Fewer Customers, More Money

tom_cruise_show_me_the_money-1216I wanted to use that title, so I’m going to break my moratorium on too many editorials with too many Jerry McGuire references too close together.

While the business climate seems to be slowly improving, I have yet to talk to anyone in the various channels of the AV and CE business who’s told me that things are amazing. It’s much easier to make sales when business is booming. When things are slow… it’s not so easy.

We all love picking the low hanging fruit but it leads to bad habits. Salespeople tend to get lazy and managers tend not to manage their salespeople as diligently as they should. When prospective customers aren’t banging down your door, now is the time to ensure that your sales team review their process and make sure that they’re bringing their A-game.

Symptomatic of slow periods is fewer prospective clients coming your way. If there are fewer prospects then obviously you need to convert prospects into clients at a higher rate. “But HOW?”, every salesperson asks.

By going back to the basics.

By not being lazy.

By paying attention to actually following the steps in the sales process that, amazingly, salespeople forget to follow during boom times when people are lining up to throw money at you.

First, actually take your prospecting seriously. Every seasoned sales manager has heard about hunters and farmers, and how they differ. If this terminology is new to you, “hunters” are the salespeople who have are talented at going out, cold calling, and drumming up business. “Farmers” are salespeople who do better serving business that’s been put in front of them, whether it’s handling existing clients or dealing with people who walk in the door in a retail setting.

When business slows down, even though it’s not their strong suit, farmers need to learn to be hunters. They’re going to have to go out and prospect for new business.

I could write about prospecting strategies all day, and I probably will. In the meantime salespeople need to stop wishing for low hanging fruit and go find ones on higher branches. Sitting at your desk waiting for the phone to ring isn’t going to do it.

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Once you find a prospective client, you need to qualify them properly. Qualifying prospects is arguably the most undervalued aspect of sales. It’s imperative to determine not just what they think they need, but also uncovering hidden needs, like what they didn’t know they wanted until you showed them.

I can confidently state that follow up is the least-observed step in the sales process. No one, no matter how good they are, closes every prospect on the first meeting. The “I-need-to-think-about-it” customer is dreaded everywhere, but salespeople need to be proactive, and not only collect contact information from their prospects, but follow up diligently.

No one needs to stalk them prospective clients, but rather mine the list of prospects regularly and consistently.

If they say they’ll be back tomorrow, call them the day after. If they won’t be ready to make a decision for six months, call them back in three. Take the time between now and then to build rapport, make sure that they know you’re the one for the job and be diligent about keeping your promises to follow up.

sales-follow-up-1216This is a rare trait in salespeople, sad to say. Speaking from experience, on average, four out of five salespeople don’t do it. Ever.

If you’re the one salesperson in five who does, you’ll get more business than the other four. I’ll draw your attention to the embedded graphic. Quibble about the exact percentages if you wish, but it doesn’t change the fact that if you follow up while others don’t, you’ll be farther ahead.

Professionals need to regularly revisit their install best practices, analyze their activities, and identify the weaknesses they need to correct. Fix those weaknesses, work the sales process and you will see a higher closing ratio, as well as better business prospects.

Be professional, be proactive and follow your sales process and your clients who will show you the money.

Top image via Jerry Maguire