the business if your current solution can’t [ scale, adapt, cope, change, etc]?”

“What insights or event would trigger you to explore alternative options now?”

 

Be a MOP – Master of Performance.

All the worlds a stage, and salespeople are the players who make buying easier. You see, every single interaction with a customer is an opportunity to perform, to build credibility, to influence, to be seen as useful, and to gain their trust. Everything from our tone of voice, from the way we dress, to what is said and just as important – how it is said, is all part of the sales performance. The quality and relevancy of the information we impart is what determines how we progress. People buy from experts and advisors, so confidence is vital. Similar to an actor, learn to tell stories, talk at a measured pace to allow the words flow naturally. Use facts or data with a raised pitch within the story to display confidence. Have the business acumen to know the customer is asking themselves “Why should I listen” and “How are you different from my current supplier”. So be prepared to answer this as part of your sales performance.

Sales 3.0 is about Collaboration.

Use collaboration to uncover sales opportunities, remember the switch rate ratio is 54% listening to 46% talking. Practice and measure the switch rate that you and the customer take turns listening and then talking. This sales technique allows for the flow of information to be two-way. Some sales training will help you master the sales skill of “active listening”, this opens the door to insights, allowing us to work together to help find the solution that best meets the customer’s needs. To help the switch rate runs smoothly, have a list of discovery type questions to ascertain if any real sales opportunity does in fact exist.

Examples include:

“Where are you experiencing the biggest challenges?

“What has been your own experience in trying to narrow down solutions in the past?”

“What type of events or trends would make you review your current solutions?”

“In which area [personalized to product] are you seeing most challenges?”

“What is your process for going about solving these issues?” 

“What would be the criteria for you to consider solutions or options to [name it]?”

“In an ideal world, when do plan to have found some options for consideration?”

“What would the normal decision-making process for my type of solution be?”

Real sales collaboration shouldn’t be rushed, receiving insightful and honest answers will give a good indication of whether there is a sales opportunity or not. If the switch rate is highly interactive, the questions and answers should reveal the customers main pain points. This allows for a progression in the sales process, however if no opportunity exists or can’t be crystalized then it is time to move on.

It’s about Buying Ease not Buying Please.

The sales mindset here is Let me work for you and show you what you need to complete this purchase.” The customer does need more, they already live in a world of more- more information, more data, more options, and more people involved in a buying decision.

We need to focus on buying ease, to bring clarity in the sales process. To collaborate and help customers simplify the buying process, to make it easier to buy. Research shows customers who experience a high level of “buying ease,” opt to do with that supplier, in fact they are 62% more likely to win the deal. Buying ease includes making the customer feel comfortable about moving out of their status quo, that new possibilities are only positive, that the cost of change is manageable, to show them how to sell the solution internally and then make buying easier by being a servant seller.

Sales techniques are a never ending and constantly changing story. They reflect the environment we sell into and our customers evolving preferences for how they buy.

Sales Training Courses

Sales training courses are designed to improve the sales skills of the sales team, from social selling to sales prospecting, cold calling, business development and sales presentation skills to name but a few.

Sales training courses and sales coaching are essential for a salespersons success. The stark reality is that ineffective sales training seriously effects a businesses growth and profitability not to mention employee churn.  Research shows that many CEO’s and people in sales leadership positions believe they obtain little or no return on the sales training they provide. Could this be that in many sales training courses there is a lack of mindset training.

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To build a successful team of salespeople, we should include sales mindset training alongside the list of sales skills training. Because in business, our most valuable asset many not be our product or service, our most valuable could be the mindset of the salespeople.

Sales mindset training extends out to helping individual salespeople to be bolder, to take more calculated chances and to have a more entrepreneurial attitude. On sales training courses, omitting to include “the sales mindset”, will result in the rubber band effect leading to little or no ROI. We know that as we teach the skills and behaviours required to succeed in sales, we stretch the mind of the salespeople. However, if the sales training doesn’t lead to a mindset or values shift, the salesperson just reverts back to type, just the same as a rubber band when you stretch it and release. Sales training courses need to embrace mindset training or accept a limited improvement in sales performance.

So maybe the first lesson on a sales training course is to help salespeople to let go of any biases holding them back. To understand how they contribute to the business world, the value they deliver and why their efforts are important and worthwhile.

Sales Training Courses

So, let’s move onto some other topics to be included on sales training courses.

