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As buyers become more knowledgeable and competition increases, it is vital that sales teams are capable of improving and developing their skills and techniques in order to stay ahead in any industry. The sales processes which worked well 10 or even 5 years ago are unlikely to do so in today’s ultra-competitive sales industry. So being able to develop and build upon existing skills on a continual basis is essential for any salesperson looking to thrive.

You may be aware of the best sales practices and processes, such as building a good report, finding out what your contacts need, and filling your pipeline with quality not quantity of contacts, but learning to include all of these aspects in your sales process every time is where some individuals and companies let themselves down.

So, what is the best way to learn to implement these new skills – every time?

Traditional classroom-based learning

Often, the quickest way to learn improved sales techniques is to attend a classroom-based sales training course where delegates can spend time without the distractions of work and focus on learning the skills and techniques they need to succeed for themselves and for their company. You can opt for industry specific courses and really focus on learning the skills required and putting them into practice in role plays and other relevant activities. Most courses like this will also supply you with study resources so sales people also have something to refer to once back at work. Immersive learning in this manner - over a short period of time - is excellent for gaining new skills and learning amongst a group of peers. All members of a sales team can benefit from developing a shared vision of how to improve, which, in turn, will motivate the sales team.

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Bringing the classroom to work

While classroom-based learning may work for some individuals and organisations, others may need to see the material being taught in a more practical manner. Clinics and workshops are ideal for learning new skills in the context of an organisation. We work with ongoing cases in order to help identify the techniques that need to be improved and also teach new skills in real-time to have an immediate effect on sales figures. This type of coaching and consultancy can help you to see new techniques in action so that you feel the benefit of them straight away.

Qualifications

For those who enjoy learning in their own time and own way, then new techniques and skills can be learnt independently, outside the work environment in order to gain relevant qualifications. Business qualifications not only provide the opportunity to learn the best selling practice, processes, skills and techniques, but the final accreditation will also look great on a CV.

Everyone learns in a different way and so finding the best way to improve selling skills and techniques can be different for different members of a team, or different teams. Delegates are much more likely to learn, remember and use new sales skills and techniques if they have enjoyed the learning experience.

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Increasing sales is on top of everyone’s list of priorities if you work in business. No matter what industry you work in, finding an effective formula to increase sales numbers is akin to the search for the Holy Grail.

While there are no definite methods that are 100% guaranteed to boost your sales numbers every time, there are a few tips which you can implement in order to increase the chances of your sales figures going up. Some may be common sense or ideas which you are already implementing, and others may be ideas you hadn’t thought of before. Here are 4 effective ideas which can give your sales figures a boost and help you to keep them high.

Quality over quantity

While it may look impressive to have a contact book jam packed with names and numbers and it may look like you have been proactive if you have made calls and contacts with leads into double figures in one day; if none of this results in a sale then it is a waste of time. When it comes to contacts and leads; quality is much more important.

It is better to spend a bit more time listening to your contact to find out what problems they have that need solving so that you are aware whether or not your product or service is of any use. By discarding irrelevant leads, you can focus your energy and time on the contacts which are more likely to result in a sale.

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Make sure you are talking to the right person

This should be a no brainer. Make sure in the early days of contact that you are in conversation with the decision maker; the person who will give the go ahead to any sale. You don’t want to find out after dedicating hours, days or weeks of effort that actually it is someone above them who has the final say. Again, spending a little extra time investigating your lead in the early days should ensure that this is already established.

Have a clear vision

Whether you are a sales manager, team leader or focused on your own figures; have a clear idea of where you want to be in the future. You should be able to compose a sales process map of your current state and your desired state and what you need to do to get there. Identify any obstacles in your way and plan a way to overcome them. Desire and focus on the place you want to be will give you a productive structure which you can follow.

Additional tools

CRM systems and add-ons can help to boost your sales figures as they collate all the information you hold on any contact and help you to identify the most promising leads and, equally importantly, the ones which are unlikely to result in a sale. Qualification tools help you to sell, and lose, quicker meaning you can be more productive and touch base with more effective leads in the same amount of time as you may previously have spent chasing one dead end.

These ideas might sound like common-sense in a sales environment but do you implement them consistently, every time?

