With better economic conditions coming soon, now’s the time to brush up on your sales skills. The slump has made companies think harder about whom they do business with, making them readier to switch to new suppliers — maybe your firm. And you shouldn’t give up on clients that have bought less lately. “Your best customers for 2010 might not have spent anything in 2009,” says Bruce Court, Canadian business development manager for Development Dimensions International, a consultancy that helps its clients manage their sales talent. “If you haven’t ignored them, you’ll still be on their radar when they’re ready to spend again.”
6 ways to turbocharge your sales
- Give some chief executive face time: In a tough economy, more companies consider switching suppliers — just the opening your firm needs. And nothing says, “I really want your business” better than a CEO who takes the time to meet with potential customers.
- Stop boasting: Successful salespeople listen a lot more than they talk. Asking focused questions and listening closely to the responses will reveal the customer pain points you need to address.
- Have prospects paint a picture of success: Get potential clients to describe a home run for their business. Then ask what has stopped them from hitting one out of the park, and figure out what you offer that could help them do it.
- Don’t let your reps ad lib: Few companies have properly mapped out a timeline for every step in their sales cycle, such as researching prospects, making initial contact, presenting the product and closing the deal. But in a market like today’s, you can’t afford the inefficiency of having your reps running madly off in all directions.
- Ready … aim … fire some salespeople: Chances are you’re rejigging your business strategy to recover lost ground — say, by complementing your products with new after-sales services. Take an unsentimental look at which of your sales reps can quickly get up to speed on your new approach, and consider terminating the others.
- Don’t promise what you can’t profitably deliver: Your salespeople might be landing business by selling at money-losing prices. Tell your team members that they can go this low, but no lower.
Lessons from leaders
“So often, I find that CEOs think the way to motivate salespeople is to give constant instruction: ‘Do this, this and this.’ You should instead ask yourself, ‘How do I get the sales team engaged? How do I get them to want to be a part of the process?’ At one company I worked for, the CEO was our biggest cheerleader. Aside from landing a deal, the second greatest thing was being able to call my boss and say, ‘Yes, we got the deal!’ That was just as sweet as the client moving forward.”