How to Eliminate Sales Peaks and Valleys

“OMG, my sales funnel is bone dry!!”

Panic sets in.  You sell like crazy, get some sales traction and start nursing your new found opportunities to closure.  You focus on nothing else for weeks.  A few of them close.  Champagne corks pop and commissions are calculated.  Finally, you pause for breath and look at your CRM.

“OMG, my sales funnel is bone dry… again!”

The sales rollercoaster is the number one selling Pain chosen in a recent survey of my blog readers.  The peaks of the ride are a blast, but the valleys totally suck.  There is, however, a way to tame this 5 ticket ride and carve a path to steady, reliable and predictable revenue.

Here’s the thing – every sales person knows about the rollercoaster.  Strangely, they seem to readily allow themselves to climb on board.  They know if they get so busy closing business [or implementing new deals] and stop prospecting for net new customers their sales funnel will run dry, yet they repeatedly make this fundamental mistake.  How come?

I think it’s the dopamine effect.  Dopamine is the chemical in your body behind the feel good rush [pleasure] you get doing whatever your favorite thing is.  For sales people, the mere thought of closing business feels good. Closing sales feels even better – hello dopamine!

Contrast this with the grunt work behind finding brand new clients.  Cold calling [lots of rejection], endless web research [boring!] and completing CRM fields [mind numbing] is super low on the dopamine producing scale.  It’s no wonder many sellers gravitate away from Prospecting.

To keep the dopamine flowing and get off the roller coaster, try some of these road tested and proven methods to minimize the valleys of the ride…

Hire someone else to do the heavy lifting prospecting work for you:  This one is road tested by me personally.  There is a market of highly qualified virtual assistants today that did not exist even 5 years ago.  Select one and pay them to do the part[s] of the prospecting process you don’t enjoy, are too busy to do or are just no good at.  Have this work done while you are busy closing your current sales opportunities.  When you are done with them, there will be fresh opportunities to close.  This investment will put money in their pocket, hours back into your day, and new prospects into your sales funnel.  It’s a win – win!

Set and keep a 45-minute appointment with yourself every day:  For most sellers 45 minutes a day focused on acquiring net new sales opportunities, will more than meet their sales productivity needs.  Imagine, 240 [or so] focused prospecting sessions a year!  The secret[s]?  First, find the 45 minutes.  Even if you are quite time efficient my bet is you can tighten up here and there and create this golden chunk of time.  Second, be focused [no personal phoning, texting, Facebook, inbound email alerts, etc] when prospecting.  Third, use CRM to record your work religiously.  This will allow you to get productive the first few minutes of your session and not burn time getting organized.

Set and measure your prospecting productivity goals:  Something like “Each week I will generate a total of ‘X’ number of net new prospects” will do.  Next, tell someone else about your goal.  Sharing goals has a way of cementing them in our minds, and firming our resolve to meet them.

Refine your prospecting methods:  Cold calling is dead.  If you are still performing this soul sucking task you need to stop… Now!  Search your favorite book store and select a book that will teach you how to get your prospecting into this millennium.  There are many more effective, efficient and enjoyable ways to find your next big client than cold calling.  Hint…it’s called social media.

With just a little discipline and stick-to-it ‘ness you can get off the sales rollercoaster.  If you adopt any of the above strategies my prediction is you will flatten the peaks and valleys, make more money, and have a great time doing so.  Have fun!

Customer Relationship Management for Sales Part 2: Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Microsoft has their own Customer Relationship Management tool – Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Starting at $60 per month with a 30-day free trial, Dynamics CRM is a helpful tool for sales teams.

The strongest selling feature for Dynamics is the integration with other Microsoft products. This is great if you use Office 365 with Outlook and SharePoint, etc. If this is the case then Dynamics can work well for managing your sales process from start to finish.

A handy feature is the Outlook integration. It has the ability to track emails, appointments, tasks and contacts. For legacy Outlook users this keeps things familiar and makes life very easy. I also like the ability to take notes with OneNote during a call and have that saved with the contact’s record.

Mobile capabilities are impressive with the right tablets and phones. It’s great for outside sales reps on the go. Team collaboration with the integrated Microsoft products is also helpful for closing more deals.

For managers Power BI is a tool that has informative, interactive dashboards with customizable reports. It’s easy to use and an excellent tool for Sales Managers to monitor results and provide feedback to reps.

Unfortunately, Dynamics CRM can be complicated to learn and clunky. My personal experience in learning to use it was somewhat painful. It was one of those “once you know how to use it, it is quite easy” experiences. In short, I did not find the software to be intuitive. This can definitely be a roadblock to adoption by your sales team.

The product has a significant customization capability, but that can get costly to set up. One of my high tech clients took it upon themselves to do their own customizations. Even they found it challenging to make them, so beware. If you do decide to purchase Dynamics CRM, make sure that you hire assistance for the setup and customization.

Overall, if you like Microsoft products and currently use them, this may be a good tool for you. However, setup time and cost, plus the time involved to get a sales team up to speed are factors that must be considered before making a buying decision.

Rating: 3 / 5

Customer Relationship Management Options for Sales Part 1: Salesforce

For salespeople and managers, tracking sales efforts is vital to success. At its most basic, using CRM allows you to track sales activities and corresponding results. Used effectively, using CRM will allow you to refine and optimize your sales and revenue generation processes towards reaching your sales goals on a reliable and predictable basis.

Over the course of the next few months I’m going to review several CRM options. Hopefully this will be helpful in pointing you in the right direction toward choosing the one that is the best fit for you and your team.

