“When you win a lot, sometimes you don’t continue to emphasize those very things that created the success to start with.” Nick Saban, Head Football Coach, University of Alabama
You’ve no doubt heard the expression that “familiarity breeds contempt.” This applies to sales as well. In this case it means that you lose respect for the very sales behaviors and processes that were responsible for whatever success you’ve achieved.
You succumb to the temptation to believe that your sales successes were all about you; that you have become more important than the process. As a result you start slacking off the disciplined application of those sales processes that enabled you to win orders in the first place.
Where have you lost respect for the fundamentals in your selling? Here are 5 warning signs to watch out for (and 5 quick fixes to put things on track again):
1. You’re cutting corners with your sales process
It is hard doing the same job the exact same way day after day. The natural temptation is to start cutting corners because you believe that a little short cut won’t make a difference. You tell yourself: “I can take an extra day responding to that sales lead.” Or “I can take a couple more hours to answer the customer’s question.” Or “I’ll only make five biz dev calls today instead of the usual 10.” Salespeople who start short-changing their sales process will find themselves falling into a vicious sales cycle from which it is difficult to escape.
The Quick Fix: Re-visit the key metrics you have for your sales process and put in place a plan to achieve a 5% improvement in each of them within 90 days. Tell your boss what you are setting out to achieve. That will add a level of accountability to help keep you on track.
2. You’re increasingly slow to respond to customer inquiries and questions
Anyone in sales knows how their prospects are using the Internet to accelerate the awareness, interest and discovery stages of their buying process. When you’re given the opportunity to engage with a new prospect, you have to bring your “A” game in terms of urgency and responsiveness. If this begins to slip, your prospects will compare you unfavorably to those competitors who are responding rapidly and completely. And you’ll just as quickly become an afterthought.
The Quick Fix: Commit yourself to responding to all sales-related inquiries, requests, questions and new leads within 30 minutes. Try it for 30 days and I guarantee you’ll see a marked improvement in your performance in key performance indicators.
3. You’re not giving your full focus to your prospects
Salespeople get easily bored and their attention wanders. I see it all the time with salespeople who lose interest if the buying cycle for a prospect begins to stretch beyond an expected close date. You lose the sense of urgency that generates momentum with the buyer. The prospects sense this waning interest too. And they begin to examine their alternatives.
The Quick Fix: Everyday review the status of each qualified prospect in your pipeline by asking yourself this question: “What action can I take today that will move this customer at least one step closer to making a decision?” This is an extremely effective method to concentrate your attention on your prospects.
4. You aren’t listening to your existing customers
It happens. You start taking your customers for granted. You assume that they are satisfied with your product. You assume that they are getting the value from their investment in your product that they forecast. But what if they’re not?
The Quick Fix: Implement a program to secure an endorsement and a referral from each of your customers within 60 days. If you haven’t been regularly communicating with your customers you’ll have to gradually re-engage with them first. Dedicate some time to rebuilding the trust that existed when they gave you the order. Invest the time to gain a solid understanding of how they rate their experience with your product and whether it is earning the return they anticipated. And then you can begin to ask for what you need.
5. You’ve stopped learning
Success can open the door to complacency. It is not enough to have one good month, one great quarter or even a couple of excellent years. Success is measured in consistency and that requires that you keep acquiring knowledge about your sales craft, the products and services you sell and the companies and industries from which you draw your customers.
The Quick Fix: Here are some simple steps you can immediately take to remedy this:
- Read one new sales book per month. Find one or two new sales strategies you can put to use in your selling right away.
- Read what your customers are reading. Ask your customers what blog(s) they read to stay current in their business. And then do the same.
- Actively participate in one LinkedIn group for your primary target markets. Monitor the discussions daily. Comment on discussions and pose thoughtful questions to prompt responses from participants. (And maybe engage with a potential prospect.)