Traits of Top Salespeople

"Top salespeople are educated: they continually learn to improve their skills and knowledge."

Tag: CRM

Send A Newsletter To Your Clients And Prospects

Send A Newsletter To Your Clients And Prospects

A newsletter is the best tool for maintaining a relationship with existing customers and qualified prospects that are uninterested at this time. I suggest that you send out your newsletter at least every quarter, but it would be more effective if you send it every month to your mailing list. I also suggest that you post your newsletter to LinkedIn using their blogging capability.

Of course, sending out a newsletter assumes that you are using a CRM to manage your relationships. If you aren’t using a CRM, you need to start immediately. I have written about CRM strategies in the past if you want a little more background.

Your customers should all receive your newsletter. Your customers need to be constantly cultivated for new business. Also, your customers may change jobs, and you want them to call you immediately. They will only do this if you have been consistently adding value to their working lives. Remember, the only way that you add value to a prospect is by making that prospect smarter. You can help an existing customer a few more ways by offering good customer service, but the most proactive method is to make them smarter.

It is not practical for me to put a template of a newsletter into this blog and have it be useful for every reader but below are some suggested sections:

  • Title/Subject: Make sure your title clearly states that this is a newsletter. Your title will be in your subject line of your email, and it will be at the top of your blog post on LinkedIn. You want your email recipients to know that this is an email to many people.
  • First section: A personal note of about 100-200 words on your industry or the local situation. Don’t be afraid to congratulate the local college for a great sports season. It should be personal and, if your prospects are local, it should be relevant to your geography.
  • Second section: News from your company. This literally could be a copy of a relevant or important press release. If someone in your product marketing group puts out a blog, that can be great content. Just make sure you include a URL link to the original content.
  • Third section: Links with a short description to download some new company content. Perhaps a new whitepaper was published, or a new video on YouTube.
  • Fourth section: This section contains selected paragraphs from a published article. This article should not mention your company but rather be about your industry. You don’t want this article to be a sales pitch, but rather it is included only to make your prospect smarter.
  • Fifth section: Links to upcoming events that you or your company is participating in. If you don’t have any events coming up in the next year, list a few links for events from your partners or maybe industry associations.
  • Sixth section: It may be relevant to have a bit of humor at the bottom of your newsletter. There are several open-source cartoons that you can embed. Of course, you need to be extremely careful that the humor is non-offensive to any demographic group and should be non-political. If you can’t do this well, skip the humor.
  • Seventh section: Give directions on how to unsubscribe and your contact information (including your physical address). This will help to keep you from being black listed by the various agencies that watch for spamming activities. If you use your CRM to create your newsletter or a campaign management tool (see below) then that template or tool should force you to put this into your newsletter.

Somewhere in the newsletter, either in the footer or in your opening section, make sure you invite people to connect to you on LinkedIn.

Building a newsletter is not difficult, but it may be a struggle for you depending on your skills or time constraints. There are a couple of tools that you can use:

  • Use your CRM: In many cases, your CRM will have tools built into the tool that will help you build and manage a newsletter. If it does, it will typically have a series of modifiable templates. This will make your delivery easier. Using that template, customize it to meet your company’s color scheme and then fill in the content on a monthly and quarterly basis.
  • Use a campaign management tool: Tools such as ActiveCampaign, Constant Contact, and Mailchimp are very easy to use if you are familiar with Microsoft Word. They each offer many templates that are easy to customize and save. They also easily accept a CSV import from your CRM or maybe Zapier has a direct integration between your CRM and the campaign management tool. If you want more options than the three that I listed here, simply search the web for “best newsletter tools” and you will see dozens of articles reviewing the industry. Don’t spend too much time reviewing all of the options though as no one is going to buy from you because you use one tool over another. They are all probably very good and you simply need to get used to the one that you choose.
  • Your email: Newsletters do not need to be highly formatted templates. In reality, you can simply create an email using your email client and then send it out your top prospects and customers. Just be very careful that you are not sending spam so don’t send more frequently than monthly. Also, if you use a simple email you should include a way for the receiver to unsubscribe from your list (and you should respect that request). It is better if you have a form that they can fill out but as a minimum you need to include similar to: “If you do not wish to receive this regular newsletter from me, please reply with UNSUBSCRIBE.”
  • Hire a service: There are many services available that will handle all of this work for you. Simply Google “marketing services” and then add your zip code and Google will give you several choices that are very close to you. If you don’t know someone in your immediate network that does marketing services, fill out my contact form and I will give you a couple of options of people that can help you that will do a great job. I personally do not offer this service but I have friends that do.

Start your newsletter today. Keep a schedule. The goal is to keep your name in front of as many people as possible and to start to establish yourself as a Trusted Adviser.

If you want to read more about creating a newsletter, there are probably thousands of articles giving you suggestions. Here are a few that are quite good:

  1. 7 Tips for Creating More Engaging Newsletters
  2. How to Create an Email Newsletter People Actually Read
  3. How to Write a Newsletter
Make your sales force automation project increase productivity

Make your sales force automation project increase productivity

Yesterday, I explained that your sales force automation project was probably not increasing the productivity of your sales force. Today, let’s discuss ways to improve your project so that your SFA system is not an albatross around the neck of your salespeople.

Obviously, we are not going to go back to the age of administrative assistants for each group of salespeople. Also, there are some things that SFA systems excel at such as capturing contacts at accounts, running analytics on opportunity information, documenting opportunities, assisting in communication in group-selling scenarios and much more.

I challenge you to question every added field in your account, contact, and opportunity screens. If the empty field is there, then it is demanding an answer which takes time to fill out and it is affecting the productivity of your salespeople. Is the time to find the answer to a question important enough to skip a sales call? That is the question that you must answer: is the answer so crucial that a salesperson with a “billable rate” of $1,000 per hour is inputting the answer? Worse yet, is the answer so important that it would be okay for a salesperson to skip a sales call to find the information? If “no” is the answer to either question, then delete the field.

We can all probably agree that one of the benefits of salesforce automation is the production of reports and analytics about your customers and their opportunities. I suggest that you run a report looking for empty fields. If there are blank fields across your 40% of your data set, your salespeople are telling you that the information is affecting their productivity and is a waste of time in their opinion. They have said that they don’t think it is valuable for them to find that answer and are making sales calls rather than find the information.

Assume that you have 100 salespeople each with a $2 million quota. Assume each salesperson is tracking 50 opportunities in a year. If that empty field that needs more research takes 5 minutes per opportunity, then it costs that salesperson 250 minutes for that information. That is over 4 hours of time which means it is “costing” the company $4,000 to find that information over the course of the year – for each salesperson. If you extend that math across your entire sales force, that field costs you $4,000,000 in lost productivity. Is that information worth $4M to you?

Obviously, your company will not be $4M more profitable for each mandatory field that you cut in your sales force automation system. Many factors affect a salesperson’s productivity, and one of the keys to success in sales is to overcome time drags. Usually, we do this by:

  • Driving a bit faster between appointments.
  • Getting to work a bit earlier.
  • Working late into the evening.
  • Sometimes, we overcome these time-drags by skipping an event with the kids though.
  • Maybe we don’t help out with homework as much.

You probably get the picture; when you start to ask your employees for information that isn’t critical, you begin to create an environment where they may not be as happy to be your employee.

How to move forward

The first thing to do is to make sure you are truly getting value out of every piece of data that every rep is typing into your sales force automation system. Once you think you are attaining value from that information, use it to help them drive more revenue. If you show your salespeople that the information is helping them not just helping you, the manager, then they will be more willing to be on the program.

If you have fields that are regularly blank, challenge the team that says they need the information to justify the cost of filling out the information. Perform the math that I showed above and ask them if they are getting $4M per year (or whatever your specific calculation) of value from that information. If they cannot justify the cost, cut the field.

The great thing about cutting fields is that a few cuts make a huge difference. If you currently have 100 fields to be filled out regarding an account or an opportunity and you cut it by 10%, you will find that the remaining fields are far more likely to get attention. You have helped your salespeople, and they will reward you by more eagerly participating in the process.

Salesforce automation should help to automate the sales force and increase productivity. It shouldn’t be a burden on the sales force. Your goal is to help them be more efficient not to teach them to type better. Make a point to not waste the time of your salespeople by using every piece of information that they provide and show that the usefulness of that information makes your company a better company.

Photo by tec_estromberg

Sales force automation should not punish salespeople

Sales force automation should not punish salespeople

Nearly every sales force of size has implemented a tool (or tools) that are designed to “automate” the sales force. Unfortunately, the implementation of these tools rarely automates anything. In fact, it regularly slows down the people that it is supposed to help.

Let’s do some simple math. Assume the average salesperson at your company has an annual quota of 2 million dollars ($2M) divided evenly to $500K per quarter. There are approximately 2,000 hours in a standard working year (yes, I understand that exceptional salespeople will regularly work more than 40 hours per week). This means that each hour of the year has a quota of $1,000. Each standard working day has a quota of $8,000.

Let’s put this a better way. The billable rate of each of your salespeople is $1,000 per hour! Think about this; this is far more than the billable rate for any consultant that you sell or more than any consultant that you have hired to help you run the company. Kimble recently did a study of consulting billing rates, and the average rates were all less than 1/4 of the rate you need from your salespeople!

It is obvious that your company would want to automate that very valuable resource.

When a salesperson thinks of automation though, he or she think of reducing the time on the more mundane time hogs to maximize the time in front of customers. When a manager thinks of automation, he or she thinks of how to extract even more information from their sales force. These two goals are inherently at conflict since managers want more and more information while salespeople want to do less drudgery work.

This lack of alignment in goals means that at least one group is going to be frustrated with the implementation of a sales force automation system. Unfortunately, if the salesperson is frustrated then it is likely that the “automation’ project will never be truly successful. Instead, there will be constant threats from management to keep the system up-to-date and failure to do so will result in fines, loss of some benefits, and maybe even firings.

Whenever I hear of a company that is “nagging” salespeople to update the system, I know that they have done a poor job in making sure that everyone is on board with the sales force automation project. They have implemented a system that is win/loss rather than a win/win.

When my father was a salesperson, he did very little internal book work. When he needed a TELEX sent, he scribbled it on a piece of paper and handed it to his team secretary. When he needed a letter sent to a customer, he scribbled the note, and it was typed up by the secretary or his secretary came in for dictation. In either case, he didn’t worry about formatting or letter structure as that was the job of his secretary. He would hand business cards to his secretary, and she would insert them in order in a notebook that he carried in his car. If the customer didn’t have a business card (rare for him in those days), she would create a note card of the same size with the information. His expense reports were easy: he handed receipts to his secretary along with a handwritten log of his mileage, and she did the rest. He had the ultimate in “automation” as he just delegated all work except for making sales calls.

When I was a young man and beginning my career in sales, we also did not have gadgets to make us more productive. I carried a tape recorder with me. I would dictate my call notes to the team of secretaries in my office. Those notes were returned to me as well as copied for my manager so that he knew what was going on. My correspondence was simple as well since I dictated those while driving down the road and handed the cassette to the secretarial pool. If a piece of literature was required, I noted it in the dictation, and a secretary pulled it out of the library. Expenses were a little more difficult than my father since I had to fill out a form and sign it. I still spent more time selling than I ever did doing bookwork.

Then came the advent of automation and personal computers. We now need to hunt and find our literature. If you don’t know how to type a well-crafted email or letter, you are at a significant disadvantage. The slower you type, the worse your productivity. We type call logs into the sales force automation system which cannot be safely done while driving to the next appointment, but rather require that you be camped out in the office or a Starbucks.

All of this means that productivity for salespeople has been severely reduced in this age of computer productivity. The gauge of most workers in the internet age is the speed that they can answer emails or create documents. For salespeople, productivity is measured by the number of sales calls we make and size of our revenue. If your sales force automation system is reducing the amount of time your sales force is spending in front of a customer than it is NOT an automation system!

Tomorrow, I will finish this thought by trying to explain techniques to help you make your sales force automation project actually automate your sales force. Check it out!

Photo by hiyori13