As a sales professional, you may think your job is all about selling products and services, making quota, and driving revenue for your company. Sure, ok – that’s true. But that’s not the whole picture. Your job is really about helping buyers solve their problems and achieve their goals.
Whenever I coach sales people and sales managers, I ask them specific questions to see how much they know about their customers and prospects, with an eye towards understanding the quality of their pipeline. Too many times, someone will ask me, “Why do I need to worry about this since you are the only person asking?” Because it’s your job. Here are five key things every sales professional must do to be successful.
It is critical that you talk the talk of your buyer. They are enmeshed in their world so you need to speak their lingo to be credible and relevant. They are crazy busy so there has to be a reason why they will take time out of their day to talk to you. The conversation has to help them think differently, provoke an action or give them insight. It’s your job.
I realize that this takes time, but a key part of your job is knowing the details of your buyer’s industry, their position in the marketplace, and the different buyer personas in order to understand how to communicate specifically about the things that are critical to their success. You also need to understand what each potential customer is trying to achieve, why it is a priority, and when they need see outcomes based on their success measures (think compensation, bonuses or MBOs). In a large organization, understanding how these business outcomes and priorities are connected up and down the organization provides additional insight that may differentiate you from your competition as well as change the conversation. It’s your job.
To do proper account planning, you need to do all of the above and think three years out. What are your current relationships and where would you like them to be year after year? Document buyers’ specific goals, strategies and priority initiatives at the corporate level. Also document what you know about each line of business for which you could provide products and services. Then identify any gaps in your knowledge. This will allow you to proactively plan, year by year, how you will fill in those knowledge gaps about the customer or prospect. Try to take into account the specific goals, strategies and priority initiatives at the line of business executive team level. Again, in a large organization, understand the linkage up and down the organization with an eye towards building your multi-year pipeline aligned to your customer’s or prospect’s priorities.
Account planning should evolve the more information you gain and not be a “one and done” activity at the beginning of the year. By planning proactively, you can step back and look at where you are, where you want to be and then plan accordingly – year by year, quarter by quarter, week by week. Without this thorough account planning, how will you know what to put in your pipeline? After all, it’s your job.
Why are you doing all this research and proactive account planning? To build a quality multi-year pipeline. Too many times, I see companies designate a dollar size for inclusion/exclusion of proper opportunity planning. They say, only do it if the deal is, for example, $250,000 or higher. Why is that? Don’t you want to document what you know about each deal regardless of the size of the deal? Why work the deal if you don’t know the key influencers of a deal, what they are trying to accomplish by when, or how the change will impact each high-level influencers with budget? If you want get the resources and budget to work deals, then shouldn’t they all be documented and reviewed to ensure you are building a quality pipeline aligned to your customer or prospect? This is your job.
Executives and sales leaders have other priorities and expect you to do your job so they can do theirs. Based on the information you provide them, they will assess the risk of each deal in the pipeline. They will also take into account their past experiences with individual sales people and sales managers, knowing who consistently has a credible pipeline and who tends to sandbag or overreach.
The more diligent you are about doing your job as a sales person, the better your executive team and sales leaders can do theirs such as resource planning, budgets, compensation, and facilitating the process to make it easier for you to sell and easier for your buyers to buy.
To do all of these five things, and do them well, you must get out from behind your desk and get in front of buyers. But you knew that! Travel and do your administrative work at the right times – for example, during off hours when your buyers are not working. Maximize your time and the time of others. It’s your job!