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The word “habit” often conjures up thoughts of bad ones. Here are seven good habits that I’ve found to be effective.
Habits. We all have ‘em, both good and bad.
I wrote about turning New Year’s Resolutions into habits last January, and I’ve been thinking about them more since then. As salespeople, our lives tend to be somewhat fragmented as we rush back and forth to meet with prospects and customers, while trying to keep up with the organizational and planning elements of our work. So it’s especially important for us to develop the habits that not only help keep us on track, but which can ultimately lead to a better sales performance overall.
I’ve also realized that the positive habits that I work on at home also translate well to my professional activities. Start them at home or start them at work, but the same good habits can improve our lives and our successes in both settings.
Here are some habits that I’ve worked on incorporating. They have as much to do with your attitude as they do any particular sales “techniques.”
Practice Makes Perfect
Act as if. You’ve probably encountered this concept. It simply means going through the motions even if an activity or thought process feels foreign to you. Do it enough times, and it becomes a confidence-builder – and a good habit.
A Customer Relationship Management system may solve problems that you didn’t even know you had.
“Workaround” is a word often used by companies and individuals that develop and support software and websites. When they use it, they generally mean that the features you’re looking for aren’t available, but there are alternate routes to accomplishing – at least in part – what you’re trying to do.
Do you find yourself applying the same concept to your sales-related customer relationship management tasks? You’ve cobbled together an elaborate system of email folders and extensions and add-ons, used Outlook’s tools to the max, and you maintain your contact database in an Excel spreadsheet.
Most of your competition, on the other hand, is using at least a basic Customer Relationship Management solution. Why? Because they saw the same signs that you have and found a more elegant, centralized, collaborative way to deal with it.
Here are some of those signs that you may recognize in your own professional life:
There are numerous other signs, but you get the idea. CRM software and websites help you conquer the three Cs: communication, collaboration, and clarity. They save time and help you avoid duplicate data entry. They can travel with you wherever you go, and you can graduate to more sophisticated functionality when you need it. They’re designed for the sales profession.
So there’s a good reason for that nagging feeling you have that says There has to be a better way. There is. CRM solutions are as necessary for salespeople as a phone, a firm handshake and a friendly smile.
CRM solutions can be tremendous sales tools, but the old rules about customer relationships still apply – and still contribute to successful sales.
Although I survived – and often thrived – as a salesperson before I started using CRM software, I can’t imagine going back to a bulging Rolodex and file folders and paper scheduler. I still spend my days chasing leads and talking to people and continuing to school myself about the myriad ways that people can benefit from using my company’s products and services.
My CRM solution does a lot of the heavy lifting now. I’m not as mired in tedious administrative details, and my workflow is much more economical. I’m more productive both in the office and on the road, thanks to mobile technology. And I’m able to make more – and better targeted – connections through email and social media.
Choose your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution carefully.
What’s the most popular Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application in use today? If you said “email,” you’d be right. Many businesspeople live in Outlook or Gmail or whatever their preferred email client is. By taking advantage of their integrated apps, extensions, portability and customizability, you can cobble together a reasonably effective CRM solution for your team.
The operative word there is “cobble.” It makes more sense to me to implement an application that was built from the ground up to accommodate very specific customer service and sales needs.
Has social media redefined the concepts of sales and marketing? Not in the all-encompassing way that some will tell you, I don’t believe.
You can spend an enormous amount of money these days flying off to conferences, reading books and hiring consultants all focused on how social networks have fundamentally changed the role of salespeople and marketing professionals.
I only know of four ways that things have really changed for me:
That’s just me, and I’d love to hear if your experience has been different.
But on to B.J. Mendelson’s Social Media is Bull***, a book you can pick up for the Kindle and in hardback at Amazon for a few bucks. It’s a good read, and like I said earlier, I agreed with much of it, though I believe that there’s more gray area – more exceptions and possibilities — than he does.
Here are Mendelson’s main points:
You’ve probably been in the sales profession for years, and you know what’s worked and what hasn’t. I continue to explore how social media might help me build relationships and make sales, but I listen to my gut and only do what I think makes sense for my unique situation, products, target market, resources, etc. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to social media, and you should be wary of anyone who preaches otherwise.
Last week, I introduced some cautionary thinking about the use of social media in sales. Here are some specifics.
“Too many brands today see the ‘bright and shiny’ object called social media and jump right in whenever a new network launches.”
