If there is one question that sales expert and motivational trainer Andy Preston is asked more than any other it is: ‘How can I ensure I stay ahead of my competitors?’ Here he reveals how to get the most from your sales force in 2013.
1. ‘Ringfence’ all your existing accounts
If you want to get ahead and stay ahead of your competitors in 2013, the very first thing you need to do is ‘ringfence’ all your existing customers. More and more companies are looking to replace lost revenue and profitability through acquiring new business — and some of the new business your competitors are targeting will include your existing accounts. As a lot of salespeople and a lot of companies have got complacent, they’ve tended to neglect existing accounts — and those are now the ones that have been taken by their competitors, or the ones most at risk.
What are your relationships like with your existing accounts? What about the ones you haven’t spoken to for a while? The ones you don’t get on as well with? Would they tell you if a competitor had been in? And if they did, would you retain the business at the same price, or would you have to price match to keep it?
2. Focus your prospecting
The quality of your prospecting will be one of the biggest factors in how successful you are (or not) in 2013. As the individual salesperson is asked to do more and more, it’s vital that the time you spend prospecting is time well-spent.
That means you knowing who is a good prospect for you. Most people think that they know. But most times they don’t. They’ll say things like “any small business”. That’s a big sign that they haven’t really got a clue!
There will be certain specific criteria that makes certain prospects more ideal for you than others. If you don’t know what that is, you need to find it out — and fast! If you’re really not sure, take a look at your existing client base. What was it that made them purchase at the moment they did? What was it that made them buy from you and your company, rather than going to someone else — like your biggest competitor? Then look for ‘commonalities’ or ‘patterns’ in why (and when) they bought. That will start to give you some ideas on what you need to look for in other prospects too!
3. Become a ‘valued resource’
Some of the best salespeople I know are a ‘valued resource’ for their clients. They’re someone whose opinion their clients respect. They’re someone their clients turn to first to get information about purchasing decisions — either now or in the future. They’re someone that has a high level of credibility and clients trust their opinions and advice.
Not all salespeople get to this position however! A lot of salespeople complain that their clients ignore their advice. That they don’t listen. That they don’t take their calls or see them when they pop in. What bigger signs do you want that clients don’t see you as a valued resource?
In order to be seen as a valued resource, you have to earn it. You have to give value first. You have to get updated on industry trends, technological advancements and understand the impact that these could have on your client’s business. You have to be able to hold a business conversation with the level of decision-makers you’re meeting. Invest the time to do things like this, and it will pay you back tenfold!
4. Have a plan for your attack
One of the best ways to get ahead of the competition in 2013 is to get some of their customers off them! This is a great way of distracting them from their own new business efforts (so also helps you potentially defend your own existing customers), plus it’s a great motivational factor for you and your team when you successfully win business at your competitor’s expense!
In order to have the best chance of success, if you’re in field sales why not map out competitors’ accounts in your territory? Who are they working with and where are they? Then create a call plan for getting into see them, and focus on winning their business.
If you’re in internal sales, make notes on the prospects that are currently using your competition, then filter the data by competitors’ name. Then you can create a phone campaign designed specifically to convert their customers to your customers instead! Experience shows that dedicated and focused approaches like those above have a far better chance of success — and it will also put a big dent in your competitors’ motivation at the same time.
Click on page 2 below to continue reading article. [[page-break]]
5. Increase your activity
Now, once you’ve targeted your prospecting, the next thing you need to do is crank up the volume. If you’ve seen me or worked with me before, you’ll know I’m a big fan of a high level of activity — as long as that activity is good quality and is done with the right mindset, of course!
One of the biggest reasons for this is that the more deals you have in your pipeline, the more you can afford to lose! If you only have just enough in your pipeline to hit your targets or close to, then you’re always going to be struggling as you’ll be counting on every deal converting, and it’s devastating to you when any of them drop out.
Purely by increasing your activity, you increase your chances of success — and therefore increase the amount of money you can earn. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
6. Develop consistent motivation
We all know that motivation is important for a salesperson. But it’s the salesperson’s ability to be consistently motivated that will help them stand out from the rest, and stay ahead of their competition in 2013.
This is something I talk about a lot when I’m working to improve motivation levels within sales teams all over the world. In order to be motivated on a consistent basis, the salesperson has to take charge of their own motivation, rather than waiting for other people, or other things, to motivate or de-motivate them.
They need to have compelling reasons for doing what they do. In particular the tougher parts of their role like cold calling, canvassing, or the things they like doing the least. Without a compelling reason, they’re less likely to get the results.
7. Sharpen your sales skills
If you truly want to stay ahead of your competition in 2013, you’ll need to sharpen your sales skills. This means getting up-to-date, relevant sales tips and advice from trusted sources.
If you get some internal training at your company, great! If your company invests in bringing an external trainer or motivator to help you improve, even better! If you’re one of those people that believes in investing in yourself (even if your company doesn’t) I take my hat off to you.
However, you don’t have to spend money to keep your sales skills updated — plenty of articles like this one are free of charge, there are various audios around that are free or low-cost, and there are plenty of seminars you can attend without spending a fortune — just make sure you put into practice what you learn. Follow the tips above and watch your sales soar!
Andy Preston is an authority on cold calling and ‘new business’ sales techniques. With a background as a professional buyer, salesperson and, for the last seven years, a sales trainer and motivator, he has presented at various industry conferences on behalf of the The Institute Of Sales & Marketing Management.