  1. How to educate a prospect with new perspectives: Coaching a salesperson to open up a prospect’s mind to new, unconsidered and different solutions that solves their challenges.
  2. Collaboration skills: To earn the trust of the modern buyer, salespeople need to take a more collaborative approach to selling. This is about making buying easier, to inform and educate while eliminating the buyer V the seller in the minds of the buyer.
  3. Communicating Value and ROI: The skill to tell stories that clearly communicate the return a customer can expect, and the end result they will achieve.
  4. Active Listening Skills: To put the customer first, to practice actively listen skills so salespeople really learn about the customers business and challenges. Active listening goes hand in hand with great discovery sales questions.
  5. How to identify the prospect’s real needs: If discovery sales questions don’t uncover a buyer’s needs, then a salesperson will have a difficult time positioning the proposed product or service as the solution.
  6. Help prospects buy and overcome obstacles: Understanding the internal workings of the prospects business, creating honest dialog on the process and how to deal with them is important if time wasting is to be avoided.
  7. Create a convincing solution: If you can’t impress a buyer with your proposed solution that communicates how you will help them achieve desired results, you’ll struggle to close.
  8. How to get agreement on the buying process: Training the salesperson to get agreement from the customer on all the steps involved from both sides in the buying process.
  9. Creating a personal value proposition: What does the salesperson represent (linked to sales mindset) and what are the values they hold dear. Creating a personal value proposition and then sharing it builds rapport and trust.
  10. How to differentiate based on USP and the value they will bring: In sales training, too many courses teach salespeople how to differentiate based on product features and benefits. However, prospects are far more interested in the value the product or service will provide including the value of the salesperson themselves to the buying process.

There are many other elements to be shared in the delivery of sales training courses, the sales skills needed to achieve success in a sales career. Developing these skills such as social selling, effective sales techniques and sales prospecting etc take time and will be fine-tuned over time, but the investment in learning and improving oneself is worth it.

Sales Training Ideas

Looking for some sales training ideas to boost salesperson engagement? Here are some sales training ideas to give you some food for thought on what information to impart on a sales training course.

Sales training is mainly separated into two categories, the first is learning about the core aspects of different sales techniques such as – lead generation, sales prospecting, business development, the sales process, sales presentation skills etc. This sales training would be customized for the sales techniques that work best in a specific industry or profile of buyer. The second category is very company focused training such as – training on the company’s products or services, the sales process deployed, the internal sales playbook, and the sales assets, tools and resources the sales team will use.

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Sales Training Course

While successful salespeople have similar characteristics, the truth is no one is born with all the sales skills and knowledge to sell at a high level, these are acquired skills. This is why sales training is a crucial part of helping new and existing salespeople deliver on the potential they displayed during the interview process. Sales training should help the new and existing team of salespeople to develop and practice the skills they will need to succeed. Sales training should also include elements that help increase the confidence levels of the salespeople not just in the sales techniques but in the company’s unique value proposition.

 

Sales Training Ideas for Sales Success

Sales Training Tip 1. Teach salespeople to know what they want.

Research shows that the No.1 question salespeople have is “What do you want me to do”, which is very relevant. So maybe the first sales training session could be to answer this question and then proceed to asking the sales people what do they want to achieve in their career. What goals are they setting in place, what are their expectations, what time will they set aside to invest in their own self development, what do they believe are the traits of a successful salesperson. People perform best when they already know what is wanted out of them plus it’s much easier for them to do what the business is asking of them if during the sales training you tell them exactly what that is.

Sales Training Tip 2. Teach the salespeople the companies value proposition plus get them to craft their own personal value proposition.

It is amazing how many salespeople do not understand or can communicate their companies value proposition. Also, if the new salespeople are involved in prospecting or business development, they will need to have crafted their own personal value proposition. Any salesperson whether new or experienced needs to be able to clearly explain why a customer should choose them over a competitor. It may sound simplistic but if your salespeople can’t convey a value proposition, they will struggle with buyer engagement. In modern selling, every salesperson must be able to create value with a customer by (a) what they sell AND (b) the way they sell.

Sales Training Tip 3. All salespeople should understand the sales process.

The new salespeople should be taught that the sales process is a set of predictable, repeatable steps that they take with a customer/prospect to progress them through the sales funnel to becoming a paying customer.

This is an example of a straight forward sales process used by many companies.

Step 1. Sales Prospecting: Salesperson (using Ideal Customer Profiles), researches and identifies list of potential customers with 2 or 3 contacts per company.

Step 2. Sales Touch Points: The salesperson plans out a series of sales touch points (email, social selling, phone call) to engage the prospect.

Step 3. Closing the Conversion Gap: Now the salesperson will use sales tools and sales assets along with seeking to understand the prospects needs and challenges in order to close the conversion gap and get the prospect to enter a buying process.

Step 4. Presenting and Selling: This is the top of the iceberg in selling terms, the salesperson will outline to the customer (and buying committee) how the product/service can solve their needs plus why buying from them will make their lives easier.

Step 5. Customer Verification: Every good sales process should have a series of customer verification points along the way, this high-level customer verification is constructed to qualify the prospect. Customer verification at this point in the sales process can include free trials, proof of concept, budget confirmation, timescales, free consultancy etc.

Step 6. Closing the Sale: This is negotiating and contract phase around final pricing, roll-out, implementation or delivery.

 

Sales Training Tip 4. Teach salespeople the sales habit loop.

