Selling More: 4 Steps to Break out of the Sales Doldrums

Dec 26, 2019 | How To Sell

Key Points

  1. The key to winning more orders is to “sell more” which means to consistently take actions that will lead to orders.
  2. Doing “enough” is never “enough.” More leads to more.
  3. Even with an influx of customer initiated leads, it may not be enough to make quota. A salesperson has to do what they need to do to make their number. (Tied to doing More vs enough)
  4. Not enough to just do more. Have to create value for the customer.
  5. Random sales activity ais not the same as doing “more.” Have to ensure that the steps you take create value for the customer.
  6. Sales activity always has to be tied to creating value for customer. Otherwise you are wasting your time and the customers.

Selling More: 4 Steps to Break out of the Sales Doldrums

 As a speaker, consultant and author, I am often asked by sales managers and sales professionals: “If you had to choose one piece of advice to give me about how to grow sales, what would it be?” My standard answer is “Sell more.”

You can see why I am considered such a sales genius and sales guru.

Of course, persistent questioners, beguiled by the zen-like simplicity of my advice, demand to know more. Surely there must be some inscrutable truth hidden behind the words and I shake my head and whisper softly, so softly that they must lean their heads in to hear my words, “Not really.” I motion for them to sit at my feet and I reveal this mystery of sales.

I illustrate the meaning of “Sell More” with a parable about a salesperson for a typical medium-sized business. His name was Carlos. Carlos, who went by the nickname Eckstein, always had a reason for everything. These included why he would almost always make his numbers but never quite get there. His boss was at a loss. He thought the problem might be spiritual so he summoned me, the sales guru, to analyze the problem.

Observing Eckstein in action was to see a fairly typical salesperson at work. On the surface it looked like he was taking the right steps to succeed and he seemed happy in his work. Unfortunately, his desire, his intensity and his sales thought process matched his performance. It was mostly right. But something was holding him back from taking his productivity to the next level besides the mismatched socks he wore each day to work.

Eckstein’s problem was one of distinguishing between “enough” and “more.” He was like most salespeople in that regard. He always thought he was doing “enough” to make his numbers and that if everyone else just did their jobs then he would be able to make his quota. It never occurred to him that the key to unlocking his success was doing “more.”

If you don’t have enough prospects, then sell…more. Prospect with existing customers to assess if they have new requirements for your products and services. Call existing customers for referrals and make those connections now. Go to a networking event and meet 6 new contacts. Ask your connections on LinkedIn for two introductions to potential new prospects. And, if you are lacking all imagination, then heaven forbid, go make some cold calls. Fill every hour with selling. Just sell. More often. More persistently. More creatively. More aggressively. Sell. More.

If you have enough prospects, but aren’t hitting your numbers, then you also need to sell more. Be responsive in Zero-Time to customer requirements for information, instantly follow up every lead with the answers the customer needs, turn around all requests for quotes and proposals and information immediately. and then fill every spare minute with productive sales activity to sell with maximum impact in the least time possible. Just sell…more. More responsively, more quickly, more forcefully, more actively, more enthusiastically. Sell More.

Sell More does not mean to engage in random sales activity. That is what gets sales people like Eckstein into the hole they are in now. To ‘Sell More’ means to fill your sales time with intelligent, productive, creative, responsive sales actions that create value for your prospect, customer and company.

Sell More. Win More Orders. Simple.

Doing What You Need to DO

There is a lot of talking and blogging going on about cold calling and whether it is a necessary or even desired part of the sales mix. I can’t resist putting in my two cents on this discussion.

I have recently seen a couple of studies and listened to some presentations about the changes taking place in how sellers and buyers are interacting that are worth considering as we leap into the fray. In general, the trends discussed are reflected in the 2010 DemandGen and Genius.com study titled “Inside the Mind of the B2B Buyer.” One of their key findings was that more than 90% of B2B customers/buyers said that on their transactions that they had initiated contact with the seller. Only 10% said that they were contacted cold by the seller.

Personally I’m not convinced that the 90%, is an accurate reflection of the sales situation today. But that is really beside the point. The key takeaway is that it is an indicator of how your customer’s perception of the role of sellers has changed and how the actual role of sales is continuing to evolve at a rapid pace. The Internet and social media have irrevocably transformed how conversations with some significant fraction of your prospects are initiated. And, even if you, as a seller, initiate contact with a prospect, chances are high they are going to possess some level of pre-education and pre-qualification on your product and service on that first call (or they are going to acquire it by browsing your website while on the phone with you.)

What does this mean for cold calling? In an ideal world, cold calling wouldn’t be necessary. In our fantasy, marketing departments would prove capable of generating well-targeted (or “sales worthy” to borrow a term from my friend Nancy Nardin) in-bound sales leads in such large quantities, week after week, month after month, that all available sales time would be consumed with responsive follow-up. Wouldn’t it be great if the world were handed to you on a silver platter like that?

