Someone once told me "in the absence of clearly defined goals we resort to activity". Because in many markets and especially in a business development role, you can't always get the order "on this visit" its easy not to have a solid objective for every visit or telephone sales call you make. As a result neither the seller nor the prospect get real value from the interaction. So how do you avoid sales activity for the sake of it, how do you get something from every visit or telephone sales you make? Set an objective for every customer prospect engagement and make sure it is a SMART objective Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Based. In fact SMART is a great way to sanity check anything you are doing in your sales process it makes you ask yourself "why am I making this call, am I really progressing the sale or I am confusing activity for results?"
There is a fine line between being persistent in pursuing a sales opportunity and becoming a pest. Tenacity will always win out but not if you upset or annoy your prospect during the sales cycle.
Like most sales problems prevention is better than cure. Too often we lay ourselves open to becoming a pest by not setting the expectation of what we are going to do in the sales process, and how we are going to work, with the prospect. In most sales processes it's not a one step process, follow up is needed. Perhaps the prospect asks for information, a call back or maybe later in the sale you have submitted a proposal there are many scenarios where we have to "get back" with the prospect.
Whenever your sales activity requires a next step you need to be assertive with your prospect in agreeing the follow up. "Can you call me back next week" should be responded to with "certainly, let's put a date and time in the calendar for that now" and get the prospect's commitment that they will be there, they will take your call and they have it in their calendar too. Otherwise why are YOU agreeing to call back?
What happens instead is that you loosely agree to call back / follow up. When you do, the prospect doesn't take the call or they are out or you leave a message. You don't get a call back, so you call again. A few calls and messages later and you have still not spoken to the prospect but you have (in perception or reality) left so many messages your prospect thinks you are a pest and now they definitely don't want to work with you.
Don't put yourself in this position, book follow ups assertively and always think twice before you leave a voice mail message.
There has never been a more appropriate time to look at using an Interim Manager CxO For Hire, VP of Sales for Hire - whatever term you are using in your market.
I don't normally blog about "me" but this interim topic keeps coming up. I have 30 years, international sales, marketing and general management experience including board and non executive (advisory board) posts, doing start ups and turnarounds. Many companies especially SMEs, simply do not have the budget for the salary that this level of experience commands.
However, if they looked at an interim CxO even a few days a month they would get the experience they desperately need but not the salary bill. Furthermore, an experienced interim will fit in and pick up the reins quicker than you would believe. I have being doing interims for 20 years, I can bring experience of succeeding in market conditions that many of today's "younger" managers and business owners have simply never seen before and don't know how to handle.
The added bonus of an interim (that people forget) is the up to date, market intelligence that your interim brings it is priceless. I ran a sales team for a Fortune 500 during a merger, I managed the team 3 days a week, I was out in here market the other two days and bought an invaluable view that an internal person would not get. I also delivered $14m in sales against $12 target in a down market.
Don't dismiss interims and CxOs for hire you are missing a big opportunity.
Too often we submit proposals that unintentionally offer the prospect, client or customer a simple choice go ahead or don't. Whenever you are uncovering your prospect's needs and presenting your solution always look for two options they could go for don't invent something and make sure you have raised the options in the discussions. For example you could offer pricing options, product configuration options, delivery and installation options. Then when you present the proposal you are asking "do you want to go ahead with Option A or would you prefer Option B?". The prospect is then deciding which option to take rather than deciding on the choice we usually give which is "do you want it or not".