This is about teaching salespeople in sales effectiveness. Helping them to cue up sales activity, to have sales routines, time management, how to reward themselves for tasks completed. The output is for salespeople to take ownership for their roles and success.

Sales Training Tip 5. Show them how to use a multi-channel approach.

Today, for a salesperson to increase their sales funnel and drive up the close rates, they need to be skilled in using a multi-channel approach in engaging customers. They need to understand the impact of social media and content on the buyer’s journey, learn social selling, how to use digital assets, how to do social listening, how to craft well written emails and how to use content (whitepapers, research) in the sales process.

Sales Training Tip 6. Make the sales training digestible.

The days of a 5-day sales training courses are gone, research shows that training works best in consolidated chunks of information. Keep each sales training module short. Use concentrated (ten to twenty minutes) learning sessions that contain focused material that immediately hits the point with the salesperson on that particular topic. Give them access to online sales training and point them to freely available learning material for their own commitment to improving their skills.

Sales Training Tip 7. Show them where to find and access sales assets.

From using LinkedIn, researching profiles and in accessing sales assets, to boost a new salespersons productivity you need to make information easy to access, searchable and fast.  Where to access sales tools and sales assets such as content should be part of their daily sales habit loop. If using CRM, them make such all information integrated.

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Sales Training Tip 8. Introduce Gamification.

Create sales games using real customer case studies, then introduce interactive activities. Set challenges for the salespeople across all steps in the sales process. Then have them provide answers and plans. Gamification in sales training is fun and can rapidly improve retention.

Sales Training Tip 9. Start with easy steps.

Depending on your business model or product, start the new salespeople on the easier (nothing easy in sales!!) steps in the sales process. That could be identify 100 prospects for a new product launch, to phone back lost business for research purposes or helping out on the products that are easier to sell. Nothing builds confidence more than successfully completing a sales task with the managers approval.Sales Training

Tip 10. Use E-Learning to Educate.

We live in the digital age where technology has replaced the need for traveling and lost sales time. The use of online sales training, video and E-learning allows salespeople to continually refresh their sales skills outside of working hours or while on the go. Using online training videos and modules, it drives ownership back to the salesperson for knowledge acquisition.

Sales Training Tip 11. Don’t overload them with information.

In line with sales tip 8, be careful not to overload a new hire with every aspect of the sales (and even if you do teach this information right away, it likely won’t be retained).

Break down each step in the sales process and learning the next step in the sales process should be a reward for mastering the previous one.

So, there you have some sales training ideas to use on a sales training course. The buyer supplier relationship along with how buyers engage with vendors is changing rapidly. So, sales training will have to become more dynamic and digitally driven, just like our buyers.

Note: This article was has been republished courtesy of The Digital Sales Institute from their article – Sales Training Tips and Ideas

Cold Calling Tips

Cold Calling Tips

Cold calling as a sales tactic still has its part to play in the sales process, but only if it is planned and executed properly. These cold calling tips will help your sales prospecting efforts so you can engage more people, more often.

If there is one aspect in selling that can cause sales reluctance, then it has to be cold calling. But it is part and parcel of reaching out to connect, engage and acquire new customers. Off course we all would prefer qualified inbound leads to sell to, however the reality is for a business to grow it needs a multi-effort approach to finding new customers.

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Cold calling tips

 

  1. Understand Your Prospect.

Create an Ideal Customer Profile to understand what your prospects likely challenges and pain points. Also, you need to see the bigger picture in their industry and what trends could be shaping their buying decisions as it relates to what you are selling.

Today, cold calling really only works if it is part of a wider prospect engagement strategy, a dial and smile approach just will not work.  Researching your prospect list against a profile is vital if you are to see success. Do not value your sales pitch above the investment you will need to make in the prospect at the end of phone. Understanding your prospects, their industry, news, market trends and your own product fit is a necessary activity before you begin cold calling. The better you do this, the higher the likelihood that the prospect will be more responsive to call. Ask yourself, what key pieces of information or insights will you share with them, to get them to listen to you?

  1. The Preparation.

The amount of preparation and planning for your cold calling activity will probably determine your level of success. Can you detail out the sales assets you will use? What other touch points or interactions with the prospect have you had prior to the call?  What is your value proposition to this list of prospects? In the critical opening minutes, you need to be able to communicate your value proposition to the prospect clearly and confidently. Very few 100% cold calls result in any form of success. In your preparation you should plan out which other sales touch points (emails, social selling, LinkedIn etc) you will use as to increase your chances of having a real-time conversation.

  1. Know your Goals.

Remember that cold calling is more than just rattling off some prepared sales script. The purpose of any cold call has to be focused on getting the prospect to listen by sharing some useful information and then move on to a discussion about their challenges. One goal could be to identify a person’s role in the purchasing decision for the product you selling.  Take the time to be clear about your goals and what outcomes you desire before you make those calls.

