Traits of Top Salespeople

"Top salespeople are assertive: they are not afraid to ask for the sale or address concerns."

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Using LinkedIn To Drive Relationships

Using LinkedIn To Drive Relationships

Much has been written about how to find prospects on LinkedIn. There are good LinkedIn prospecting strategies and bad strategies out there in the wide open Internet, but in this article, I want to discuss how to cultivate great relationships with someone that you have identified as being a prospect for your product.

You should probably focus on the top five to ten companies you want to increase your relationship with. If you haven’t already built your A, B, and C account list, I suggest you start there. If you don’t know how to build that list, I suggest you read my book Eliminate Your Competition.

If you do not know someone at one of your top 10 accounts, that is not a reason to skip them. You must build that relationship.

You will create these relationships by leveraging:

  • Your best clients.
  • Your former employers and former co-workers.
  • People that your prospect respects.

The best way to make a connection to your unknown prospects is via the social platform LinkedIn. The site is arguably the most important social platform for business and especially for salespeople. According to HubSpot, 65% of B2B companies report that they have acquired a customer through LinkedIn.

According to Jim Keenan, the social sales specialist in the “The Impact of Social Media on Sales Quota and Corporate Revenue” report, 78.6% of salespeople using social media to sell outperformed those who weren’t using social media. Also, social media users were 23% more successful at exceeding their quota by at least 10% than their non-social media peers. In a recent study, non-social media users were 90% or less of their quota 15% more often than social media users.

LinkedIn is often identified as the place to go to look for your next job. Certainly, it is used extensively by recruitment consultants the world over to find and approach candidates. But to look at it this way is to do the network a significant disservice.

LinkedIn is a great way for you to build your personal brand. As I have explained elsewhere, customers buy from you based on three criteria – your product, your company, and you. LinkedIn is an excellent way to build that third component of your value portfolio.

It would help if you were using LinkedIn as a source of new leads and tangible revenue. In fact, for business to business (B2B), LinkedIn is a critical tool that can make your prospecting faster, smoother, and, ultimately, more profitable.

Contacts are the power of LinkedIn. If your contacts are predominantly family, friends, and old school pals, you’ve got some work to do. Your first-level contacts open up a route to a full range of second and third-level connections. This is how you scale your network. Strike while the iron’s hot – whenever you meet anyone (online or off), always follow up quickly with a connection request while you are still fresh in his or her mind.

It would be best if you used LinkedIn to map out the decision-makers within your target prospects. In a complex sale, there are numerous people involved in making and influencing a purchase.

When you meet an individual, you can learn a great deal about that person. Many people are quite open on their LinkedIn profiles. You can frequently discover which team they’re on, which office they work out of, and what projects they’re focusing on. With a little detective work, you can quickly build up a picture of who you should be talking to, what they’re like, and what they’ve done before. Make sure you read the recommendations that they have written and written about them, as this gives you an idea of who influences them.

With LinkedIn, you can almost always learn enough about someone to make your call more relevant and useful to them. And it’s not simply a case of digital stalking.

You should pay particular attention to changes in profile, status updates, connections in common, and anything they’ve posted to a group (which can be reason enough to call them in the first place).

One of the easiest ways to become known to a prospect is to like or comment on anything that the prospect has posted. This won’t propel the prospect to reach out to you, but at least you will not be a stranger. After a couple of appropriate comments, the prospect will likely be much more interested in having a conversation with you.

Commenting on your prospect’s activity is also important within the forums or groups. You should join the groups that your top prospects frequent. When you are viewing your prospect within the group, you can follow their activity. Following a prospect allows you to have their updates and conversations in your LinkedIn feed.

If you are not connected to the prospect, then use InMail to make that first introduction. InMail is LinkedIn’s internal email system and allows you to send an email to any LinkedIn user. It ensures your email gets through to their inbox. LinkedIn claims that an InMail is 30 times more likely to get a response than a cold call. You can also ask to link to them. However, you should be very careful that you don’t abuse this privilege. Too many LinkedIn connection requests that are denied will make the manager of LinkedIn suspicious that you are using their platform as a spam tool.

LinkedIn has a fabulous search function. With their advanced search, you can find people by title, company, location, or keyword. By intelligently mixing the different filters, you can get deep and identify key individuals quickly and easily.

You can also save your search criteria and get a weekly report listing anyone new who matches the criteria. For example, you could save a search for Database Administrators in the retail industry within 50 miles of Atlanta. Then, each week, you will get an email with anyone new who matches the search criteria.

