Turn Gatekeepers Into Escorts (Plus: Sales Team Meeting Idea)

Today’s blog is by Jill Myrick, CEO of Meeting to Win and an expert in building winning sales meetings.

Imagine… those currently keeping you from bringing solutions to decision makers actually setting up the meeting for you to do just that.  Seem like a dream?  It’s not…To do this, sales reps need to think differently about their gatekeepers. First of all, let’s define gatekeeper for the sake of this discussion.  A GATEKEEPER is anyone who is preventing or hindering you from working with a decision maker.  These people often take the form of a:

  1. receptionist,
  2. executive assistant,
  3. RFP committee,
  4. manager in charge of finding a vendor and so on.

To think differently about gatekeepers, consider the important job they do.  RFP committiees are doing the legwork of gathering information to help their company solve a problem or get a result. Executive Assistants are limiting the interruptions of a senior leader focused on his or her company’s key priorities.  An IT Director is using his or her expertise to compare requirements with capabilities before involving decision makers in the business decisions. 

 To salespeople who want access to those decision makers, gatekeepers can be seen as nuisances instead of part of an important part of the selling process.  If you are currently being hindered by gatekeepers, here is something to try.

  1. Consider their specific job and the business reasons they may be keeping you from the decision makers.
  2. Respect their position and the insider information a good relationship is sure to provide.
  3. Now, how can you address their needs in a way that will motivate them to escort you and your ideas to the decision makers?   Determine what criteria the gatekeeper needs to satisfy to move you to the decision makers.
  4. Then, share your desire to meet with those making and impacted by the buying decisions.  Let the gatekeeper know why (it’s got to be for their benefit, not yours) and ask how you can work together to get them comfortable and motivated to bring this solution to decision makers.  Figure out how to help them do their job and ultimately make them look great.
  5. Now you are working together and you are actually helping them succeed in their gatekeeper role.

Gatekeepers do serve a purpose and are not always easy to deal with.  They sometimes abuse their power, make poor decisions and often don’t seem to have the company’s best interest in mind.  Teach them how to bring great solutions to their company by partnering with them instead of trying to run them over.  You’ll be more efficient and enjoy the process more. 

Sales Team Meeting Idea:At your next sales team meeting, ask each team member to identify the gatekeepers in each of their pipeline opportunities.  Figure out the important role they play in the overall decision process.  Then, figure out how each rep can help them do their gatekeeper job more effectively so the deal can move forward to the real decision makers. At the end of your meeting, each rep should have a clear gatekeeper strategy for one deal in their pipeline. 

Beware of Hiring Your Competitor’s Sales People

Hiring sales people from the competition always seems like a no-brainer, but there are many pitfalls with this hiring strategy. Lee Salz discusses that sales hiring is daunting for companies of all sizes. The key is to have a profile of your ideal sales candidate and interview the prospects against it. This will help you find the right sales talent for your team whether they worked for your competitor or not.

How to Build and Maintain A Robust Pipeline| The Brooks Group

As a sales professional, you know that one of your most valuable assets is a full pipeline. The list of prospects with whom you’re working at every level of your sales funnel is an essential ingredient to ongoing sales success. It’s easy to go from “hero-to-zero.” The secret to staying a “hero?” Keep a strong list of warm prospects who are at some meaningful stage in the buying cycle. It sounds pretty simple, but in today’s buyer-controlled marketplace, it’s much more complicated than that.

 

The secret, of course, is to keep your pipeline full of prospects at different stages of the sales process. Imagine how boring your work would be if every prospect were at the exact same stage in their buying process at the exact same time! Keeping a healthy balance of fresh prospects and ones nearing closure requires attention and management that’s sometimes difficult (but always essential) to devote.

 

Begin by making a list of all of the prospects you’re working with right now. Next, divide them into categories depending on where they are in the sales process.

 

Building your pipeline is only half the battle. By its very nature, it won’t stay full forever. After all, if you’re effectively working your prospect and client list, you’ll constantly convert prospects into satisfied customers and sell existing customers more!

 In order to maintain a full pipeline, you have to:

  • Prospect,

  • Prospect, and

  • Prospect some more.

  • Oh, and then you’ve got to go prospect again!  

