Sales Q&A #27 – How do you get inside sales to be proactive?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

Q. How can we get inside sales to do some proactive sales activities each day? We expect our inside salespeople to use some of their time to shift into the proactive mode to make outbound phone contact to existing and new business. But it is hard for them to do this regularly.

A. I wish I had $5.00 for every time I came across this question. I would have retired years’ ago. Let me answer it in two ways.

First, how do you get inside sales to be proactive?  Answer:  You don’t.

It is far easier to refloat the Titanic than it is to get a group of essentially reactive customer-service-type personalities to change their mode of operation and make proactive phone calls.  That’s because of the personality of the typical inside/customer service person.  Generally, the people who fill these positions are very reactively oriented.  By that I mean that if a customer comes to them with a problem, they will knock down walls to fix the problem and help the customer.  They are great helpers and problem-fixers.  That personality characteristic is one of their strengths, and one of the reasons they are good in that job.

However, if you ask them to make ten phone calls to people who are not expecting the call – proactive calls, in other words – they will lose sleep the night before,  worrying about it.  And tomorrow, when they are supposed to do this proactive calling, they will discover that the amount of other work they have to do has swelled up and crowded out the time that they had dedicated to proactive phone calls.  They rarely get to it because “other stuff” gets in the way.

So, the first answer is “Don’t bother trying.”

Now, it may be that the circumstances of your situation will not allow you to hire a new person and create a new position.  If that is the case, then you need to consider my second answer.

Second:  How do you get inside sales to be proactive? If you must, you follow these guidelines:

1.  Make the task extremely specific.  It is not, “Proactively call ten people and see if they need anything.”  Instead, the task should be, “From 3 PM to 4PM every Tuesday, call the ten people on the list I give you, and make this 50-word presentation which I have written out, word for word, for you.

The more specific is the task, the more likely it is to happen.

2.  Train them in the task.  Don’t expect that they automatically know how to do what you want them to do.  One of the reasons that they are uncomfortable making proactive out-bound calls is that they have little experience and virtually no confidence. You have to inject some confidence into them.  Confidence only comes from one of two places:  experience or practice.

So, provide them some practice.

3.  Measure and publish their progress.  Keep track of how many calls each person makes, and how successful each call is.  Share those numbers with everyone in the group.

4.  Reward all success.  When someone has a successful call, praise that person in front of everyone.  Lavishly reward them for doing what you asked them to do.

As you can see, this is a lot of work and requires high-touch involvement on management’s part.  It may be that the cost, in time and effort, is more than the potential reward.  Back to my answer number one.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

Read the expanded version of this article here:

http://www.davekahle.com/qa/proactive.htm

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level. You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or dave@davekahle.com

Copyright MMXIII by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Sales Q&A #26 – How many sales calls should a sales person make?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.
Quality Note With Pushpin by Stuart Miles ID-10093866 Q.   How many sales calls should a sales person make?

A.   In about one out of every two seminars that I do, I hear this question. It springs from a manager’s concern for defining what constitutes a “good sales day.”  And sales people want to know so that they have some ammunition to fend off unreasonable expectations of their managers.  So, let me settle the issue once and for all:  I don’t know.

I don’t know how many sales calls any particular sales person should make, nor do I have any idea how many calls a class of sales people should make.

Having said that, I do have some thoughts to share on the subject.

Why do I not know how many sales calls a person should make?  Because of all the variables.  For example, if you are brand new in your territory, you should make more calls than someone who is well established.  If you have a compact geographical area, you should make more calls than someone who has a large, rural area.  If you carry 20,000 items, you should make fewer calls than someone who sells three lines.  If you sell a non-technical commodity product, you should make more calls than someone selling a highly technical piece of capital equipment.  And so it goes.  The variables that define your specific situation dictate how many sales calls you should make.

One of the reasons this question comes up has to do with a typical manager’s concern with making sure that the sales person is working hard enough in order to be successful.  I prefer to think in two alternate ways instead of thinking about the number of sales calls.

First, how many hours should a sales person work?  The most recent survey I’ve seen indicated that the average sales person works about 49 hours a week.  That seems like a good standard to me.  Sales is not an 8:30 to 4:30, 40-hour a week job.  I’ve never worked just 40 hours.  So, let’s say that a good work week for a field sales person is around 45 – 50 hours.