That’s a quote from Michael Brito, one of the contributors quoted in Hazardous to Your Social Media Health: 50 Previously Condoned Behaviors We No Longer Recommend, a free e-book compiled by David Sparks of Sparks Media Solutions, available here.
I have to reiterate what I said in last week’s post before I go on. I am not trashing the concept of using social media as a sales tool. But now that we have a few years under our collective belts using these sites, it’s a good time to step back and evaluate our approach. And listen to some of the voices that aren’t just trying to sell a book or a subscription or attendance at a conference.
That said, here’s more of the advice tendered in the e-book:
Stop “getting your feet wet.” “Stop doing social for the sake of doing social. If you’re pinning to Pinterest just because you’re supposed to, but aren’t getting any traction, stop it right now.”
Stop focusing on your non-existent “community.” “The only thing that matters, and arguably ever mattered, was generating good material and then using the media to get it in front of the right people. At that point, it’ll either fly or die on its own merits.”
Stop endorsing people on LinkedIn. It’s become meaningless.
Stop talking about social media. “What you’re looking to uncover is the story social media is trying to tell. For example, can conversations on Twitter predict future sales?”
Stop following everyone who follows you. Another meaningless gesture when done automatically.
Stop spreading yourself too thin. “Stop thinking your message needs to be everywhere — you can’t engage everywhere so invest in spaces where your clients/customers are, instead of spraying and praying.”
Stop collecting friends. “This giant land grab of users was actually valuable when we weren’t so overwhelmed by social messaging. Now the influx is so overwhelming that we’re reliant on filters to manage the noise.”
Stop engaging in “conversation.” “We need to be focusing on things that are more about action than conversation. Social technology has evolved in a way that enables people to do more, not just talk more.”
Stop responding to everyone. This used to be good advice. But in 2014? “That would be true if everyone deserved a response.”
Stop relying on other social media channels to build your brand. If they pull the plug on a feature, like LinkedIn Answers, there goes part of your online reputation. “Brands should now focus their efforts and resources on driving traffic to owned digital platforms, like self-hosted communities and opt-in email lists. The strategy must be to draw engaged customers and prospects from those third-party outposts back to owned digital assets.”
This post is getting long, and I don’t want to cut short the excerpts from Social Media is Bull**** that I wanted to include. Looks like this will be a three-part post.
Let me say, though, that reading this e-book filled with advice from professionals who have been in social media from the beginning – and practice what they preach — gave me permission to follow that nagging little voice in my head that questioned whether all of the gee-whiz advice online was a little overblown.
It’s time to work smarter on our social selling skills. We’ll call it Social Selling 2.0.
Still skeptical about the effectiveness of social media in sales? You’re not alone. Here’s a look at some contrarian thinking on the issue.
I’ve talked a lot about “social selling” in this blog. And I do believe that social media can play a role in your overall sales and marketing strategy.
But I hope I haven’t – and I don’t think I have – encouraged you to plunge an excessive amount of time and other resources into it. I think it’s a useful tool. Online communications, done well, can clearly help you generate leads, nurture relationships with customers,publish useful information about products and services, and process sales transactions.
But my title is not VP Social Selling. I’ve been a sales manager for over two decades, and in that time, I’ve used a wide variety of tools. Social media is the latest one, and it’s become a highly-visible part of our society.
Not a Panacea
But it’s not the answer to all of our professional challenges. To see it as even a significant part of your sales strategy means that you’re not using your other skills and resources diligently enough. You still need to work your CRM software religiously. Get out and meet prospects and customers in person. Use email in a smart, focused fashion. Make phone calls, send handwritten notes, search for leads using any of numerous methods – you know the drill.
I started thinking about all of this for two reasons. First, I always get a little uneasy when I hear intelligent people promoting the view that a massive network of computer servers connected to desktop PCs and mobile devices has changed anything about the nature of human relationships and the core philosophies that we embrace as salespeople.
Over 15 million copies of How to Win Friends and Influence People have been sold since it was published in 1937. Go to a sales seminar or read a sales how-to book in 2014 and you’ll often see echoes of Dale Carnegie presented as some kind of revolutionary new theory.
The Other Side
Second, two books I read recently both affirmed some things I’ve always thought and made me re-think other elements of my own social selling strategy. I wanted to share some of the thinking from both of them with you to balance the posts I’ve written promoting the use of social media in your sales and marketing efforts.