Adding to your pipeline is important work because it’s essential to continued success. Today’s sales stars know that selling is no longer about “ABC” (Always be Closing), it’s about “ABP” (Always be Prospecting). Sure, that’s not nearly as catchy, and it can be a less-than-pleasant task for a lot of salespeople, but it’s the absolute, number-one, hands-down best way to develop a pipeline. 

 

Prospecting is, of course, only one aspect of sales. That means it’s important to manage your time with care.

 

Time management is difficult for salespeople whose schedules are, by the nature of their job, very unpredictable. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to know in the morning where we’ll be in the afternoon. But that’s all the more reason to manage your time with care.

 

Consider mapping out your week and setting aside “unbookable” time to devote to prospecting. If you know that Monday mornings tend to be slow, why not claim that time for this purpose?  

 

In order to use your time effectively, identify target-rich segments. It’s a waste of your time to pursue prospects who aren’t going to buy anything. And your time is incredibly valuable.

 Successful prospecting can be accomplished by doing things like:

  • Networking;

  • Writing Articles;

  • Blogging;

  • Speaking to Groups;

  • Asking for Referrals…  

Before beginning your prospecting efforts, it’s important to determine for yourself (unless your sales manager has already given you the answer!), how full is “full enough?” An overflowing pipeline is worthless if it’s too full for you to effectively manage. Think about factors like available resources, your territory or industry. Don’t forget to consider your own desire and ability.  

 

In short, never fill your pipeline beyond your ability to deliver on your promises. Ever.

 

By working toward identifying and reaching out to new, highly qualified prospects, you ensure your pipeline is always filled. 

 

Not every prospect is created equal. Your local phone book could fill a pipeline, but unless you’re giving away oxygen, not everyone is qualified!

 

Remember your list? Consider rating each prospect on a scale (A, B, or C).By doing that, you’ll be able to tell – at a glance – just where you should focus your time. The key is differentiating between an A and a C.  

 

An A is someone who meets all five characteristics of a qualified buyer:

 

  • They have a need for your product or service and are aware of it;

  • They have the ability and authority to pay for it;

  • They have a relative sense of urgency about the decision;

  • They have a significant level of trust in you and your organization; and

  • They’re willing to listen to you.  

Bs and Cs have fewer than five of those characteristics. As prospects move through the sales process, you should adjust their rating. This is what top-notch salespeople do when they analyze their pipeline.

 

Because salespeople tend to be optimists, you might end up with too many A’s. Unfortunately, not everyone can be supremely qualified. If you find your list is flush with A’s, try going back through your list and pegging some as AA’s and others as A’s. Again, not all prospects are created equal. If you’ve really got a list overflowing with AA’s, we’d like to hear from you to learn your secrets!

 Remember that the key to a full pipeline is always prospecting. So, set aside the time and dig in. There’s no time like the present!   

The Basis of Sales Has Remained Stagnant

Did Sharon Drew Morgen get your attention? Good. Because she’s serious.

 Most of you would laugh; tell her she’s wrong, that the sales model has been shifting and that the Internet has ‘changed everything.’  But what, exactly, has it changed?Sharon Drew believes that basically, sales has not changed since the beginning. Sure, the bells and whistles have changed: it’s far, far easier to get leads and interest; it’s much simpler to get your message out; it’s much quicker to find out whatever you need to find out about prospects. It seems to appear as if buyer’s buying decisions are different (they aren’t, we just know more).  But all of this leads to… leads to what? At the end of the day, the buyer still has to buy. At the end of the day, until the buyer says ‘Yes’ and gives you a check, you haven’t made a sale. And all of your permission marketing, spin, digital body language, lead generation, and understanding of who and why and when and if a buyer buys,  does little more than find the prospect, follow the external activities of the prospect, and then hopes – yes hopes – that the buyer will come back and choose you.

What the sales model still does not handle at all is the “How.”

Sales Coaching Tips: How To Shorten Your Sales Cycle So You Can Win More Clients, Faster

This week’s blog is by Coach Jeremy J. Ulmer, who provides tips and techniques to help sales professionals increase sales and earn more commissions. If you are ready to dramatically increase your sales or business results then subscribe for your Free Tips or request a Free CoachingConsultation at: http://www.CoachWithJeremy.com.