Cold Calling Tip: Connect and engage with users, gatekeepers and influencers at every company you target. It is rare today for 1 single person to make a purchasing decision.

  1. Put the prospects interests before your own.

If any salesperson approaches prospects with a blatantly obvious sales pitch, then they should expect a blatantly obvious response. The key to unlocking cold calling success begins and ends with the prospects best interests at heart. Adapt the mindset of a trusted adviser who will be a useful and valuable resource to the prospect, one who shares quality insights, is credible and knowledgeable. The priority is not about the product or service you sell but rather on the prospects needs, because if your mindset is on prioritising a prospect needs, you are now there to bring improvement to their roles and problems.

If you believe in what you sell and your personal value proposition to the prospect is genuine, then nothing will stop you.

  1. Your value proposition must be on target.

Does your value proposition bring clarity from the noise that surrounds your prospects working day? Are you clear on the value of your solution and how it will appeal to the prospects situation? What pain points or challenges are you addressing – will it save money, save time, improve productivity, reduce risk, speed up progress.  Is your value proposition compelling enough for them to stay on the phone to learn more? Do you have statistics, case studies and industry knowledge to back your value proposition so you are seen as an expert or adviser? The reason you are calling them is that your research, planning and preparation have indicated that you have something to share which is worth their while listening. You are not there to waste their time or share useless information. Successful cold calling is based on that you know why you are calling and why they should listen.

Cold Calling Tip: Include social media listening for trigger events as part of your research and preparation.

  1. Look for trigger events.

The activity of selling in itself does not cause someone to buy. Many buying decisions are as a result of a trigger event which requires a challenge or pain point to be resolved.  You can tap into these signals also known as trigger events by engaging in social media listening. As part of your daily sales habits, you should try to look for signals or triggers on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Alerts or News sites to keep tabs on recent happenings relating to your prospect list.

A list of trigger events to start a buyer’s journey include:

New senior hires. A new member of a company’s leadership team will invariable want to prove their value and make changes, so they are more open to new solutions. I’m not suggesting you go after this person but rather focus on your target prospect who could be a hero to the new boss by introducing new vendors.

Winning a large deal or customer wins. Could this open the door to an opportunity for your offerings. At the very least, reach out to the prospect to congratulate and see what impact this will have on their roles or business.

Company expansion. New hires, moving office, opening a new location or a geographical change is a trigger event that qualifies as an introduction opportunity.

Regulation or Industry Shift. Use social listening to keep abreast of any pending regulation changes or any industry trends that could shift a prospect from his or her status quo position. Educate yourself on these shifts to present yourself as an expert and trusted source of information.

Company Acquisitions or Mergers. If you already supply into a similar company or have a relationship with either party, this trigger event can be a great opportunity to get engage a prospect.

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  1. Build Credibility.

Your credibility comes to the fore when a prospect asks themselves “why should I listen to this person?” Did your value proposition deliver for you? One of the main ways to achieve credibility in the eyes of a prospect is to use some social proof in your value proposition. The use of social proof has become important in any sales prospecting activity from social selling to exploratory emails because it shows your prospects how your product has helped other people with similar pain points. It has to be genuine, so share a success story or case study of a company you helped who had challenges similar to the ones you believe your prospect may have.

So, Yes. Cold Calling can work!!

However, there is an investment required in order to make cold calling and sales prospecting successful. It starts with making it part of your daily sales habit loop and like every positive habit, you must want to do it and also have reason to do it. The success of cold calling will emerge from the investment you make in researching, planning, preparing and then your willingness to call and call again is what differentiates success from failure.

Selling Skills That Every Salesperson Needs

There is a whole range of selling skills that every salesperson needs to be successful in the modern sales 3.0 era. Thanks to the digital influenced world we live in, how salespeople sell has changed. The role of a salesperson is constantly evolving and a more consultative selling skill set is now required in most sales roles.

However, regardless of any sales methodology, one fact remains true: Successful salespeople will always be looking at ways to enhance their selling skills to achieve higher levels of performance. Whether it is getting better at social networking (social selling), developing their personal brand, improving how to do sales prospecting or account management, the reality is salespeople need support from sales management plus access to continuous sales coaching.

Both at the company and individual salesperson level, everyone has to invest more time learning and understanding the art and science of selling in today’s fast paced buying environment.

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Selling Skills Every Good Salesperson Needs

  • To have empathy and take the time to really understand a prospect’s needs
  • Ability to engage with a prospect at their level and on their terms
  • Is seen to add value to the prospect or customer at every stage of the process
  • An active listener along with skilled at asking questions to uncover challenges or objections
  • Can create a vision for the value that their product will bring for the buyer’s business

Let’s deep a little deeper as these selling skills.

Confidence and a can-do attitude.

Average salespeople do what is required, great salespeople do whatever it takes. A career in sales can be a bumpy road, salespeople suffer all manner of rejections by prospective customers along the way, and they need to be resilient, confident plus maintain a positive can-do attitude from the get go.

A winning mindset in sales “is not a question of do you know it, but rather of one ‘Do you want to do it?”. Because “If you want to do it, you will acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.”  In a sales career, a salespersons most valuable asset is not their value proposition, nor their sales scripts, nor their contact lists. Their most valuable asset is their mindset.

A confidence mindset allows salespeople to transfer belief in themselves and what they are selling to the customer.

An active listener and skilled at understanding the customers’ needs

Research has shown that successful selling is 54% listening and 46% talking. Whether prospecting or business development, active listening to really understand a customer’s needs (they may not even be aware of a need you have flagged as a result of listening to them) is a critical sales skill. Active listening isn’t passive as it involves asking clarifying questions. Salespeople need to understand it is more than just hearing what is being said. It means being constantly attentive to what the customer is saying and truly understand the sentiment or position of the other person.

We know that sales conversations are the key to successful selling in the complex, consultative, or solution type sale. So, effective sales conversations are the result of the salesperson taking responsibility for both their speaking and their audience’s listening.

Rapport building and selling their personality

Another critical sales skill to the ability to establish rapport and relatedness that opens trust with the buyer. So, selling their personality (and personal brand) is incredibly valuable. Being genuinely interested, authentic and engaging is the major plank in gaining buyers trust. Let’s take one step back, because great rapport building can be linked to the research a salesperson does prior to engaging a customer. Sharing insights and asking unique questions related directly to the customers business lets them know that the salesperson is not there just to run through the typical sales conversation.

Even in this digital world, people buy people. It’s about convincing the customer to listen in the first instance and then work towards gaining their trust that the salesperson is the best person to sell the product to them. A salesperson needs to sell their talents (product or market knowledge, problem solver etc) but, even more importantly, they have to sell their personality.

Business acumen and a drive for continuous self-improvement

Top salespeople possess a genuine interest in how business works. They have business acumen, an entrepreneurial drive and ability to self-evaluate their own performance. They can use this to engage customers and then create opportunities where they may not seem to exist. Successful salespeople also display a characteristic of business curiosity. They research and plan out the right questions to ask plus they seek out the right people to ask those questions to, along with finding the answers.

The forward thing sales professional will always see a sale through from execution to delivery as they value customers opinions and referral potential.

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Sales habit loop for sales consistency.

Salespeople have to acquire the skill via sales training that sales negotiation is a process not an event. This means having a well-planned out sales habit loop that consistently addresses all parts of the sales process. They pay attention to the 3Ps of selling – Prepare, Probe, and Propose.

So, there you have some of the selling skills that every salesperson needs. These critical sales skills that can make a difference in how salespeople sell – listening, rapport building, empathy, storytelling, and thinking on their feet, are things that most people in sales can probably do, yet ask ourselves – How much opportunity do they get to practice them? Sales leaders need to create a time and place to allow salespeople practice the more human side of selling to be successful in the sales 3.0 world.

Future of B2B Sales

Future of B2B Sales

Most sales leaders agree that B2B sales are on the verge of a great leap forward, with a series of changes that will redefine what it takes to succeed in the market over the coming years.

The use of data and analytics as part of a sales transformation or sales enablement program is allows sales people to forecast with increasing accuracy, their most valuable sales opportunities. In fact, forward looking companies are using data and advanced analytics to drive their sales productivity alongside revenue growth without adding to their sales teams or costs.

future-b2b-sales

Future of B2B sales

The change in the B2B buyers journey where they self-educate via content, are technically savvy plus a preference for engaging via the digital networks, is leading the charge for a new breed of sales leaders who have digital expertise plus a strategic approach to engaging customers. The change in the buyer’s journey is also transforming the composition of sales teams with a move away from customer facing sales towards a growth in inside sales and social sellers supported by analytics functions.

Add in the shift towards subscription-based models and you can see why it is critical to re-evaluate how customer engagement is managed. The sales world of recurring revenues means that deals need to be won monthly, quarterly and yearly. Customer relationship salespeople will become increasingly more important and digitally connected sales teams are aligning themselves closely to the buying journey the customer undertakes.

Science is replacing Art in B2B sales

The disruption to the traditional buyer- seller model means B2B sales is becoming more science than art. Selling, customer acquisition and target selection is now more data-driven because of the range of digital tools and advanced analytics available to sales leadership. The focus is now firmly on really understanding the “what, why, and when” of the customer buying process. Research from McKinsey shows that organisations who have embraced “the science of B2B sales” are seeing over 2X times industry average revenue growth.

An interesting statistic from the research shows it is the CEOs of the leading pack who actively lead the sales transformation. They understand that redefining their go-to-market strategy require cross functional alignment and unified execution from sales, marketing, IT, finance and HR. The future of B2B sales will require sales leadership to fundamentally transform their go-to-market strategy around three defining pillars.