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Being good at sales isn’t just luck and despite what some may think, good sales people aren’t born with a special skill that sets them apart from everyone else. They best sales people are hard workers who have a well-practiced and well thought out sales process which they have honed over the years into a smooth and successful system.

Even if you have a relatively successful sales process, there is always room for improvement.

Including consultative selling skills into the way you approach your sales leads can not only help you see increases in your sales figures, but it can also help you to sell, or lose the sale, much quicker. This will allow you to move on to the next lead more quickly and ultimately make more quality contacts in the same period of time.

So, just what is consultative selling and how can it help you?

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Find a need, and fill it

Consultative selling is also often referred to as need-based selling. This type of strategy involves you learning from your contacts what it is they need, rather than simply trying to sell them a range of products or services. Spending some time to speak to your contact and find out what problems they have that they need to solve can help you to really understand what it is your contact is looking for. If you are wildly offering various options to a contact who has only one specific need, you are very unlikely to hit that need by coincidence and therefore you will spend plenty of time trying but still not get the sale.

For those who understand and use consultative selling techniques, they will find that the extra time they spend listening to their contacts is well spent as they can determine whether or not they have a product or service which their contact is likely to invest in. Unpromising leads can be laid to the side to save wasting time trying to push a product which is of no interest to the contact. Instead, time can be better spent coming up with unique packages and deals which appeal directly to the need of the contact, thus improving the chances that a sale will be made.

Introducing consultative selling into your sales process

You don’t need to completely change the whole way you conduct your sales strategy in order to introduce consultative selling skills. You can begin to introduce these techniques once you have made first contacts with your leads in order to test out their viability. You can learn relatively quickly if a lead has the potential to become a quality contact by simply asking some searching questions and finding out the needs of your lead before trying to go in with a big pitch.

If you run a sales team, then you should consider introducing this concept to all of your sales force. Having everyone on the same page in terms of how best to spend their time when attempting to turn contacts into sales figures should see productivity rise alongside your sales numbers. As a sales leader you can provide your team with a sales road map which outlines the best practice in order to boost their numbers and help you see an increase in reliability and predictability.

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Being able to accurately forecast your sales figures is vital in any business in order to set and meet targets and identify areas which may need improvement; or, indeed, areas which you can rely upon to bring in big numbers. You can never 100% predict the world of sales because so much of it is in constant fluctuation and can be affected by external forces beyond your control. However, being able to accurately forecast trends and approximate figures is of huge benefit to any business.

If you are finding that your forecasts and predictions are a world away from reality or you are being let down continuously when you are expecting much better figures, it is time to look at the tools you are using and the skills you are implementing to see where the problem lies.

With some simple skills and tools, and investment in sales training you can begin to more accurately predict the outcomes of leads and contacts so that you can focus your sales teams in the right areas to produce the best results.

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Skills and techniques

While you cannot know with certainty whether or not a promising contact will result in a sale, you can spend time finding out the likelihood of a sale being made. Keeping your pipeline full of quality contacts, of which you have identified a need you can fulfil, will help you to forecast your estimated sales. This is opposed to having a contact book full of people you can talk to and pitch to, but you have no idea how many of those leads will result in sales. Knowing what your contacts need and the problems they need to overcome will help you forecast whether or not sales are likely to be made.

Another technique you can implement amongst your sales force in order to better forecast your figures is a reliable sales process. Teaching your sales team to road map their events, meetings and ultimate sales process is good practice for closing sales. It will also mean that they have the information to hand which will help you determine the likelihood of a sale and therefore improve your ability to forecast your team’s performance. Effective sales processes across your sales team will increase their reliability and predictability, also allowing for more accurate forecasting.

The right tools for the task

Investing in additional systems to work with your CRM can help you to increase your ability to accurately forecast your sales figures as well as helping you to boost your numbers and increase selling time and productivity. A reliable qualification tool can help your team to focus on the more promising leads as it collates all the information known about that contact in order to assess how likely it is a sale will be made. Deal breaking information is also identified as well as is any gaps in the information about a contact. Sales qualification tools can greatly improve the accuracy of your sales forecasting.

Combining the right tools, which provide the most accurate information, and the most effective selling processes, which increase the reliability of your sales team, will ultimately enable you to more accurately forecast your sales figures.

