The sales industry is continuously evolving, and the most successful salespeople are the ones that evolve with it. You can always learn new techniques and refine old ones, so as 2016 approaches, take the opportunity to pause, dive into a pile of confetti and establish your sales goals for the coming year. Here are a few ideas.
1. Improve Time Management
From prospecting and lead qualification to cold-calling and client meetings, working in sales can quickly become overwhelming. But proper time management techniques can help smooth out the wrinkles and provide healthy structure amid the chaos. Here are some time management techniques to adopt in 2016.
Limit checking email
If the computer is your switchboard, you probably keep your email open 24/7, and are constantly flitting between your email and the task at hand. This habit might seem prudent at first blush, but it’s distracting and unproductive. Limiting your email checks to just two or three times per day lets you stay focused and keep your mind organized.
Stick to one task at a time
Thinking about making a follow-up call while drafting an email to a different client? Contrary to popular opinion, multitasking is ineffectual, and the brain is just not that great at efficiently switching between tasks. It’s better for your workload, and for your brain, to stick to one task at a time.
Schedule your day
If you’re not doing this already, it’s a wonder you haven’t gone mad. Scheduling your day, and I mean your entire day, helps you prioritize activities, reserve enough time for each task, avoid stretching yourself too thin, and maintaining a healthy work/life balance. If you use calendar software for scheduling, you can find more useful tips here.
2. Distill your activity goals
A more productive 2016 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 2016, 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 you 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, said.
“It’s remarkable to me how few companies interview their past prospects to understand why they won or lost deals,” Jordan said.
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,” Jordan said.
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 in 2016, 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 ask, rather than tell, them what they need. 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 with 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, so the better you know your customer, the better you can tailor your solution to their unique situation.
5. Embrace new technology
You might prefer face-to-face meetings over video chats, phone over email or paper contracts to digital . But in sales it’s all about the customer, and more often than not, you’ll need to put your own preferences aside in favor of the buyer’s.
According to Accenture, only 12% of buyers want to meet with a salesman in person, and as communication technology continues to advance, it’s reasonable to expect that number to increase in the coming year. Thus, it’s crucial for those in the sales industry to familiarize themselves with the tools, applications and procedures that customers may prefer to utilize, such as:
- Screen sharing.
- Online modules.
- Creating, sharing, and signing digital documents.
Make it your resolution not only to embrace your customers’ technological preferences, but also your industry’s. Max Altschuler, CEO of Sales Hacker and author of Hacking Sales, advises salespeople to “look out for more adoption of sales technology” in 2016, such as business intelligence platforms like Mattermark, Datafox and Owler, and a sales-oriented CRM.
The new year is a time to reflect, but it’s also a time to prepare for what lies ahead. New Year’s resolutions may seem contrived, but the core concept is one of goal-setting, and in sales, goal-setting is paramount to success. So make 2016 the year of distilled activity goals and proper time management. Strive to know your customers better and understand why sales were won or lost. And stay on the industry’s cutting edge by embracing new technology and broadening your communication techniques.
To learn more about setting long-term goals, we’ve got just the thing.