Let’s start with, one of the most widely used and recognized sales tracking tools.

Salesforce starts at $25 per month with a 30-day free trial. The fees vary based on number of users etc., so get clear on that so you can derive your costs.

The dashboard allows users to see an overview of their day at a glance, including their tasks and calendar. There are a variety of reports available which reps and managers can run to see their sales opportunities, new business won, and existing accounts. I find the dashboard to be quite readily customizable. You don’t need any technical knowledge to do so, just some patience with clicking on drop downs.

It is easy to add new leads, and track tasks and activities connected to them. Because it can integrate with Outlook, all correspondence can be attached to that record for easy reference and increased productivity.

Excel tracking can be eliminated by using the opportunity forecasting tool. Reps can identify where to focus their sales efforts based on what is in their sales pipeline.

Collaborating with other reps can be done through the Salesforce Chatter tool, which works far better than email.

Managers are able to readily analyze sales activities and results across the business and eliminate the need to track down individual reps for information. They can also easily communicate where sales are now and where they are trending.

The bottom line… Salesforce is a robust CRM tool that will do just about anything you ask it. It has numerous bolt-on options to increase functionality and just about every sales automation app out there will interface with it. The only downside I’ve experienced is that to make it really hum you’ll need a third party integrator to ensure all of the bolt-ons you want are connected properly so they function as desired.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

What to do When Your Buyer Goes Dark

What do you do when your buyer goes dark?

This is one of the most frequent questions I get from my coaching clients. It’s always delivered with a distinct tone that’s a mixture of frustration, exasperation, and more than a whiff of “I feel hurt.”

This is totally understandable. The wooing of a client is like a dance. When your dance partner excuses themselves to freshen up and doesn’t return to the dance floor, well it stings! Of course you feel frustrated and exasperated.

Here’s the thing…wooing a client is like a dance but in reality it is a business relationship you are trying to nurture. Different rules apply. Don’t get caught up in the romance of it. Remain objective and you’ll be able to navigate the process more adeptly.

Here is how I recommend dealing with the “my buyer has gone dark” conundrum…

Don’t take it personally

If you have done your best, arrived for each buyer interaction prepared and carried yourself professionally recognize that a buyer going dark simply means the time is not right for them to make a decision. They need some space.

Be empathetic

Like you, buyers are busy people. To state the obvious, making a decision on your deal has fallen down on their list of priorities. Your sales job [never an easy one] is to elevate that decision on their list. Given this…

Get analytical

Work backwards to where your buyer went dark. Analyze what happened in the sale to that point. Are there any A-ha’s here – any obvious reason for them disengaging?

For deeper insight try doing a Pain-Gain-Value analysis. Do you have a clear picture of the buyer’s Pain points, the Gains they were trying to achieve by resolving them and the Value they wanted to realize by doing so? [for more on Pain-Gain-Value theory and how it works click here]. If there are cracks here it can often explain why they went dark. Understanding why they went dark will help with managing the deal once you get reconnected with them.

The Mechanics

Here’s how you can approach getting reconnected with your buyer:

Let’s say your previously responsive buyer has gone dark. Your last email about next steps in the sale was not replied to. After waiting the appropriate number of days [based upon your communication pattern with them to this point]…

  1. Resend the email to them. This time however include a header above the original email body text that says “I’m not sure if you received message below, so I thought I would resend it. If you could please confirm your thoughts about my notes that would be greatly appreciated.” Put a row of asterisks below that sentence to separate it from the body text. This is a polite way of saying “I would like a response to my email please.”
  2. Wait two business days and if no response, then call your buyer. If you get them on the phone simply say “Hi. I’m calling you to follow up on my last email. Do you have time to chat, or should we schedule something in the next few days to do so?”
  3. If you get their voicemail leave a message saying “I’m just calling to follow-up with you on the last email I sent. I’m wondering how you feel about proceeding from here. If you could please reply to that email or give me a call that would be greatly appreciated.”
  4. Wait 5 more business days. If you still haven’t heard back then send a final email that says “I have done my best to reach you. Unfortunately, we were unable to connect. As such, I feel in the dark about how you would like to proceed. What I will do is respectfully leave the ball in your court from here. If you would like to speak I would of course be happy to do so. Otherwise, it’s been a pleasure dealing with you.” You may want to follow this up with a voicemail as well. You will of course have to tweak the wording I’ve suggested based upon your own unique situation but you get the point.
  5. Move on. Tag that deal as Dormant or Follow Up in 3 Months and start working on a deal that has a higher probability of turning into money.

I have suggested this approach to my clients and they’re all pleasantly surprised with the response rate the last email generates. Buyers who went dark due to busyness or other priorities respond to say “I’m so sorry for not responding…let’s proceed this way…” Buyers who went dark due to disinterest either say so, or don’t respond. Either way, you get some closure.

Note – A Good Sales Habit

Early in the sale, say at the end of your very first meeting with a buyer asked them “what is the best way for me to communicate with you – email, phone, text?” Follow that with “I know you are extremely busy. Just to help me understand you better, what’s your usual turnaround time in responding?” By virtue of having this conversation around communication & expectations you will establish that communication is important to you. By no means will this completely eliminate a buyer going dark, but it may contribute to minimizing it.

A buyer going dark can be frustrating and may leave you feeling like you did something wrong. Most likely, you did not do anything wrong at all. Your buyer is simply not ready to buy. When this happens, be clear with them that you are there for them if and when they are ready. Then, move on to another buyer who is more ready to buy.