I still think that you should use social media. We can’t ignore the potential of blogs and Twitter and LinkedIn. But if you’ve hesitated to invest a lot of time and resources in social media, or if you feel like you’re doing too much with too little return, I want to introduce some of the other, just-as-credible voices that are providing commentary on the effectiveness of social media in business.
Here they are. One is an e-book called Hazardous to Your Social Media Health: 50 Previously Condoned Behaviors We No Longer Recommend that you can download free of charge here. It was written by David Sparks of Spark Media Solutions; it’s based on the wisdom of 56 industry “influencers” (more on that word in my next column).
The other is available for a few dollars on Amazon. Its title is Social Media is Bu****it, and its content isn’t as one-sided as it sounds. I agreed with some points and felt that others were not as black-and-white as the author contended.
I’ll highlight some of the thinking in these two books next week. And I’ll be very interested to hear what you think.
There’s a big difference. Here are 5 qualities shared by the best sales team leaders.
Salespeople are mavericks. To be effective, they know they can’t always color inside the lines, because there’s more than one way to make a sale. They have to be ready to change directions without any notice sometimes. They have to be creative. Intuitive. Driven. Flexible. High-energy with one prospect and laid-back with another.
Your title may be “Sales Manager” or “VP of Sales,” but what you really need to be in order to effectively do your job is a leader. Certainly, you have management responsibilities. But the most successful sales managers have in common many of the same leadership traits.
I’ve observed numerous individuals at the top of the sales food chain in my 20+ years of sales management. The best of them were:
When you lead capably, your salespeople are likely to improve their own attitudes, work ethic, sense of company loyalty, and, ultimately, their sales.
Yes, some say. Many disagree. If you don’t yet have one or you’re questioning the value of yours, here’s some encouragement.
Sure, you may be saying to yourself. But they have dedicated writers and other resources that I don’t.
You also don’t have global eyes on you, and high-level expectations. A blog is your little corner of the internet – the only one you have complete control of – that you can use to introduce yourself to customers and prospects, helping them solve problems and be a part of a community.
You can also market your products and services on a blog, occasionally and quietly, but your website is really the best venue for that.
I’m a strong proponent of business blogs for many reasons, including:
The best blogs share many common characteristics. They have intriguing titles and strong first paragraphs. They’re not overly long, and they don’t use a lot of ten-dollar words. They incorporate eye-catching visuals, both in their designs and as content (photos, videos, etc.). They provide information that helps people, information that educates or otherwise engages them. They might answer a nagging question, help the audience help their own customers, or make them laugh or get misty-eyed.
Probably the number one reason why some businesses haven’t started blogs is because they don’t think they have the time or talent to do it well and/or keep it going. They may also think that there’s no way to “monetize” it, to generate sales from it.
I know companies who used to have that mindset – until they sat down and put some effort into it, recognizing their own goals, strengths and limitations. And while they didn’t often see prospects coming on board or existing customers upping their orders as a direct result, they realized that a.) it was not always easy to know whether a blog post triggered a sale, and b.) they looked at their blog as added value to their customers.
If you’re not blogging – or not blogging well – because you’re struggling with creating compelling content, consider these suggestions:
And finally, isolate yourself. Don’t check email or Twitter or give into any of the internet’s other temptations. It takes time to get back into blog-writing mode every time you’re interrupted – as long as 25 minutes, according to one expert.
Months down the road, you can start to evaluate your progress. Blogs take time to build an audience. And they can build an audience for you, once you find a formula that matches your company’s own values and goals and personality.
You know how to finish that sentence. Are you marketing to existing customers enough?
If you’re old enough to remember when “shopping” meant going to a mall or your city’s downtown, you’re probably astounded by the voluminous buying options the internet has spawned. You may be able to still buy from your old favorite retailers online, but do you?
Maybe you do, but you may also have replaced your old brick-and-mortar stores with the web’s new merchants. Because of email and online advertising and social media, you probably frequent some of the same sites consistently because of their prices, their product lines and their customer service.
Are you doing the same with your own customers? Look at your own experience as a shopper to see that familiarity often breeds loyalty. There’s a good reason why merchants are so eager to market to their existing list, like you should be doing: It’s much cheaper to bring an existing customer to the buying stage than to attract a new one.
Certainly, you need to do both. But look at your sales and marketing strategies to see if you’re incorporating practices like:
Treat your existing customers like you treat your friends. You know that you’re likely to get acquainted with new people throughout your life, just as you’ll attract new customers, but always be trying to expand your relationships.