As I mentioned in Hacking Selling, sales people and managers constantly ask me for short cuts. They are looking at ways to make selling easier, ways to help them win more business. In Hacking Selling, I said the easiest way to do this is to hack the customer’s business, focusing on what they need, rather than what we sell.
I got a lot of messages on the post. People wanted more short cuts, so I’ve put together a list for sales people. I’ll follow this with another post for sales managers.
Most of these hacks have been around a long time–for some reason people don’t do them. I’m constantly amazed. They are proven with lots of market research, and have had thousands of posts, hundreds of books written about them. So here’s a non exhaustive list of sales hacks that really work:
- A sales process that is aligned with the customer buying process: A great sales process is unique to your organization. It’s based on your company’s best experiences on winning business. So it amazes me the number of companies that don’t have a sales process or sales people that don’t use one — or resist it. If we want the most assured way of winning business, why wouldn’t we use a sales process? Why would we want to resist and choose another approach or just do a random walk through the sales situation? The single best hack in the world, but one of the least applied is a sales process that’s aligned with the customer buying process.
- Focusing on our “sweet spot:” Our sweet spot is similar to our sales process–it’s the customers that are the best fit for our products and solutions. Focusing our efforts on our sweet spot makes everything much easier and faster. Our solutions have a great fit for customers in our sweet spot. We have great experience in selling to them, great references, and great understanding of the value our solutions create. We can most effectively engage customers in our sweet spot. The further we venture outside our sweet spot, the less likely we are to be successful, the longer and more difficult the sales cycle; consequently wasting both our the prospect’s time. Focusing on the sweet spot is a great short cut to producing results, particularly when our pipelines are lean.
- Vicious disqualification: To often we waste our time on the wrong customers. They are outside our sweet spot or have no need to buy/urgency. Disqualifying all opportunities that don’t fit, or where there is no need to buy enables us to build a high quality pipeline. Our win rates and sales cycles for those customers are the highest, so it seems easiest if we do a great job at disqualification.
- Pre-call/meeting planning and research: We want to maximize our impact on each call, accomplishing as much as possible in every meeting with the customer. It’s pretty simple to do this if we spend a little time researching and planning what we hope to achieve. We’ve conducted research on the number of calls sales people make to close a piece of business. People make as many as 50% more calls needed to close, primarily through poor planning and execution. They don’t have the right people participating, they don’t have a strong plan for the call, they aren’t prepared, they walk out of a meeting and on the way back to the office remember all the things they forgot to ask. Just a few minutes of research and planning before each meeting has a huge impact on improving results and reducing sales cycles.
- Pre-published meeting agenda: Related to the previous point, agendas that we agree upon with the customer improve the results both we and the customer produce. Just as we research and prepare for meetings, we want our customer prepared for the meeting. Nothing does this better than agreeing on the agenda and participants in advance.
- Facilitating our customers’ buying processes: Our customers don’t know how to buy. Over 45% of forecast deals end up in No Decision Made. A lot of this is differing agendas, interests, and priorities in the buying group. Helping our customers develop and execute a plan to buy reduces the possibilities of ending in No Decision Made. Additionally, it enhances our connection with the customer, helping create far greater value.
- Focus on differentiated value creation: We can’t create value unless we are totally focused on the customer and what they want to achieve. Often, this is challenging the customer, introducing them to new ideas, new possibilities, providing leadership in helping them achieve their goals. This is, perhaps, the ultimate hack, because it creates great urgency for the customer to change. Deals don’t stall when the customer realizes they are missing opportunities or losing money for every day they wait.
- Use the tools: There are many tools that help improve our productivity, making us both more effective and more efficient. Great sales people leverage these tools to their utmost, not because management wants them to use them, but they help them sell more faster.
- Solid, high quality pipelines: We maximize our ability to achieve our goals by having high integrity pipelines. This means we only let good deals into our pipelines and we develop strong deal strategies to move them through the pipeline as effectively as possible.
- Continuous learning, skill development and improvement: The highest performers know they increase the value they bring to customers and their own organizations by continuously learning and improving. They constantly look for the edge to more effectively engage their customers, to OutSell their competitors. They realize knowledge, new skills, keep them ahead of everyone else, making it easier for them to win more deals more quickly.
- Vicious time management: Hacking time is all about not wasting it–for ourselves, our customers or others. It’s about not letting others waste our time–so we make sure we are chasing the right deals, we make sure our customers are prepared, we make sure others in the organization recognize time is valuable.
I’ll stop here, there are many more hacks I can identify. I’ll save some for later, or better, perhaps you can share some of your favorite hacks.
Some of you in reading this may feel cheated. “Where are the tricks, techniques, short-cuts? How do we avoid working?”
But there are huge amounts of data supporting the hacks I’ve outlined above. People who do these things consistently sell more, faster, and at higher margins—and isn’t that what hacking selling is all about? Isn’t hacking selling really about producing the best results possible in as short a time as possible?
If tons of research prove the things I’ve outlined above enable sales people to do that, then wouldn’t we be foolish not to exploit (hack) these as much as possible?