Editor’s Note: Donald is a sales trainer and host of the popular sales podcast, “The Sales Evangelist.” We recently had a chance to speak with Donald to hear his advice on reaching out to prospects, getting referrals, and partnering with your company’s marketing department to increase sales.
Tell us a little about yourself. Why are you so passionate about sales?
Ever since I could remember, I have been surrounded by entrepreneurs and really good salespeople. As I grew up, I naturally gravitated towards sales as a career. When I finally became successful at it and saw how people’s lives changed for good as a result of something I sold them, I was eager to continue helping others.
Another thing that was an amazing eye opener was coming to understand the critical role sales plays in a company. Without sales, revenue dries up, cash flow becomes extinct, and companies wither away. Coming to understand the importance of my role in the overall grand view of a company also influenced my passion to take part in sales.
If someone were to say to you, “Becoming a truly successful salesperson is something that can’t be taught. It’s just something that you’re born with,” how would you respond?
I would say FALSE!!!! Though there are some natural skills one may inherit from birth, the majority of great sellers are taught. Even though everyone told me early on that I have a great “outgoing personality” for sales, I wasn’t successful.
I had my fair share of challenges. I was a young salesperson with a great personality but no money. It was frustrating. I started to believe that only a select few were good at sales: those who were born “sellers.”
It wasn’t until I received the proper training that I saw a transformation in the way I sold. This was the same for some of the other non-sellers in the program with me. After the training period, I came to realize that sales was actually simple and that anyone could do it. The only requisite is that one must have desire.
Without the desire to become an effective seller, no level of training will help someone sell. However, if they are teachable, the sky’s the limit for the level of sales expertise they can attain – as well as the income they’re capable of earning.
What are some of the most common challenges you’re hearing from new salespeople? Are they the same challenges as those facing people who have been in sales for a long time?
Some of the challenges I hear from new salespeople are fear of rejection, not knowing how to prospect, not having an effective sales process in their company, and not knowing how to properly plan out their day.
Senior sellers, or those with more experience, typically are having trouble with prospecting as well. That’s because it takes so much time and they too, are not great at it. Many senior sellers favor the opportunity to close deals. Besides prospecting, they also have challenges staying motivated, establishing value with all of the key decision makers, and being able to follow up effectively.
Do you have any suggestions for increasing the number of referrals that a salesperson can get from his or her current customers?
Besides offering good customer service, the best way a seller can double the amount of referrals they receive is to ask for them. More importantly, ask for them properly. There was a study that said nine out of ten customers are willing to give referrals, but only 11% of salespeople typically ask for them.
The other issue is the simple fact that most salespeople don’t know how to ask for referrals. The best thing is to do research using LinkedIn or other sources. You can see who your customers know and who may be a fit for you and your business. You then need to specifically ask for an introduction to that person by your customer.
The best sellers take the work out of the process for their customers by even creating simple intro email templates their customers can copy and use to offer the introduction. Your customers now have a stress-free introduction/referral process. If a sales pro does this, it will eliminate the amount of work their customers have to do – and they will get referrals over and over again.
OK. You’ve got a big list or spreadsheet in front of you with names and contact info of possible sales prospects. What approach do you take to identify the ones that are the “hottest” prospects?
The first thing I would do is pull up my company’s CRM and look at our best-paying clients. I would then try to find sales prospects on this spreadsheet that best fits their description. Once I have those selected, I would look at the lead source and reach out to those who are web leads. Those may be the hottest because of their inquiry. That’s how I would start.
Do you have any tips for salespeople who are reaching out to a prospect for the first time?
The best way I have seen when reaching out to someone new is to know something about the prospect, their company, or the industry they are in. When you can provide information and bring down the barrier, you have a better chance of setting an appointment. That’s the most desired outcome of first call contacts: to pique interest and schedule an appointment.
Are there any guidelines that salespeople should follow when nurturing a lead to avoid being perceived as “too pushy?”
The best thing to do is to apply principles of Account-Based Selling. This is where sales and marketing come together and coordinate their efforts. This way, sales gets intel and assistance so the salesperson is not just calling and sending cold emails.
Marketing may be able to send prospects something via snail mail, or they can email an article that compels the prospect to take action. When an action is taken, such as signing up for a webinar or downloading something else, marketing notifies the sales rep who can then make a call. With an approach like this, one person is not making all of the contacts. It’s coming from multiple sources.
The salesperson can also connect with the prospect on social media to follow up with them. Typically if you’re nurturing a lead, the more avenues you use to “follow up,” the more successful you will be. For example, instead of five phone calls and five voicemails, maybe you make two calls (one voicemail and one with no message) and marketing can send two emails that week educating the prospect and encouraging to them to take action. Finally, you may be able to connect with them on social media and share some of their posts/comments.
What sales techniques or concepts do you think will fade away almost completely in the future – and which ones will become more popular?
I feel in the future we will see more of an increase in “personalized” and “just in time” sales. This means that companies will utilize artificial intelligence and powerful algorithms to know what a prospect is thinking based on their actions, thus allowing marketing and sales to execute prescribed actions based on their behaviors.
We have some of this today, but not as much. Too often, we are guessing as opposed to paying attention to behaviors and science. I believe there is a bright future ahead for sales professionals and buyers. It will minimize sales processes and increase effectiveness.