    As a sales professional, entrepreneur or business owner, being able to effectively establish new client partnerships and increase sales results quickly is vitally important. When sales are going great it can be very exciting! When you have a great month you are filled with sales motivation!  But, after a while, things slow down and you hit a wall. You find yourself chasing after prospects and wondering why it is taking so long to convert prospects into clients.  You’re stumped!  You start exploring different techniques and try to find a solution. But, no matter what you try, the results are the same and the sales cycle is a much longer process than what you would like.  So where do you turn when you are stuck in sales quicksand and can’t get your prospects to move forward?  Here’s How You Can Shorten The Sales Cycle and Win More Clients, Increase Sales and Profits with 2 Simple Strategies:

  • 1. Determine, Uncover & Clarify Challenges
    If a prospect is not clear about their challenges and the impact of these challenges, this will greatly slow down the entire sales cycle. This is because the client does not yet believe their challenge is significant enough to take action, and guess what, because of this, they won’t take action! It is a waste of time for you to give information before understanding their needs, goals, challenges and problems. You are presenting a “solution” to someone who doesn’t believe they have a “problem.”

So, what do you do about this? Ask a lot of questions! Ask open ended questions. Get curious and don’t assume you understand their problem or challenge no matter how long you have been in the industry. Dig in and really find out what is going on, and ask follow up questions that focus in on the greater impact of their challenges. Uncover the impact of the current challenges on both the organization and the individuals or groups you are selling to. Your questions will help them understand and verbalize that they have a challenge or problem. Now you have the information you need to explain how you can help solve their challenge.  

If you find yourself talking more than 20% of the time during your sales meetings with prospects, stop yourself, and ask a question!  

  • 2. Always Set A Clear Next Step
    Have you ever heard this before? “Thanks for your time today, your product looks great and we will get back to you soon.” Yet, you never hear back, and end up having to chase, follow up, and make multiple calls, send multiple emails to no avail. That is not fun for you, nor is it fun for the prospective client.

How do you solve this?

 

Well, if you are a great salesperson or great sales minded business owner, you don’t need to chase. You don’t need to pressure. You don’t need to persuade. Really. You need to set up a clear next step, and if your prospect is not ready to take the next step, they will tell you, and you will determine if they are a serious prospect or not, on the spot.

 

Remember, give your prospects an option to say, “No.” When you do this, all the pressure is taken off of you, and more importantly off of your prospect. That way, they do not feel like they are being “sold,” nor do they feel any pressure from you. Many of the sales coaching programs and sales coaches still are teaching the same old techniques developed decades ago that involve pressure and persuading. You do not need to do that anymore and it does not work.

 

Simply set up the next step at the end of your meetings. The next step could be a follow-up face to face meeting or a scheduled phone call for example. However, make sure the next step is moving the sales cycle forward and has a scheduled date, time, and location.

 

Map out your sales cycle and know what steps need to take place. Here is an example of a 5 step sales cycle: 1. Initial appointment, qualification, discovery, 2. Agreement to conduct an in-depth analysis, 3. Demonstration of service or product, 4. Contract review meeting, 5. Signed agreement.

 

At the end of each meeting, you should be setting up the next meeting and next actions. Explain the next steps you both will need to take to start working together. Map it out for them and provide them with a simple document that explains the next steps with clear time lines. Ask them to commit to the next steps along the way. Guess what happens if you do this effectively? You don’t need to “close” or persuade, the sale will be made, faster, naturally, and more effectively.

  I truly enjoy the art of sales and sharing sales tips to sales professionals, sales leaders, sales experts, and entrepreneurs just like you. I am lucky to be able to live and breath my sales approaches everyday for my own business, as well as witnessing my clients putting these techniques into action and reaping the rewards! These 2 steps will help you shorten your sales cycle and experience dramatically improved sales results. Don’t wait to make these changes, take action now, and make a commitment to yourself.

 

 

How to Measure Customer Loyalty for Generating More Sales

Every business understands the importance of customer loyalty and retention to generate a continuing stream of revenue from existing customers.  It’s always gratifying to see customers returning to buy again, but how do you know whether and how many of your customers are inclined to return? A major benefit of customer loyalty is referrals from existing customers to other buyers.  Customers who are very satisfied with the product / service / solution from a company are more likely to recommend doing business with that company to colleagues, business associates, friends and family.  Referrals should be a powerful component of every marketing strategy.

Before starting or running any customer loyalty and referral programs, it’s important to measure customer loyalty.  

Mike Frichol asks “How does one measure customer loyalty?”