Thank you for your interest in this premium guide for sales professionals. In this guide, you will learn important concepts, strategies and tactics used by today’s successful sales professionals. We’ve put together this guide to help you become more productive and effective at selling your brand.
The information contained in this guide is typically provided in sales training seminars and literature about the sales profession. As you read through each section, we recommend that you take a few moments to write down thoughts and ideas about how you can apply these concepts and tactics to your selling career. Good luck and great selling!
The Optimal Customer Strategy
Effective selling is more than a one-time close. Sales agents must establish a long-term strategy for customer retention. Customers can provide a sustainable funnel of sales opportunities if the right approach is taken.
[Tweet “Effective selling is more than a one-time close.”]
Leverage each customer
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” If you know what that saying means then you understand the power of leveraging your customers. It is much easier to extract value from an existing customer than it is to get value from a new customer.
Once you have closed a deal with a customer, the challenge has just begun. You’ve got to put in the time to get the most out of that customer.
There are three fundamental ways to generate lifetime value from an existing customer: upsell/cross-sell, brand loyalty, and brand advocacy. All three can be accomplished through marketing, but salespeople can play a significant role in driving value.
Up-sell / Cross-sell
One purchase can lead to repeat buys, and customer loyalty is a primary goal for leading organizations. But add-on sales are just as critical. You already have convinced your customer to buy from your organization. Now you must get her to go deeper into your “catalog”. You want to sprout the first buy into complementary products, larger purchases, upgrades, etc.
In order to be effective at either up-selling or cross-selling, you’ve got to understand your customer. Is there price sensitivity? Does he see value for the additional cost? What features or benefits could lead him to buy more products or increase the purchase premium? Look for indicators of what might lead your customer to upgrade or add to his purchase.
Sales professionals in both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) environments usually understand how valuable a sustained customer relationship can be. When you consider a “bird in the hand’ can be twice as valuable as acquiring a new customer, it makes sense to focus on driving customer loyalty. However, what is not often addressed in sales training courses are the three tracks of loyalty – called “loyalty premiums” – that any successful salesperson must achieve:
- Brand loyalty – the first loyalty premium that must be earned is for the brand being sold. While marketers have a significant role in generating brand loyalty, sales agents play a part as well. The customer’s experience with a brand starts at the first touch point (ad, phone call, online article, review, etc.) and extends beyond the sale.
The salesperson’s role in that experience can enable loyalty in three ways:
- Using a customer-centric approach when communicating
- Reinforcing the benefits of the company and its brand
- Providing examples of how the brand compares with competitors
- Product loyalty – the next loyalty premium is for the products being sold. Providing support for the purchase, such as how-to hints or product maintenance savings for timely checkups, can encourage product loyalty. The key is to establish a reason for continued purchase of the same product or additional products.
- “Me” loyalty – there is a certain amount of one-to-one loyalty that is gained within long-term (especially B2B) relationships. Therefore, the third loyalty premium to be earned is the “me” loyalty, a sense of connection between the salesperson and the customer. The final premium is earned by establishing a supportive, consultative role which creates a semi-personal relationship between the salesperson and customer. It is critical to “cultivate” personal loyalty because, while people can often detach from “impersonal” brands or products, it can be challenging to say no to a person a customer feels a connection to.
Building loyalty requires you to know your customer well (see Use Data section). Listening closely to what a customer says (verbal cues), as well as physical cues, can provide triggers you can use to build loyalty.
What caused her to buy
- a specific product,
- at a specific time,
- at a specific price,
- from you,
- and your company,
- and NOT your competitor?
Each of these attributes contributes to a sales event. In order to continue a customer relationship and build loyalty, it is important to understand how each attribute led to your customer buying from you.
One way to gather business intelligence about a customer is to encourage him to engage with the company. Brands that are successful developing loyalty provide incentives for attending events, making purchases, entering contests, and so on.
Loyalty cards, the popular strategy used by coffee shops, restaurants, auto service stations and other B2C outlets, is one form of loyalty program. Hotels that offer a free night following a weekend stay is another. These types of loyalty programs target price as the primary driver for loyalty. Sales agents can target other buying triggers, such as social importance, buying convenience or early adopter status.
The highest level of value in a customer relationship is when she becomes an advocate for a brand or company. At this stage, the customer is not only loyal but willing to share her experience with others. Studies show that consumers are typically persuaded more by peers, friends and independent strangers than they are by company employees (including salespeople) when it comes to researching potential purchases. This is why brand advocates (or “evangelists”) are crucial to sales. Certainly, not all customers will become advocates, and some that do may not be the most productive. A customer who is an enthusiastic, social, loyal type will usually be best suited to become an advocate.
In order to create an advocate, a salesperson should support the purchase decision after the sale, provide additional materials relevant to a purchase such as a news article or a link to a how-to video. He must find ways to stimulate the advocate’s interest in sharing stories about her journey toward the purchase and how well the product/brand/company performs after the sale.
