One day while I was out on my early-morning oceanside run in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Florida, I passed a large group of city workers picking up trash from the waterfront. This is a daily routine in this well-populated area and their work is finished before anyone—well, anyone except the most die-hard running enthusiasts—hits the beach for a dose of sunshine, relaxation and fun.
I assume that it costs the city a bit of money to run this operation seven days a week, and I’ll bet that it pays off in their favor. Tourists and other visitors like clean beaches and clean parks, and they stay longer and visit more often in those places that are well kept. So the city keeps on cleaning…the tourists keep spending and the visitors keep on visiting.
This activity got me thinking about how we run our businesses, and how we all need to regularly pick up the trash in our sales approach—in other words, by doing an inventory of how we interact with prospects and customers and unloading the strategies and selling tools that just aren’t working.
A key element of sales success is about accurately meeting the needs of your audience. So what do you need to do to keep meeting the needs of your buyers in this new economy?
Here’s a top-10 list of the most common “sales trash” issues that I see when coaching and consulting clients. By getting rid of your trash, you can avoid making mistakes that stand in the way of closing new deals and retaining great clients.
- Hanging on to bad leads who are never going to buy. Many salespeople fall into the trap of keeping a long list of poor-quality leads in their pipeline, simply because they believe there’s safety to be gained with padded numbers. Bad leads will always be bad leads and will only suck time and resources out of your day. Either you qualify them in your pipeline, or you send that list of bad leads to garbage bin.
- Citing outdated testimonials and client references. Your testimonials must be current compelling and credible! Prospects want to know if your products and services work in today’s marketplace. That point applies similarly to references. You can’t reinforce your “social proof” in the eyes of prospects if your references can’t be reached or are retired. Find new references from your current clients. Do this regularly.
- Using a poorly executed script for sales calls. Be objective. Are you using “salesy” sounding language in your script? Do you sound like a radio ad or a telemarketer? Are you taking more than listening on your first call to a prospect? If you answered yes to any one of these three questions, you need to trash your approach and start over.
- Relying on feature-and-benefits marketing without proof. Effective marketing should emphasize the results you can achieve for a prospect. Back this with power of “social proof.” Use testimonials from current clients to prove your claims about results, and to answer objections they might have about moving forward with you.
- Relying on a single-media strategy for your sales. To get attention and be memorable in the eyes of prospects and clients, you need to leverage several media channels at once. From websites to social media, from paper-based marketing to face-to-face meetings—invest time in ensuring your message is loud and clear across a number of platforms. Each one contributes something unique to the buying experience of your customers.
- Depending on cold calling as your #1 lead generator. Give your head a shake! Last year, only 3% of all sales were closed from cold calls. The other 97% came from a range of sources, including client referrals, web inquiries, whitepaper/trial downloads or live chat conversations. Trash cold-calling as your top lead generator. There are field-tested alternatives out there (including the ones I’ve mentioned) that will yield much better returns in less time.
- Dropping your price when your client asks for a discount. Trash it! Instead, emphasize the value of what you offer to your customer and offer options rather than discounts. Also, position yourself uniquely in the market so you have less direct competition.
- Asking your client to do all the work in preparing your referral. When asking for a referral, do away with asking a client “who do you know…” That’s a question that almost always yields disappointing results, because it’s not specific enough and puts the onus on the customer to do all the work. That’s why the most common reply you’ll hear to that question is this: “I can’t think of anyone right now but let me think about it and get back to you.” Guess what? They rarely ever get back to you. Instead, try this approach: “I would like to meet Randy Smith at the ABC Company…can you help me with an introduction?” Or: “I would love to meet your VP of Sales…can you help me with an introduction?” Here’s one more winning approach: “I am going to be calling Randy Smith at the ABC Company this week…can I tell him we are doing great business together?”
- Forgetting to follow up on new leads. I recently read a study that found that in 2010, 80% of tradeshows leads never get a follow up. In my own experience, I have found that in a vast majority of cases sales leads are not ready to close until after as many as seven follow-ups. Trash your current follow-up system and invest in a multistep approach that uses multiple channels (e.g., phone, email, direct mail, social media, websites, e-newsletters). For more ideas, visit engageselling.com and read our articles on VORTEX selling.
- Lacking discipline. A few years ago, some salespeople could manage to eek out a living while being lazy—just sitting by the phone and waiting to take orders. In this new economy, however, the only way to success is by being disciplined in how you work. Time to do away with days without any scheduling and replace it with a structured business day in which prospect development and client contact are top priorities. Trash those empty blocks on your calendar and replace it with activities to fill your prospecting pipeline.
This new economy requires a new selling approach. Today, if you are selling exactly the way you were five years ago, chances are good that your results are suffering. Sure, this message is a dose of tough love, but it’s necessary.
Make a decision right now to trash what is not working for you. You can’t afford to be trapped any longer by a litter of sales strategies and business habits that prevent prospects from becoming customers…and new customers from becoming repeat ones! Look objectively at how you work and choose three things you can change right now. Down the road, measure your results and you’ll find you’ve generated a rather tidy new profit.