Information is king. This statement is particularly the case when it is account news. With information, you can make appropriate decisions. As any salesperson will know, change creates opportunity. People join, people leave, companies make important announcements – any change can present a good reason to get in touch and offer to help. More than that, information on your prospect allows you to:

  • Respond to the events affecting your customers and prospects.
  • Have background talking material during your sales calls.
  • Find opportunities.
  • Establish financial justification for your opportunities.

There is a lot of information to gather about your accounts. You need a quick and convenient way to review the highlights of your account news so that it doesn’t overwhelm you. LinkedIn makes discovering these changes easy. You can follow any company that has a LinkedIn page. That way, you’ll see anything that changes directly in your updates. It’s an easy way to stay up to date and spot new opportunities.

Header Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay
Top Sales People Want To Work On The Best Teams

Top Sales People Want To Work On The Best Teams

I recently met with one of my clients to discuss the company’s sales team. They had ten salespeople on their team.

Five of the salespeople had brought in about 40-45% of the company’s revenue, and two others also brought in about 40-45% of his revenue. A bigger problem, though, was the remaining three that only brought in 10-15%. Those three were dragging down the team.

The biggest problem that the President was starting to realize was that the top two performers were becoming disgruntled and would probably leave the company. As I did my initial interviews with these two, they confided in me they had become frustrated that every time the company needed more revenue, the challenge was given to them to bring it in the door.

To keep their spirits up, I told them that these challenges were an honor. Like in basketball, you have your best players on the floor when the score is tied, with a minute left in the 4th quarter. One of them replied, “But if the 7th man would have made his four free throws, two layups, and grabbed those two defensive rebounds in the 3rd quarter, the score wouldn’t be tied at the end.”

Great people want to be surrounded by great people. Top athletes want to play on the same team as other top athletes. Top salespeople want to work in the same company as other top salespeople.

Every salesperson knows that s/he is only part of the manager’s number. The manager’s number is probably 90% of the sum of the team. If there are ten people on the team and three of them are not doing their job, then the manager’s pressure doesn’t go to the struggling three; it goes to the top salespeople. They are challenged to bring in more deals in the quarter. They need to be creative and sell more product upgrades or pull in a sale from next quarter by offering a great deal. They don’t want to do this, but the manager needs the revenue. This deal-making puts the top salespeople an opportunity or two down for the next quarter. Now they have to push even harder to get to even.

Just like in football, the team doesn’t win if everyone isn’t doing their job. Linemen need to block, running backs need to run fast and not fumble, and wide receivers need to catch the ball in bounds. Every individual position contributes to the success of the team.

Good salespeople on an underperforming team feel like Sisyphus trying to get the stone to the top of the hill. Nothing they do is good enough. They are frequently asked to do more while seeing their less-skilled peers praised or even rewarded for just getting by.

The solution is obvious, but it may not be easy if you are not an experienced sales manager. You need to “trade up” on sales reps that cannot perform. Yes, you need to train underperforming contributors, but at a certain point, you cannot wait anymore. Underperforming salespeople will frequently perform better in their next job, so do not despair too much. Those at the bottom of the leaderboard are seldom happy and content. If they are content, then you have an even bigger problem.

The next step in trading up is even more critical. You need to find talent that will perform. This isn’t easy, but it also isn’t rocket science. Don’t advertise in all of the usual places. You will be inundated with applicants, and finding that needle in the haystack is virtually impossible. Rely on a competent recruiter to find you qualified candidates and only qualified candidates. This will cost you a bit of money, but it will be a fraction of the cost of a bad hire, and it will be faster and use less of your resources.

Once that recruitment agency has found you 2-4 high-quality candidates, you should put the candidate through a test. There are many of them out there, but I suggest PXT Select Specialized Behavioral Assessment for Sales. PXT Select is a unique selection assessment that fills the gap between the resume and the interview. Powered by the latest assessment technology, PXT Select drives a suite of reports that that are useful throughout the employee lifecycle. Its suite of sales-specific reports focuses on an individual’s approach to critical sales practices, helping you gain insight and confidence in hiring the right salespeople.

The most significant risk in having a sales organization with too many non-performing salespeople is that your top performers will get frustrated and leave. Top people want to be around other top people. If you do not have a strategy to improve continually, you may find yourself in real trouble as your best salespeople become free agents and join a championship team.

Take my free online Sales Agility Assessment or contact me via my contact page to learn how I can help your business build a top-performing sales team and process.

