2. Distill your activity goals
A more productive year means a more efficient sales cycle—and there’s no better part of the sales cycle to start streamlining than your activity goals. Whether your sales cycle involves five, 10 or 15 activity goals, there’s a good chance at least one of those can be cut.
To lose some activity goal weight, sit down with your metrics and ask yourself:
- Which activity goals are essential to moving the needle?
- Can I simplify any of these goals?
- Can I combine any of these goals?
Distilling your activity goals to the bare essentials will shorten your sales cycle while maintaining, or even improving, your close ratio. It will also separate facts from assumptions and reduce ambiguities in your sales process. As Y Combinator founder Paul Graham said in his essay “A Taste For Makers, When you're forced to be simple, you're forced to face the real problem”.
3. Understand the ‘why’
If you’re serious about increasing productivity in the new year, adopt the following mindset: “Whether I’ve won or lost, the sale isn’t over until I understand why it happened the way it happened”.
The more you understand the “why”, the easier it is to establish the common threads of your wins and your losses. But understanding the why can be a process in and of itself. You can study the metrics, record and listen to your calls, or ask your colleagues for guidance.
You can also just ask the customer, Jason Jordan, partner at the sales management firm Vantage Point Performance, says: “It’s remarkable to me how few companies interview their past prospects to understand why they won or lost deals.”
Jordan also recommends conducting internal statistical analyses to understand which products, buyers, sellers and markets are more likely to yield results. But even this is no substitute for the insights gained by simply asking customers, clients and prospects why they purchased from you, or why they did not.
“You’d be surprised how willing they are to share their observations because they invested just as much effort in buying as you did in selling,” says Jason.
4. Know your customers better
Many personal New Year’s resolutions involve relationships. Spend more time with your kids. Learn more about your grandparents. Get to know your neighbors.
The same should hold true for salespeople. Converting a prospect into a customer often relies on the strength of the relationship between both parties. The process of building that relationship is called consultative selling and a strong seller-buyer relationship hinges on how well the seller knows the customer.
To get to know your customers better this year, approach each conversation as just that, a conversation. Prospects are people, people as complex and varied as yourself, and to convert them into a customer you must first get to the heart of their motivations, reservations and desires.
This can be accomplished by asking the right questions, and actively listening to the prospect’s answers. You want to find out what is important to them, what their priorities are and how they define success.
As you get to know your prospect better, the relationship will grow stronger. A rapport will develop and trust will form. You will also gain a more nuanced understanding of the prospect’s needs. One prospect’s reasons for buying (or not buying) will often differ from another prospect’s, and what worked with your last customer may not work for your new one. The better you know your customer, the better you can tailor your solution to their unique situation.