How to Improve Your Sales Team's Prospecting and Productivity

February 13, 2017 Joe Vignolo

This is an excerpt from HubSpot's "How to Have Your Best Sales Year Yet" post written by Aja Frost.

As a sales leader, you’re responsibility for identifying your team members’ individual weaknesses and coaching them appropriately. While every salesperson must overcome a different set of shortcomings, there are a few common themes.

Reps typically find it difficult to identify and connect with new prospects. According to an InsideSales research paper, “Top Sales Challenges of the Inside Sales Industry 2016,” salespeople have said their number one challenge is “lead quantity and quality” for the past three years in a row.

Your team’s calling techniques and strategies could probably stand to be improved as well. Even veteran salespeople sometimes struggle to build rapport, ask the right questions, actively listen, and deliver helpful insights.

Lastly, you may have noticed your reps do not spend their time as strategically as they could. Time management, prioritization, and effective planning are important—but unfortunately rare—skills in the sales world.

To help your salespeople brush up on prospecting, calling, and productivity best practices, here are some tips we've gathered from selling experts.

Prospecting

John_Doerr

John Doerr, president and co-founder of RAIN Group and co-author of Insight Selling

First, truly think about your value proposition for a meeting.

The challenge we all face in prospecting is to provide our prospect a reason to meet with us: Best practices, great results, recent research findings, and so forth. Buyers will meet with you if there is something in the meeting of value to them.

This is a real call I had recently with a salesperson we’ll call Kate:

Kate: “Hi, I am Kate from HR Plus Consulting. I would like to schedule an hour to meet with you about our company. How about Tuesday or Wednesday?”

Me: “What value will I get from meeting with you?”

Kate: “We will show you the value of working with us.”

Me: “But what value will I get in the meeting?”

Kate: “Um … we will show you the value of our services?”

Me: “How about, ‘You will learn what employee benefits you should be offering that your competitors already offer. I will share the best ways to attract employees in a tight labor market and what’s working to retain millennials.’ Could you do that?”

Kate: “I think we can do that. Will you take a meeting?”

Me: “No, I have no need for that right now, but I bet others might. Try it. Happy selling.”

Kate gave me no compelling reason to speak with her, so she didn’t book the meeting. If you don’t provide value, you won’t either.

Your ultimate offer might be a particular consulting methodology, a type of software, legal advice, operations plan, or marketing tactic, but the interim offers -- the offers you make and prospects accept before they buy from you -- must be crafted with the utmost care.

In addition, provide value at every touch.

The first meeting is just that: A first meeting. Don’t simply follow up with, “I wanted to see what you thought of what we discussed” -- this doesn’t show the prospect why they’ll derive value from continuing to speak with you. Eventually you'll sell your company, your offering, and yourself. But first, sell the idea that the prospect's time will be well-spent during every conversation.

It’s fine to ask for feedback on what’s been discussed, but make sure you also provide a new idea or suggestion, include a white paper relevant to what was most important to them, share more detail on your research, or add value in some other way.

Work on adding value upfront and you will amp up your prospecting success.

Lori_Richardson

Lori Richardson, CEO and founder of Score More Sales

Take a targeted list of 20-100 probable buyers and mail them a five-sentence letter focused on them -- not you and your services. Time the letter to arrive the same day you make your first call. If you include a call-to-action in the written message, your response rate may be as high as 30%.

Sales Calls

Art_Sobczak

Art Sobczak, president of Business By Phone, Inc. and author of Smart Calling

Too many salespeople do not have a defined process for planning their calls, or know how to execute each part: Speaking with assistants, leaving effective voicemails, and creating a value-packed opening.

It also boggles my mind that with all of the sales intelligence available to us with a few clicks -- and so much great sales messaging instruction instantly accessible -- the majority of sales calls still do not contain personalized, customized, tailored value for the listener. As a result, assistants screen calls, voicemails are ignored, and callers get brushed off if they do speak with someone live.

Professional salespeople should educate themselves, train, practice, and execute like a specialist. The information is available. And every true professional invests in their ongoing improvement.

