Prospecting for new business is the lifeblood of any sales organization. Sales managers often find themselves in a precarious position with regard to sales prospecting. Prospecting activity fills the sales pipeline with the right kind of prospects that will eventually become happy customers. However, a sales manager cannot “do it all;” they need to leverage the power of their sales team to exceed sales expectations. Many sales managers wash their hands of prospecting activities, as if they have earned some sort of reprieve by virtue of their title. Just to be clear, I am not advocating that sales managers take on the role of full-time prospector for the sales team but rather I am advocating that elite sales managers have a prominent role in the sales prospecting process. There are many reasons why this is important, not the least of which is to demonstrate a “whatever it takes” attitude. If you find that your sales are lagging, that your pipeline is weak and that your sales team is uninspired, here are several ideas that will help you get things going in the right direction.
Make sure your team believes in themselves
This topic may seem unrelated to prospecting, but I assure you it is absolutely essential. Volumes have been written on ways to help turn around the career of an underperforming sales person, so I will spare you the rant. Suffice it to say, there are basically two types of really good salespeople:
1. Those who have already achieved great results, and
2. Those who have the seed of greatness within them.
I remember being a new sales representative at my first company-wide sales meeting. Having previously been in operations, imagine my shock and awe at seeing the way salespeople were treated as opposed to the way operators were treated. Operations meetings were essentially death by PowerPoint, three hots and a cot and that’s it. Sales meetings on the other hand are exciting, fun, and filled with recognition for top performers. No one had told me about the President’s Club. So you can imagine my surprise while attending my first meeting where top performers were called to the stage to receive awards recognizing that they had achieved results better than 99% of their sales colleagues. Oh how the heart desire burned within me to be on stage receiving an award and to be recognized as an elite sales performer. Above all, I knew that deep within me, I had what it takes to outshine the competition inside and outside of my company. I then set my sails, and planned a trip to the top, after arriving I never looked back.
This is exactly the type of attitude a sales manager should be looking for from their sales team. If the desire to be great is not strong within a team member, do your best to nurture it. If they simply do not have it, then perhaps it is time to move on. If this desire is strong, you have only to educate and inspire them. These “A” players must realize that you believe in them and that they are the right person for the job. They have been selected, strategically and purposefully to represent your company and play on your championship team. By instilling confidence in your sales team will have taken a major step forward in prospecting for new business.
Make sure your sales team believes in your product
The sales person who does not believe in what they are selling is no more effective at selling it then an unsatisfied customer. It is a well-documented fact, that sales people who are genuinely convinced are genuinely able to convince others. With this in mind, we approach our prospecting activities. Unfortunately, no product or service is without flaws. Regardless of how hard you try, your product will not be perfect for everyone. Sales managers must convey to their sales team that this is not peculiar to your product or service. It happens to everyone. Start by educating your team on exactly how your product works, and for whom it works best. Help them to target the right kind of business to optimize the efficacy of your solution. When the fit is not there, learn to just say no. No amount of training, or technique can overcome a lack of passion and conviction. On the other hand, determined conviction can help to overcome a lack of highly developed sales skills. Once your sales star believes in herself and her product, she will not receive the just friends speech from prospects.
Make sure they have what they need
If you want to be a great leader, it is essential that you learn first to become a great servant. As a sales manager, your most important group of customers is your sales team. If you commit yourself to their success and wellbeing and put their needs selflessly ahead of your own, you will reap rewards far beyond but inclusive of personal financial gain. One of the most tangible ways to prove that you care, and establish the type of credibility that will make your sales team run through walls for you, is to make sure they have what they need to be successful. Therefore, as a sales manager the buck should stop with you with regard to the materials, equipment and sales tools necessary for your sales team to get the job done right. You can start this by ensuring that your sales team has the sharpest, most professional looking sales presentation materials possible, to assist with every step of the sales process. Have a clearly defined, well-structured sales approach for your team. If necessary, help them to develop their work schedule with preset hours for new business prospecting. Help your team to achieve a good work/life balance. If you genuinely care about your people, they will know, and just as quickly, they will know if you don’t. Now that your team believes in themselves, your product and you, they are now ready to run with the full burden of sales prospecting on their own, right? Wrong!
Make sure you lead by example
One of the quickest ways for a sales manager to become irrelevant and therefore expendable is to lose touch with actual selling activities and skills. Prospecting is one of those skill-based activities that affords an opportunity for a sales manager to stay in the game and consequently, to stay relevant. Do you want to inspire your team to become prospecting machines? Then show up with a handful of leads tomorrow morning and challenge them to close them all. Then, challenge them to find better opportunities than you did. For the most part, elite sales professionals are a highly competitive species; they will not want to be out prospected by their manager or teammates or anyone else for that matter. Prospecting by example is one of the quickest and most effective ways to foster this kind of behavior.
1. A sales manager, when was the last time you made a cold call, dropped your business card off at a potential business or helped a struggling sales representative to find new business?
2. When was the last time you took a good look at what your team is handing and sending to prospective customers?
3. Do you feel that your product is good enough that people should buy it or should it be modified, changed or improved?
4. If you said yes to the need for improvement, what are you to do about it?