I originally published this article with a different title on the blog for one of my business partners, Breakaway Sales Recruiting.

Don’t let pricing be the jab that knocks you down

Don’t let pricing be the jab that knocks you down

This post originally appeared on the blog series “Skinned knees—what an MBA didn’t teach you for rebel sales in a software startup” on the Agile Stack website.

The next in our series “Skinned knees—what an MBA didn’t teach you for rebel sales in a software startup”, where we discuss the challenge of finding the right price.

One of the challenges of a new company with a new product is pricing the product. Every software startup struggles with this. It is almost impossible to make the correct decision for all time.

Be Introspective

Warren Buffet says, “The single most important decision in evaluating a business is pricing power. If you’ve got the power to raise prices without losing business to a competitor, you’ve got a very good business. And if you have to have a prayer session before raising the price by 10 percent, then you’ve got a terrible business.”

In all my years at this, pricing is never an operation to be taken lightly. Defining pricing means asking yourself and your founders’ questions about your product’s value. In some cases, you may be asking questions about your company’s value. In all cases, let the conversation flow because you need it to happen before stepping in that metaphorical boxing ring. Pull your team together and ask:

  • Should the product be free (like many of the Google products or Facebook) and the goal of the company is to use that free product is to gain a relationship with its users to sell other products? 
  • Should the product be so expensive that the company only needs to sell a couple every year to make its sales goals?
  • Should the product be one upfront payment with maintenance payments that enable enhancements to the product?
  • Should the product be an annual (or monthly) subscription fee?
  • What is the price point that we should choose for the product? If it is a new product, it is likely that it doesn’t have all of the features and therefore benefits that it will have after many more releases.
  • Should we price the product at its ultimate value when all of the features are built? This means we will sell through the natural objection that the price is higher than its current value, but it will become more valuable over time.
  • Or, should we price the product at a lower value and then increase the price over time as the new features start to add more value? This, of course, forces difficult conversations for price increases.

There are no easy answers to all of these questions. But then again, is there a best way to take a right hook? Certainly, there are ways to deflect and lessen the blow. At the end of the day, you still got hit. After a prospect conversation on pricing, if you are still standing, think deeply about what you heard because that is golden feedback before the next bell rings.

” Prospects tell the truth with their wallet. “

You Will Take A Right Hook, for now

My best advice is flexibility. Market forces are constantly changing. Assume that your price and revenue model are as good as possible with the information you have at this time. As a young company, you probably haven’t taken a right hook jarring you to your core. That’s OK, and maybe you’ve been lucky – for now.

No answer on pricing or packaging needs to be permanent. No decision can be forever in a new software company. Many famous soldiers, including Dwight Eisenhower, have said essentially the same thing. Ike said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” More recently, Michael Tyson modernized this by saying that all plans fail once you get hit in the mouth.

Go out and get hit in the mouth a few times by prospects, then make a new plan. Such is the reality of your pricing. Your pricing schemes and revenue models do not mean anything until you sit in front of a prospect. Did the prospect say, “Yes” immediately? Then you may have left money on the table based on your current value and your future value. Did the prospect say, “Yes” until they heard the price? That could mean a reasonable benefit/cost relationship someday, but maybe you need a few more features to justify that price.

Focus On The Footwork

A fundamental in boxing is being light your feet with great footwork for agility. Standing like a log, I can guarantee you will be hit with hooks if not a rapid flurry of jabs. And over time, your competition will wear you down with better pricing models. Get on your toes, take a few hits but miss the knockout punch.

If you don’t have bruises on your face, convince your leadership team to increase your price. If you are bruised and battered like you went ten rounds with Mike Tyson and have no sales, it may be time to lower your price, or really lean on your product team to add more value to the product. We all know that “No!” actually means “Not yet!” The challenge is how many rejections do you receive and how hard is it to get to “Yes!”

Your subsequent moves are essential. Did you raise the price for the next prospect after too many quick deals? Did you discount the list price to address a prospect’s hesitancy? Did you permanently cut the price by lowering your list price in the hopes that future features will allow you to increase the price? You have to document and learn from every interaction; otherwise, you will never respect the jabs and hooks from prospects that tell the truth with their wallet.

Or, if you are struggling with sales maybe it isn’t the fault of the product or the pricing, it may be time to rethink your sales team or their training, but that is a subject for a future posting in this series. Subscribe to this series, and we will cover that subject soon.

Header Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay