In lull periods or high-activity periods, I have observed that there are certain basic essentials in the sales process that are often overlooked in the excitement of closing a sale or in the anticipation of the next sale. The fact is that without openings, there are no closings – the best salespeople understand that before you can close the sale, you must open. Many sales people balk at this part of the process, they often find it demotivating and boring as opposed to being in front of a prospect, deeply engaged in problem identification and solving and then closing. But whether you do it all yourself or outsource some of the operations to someone trusted, these are must-dos that go a long way towards building the funnel/pipeline and being prepared for the next big opportunity because a Full pipeline inoculates you against most sales problems:
Must-Do #1: Organize your Contact database – When was the last time that you sifted through all your contacts in your prospect database? In this fast-moving economy, roles change, people move and email IDs and contact numbers become obsolete all too soon. Check every contact and Qualify or Disqualify them as you go along. This should actually be an annual ritual whether you do-it-yourself or use an automated tool to make sure that your contacts are still relevant and are still prospective gold and not dust.
Must-Do #2: Reach out to all your contacts – Selling is all about building relationships and gaining trust. It’s important to communicate frequently and use the many different channels of communication available to keep prospects moving through the sales cycle. Keeping in touch is very difficult when you are stretched for time but you just have to prioritize this. So set up calendar reminders for regular check-ins, build and nurture your relationships to gain trust of all your prospective buyers.
Must-Do #3: Polish your Sales collaterals – How ready are you for your next pitch? Sales collaterals are a visual representation of your business and offerings and often serves as the first impression a prospect has of you. So it is very important to make sure that all your collaterals shine and remain relevant. Create a central repository of all the literature, pricing templates, Power Points, PDFs and past proposals. Update them, index them and keep them ready for use for your next sales pitch.
Must-Do #4: Wine and Dine with your peers – It is important to tap the power of collaboration by engaging with your peers to collectively to stimulate new thinking, develop and document best practices and how-to approaches, and weigh in on emerging sales issues and reality checks. Get engaged through Social Media – there are many forums, chats and boards on the internet where you can meet other sales people in similar industries as well as real life conferences and networking events. By not consistently and consciously widening your circle of acquaintances and contacts, you will be severely curtailing your chances of success. Through networking, you can power your selling through knowledge and experience of others who have been there and done that.
Must-Do #5: Stock-take on your Sales Strategy – As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “The great thing in life is not where we stand, but what direction we are moving.” Now more than ever you have to focus, improve, and possibly even change what you do to attract, and retain customers. As you move forward with your sales plan you must keep track of how well it is working. Every so often, you need to look back at your strategy, analyze the trends and metrics and ask yourself some simple questions: What worked? What didn’t work? What do I need to change? What else do I need to do? Measuring past performance and monitoring future market conditions, gives you the best chance of surviving and thriving.
What would you add to this list? Are there other must-do strategic and operational initiatives that have helped prepare you to sell successfully? I would love to know.