3 Simple Things Sales Reps Can Do to Make Their Lives Easier
Life is not getting easier for sales teams. According to Sirius Decisions, sales cycles have become 22% longer over the past five years, with 3 or more decision makers participating in the process. This is a consequence of the 2008 recession; as purchase decisions could make or brake a career, buyers added the element of risk management to their buying process. The old “grip and grin” approach just doesn’t cut it anymore.
In addition to dealing with risk management in the decision-making loop, sales teams are dealing with a changed buying process. Buyers now complete 57% of their buying process before ever contacting a salesperson, according to the Corporate Executive Board. Buyers research potential options through search engine queries and social media before coming up with a short list of potential vendors for final evaluation.
Despite these challenges, smart sales teams are still hitting their quotas. Here are 3 simple things sales reps can do to make their lives easier.
1. Qualify your leads like your job depended on it
Because it probably does. One of the biggest wastes of a sales rep’s valuable time is chasing an unqualified lead down the proverbial rabbit hole. Don’t feel bad, we’ve all been guilty of it sometime during our careers.
It’s easy to do – you have somebody who seems interested and you need to hit your quota this month. But your prospect doesn’t have the money or authority to buy. They don’t fit your ideal prospect definition. Or the timing isn’t right. Sometimes, you’re just dealing with a bullsh!t artist.
DON’T DO IT! Be disciplined with your lead qualification. That starts with having a definition of what a qualified lead is, followed with a series of questions to determine how well the prospect matches your qualification process. You’re better off spending the time you’d waste with an unqualified lead working on finding one that is qualified.
If a lead isn’t qualified, politely direct them to informational material on your website or put them back into lead nurturing until they are qualified. If it’s somebody that you just can’t help, refer them to a competitor – it’s good karma.
2. Research your leads like they research you
Remember the buyer who completes 57% of her sales process before ever contacting a salesperson? Doesn’t it seem like a no-brainer to do research on your prospects before you contact them? There’s really no excuse not to. With sources like company websites, LinkedIn and business research sites like Hoovers and D&B, you should be researching (and qualifying) prospects as part of your daily routine.
Keep an eye on the business press for trigger events that could put a prospect into an active buying process for your solutions. For example, you sell project management software and you read that ABC Consulting just landed a deal that will double the size of their company. It’s likely that bringing that big new customer on board will present the prospect with project management challenges that they haven’t faced before. In the FBI, they call that a clue. An outreach to the consulting company offering to share how you helped another customer faced a similar challenge likely will produce some interest.
Other trigger events to watch for include personnel changes (new C-suite executives or product managers), merger and acquisition activity and layoffs.
3. Identify the buying process
As buyers become increasingly risk-averse, more and more people become part of the decision making process. Sales consultant Miller-Heiman identifies 4 potential buying roles:
The Economic Buyer – this is the person that has the ultimate decision-making responsibility. Depending on the type of sales, it’s often a C-suite executive or high-level manager. They can say yes when everyone else says no and they can say know when everyone else says yes. Since the great recession, economic buyers seek a broad consensus amongst their teams before making a buying decison.
The User Buyer – this is the person who will ultimately use what you sell. In the case of the project management software seller, it could be the program manager or project manager. Economic buyers increasingly take the user buyer’s opinions into account in the post-recession buying process.
The Technical Buyer – this is the person who makes sure your proposal meets specifications and corporate governance requirements. The technical buyer is most often found in enterprise and government sales. You may not encounter technical buyers when selling to SMBs.
The Coach – this is someone who is involved in the buying process who wants you to win. They can help navigate you through the rocky shoals of the buying process. In the case of the project management software sale, it could be the account manager who works for the program manager. She’s convinced that your software can help her do her job better and wants to help you win. Your chances of closing a deal increase when you have a coach or advocate.
Many sales reps focus all of their attention on the economic buyer. This is not effective in today’s buying process. You need to identify all of the players in the process and understand what a win looks like to each of them. Understanding the buying process makes your life easier – it could make closing the sale more likely and it could also identify a non-qualified prospect.
If you understand how your buyer’s think, you can craft an approach that is likely to resonate with them. Providing a solution that meets a customer’s unique needs will help you close more deals. Qualify your prospects, do research on them and understand their buying process. Those 3 things will make your life as a sales rep much easier.