Pillar 1. Engage the customer the way they want to be engaged

The debate of salespeople v social v digital is over. Driving sales growth in the future means combining all these resources. However, digital assets (social media channels, content, social selling, data, digital sales tools etc) will be the glue that holds a successful multichannel sales strategy together. To support this pillar, research shows that while 76% of B2B buyers found it helpful to interact (via social media, phone or meeting) with a salesperson when researching a new product or service, this falls to 52% for repeat purchases of products with new features, and down to only 15% who want to interact with a salesperson when repurchasing the exact same product or service.

So, sales leaders will have to plan and cater to the different preferences of first-time and repeat customers.

Companies will use the social channels and digital sales tools alongside the more traditional sales interactions when targeting new prospects who seek direct interaction with salespeople. Examples here include sharing white papers, customer case studies, webinars and interactive product demos, which help salespeople engage customers in the awareness and consideration stages of their buying journey.

For the repeat customers who prefer the online channel, companies need to deploy “socially trained” inside salespeople to keep ensure retention plus speed up the sale process. The inside sales teams will focus on engaging this customer set via social media, email, live web chat, and even live video calls.

Pillar 2. Using data and analytics to make faster strategic and tactical decisions.

Forward looking organisations and leaders will use data and analytics to action key strategic sales issues, such as which market or set of customer profiles to target, what sales opportunities are worth pursuing, resources (and engagement) needed on selected accounts, and to identify sales behaviours required to increase sales productivity. Sales leaders of the future using science in B2B sales will use analytics to build a detailed profile, account and product plan for each of their customers and ideal prospects. These plans will then be enriched with external and social data such as news, financial information, management profiles and market trends to generate a 360-degree view of every customer.

Science will replace art or gut feeling for sales management to identify the sales behaviours that drive sales productivity or how to match the right people to the right deals. Sales performance will be linked back to actual sales habits (sales planning, time management, frequency of customer interactions, conversations, nurturing, prospecting, solution proposals, win/loss ratio etc) so management will be able to identify the best salespeople.

Pillar 3. Nurturing and Growing talent for the digital era.

The socially connect and digitally influenced buyer is increasingly sophisticated and interaction savvy, so sales leaders need to adapt accordingly. Hiring and training a new generation of cross-functional and multi-channel comfortable salespeople will be vital.

Finding the right talent will only be part of the jigsaw, companies will need to invest time and resources in nurturing and growing their sales force. Most current sales training is not fit for purpose, this is why you will see lots more articles on sales transformation or sales enablement.

Some interesting facts worth noting are that adults only remember 10% of what they heard and approx. 32% of what they saw, just three months after the training has finished. But an adult will remember 65% of what they learn by doing. This insight is driving a transformation in how companies deliver sales training. They are evolving from slow instructor lead classroom training to online digital modules and “on-the-job” training where coaches help the salespeople to learn from doing.

b2b-sales-trends

B2B sales trends

Getting started with the science of B2B Sales

A few tips on getting started with the science of B2B sales include:

Understand your current position. Begin by looking at the customer and how their buying preferences will impact the business. How customers buy (will buy) should determine what investments the sales organisation needs.

Take a longer-term view. What will change look like in 12, 24, 36 months? Taking a longer-term view means that sales leadership can plan for and invest in the right sales capabilities based on customer driven road-map.

Use data to test and learn. Buyer habits are changing faster than sales are responding, so speed matters now more than ever. Use whatever data on hand to test and learn, keeping the business nimble. Break down internal silos and set up a sales war-room to launch new multi-channel campaigns and messages. Maybe implement an agile test-fail-learn-adapt model to engage more buyers and then refine the sales tactics to include social selling, social reach, digital engagement etc.

The future of B2B sales will require vision, strong leadership and focus from the CEO and the leadership team plus an investment in time and resources to win out. However, companies using the three pillars in the science of B2B sales are already racing ahead of their competitors and driving sales growth at a faster pace.

Sales Prospecting

Sales prospecting is not an easy sales activity. It is a sales technique that requires training and constant attention to the latest developments in prospect engagement or lead generation tactics. Sales prospecting is a critical aspect of the sales process as the biggest challenge in sales is getting an opportunity started in the first place.

sales-prospecting

Sales Prospecting Should Match the Buyers Journey

Nearly all buyers go through a number of stages on their buyer’s journey. Along the way they will make decisions on the importance level of solving the pain point, they will evaluate the available solutions plus assess vendors who they feel can suitable. In the early to middles stages of the buyer’s journey, sales prospecting is about bringing clarity and communicating a value proposition to the prospect. A potential customer will also need to be convinced of how familiar they believe a salesperson is with their business needs. The outcome of a prospects decision or considerations can be linked back to how well a salesperson has built trust and confidence through the various sales prospecting interactions.

Successful sales prospecting ensures that all interactions and sales communication are geared towards creating specific outcomes, not for the salesperson but for the potential customer. A focus that outlines how the company can make the prospects life easier, their jobs more rewarding and outcomes that simplifies their buyers journey.