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A common complaint in sales departments across the country is that their CRM has promised more than it has achieved. It’s promised to increase sales, improve customer retention and make it easier to gauge how well each sales team is performing.

Often the issue is not that the CRM itself has been a failure but rather it has not been used to its full potential. Often sales departments are measuring the wrong type of activity or failing to enter sufficient data. Worse is when, because they’ve been imposed by management, the CRM is seen as a tool of enemy not a paragon of improvement.

So, what goes wrong? The idea of using customer data to target sales is not new but what a CRM should allow you to do is mine your data and extract every last ounce of information from it. Which, in turn, should allow you to target your sales far more effectively and efficiently.

Not involving the end users

Your sales team are going to be the primary users of Salesforce so it is important to get input on what their current CRM processes are and work out how that maps into Salesforce routines. Undoubtedly, bringing in a powerful CRM such as Salesforce will mean that some processes will need to be altered, but bringing the actual end users on board early will allow you to identify where sales training is going to be required and how to best set up Salesforce to integrate with your current systems.

Not training for change

Migrating to a Salesforce environment can be a good time to change outdated and ineffective modes of thought. At the same time that your sales personnel are being trained on the mechanics of simply entering customer data and logging interactions you can also update the methodology that underpins the whole department.

However - expecting your sales teams to adopt a new methodology at the same time as you introduce a new CRM could well spell disaster – unless you offer sales management training to help them understand how the new way of thinking can improve their performance. You need to be able to offer them a framework that not only improves their efficiency when the target reviews are announced, but also that they can see works right from the start. Training to ensure that everyone using Salesforce is aware of what it can do and how it can help their function is vital to success.

 

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Spreading data across multiple systems unnecessarily

You already have lots of customer data and one of the first tasks will be to migrate that data into Salesforce. Now is the time to take a moment to ensure that you are only importing information that is useful and to prune out duplicate records. Use links to make sure that you only ever enter data once, but have it duplicated across Salesforce, Outlook and wherever else you need it. That way you’ll have a single comprehensive record for each customer.


Salesforce has an impressive degree of native interoperability with other major software systems such as Outlook and SharePoint. Many other commonly used systems integrate through Salesforce Apps. Bringing all your customer focussed systems together “under one roof” so to speak enables you to gain a far better overview of what is going on, and avoids issues such as multiple records for a customer which not only dilute the quality of data in Salesforce but can also lead the customer to believe that interactions are not being properly dealt with.

Logging the wrong data or not logging data

Too many sales departments are quantity driven. The amount of activity and number of sales is seen as a good indicator of how hard they are working. And yet getting ten sales from ten different customers could require a hundred phone calls -  far more work than making one or two quality sales that will lead to a long and reliable relationship with new clients. Identify profitable leads earlier by using tools that integrate with Salesforce and lead you to log the essential data to know which leads are worth chasing and which aren’t.

Treating Salesforce as a contact manager

Salesforce has a powerful array of partners offering apps that integrate into the base software. Utilising the functionality of them can revolutionise your sales approach leading to a better, more consistent customer experience. Plus, by rolling it out across all customer relations, you will be able to gather even more of that quality data that is so vital to the quality of the predictions Salesforce make.

Tying data to the desk

Fast entry of customer data is vital. If it’s not done during customer interaction, or just afterwards as appropriate, then it’s likely that the quality of data entered will be poor with missing fields and half-remembered outcomes. There’s also a risk that sales personnel will muddle meetings if they wait to be back at their desk. Make sure that you provide your sales people with the tools to do their jobs by making the most of Salesforce1’s mobility.

 

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Ignoring it

The whole point of implementing a CRM is that it automates the sales process. It should allow you to track leads through the entire period you are in contact with them from the first touch to delivery of their most recent order. And by tracking all your clients across all sales you can mine for data that will focus your future sales and marketing efforts. But that power is wasted if you don’t use it. Sales managers and team leaders need to generate reports and actually take heed of the information contained within them.

Using Salesforce only for sales

The “R” in CRM stands for “Relationship” and you can improve the customer relationship immensely by using Salesforce Communities to keep the relationship alive. Move FAQs, knowledge bases, product manuals and self-help forums into an online hub and use Salesforces’ analytics to guide your product development, aftermarket services and marketing efforts.