Last week I discussed some of the things that top salespeople do that others don’t, including Setting Expectations, Keeping People Accountable, and Knowing Your Product. Today I will cover the following 3 things that I think are equally as important.
1) Being Aware of Your Pipeline, 2) Writing/Practicing Your Pitches, 3) Using Internal and External Resources at the Right Time
1) Being Aware of Your Pipeline
The reason why many of the top reps seem to close more deals and bring in bigger contracts is typically because they manage a bigger funnel than other reps. Having more opportunities at the top of the funnel requires a fair amount of discipline to disqualify accounts that will likely never amount to a deal, and identifying those that deserve more attention.
Have you noticed how the best reps always know what’s happening with their deals when a manager or executive asks about a specific account? That’s because they understand that no one can know their pipeline better than they do, and being organized in the way you manage information about your deals can be as important as consistent communication with the prospects.
The easiest way to stay organized is to ask yourself after every call or meeting, what is the next step that will move this deal along. It’s not very useful to say, the next step is to call to get more information. Try to answer this question in more definitive ways that either tell you whether the deal is likely to move forward or not. If you need to call your prospect every day until you get that answer, it’s better to be a little annoying than to hope for a deal that was never real to begin with.
Examples of definitive next step’s:
“Get the requirement doc that prospect x promised by 7/1”
“Schedule demo with the Director’s boss – Follow Up by 6/20 if no response”
“Send the competitor’s Case Study to Mike and get feedback by 6/15 to help move the deal to Stage 2”
2) Practicing Your Pitches
Even if they know the product inside and out, the best salespeople are constantly practicing and improving their pitch. If you have a way to record your calls, it’s a great way to look back and have an outsider’s view of what you sound like when you pitch.
Pitching to an executive on a cold call will be completely different than pitching an end-user during a follow up conversation. You should have several versions of your pitch depending on your target audience, including 20 second openers, and a 1-2 minute broader pitch once you’ve established interest. Writing these down and saying them over and over again is what makes the best reps seem like they’re always prepared for any curveball a prospect throws their way.
The most effective salespeople know when to use the right internal or external resources at the right time to help them move a deal forward, or go for the close.
To do this consistently you have to be an expert relationship builder. That means actively communicating with internal teams like development and marketing and always being willing to help make their jobs easier by providing your client facing perspective so that you can approach the right people when you need information. Whether it’s pinging your product manager for the latest list of new features, or asking the marketing manager for a copy of the new white paper that’s super relevant to your prospect, you need to have a consistent dialog with other teams inside your company so that they have an incentive to step up for you when you need internal assets quickly.
If you happen to sell a technical product, you might find this talk helpful about how engineering and business teams can work together more effectively in a company of any size.
The other side of the coin is tapping into external resources. If you’re selling to a big team or enterprise there are likely several stakeholders who can affect whether the deal goes through or not. You might be speaking directly with a decision maker, but often times the “influencers” are the people that the DM turn to before making a final decision. It’s important to find a champion early on who can give you candid information on what the thought process is of the decision maker, whether a competitor might be encroaching on your progress, and what you need to do to push the right buttons and close the deal.
Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures has a great post about finding your champion that you can check out – http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2013/06/30/the-one-key-person-that-will-help-you-improve-sales/
In short, the best salespeople are very strategic about how they manage their deals, and can find the right people both internally and externally that will help them move things in the right direction.
As you can see, it takes more than just being a smooth talker to be at the top of your game. Although they may make it seem easy, the best sales professionals are experts at constantly juggling the 6 topics covered in these posts. Not only will these activities help you close deals more consistently, but they provide the basis for a very successful long term career.