Now, rather than look at how many sales calls should be made in that time frame, I’m more concerned that the sales person is using those 45 – 50 hours most effectively.  To me, it’s ultimately about the quality of the sales calls rather than the quantity.  There is a relationship between the two.  The greater the quality of the sales call, the fewer calls are possible.  The lesser the quality of the call, the more calls can be made.  I suppose that a sales person could make 100 calls in the course of a week, if each of those calls were in and out in five minutes.  But would they be worthwhile?  Probably not.

If the sales person had created powerful business relationships with all the key people in an account, if the sales person spent time understanding the customer at deeper levels (see my ‘peeling the onion’ analogy), if the sales person created and presented creative proposals, if the sales person helped orchestrate the implementation to a new product, if the sales person leveraged his/her relationships into more and more opportunities within an account – in other words, if the sales person was good at what he/she does – that takes time.

You can see that the real issue is the quality, not the quantity, of the sales call.  So, everything else being equal, I’d prefer that the sales person make fewer rather than more sales calls.

I’d also want the sales person to be guided by all the principles of good sales time management that I describe in my sales time management book.  Stay out of the office, make cold-blooded business decisions about which customers to invest in, nurture helpful relationships, stay balanced, etc.

When a sales person works a sufficient quantity of time, and works in an effective way, producing high quality sales calls, then that sales person is working in such a way as to be successful.

Those are the more important issues:

1. quantity of time,

2. effective decisions,

3. quality sales calls.

I’m really going to recommend that you invest in my book, 11 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople to take this to the next level.

Hope that helps!

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.  Sign up for his free weekly Ezine.  Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level.

You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI  49321, or dave@davekahle.com

Copyright MMXIII by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Persistence is Key to Winning Sales

Smartphone Connection by samuiblue ID-100144388As an executive I get sales calls every day. If I answered even half of them I would not get anything done. What is a bit perplexing however is how few of these sales representatives ever call back. It’s as if they have already determined that since I did not take their initial call I have no interest. I may indeed have an interest, but like most company executives I do some traveling and have a busy schedule. When I return to the office I probably do not have these people on my return call list because I expect that they will call again, but very few do.

Some leave meaningless messages such as, “my firm’s product is being used by 100 major corporations around the world.” They never indicate what their product offers in the way of value to my business so I hope that they don’t call back. But there are some calls that I do have an interest in, just not at that time or that day. Most of the time I never hear from these people again. Don’t they use automated sales systems like CRM software to remind them to follow-up with another call? Or do they simply think if an executive does not take the initial call there really is no interest?

To be successful in sales you need to be persistent. If you have a customer relationship management system that reminds you when to follow-up with a potential prospect that’s great, but if you don’t that’s no excuse. You don’t need a CRM system to tell you to make follow-up phone calls. It’s common sense, and it is the difference between being a successful sales professional and someone who’s in the bottom half of the pack. Keep calling until you reach the prospect. It’s the best way to improve your selling results.

Photo Credit: Smartphone Connection by samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jump Start Sales with CRM Software

Jump Start The Economy by Gualberto107 ID-100170521If you are like most small to mid-sized businesses you are trying to improve sales execution using proven business processes, and using technology to automate and streamline the sales cycle. New online CRM software programs can provide you with the technology, but you are going to need more than that to significantly improve sales performance.

What you need is the implementation of a structured sales methodology.

Sales methodologies have been in existence since the 70’s.  They have matured and can now support the needs of small, medium and large organizations in both generic and vertical industry sectors.  What a sales methodology provides is a path that enables you to manage each new sales opportunity from introduction to closure.  The methodology outlines the steps incorporated in your sales cycle so that you can efficiently manage each phase of the cycle and become proactive during the sales process.

Here is an example.  Let’s say you sell computer software.  Your sales process can be as short as sixty days and as long as six months.  Your sales process consists of the following:

  • Step 1 – Introduction and Rapport building
  • Step 2 – Needs Analysis
  • Step 3 – Product Demonstration
  • Step 4 – Proposal Generation
  • Step 5 – Contract Review
  • Step 6 – Close Sale

Today’s CRM software solutions do a good job of automating the process so that each sales representative is approaching and managing every sales opportunity according to the steps above.  This ensures consistency and enables management to know where every new opportunity is in the sales cycle. It also results in more accurate monthly and quarterly sales forecasts. The key here is the combination of a structured sales approach designed by sales management coupled with a CRM solution that automates the structure.  A CRM solution on its own won’t get the job done. If you want to jump start your sales, develop a sales process or structure first then select a CRM software solution that will automate that process.

Photo Credit:  Gualberto107 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net