In his book Fundamentals of Selling, Charles Futrell identifies careful use of selling time as perhaps the distinguishing characteristic of the successful salesperson.
Frequently there are two main pitfalls that even experienced salespeople can fall into in terms of activities. First, they simply aren't doing enough. What's enough? Enough telephone calls to make appointments, enough face-to-face calls, enough calls that involve or influence the decision-makers. In general, the more focused sales activity salespeople generate, the greater the number of sales opportunities they can create.
Second, but equally important, salespeople often aren't clear about how to identify the prospects most likely to have a genuine need for their product or service. Without an objective way to prioritise which prospects to contact first and/or an efficient strategy for contacting them, salespeople are doomed to waste a large percentage of their time.
Another huge dilemma for many salespeople is how to divide their time between servicing existing clients and generating new business from new prospects. A common approach among salespeople can be summarised in the saying "If you throw enough mud against the wall, some of it is bound to stick". This approach is exhausting, demoralising, extremely unproductive and very expensive in the long term.
This is where an efficient CRM system plays it's part.
In the book Emerson's Essays, there is a section on "Law of Compensation", which can be summarised simply as "give more, get more" This is what most salespeople try to do, so they end up working harder when they should be working smarter. This begs the question, are your sales activities deciding your strategy or is your strategy deciding your sales activities?
From the Sales Director's perspective, developing a consultative sales process means developing a comprehensive, formal, realistic and step-by-step outline of what salespeople are expected to do. This is just as appropriate for internal and totally reactive sales teams as it is for external pro-active ones. This outline includes the activity and calls they must make, the relationships they should establish with prospects, the documentation they should use in sales calls, the issues they must discuss and resolve with prospects and the tangible goals they must achieve in sequence along the path to each sale, in order to achieve maximum effectiveness.
It's only when such an outline is in place that sales management can be in a position to:
• Monitor the sales force's activity, progress and results,
• Assess issues as they arise and take appropriate action,
• Redirect individual sales representatives' efforts efficiently.
Although many organisations appreciate the importance of being customer-focused and talk in vague terms about their "consultative sales process", surprisingly few sales leaders invest the time and energy required to develop such a process - a process that is at once detailed and resilient enough to guide their salespeople and permit effective management of their efforts.
But only by doing so can they hope to achieve the Holy Grail: Sustained sales growth achieved efficiently, reliably and by design.
The Management Curve is a blog dedicated to discussion and debate about the impact sales metrics programs such as CRM, Sales Performance Management and Sales Force Automation Programs are having and will have on how the sales function is managed. Hosted by Paul McCord, the blog also features articles and commentary by other sales trainers, consultants, product developers, and the sales managers and salespeople who actually use the products.