Sales Prospecting Tips

 

  1. Selecting target prospects to engage.

Use ideal customer profiles to map the buyers journey. Before a salesperson reaches out via social selling, cold email or phone call they need to be able to answer “why are they on the list of prospects”. What information, signals or insights would make them a potential customer?

Sales prospecting where salespeople have to find or create opportunities is not easy. It involves quite a bit of effort to establish credibility and to get the prospect to listen to what the salesperson has to offer. Sales prospecting has to be a planned, organized activity as random prospecting is mainly a waste of time. Core to every good salesperson sales prospecting activities, is the importance of understanding the company’s needs, as well as the prospects desired outcome they will get by using the proposed product or solution. Using LinkedIn, Google search, Forums and Business directories are the most effective and efficient way to find quality prospects that match a company’s ideal customer profiles.

 

  1. Create a Strong Value Proposition.

Sales Prospecting Tips from The Digital Sales Institute on Vimeo.

Never forget that a prospect only cares about their problems, their challenges and their pain points. They are not looking for a nine-inch drill, they are looking for a nine-inch hole. They want to listen to salespeople who make sense, who create value, who are credible and who will make their lives easier, this includes helping them through the stages on the buyer’s journey. Prospects don’t want to listen to product pitches. A prospect wants to hear solutions to their pains and problems, evidence that others have experienced this and got a resolution. They don’t need more vanilla flavoured sales messages. They want a value proposition that will make it worthwhile their time listening to a salesperson. They want insights, they want to see the end result (without the sales pitch) from the earliest step in the buying process.

So, create a strong value proposition and ask “Will it get a prospect to listen?”

 

  1. Social Media is a Key Activity in Sales Prospecting.

Social media is playing an increasingly bigger part in purchasing decisions and B2B buyers are being influenced more and more by social media. Within the next decade, the majority of B2B buyers will be digital native. Social media will be their go to channel to research, connect, reference and to educate. Social media not only gives salespeople access to buyer profiles, but rich data such as background history, connections, similarities, likes, interests and deep insights into the company. Social listening can throw up signals about the prospects needs, trends in their market or challenges within their industry. All this data can be used in prospecting research and in the creation of a value proposition for a specific market.

Also, social selling along with the growth of inbound lead generation have surpassed the older, more traditional forms of sales prospecting. Whatever other sales prospecting tactics a salesperson uses, the use of social media and social selling has to be on their list.

 

  1. Learn to use Sales Tools and share Content.

Potential customers value content that helps educate and fill in some blanks for them. As more and more selling will be conducted via the digital channels, sales teams need to up-skill on the use of sales tools and content (articles, whitepapers, research etc) to engage a prospect. Content that supports sales prospecting activity must be based on fulfilling the customers’ needs and requirements. The goal is that they build a trusted connection with the salesperson via their interactions. Buyers are drawn to thought leaders and surveys show they prefer interaction with salespeople whom they consider to be a trusted adviser.

Many companies are now prioritising the education of their target audience through the creation of deep and insightful content assets that makes buying easier, and they are doing this with a customer first approach.

Sales tools such as video, ROI calculators, AI, scenario planning, live webinars, messaging channels and virtual tours will continue to grow.

Sales prospecting prioritises building longer term relationships

Always take into account that at any time, just 3% of your target market are actively seeking to purchase with approx. another 6 to 7 percent in the consideration stage. This leaves a whopping 90% of an addressable market that is in “the status quo position”. The fact is that while a prospect may have pain points, no salesperson has made them critical enough that a buyer wants to prioritize a solution.

Salespeople can get lucky with sales prospecting and find the 3 to 10% of the market seeking or considering to purchase now. However, to be truly successful a salesperson will need sales training to nurture more relationships. Nurturing and engaging a focused group of ideal customer profiles should be an essential part of every sales prospecting strategy. This takes time and skill but sales prospecting is now about getting in early, building credibility, cultivating a relationship and getting the prospects trust that when the time is right, they will move with the salesperson who has influenced them the most.

Regards

Brian

The Bitter Business

Social Selling Definition

Social Selling Definition

Social selling definition is important in sales training as many salespeople and sales leaders are still asking “What is Social Selling and how can I do social selling so it gives me results?

Despite all the news and chatter about social selling, many companies and salespeople struggle with a social selling definition that makes sense for them to incorporate into their sales habits. When I am conducting sales training on social selling, people will approach me ask “Is this social selling thing really worth it? Or is social selling really relevant to me as an experienced sales professional?

social-selling-definition

Social selling definition

My answer on Social Selling remain the same:

If a salesperson or a business has all the sales leads and pipeline of revenue they can handle for the next year or so, and don’t believe that social media is playing a bigger part in the buyer decision process, then no, you don’t need social selling.