Sales professionals should record their calls regularly as well. Listen independently, with peers, and with coaches. We tend to be our own toughest critics, but we also don’t know what we don’t know. Therefore an outside evaluator is of great value.

I don’t have scientific evidence on this, but my observation and experience suggest that out of all their connection attempts, salespeople most commonly mess up the first connect call.

Many misguided managers and organizations still demand placing large quantity of calls, playing the throw-it-up-against-the-wall numbers game. This is a bad strategy. Success in prospecting is not a numbers game. It’s a quality game. Making 20 more calls does not get you that much closer to a “yes” if you’re not placing a quality call each time. That’s like a baseball player swinging at every pitch thinking it enhances his chance at getting a hit.

Granted, you still need to be placing calls and talking to people, so the activity needs to be there. When you systematize your pre-call routine (information gathering, preparing questions, etc.) you can place many quality calls quickly. It usually takes several attempts to initially reach a decision maker, so you don’t have to do all of your planning for every single event attempt. On subsequent attempts, simply review your notes and remind yourself of what you had done initially.

Brian Tracy, keynote speaker, author and chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International

I developed a technique called the 100 calls method. It has changed my career, as well as the careers of many sales professionals I’ve coached. Simply make a resolution to make 100 sales prospecting calls as quickly as you can without emotionally investing in their reactions. As far as you are concerned, you don’t care whether these buyers respond positively or negatively. Your fear therefore disappears, making you sound more relaxed and confident. It’s a great way to become more experienced.

(Note: This doesn’t mean you should rip through a list of 100 prospects without doing research or pausing for breath. All sales calls should be customized, so do just enough research that you can speak to your prospects with some familiarity.)

Stop using call scripts. They’re often too impersonal and inhibit natural conversations. Calling (and sales in general) should be very personal. Cater to your customer’s individual, specific needs.

Never attempt to sell on the first call -- focus on information gathering. Unless you are selling something inexpensive that requires little thought, interview the prospect by asking questions. Take notes, and tell them you will come back to them. This allows you to build the relationship and exude geniality and friendliness.

Sales Productivity

Warren Greshes, speaker and author of The Best Damn Sales Book Ever: 16 Rock Solid Rules for Achieving Sales Success

Selling time is finite. In other words, you can only sell when your prospects are around -- which, for most salespeople, means you can only sell during business hours.

Paperwork time, on the other hand, is infinite. You can’t call buyers at 3 a.m. on Sunday, but you can do administrative tasks.

Unsuccessful salespeople tend to do paperwork during selling time. Successful ones reserve all activities that don’t require prospect interaction for non-sales hours.

On a related note, know who you’re going to call that day before you walk into the office. Don’t walk in, sit down, and start going through your names: You’ll waste 25 minutes you could have been on the phone.

That’s why the last thing you should do each night is put together your to-do list and call list for the next day. You’ll hit the ground running. And if you can free up an extra 15 minutes in your day for prospecting, you might schedule one more appointment or make three additional calls per week. That could lead to four more clients every month.

Finally, set a firm cut-off time for late prospects. My personal limit is 20 minutes. If our appointment is at 3, and we haven’t connected by 3:20, I’ll ask to make another appointment.

This helps you avoid spending too long waiting for prospects who may not be serious. In addition, it tells them your time is valuable -- and they should treat it as such.

John-Boyens

John Boyens, sales productivity expert, and co-founder and president of The Boyens Group

Every week, make up a detailed time plan which you can modify as needed. Except in times of crisis, try to make sure day-to-day issues don't push your strategic time priorities off schedule. Successful people also identify and eliminate time wasters. Look at your work schedule from last week and ask yourself, “If my distribution of time does not change, will I be able to achieve my personal and/or professional goals?”

If your answer is no, ask yourself:

  • What activities should I continue doing?
  • What activities would I like to start doing?
  • What activities must I stop doing?

For expert advice on qualifying, demoing, negotiating, and more, check out the full post from HubSpot.

About the Author

Joe Vignolo

Joe is the Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Datanyze, specializing in authentic storytelling that connects and converts. Before joining Datanyze, he was an award-winning broadcast journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also believes Point Break is a shining example of American cinema.

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