All salespeople — even top stars who seem to have innate abilities to close deals — can benefit when they have reliable selling tactics; so can their employers. Yet far too many startups are filled with starry-eyed salespeople operating like lone wolves. As each goes his own way, the sales experience becomes fragmented and less attractive to prospects and clients.
Don’t think it’s just a small business problem, though. The issue faces even longstanding behemoths like Sears Holdings: It’s big, but it’s not immune to problems associated with crumbling, chaotic, and undependable sales strategies. According to CNN Monday, by the final quarter of 2017, Sears Holdings reported a $558 million loss, cementing annual consecutive losses since 2010. If companies of Sears Holdings’ magnitude and standing can fall, any organization should pay careful attention to all facets of operations, specifically sales. Besides, a fledgling business doesn’t have the margins or savings to endure a seven-year revenue plummet.
Want to gain the confidence that comes from knowing sales are on target? Create and install repeatable conscious steps to improve the core competencies of players and to avoid a downward spiral that could signal the end of your startup.
The notion of predictability in the sales arena involves fleshing out a standard method of steps that can evolve with the needs of the company.
First, discover ways to identify high-potential accounts, or the leads that will be most apt to make a purchase within a prescribed sales cycle. Next, use insights to connect with those accounts and begin to uncover what they need in order to succeed. As a relationship develops, the sales team member can recommend tailored situations to the lead, fostering stronger rapport and a growing sense of engagement and trust.
Finally, the sales professional can develop a no-surprise proposal, earn the account’s final agreement, and proceed to deliver on all promises. This cycle can then be repeated as the connection with the client deepens, expanding the sense of loyalty.
No bottlenecks. No issues. Just streamlined experiences on both sides that lead to best-practice outcomes and award-winning recognition.
Not sure your business has established steadfast sales processes? Tighten them by making the following moves toward predictability:
Each company has a unique sales funnel; all have a beginning, though. Begin by evaluating each step, starting with how to stop wasting time on prospects who don’t fit your ideal personas.
This may involve creating a survey or series of questions that your sales team can ask to solidify that a prospect is actively interested and not just “tire kicking.”
Prospects who move to the next stage may be moved into a discovery process to determine needs and then on to a proposed course of delivery for goods or services.
The objective is to ensure the outline of steps is optimized, replicable, and easy to follow for both current salespeople and new hires.
“Always be improving your inner circle.” It’s one of those deceptively simple John Wooden quotes that sales teams should remember.
Sometimes, your best help at developing predictable sales processes will be outside mentors or seasoned entrepreneurs. These are the people you can turn to when you need advice on tweaking your sales rhythm because they can counsel you about areas of opportunity you might be missing.
Working with like-minded individuals — also occasionally known as “mastermind groups” — includes collaborating and innovating with thought leaders, fellow entrepreneurs, marketers, and industry giants.
Allow these masterminds to become your inner circle.
No one gains sales mastery overnight. Excellence happens with practice and regular execution.
Although most startups sit down with sales staff on a monthly or quarterly basis, a weekly sales meeting solidifies ongoing practice discipline. It’s much easier to reinforce a proper, dependable sales flow every seven days than waiting months to reintroduce it to a team.
And, according to HubSpot, the proof is in the pudding: Sales organizations are twice as likely to perform better than others if they promote and execute ongoing, regular sales training.
Your organization is sitting on a wealth of data. Use it to establish the three most important metrics you and your team need to track weekly.
This could be the number of “discovery” or “solution-oriented” appointments made, number of proposals sent, or number of closed contracts. Be sure to track only the metrics that make sense for your business.
VF Corporation discovered the value of metrics when it wanted to grow its brand. Though it used metrics hunting for marketing purposes, VF Corporation’s end results were akin to those a sales team could expect: The metrics gave an objective viewpoint and avoided the problems associated with one voice making all the decisions.
If you’re dealing with a sales team filled with wild ponies, each doing his own thing, you have to take the reins. Instead of allowing the situation to potentially bring down your startup, get everyone into alignment. You’ll move forward skillfully and never worry that anyone is too far out of step.
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Matt Sunshine is a managing partner for The Center for Sales Strategy and LeadG2, a company that specializes in improving sales performance and lead generation. Previously, Matt also worked as the center’s executive vice president and a senior consultant. Matt has more than 20 years of experience in sales and media relations. Follow him on Twitter.