Editor’s note: This article is part one of a two-part series on how to transform your sales team. Look for part two in the February 2010 issue, which will discuss what to say and what not to say on outbound sales calls, as well as how to master the close. Additional audio files will be available on GlassMagazine.com in January with examples of best practices.
Recently, our sales training company purchased a flat glass business, where we introduced a call recording system that allowed us to hear the actual conversations between our sales team and customers. After listening to customer calls and reviewing customer surveys, we found the reps needed to improve how they sold and how often they sold. After years in the sales training industry, we knew how to grow sales; now we had to implement those principles in the glass business. Specifically, we needed to:
1. Increase opportunities to sell
2. Listen and learn
3. Know what to say
4. Know what not to say
5. Master the close.
Increase opportunities to sell
You need a strategy to get your team on the phone regularly with new prospects. Existing clients and inbound orders provide a foundation, but new client sales are crucial to growing your business. Outbound sales calls are not fun. In fact, they are considered the least enjoyable sales activity and cause the most fear and discomfort for sales people. Thus, the resistance to consistent prospecting calls is tremendous.
When executed properly, outbound calls are easy, fulfilling and productive. They are the key to increasing sales, especially in a slow economy. Companies that make a high number of outbound calls capture the most business.
Ordinary methods to encourage daily sales calls aren’t long-term solutions. Asking sales reps to make prospecting calls doesn’t work. Sending memos doesn’t work. Even inspirational vision statements don’t work.
Outbound calling must become a routine, daily process. For example, sales reps must listen to voice mail and check e-mails every day. Likewise, they must make prospecting calls every day. The prospecting calls are a job function that needs to happen without question. Here is a process that will make this possible:
• Start small and make sure calls are completed. You may ultimately want 10 outbound calls per day for every rep, but start with two calls per day. Starting too big increases the odds of failure. Once sales reps are comfortable, you can increase expectations.
• Minimize reporting. Some companies expect their sales reps to enter call information in their sales database; however, this adds complexity to the task, and the data might not even be correct. Use automatic reporting that tracks activity and alerts your reps and you when calls are completed. Many phone systems have tracking functions. The best method is to use an automated recording system. Inexpensive technology allows us to record every outbound call. Managers can check the self-generated reports daily and ensure calls were made.
New sales come when reps reach new people. Sales reps need to prospect, and outbound calls are the way to accomplish this.
Listen to and learn about your customer’s needs
When a potential customer is on the phone, you need to get to know them. Typical sales reps talk about their glass company. This is a mistake; the focus of the call should be on the potential customer. Too often, sales reps rush through a sales pitch or just ask if the customer needs a service. Both of these approaches are ineffective.
Simply asking, “Do you have any remodeling projects planned?” is one of the least effective ways to determine the customer’s needs. It is a yes or no question that doesn’t get customers to open up and typically results in a “no” answer. Effective questions are open-ended. For example, “What jobs do you have coming up?” or “Tell me about some of the projects you are doing.”
Getting to know customer needs does not mean getting the bath enclosure sizes. Rather, sales reps need to know what the customer values. What aspects of their project are important? What are the customer’s expectations and past experiences? The great sales reps understand why the customer wants the work completed and what really matters to them.
Some sales reps believe the bid is the only thing that matters in the sales process. They believe building relationships and asking questions will not influence the sale. However, relationships will always be the key to success in sales. Learning more about the customer will result in a stronger relationship, a better bid, and an increased perception of value regardless of your price. The bid might have short-term relevance, but over time you will lose customers if you don’t understand what is important to them and how they think.