MICHAEL MINK 3/07/2016
Closing high-quality deals and maintaining big accounts are tough, and too often companies rely solely on the sales geniuses of individuals and departments.
So notes Tim Sanders, author of “Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges.” He’s also the former Yahoo (YHOO) chief solutions officer.
He says research on top-performing companies proves that sales know-how “is a team sport, involving players from across the enterprise.” Also, his Dealstorming concepts “have led to a stunning 70% close ratio for multimillion-dollar deals” in over 100 cases in which he’s been personally involved.
Tips on going wide and long to maximize sales:
Live for collaboration. When faced with a sales challenge, “you’ll triple your chances of success by asking your operations, marketing and finance teams for help,” Sanders told IBD. By harnessing that collective brainpower, top companies outsell their competitors by 20% or more. Spread the wealth too at review and bonus time, for the contributions of these nonsales personnel.
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Turn them loose. It’s been Sanders’ experience that involving the CEO or another top company officer slows the sales initiative planning process and inhibits individual creativity.
Junior attendees in meetings are reluctant to speak up or they gravitate to the ideas of the seniors executives, “even if the assumptions behind them are flawed,” he said. “In 75% of cases, the breakthrough idea came from a nonexecutive who was closer to the problem or was free from the constraints of executive or sales process. Make C-suite escalation a last resort, not the first response.”
Embrace strategic planning. Sales meetings shouldn’t be 50% information dumps, then discussion. Sanders recommends leaders distribute a “deal brief” to the team at least two days prior to any meeting. It contains a statement of the problem, the opportunity at hand, an influence map, activities to date and premeeting assignments.
This process harnesses “the power of incubation, where ideas bump into each other during downtime, sleep or passive activities,” he said. “When meeting attendees show up, often they come with ideas in hand. This leads to a much more efficient use of meeting time. The most innovative companies in the world from IDEO to Procter & Gamble (PG) live by this.”
Illuminate. When dealing with prospects, ask them to identify major issues, says James Nielsen, CEO of Sales Bootcamp, which teaches the professional sales process to college graduates and new hires.
“If your prospect doesn’t have an urgent problem to solve, you’re going to have a tough time convincing them to evaluate, purchase and implement your solution,” he points out.
Provide real answers. Prospects need numbers and proof points to support your argument that you can solve their problem and that you can solve it better than anyone else, Nielsen says.
Generate leads. Companies should build a sales development team that focuses exclusively on prospecting into new accounts, Nielsen advises. Create a target account list based on a specific niche your company is focused on.
“Try to understand their business the best you can before picking up the phone,” he said. Further, personalize your prospecting emails and voicemail. “Something in that email should be very specific to them or their business.”
He adds that Salesforce.com (CRM), which offers customer relation management products, has generated an additional $100 million in revenue by adding an outbound sales development department.
Be persistent. One email isn’t going to cut it, Nielsen says. Utilize Twitter (TWTR) and LinkedIn (LNKD) when applicable.
Broaden hiring criteria. Many top producers fail to replicate their success in their next job because they are dependent on previous systems and products for it.
“To build a collaborative sales culture, ask candidates about how they solved big sales challenges or landed big accounts,” Sanders said. “A key question is to ask, ‘What nonsales projects have you volunteered for, and what was your role?’ This reveals the intrarelationship builder who creates the future.”