If on the other hand, you see the more traditional forms of selling declining and you plan on being in business for the foreseeable future then using social media as a sales channel and social selling will not be optional tools. Digital selling and social selling will become increasingly vital to a salespersons and business success. So, let’s look at what “social selling” mean.

 Social selling definition!

I believe that every salesperson should view social selling as a sales touch point embedded into every aspect of your sales habit loop. If you review your sales funnel, it can be connected back to every sales step and to every lead. Successful salespeople have learnt how to use the social networks to build credibility, be visible and relevant in every step of the buyer’s journey.

My social selling definition is as follows:

“It is about building a communication bridge between social media activity (opportunity insights, sharing ideas and perspectives) and the phone call (sales outreach) to maximise buyer interactions and minimise wasted time.”

So, Social selling concentrates on sharing focused content and providing one-to-one communication that flows backwards and forwards between the salesperson and the buyer.

The goal is for the you to form a relationship with each prospect, providing suggestions and answering questions.

What Social Selling is Not:

Firstly, Social Selling is NOT Social marketing

Social marketing is focused on generating mass awareness and is more aligned to inbound marketing (to generate sales leads) while social selling is an organised sales activity aligned to sales (to generate leads for sales). Social selling is focused on individual buyer engagement while social marketing focuses on brand engagement. Sales people involved with pumping out marketing material on social media are doing social marketing not social selling.

Social media is no longer the exclusive domain of marketers. It’s not about pushing mass messaging. It’s about personalised conversations. It’s about connecting and engaging. Social selling needs to be integrated into the very DNA of your business.

A social definition is not one that uses social media to shout at, stalk, or spam people digitally. It is not about employing the social channels to replace cold calling, sales outreach or replacing the telephone with Twitter and LinkedIn. Trying to outshout your competitors, interrupting people and blasting their inboxes or profiles with generic sales pitches are not strategies that will create trust and credibility. Also, social selling is not about having a uniformed approach to every customer interaction.

One to one connections and interactions

Successful social selling that delivers real results comes from meaningful, relevant and personalised one-to-one social conversations and interactions. It is not all about content, while content plays a vital role it is a sales tool to engage the prospect towards a useful and valuable interaction. Forward thinking sales leads and salespeople understand the power and importance of developing one-to-one connections and interactions on social media.

As part of a sales training program or sales transformation process, a social selling strategy should be focused on creating opportunities for interaction in a very personalised manner. As we enter the era of the digital native buyer (2 billion plus people on social media globally), the ability to focus on and tap into your core market(s) online will be vital to sales success.

Why Companies Embrace Social Selling

 Traditional sales tactics have diminishing returns:

90% of decision makers say that they never respond to cold outreach – (Harvard Business Review).

Buyers use social media:

75% of B2B buyers now use social media to research vendors (IDC).

Bigger deal sizes:

Buyers who use social media have larger budgets – typically 84% larger than the budgets of buyers who do not use social (IDC).

Better Sales Achievement:

Social sellers realise 66% greater sales achievement than those using traditional prospecting techniques (Sales Benchmark Index).

 Research and studies from lead sales organisations show that social selling like any great sales strategy is best applied as part of a daily sales habit. In one study from SAP, 71% of salespeople who gained sales leads using social selling and social media were active on a daily basis.

Social Selling Tip: Social selling requires sales training and a planned approach. It is advisable to learn how to leverage all the social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Split out the social selling activity into engaging a new profile of customer, accessing new markets and increasing engagement with existing customers. Learn more about social selling training.

I hope the above statistics prove that social media and social selling are not a fad or empty time filling activity. It is a channel and valuable activity for selling and growing revenue. Companies who have put formal social selling strategies in place are seeing growth in double digits for the socially skilled sales professionals. Not a bad return!

 Where how do we start social selling?

Social Selling consists of five main steps:

  1. Establishing a presence on social networks (Goals and objectives)
  2. Finding the right people (Research into Buyer Personas or Ideal Customer Profiles)
  3. Engaging with those people (Content assets, rules of engagement)
  4. Building trust (Credibility and Connecting)
  5. Measuring the impact (Conversions, Mentions, References and Leads)

Benefits of Social Selling from The Digital Sales Institute on Vimeo.

To build a team of great social salespeople, they have to be trained to become personal marketers, content experts and storytellers. Also, a change in mindset that requires sales leadership to move away from constant pitching to focusing on sharing great content and building relationships and a community online. Salespeople and the brand should strive to be a “Thought Leader” in the eyes of their target audience and market.

The relationship between seller and buyer has changed. Today the buyer self-educates, does their own research and is influenced by what they read and see online. This change to “online conversations” can either be seen as a risk or as a fantastic opportunity. But only if you’re willing to have a formal social selling program with goals and objectives. Then you can jump in, interact on a personal level, start social conversations that eventually lead to warm sales meetings.

Sales Strategy – Inbound Sales – Digital Sales Transformation – Social Selling – Sales Training

Sales training and digital sales transformation including social selling strategy training in Ireland.