Unfortunately, that dreamy ideal world doesn’t exist for most companies. Using the figure from above as an example, even if you meet 80% of your sales goal today from prospects that originated as sales worthy in-bound sales leads, where will you find the remaining 20%? You will find them from proactive prospecting (i.e., cold calling.)

If you’re in Sales your job boils down to this: doing the hard work required to meet your goals. Whenever there is a gap between in your pipeline between the number of qualified prospect your need to meet reliably meet your goal and the number of qualified prospects in your pipeline generated from in-bound sales lead conversions, and there will almost always be one, it has to be filled in by prospect activity generated by you. This means fulfilling your responsibility as a salesperson to do what you have to do in order to meet and exceed your assigned goal. If this means spending a portion of every day following a disciplined prospecting process (i.e., doing some research to pick targets, making connections online, getting on the phone or going out and making calls) then that is what has to be done.

In my first professional sales job out of college, in the pre-Internet dark ages, I was selling big computers. Everyday involved getting kicked out of the office at 8am and venturing out to make cold calls out in my territory. I have to admit it didn’t come naturally to me. So I developed another approach. I hit upon a system of hosting a seminar in our branch office every Wednesday afternoon at 4pm during which I would demonstrate our system. I used business directories to research names of potential prospects in my territory and mailed out 10 postcards with a hand-written invitation every Thursday. I’d follow up with everyone on the following Monday morning and again on the morning of the seminar. Usually I’d end up with one or two attendees each week. Within months I had a strong, constantly renewing pipeline and was killing my numbers. After a couple years, I was getting two thirds of my business from existing accounts and referrals. But every Thursday, I was still sending out 10 postcards and every Wednesday I was playing host to new prospects.

No matter how many leads you receive, cold calling, or proactive prospecting, remains a necessity for most salespeople and most sales teams. Clearly the amount of time a salesperson has to devote to cold calling could shrink as increasing numbers of prospects pre-educate themselves online and initiate connections with potential vendors. But the role sales prospecting plays in building a strong pipeline of qualified prospects to ensure that you make your numbers is will never go away completely.

Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Don’t Confuse Sales Activity with Selling

Create Value with Each Customer Interaction

I read a blog posting recently about what a salesperson could do to increase sales. The title was something catchy like “A Billion and One Tips to Increase Sales.” It was hard to argue with the premise of the post. Everyone in sales can use good advice on increasing sales. It’s the reason I continue to read everything I can about sales. There is always something new to learn.

In this case, this author’s useful quick tips were all about creating more sales activity. He was asking the question ‘What should you do if you have prospects but they aren’t moving forward fast enough?’ and providing answers that were designed to create a flurry of sales activity around prospects to stimulate them to engage and move forward with the seller.

But is selling the same as sales activity? And, if a prospect is not yet fully committed to the buying process, is random sales activity the way to get them engaged?

Nothing is sometimes better than something

I had a salesperson, named Arte, working for me once who had confused activity with selling. He came into my office one day and told me that he had invented his own method of selling that he called SWARM. The acronym stood for Surround With Activity to Regain Momentum. His thought was to envelop his prospects in a constant swarm of sales activities such as of phone calls, visits, emails, voice messages, invitations to webinars and seminars, product demonstrations in the hope that eventually something would stick and the prospect would relent and engage.

How’d that work for Arte? Not so well. But he got high marks for creativity.

Unfortunately, similar to Arte, many salespeople fall into the trap of believing that doing something, anything, with a prospect is better than doing nothing. This happens all the time when the prospect has gone radio silent. There are lots of reasons why this occurs and it is the job of the salesperson to determine the answer and respond appropriately and with content that has value for the prospect. But rarely is the correct response to bombard the prospect with trivial, time-wasting requests and interactions.

Keep in mind the customer’s objective

In a sales situation, or buying situation, it is important to keep in mind that the goal of the customer is to gather the information or data they need to make an informed purchase decision with the least investment of their time possible. This is not to say that customers won’t spend the appropriate time to purchase a product or service. This just means that they don’t want to invest a minute more than they have to.

Create and deliver value each time you talk to your prospects and customers

If you are selling you should only be taking actions with a customer that have a defined purpose, deliver clear value and support the customer’s goal. To that end, instead of unthinkingly reaching out to the customer and demanding some of his or her time with a trivial request, consider the opposite approach: make sure that every interaction you have with a prospect or customer achieves Maximum Impact in the Least Time (MILT) possible. It requires planning and thought to make certain that each time you interact with the prospect or customer you are providing information that will bring them closer to their goal of making an informed decision. But the result is that you will bring value to the customer through your selling. If you want a customer to engage, create value for them by your actions. Wasting their limited time with “sales activities” does the opposite.

Selling has a purpose. It is not the goal of your prospects or customers to spend time with you. In fact, the opposite is true. They want to accomplish their job, which is to buy a product or service, while spending as little time with the salesperson as possible. The winning salesperson will usually be the one who knows how to make that happen.

Download the first Chapter of Sell Without Selling Out