There are three myths about brand advocates that sales agents must ignore:
- A dissatisfied customer or critic will NOT become an advocate. The critic may be closer to becoming an advocate than most would think. A customer-centric approach to resolving an issue, including a clear understanding of the problem, can be effective at turning a bad experience into a good one.
- Advocates must be rewarded (with pay). Brand advocates share their experiences because they have been satisfied and want others to be satisfied as well. Research shows that less than 1% of self-proclaimed advocates say they share positive comments in exchange for incentives.
- An advocate must be an influencer to be effective. While so-called influencers (those who are seen as leaders within certain populations) can be beneficial to a brand, any satisfied customer can be an effective advocate within his social network. Because smaller social circles are often connected through social media channels, the potential to attract new customers through these inter-connected groups is as good as through a celebrity or business influencer.
3 Keys to Better Sales Results
Sales professionals have to focus on a few key areas to get better results. Using data, being proactive in lead generation and other practices, and streamlining routine activities can yield more sales.
Today, sales agents have an unprecedented amount of data they can use to understand their customers better. Online and in-store behavior is tracked, producing a customer profile that shows preferences, attitudes, purchase habits, social activity and more. Data has never been more important than it is right now.
[Tweet “Attempting to improve your sales without data is like shooting blind.”]
The table below highlights several attributes that can be detected through digital tracking tools:
|Browsing activity, including time on site, time of day, web pages viewed, referring websites||Response activity, including email opens, clicked links, ads clicked, registrations|
|Buying activity, including store location, product code, payment type||Social activity, including comments, likes, images and video uploads, shares|
|Research activity, including search trends, bookmarks, video views, review sites visited|
Although today’s fast-paced, highly digitized marketplace has customers in control and consumer sentiment changing on a dime, data provides insight into customer behavior as a group and at an individual level. Data reveals trends that can serve as selling points when engaging with a sales prospect. Therefore, to be effective at selling, it’s important to use the best tools to provide a 360-degree view of a customer.
There are digital programs, either hosted in the cloud or downloadable software, that can give sales professionals insight into consumer trends. These programs provide
- views of traffic patterns on a company website,
- a breakdown of browsing activity,
- social media trends,
- online behavior for specific Internet “identities”,
- engagement levels with digital properties,
- location-based activity,
- and more.
Readers should note that deploying web tracking tools only provides the raw data that exists. In order for salespeople to be able to leverage that data, it is critical that an organization has at least one experienced data analyst to explain what it all means.
Web analytics programs use codes to identify digital “footprints”, such as a person’s location where she accessed a mobile website or how long a person viewed a particular web page, when people visit a company website. Google Analytics is a popular example of a web analytics program.
Analytics tools have become a must-have for digital marketers, but web analytics can also help sales agents uncover meaningful information that can lead to higher close rates. For example, a salesperson who has knowledge that a prospect has viewed the company’s product pages can send an email with a link to a special offer for products that have been viewed or make a sales call to discuss benefits and features of products viewed.
Social network activity has increased from an average of 8% of total Internet users in 2005 to 73% in 2013. Prospects and customers are sharing online at a tremendous pace.
[Tweet “Between 2005-2013, social network activity has increased by 65%.”]
In 2013, research firm Gartner revealed that just under half of the respondents (42%) to its Social Marketing Survey indicated that they see social analytics as a top future investment priority for their social marketing campaigns. There is little question that social monitoring will become crucial to understanding customers’ attitudes, feelings, desires and motivations.
Some tools available today provide significant insight into key phrases, topics and subjects, and content types being shared across the social networks. This information can assist salespeople with uncovering buy signals and shaping an approach with a prospect.
Browsing activity/Search activity
Marketers are able to track consumer search and browsing activity through “cookies” (small text files that are stored on a computer) and other means. These tools enable companies to collect data on which web pages an individual has visited, which search engines have been used, the date and time of visits and other informative data.
Sales agents can identify personal traits, habits and browsing patterns, and, at a deeper level, personal characteristics. For instance, the data can reveal that a prospect likely owns a vintage automobile when there is significant activity on classic auto sites and specialty part websites. A successful salesperson can use that information to lead a conversation about classic American cars. In this way, the salesperson can create a connection that can help close a deal.
Customer Profile (“Know Thy Customer”)
Sales opportunities, especially cross-sell/up-sell situations, require product relevance. How relevant are your products or services to your customer? Being effective at selling your customer means you have to connect his needs with your solutions. To do this, you’ve got to “know thy customer”.
The first step is to create customer profiles from digital and analog data and information. This can include information on business cards you collect at a trade show, digital analytics from your website, or conversations with prospective customers. The point is to gather, organize and analyze any information which helps to shape a customer profile that you can use when approaching other customers.
Next, the information must be organized in a meaningful way, providing a “persona” that reveals contact details and company data (if relevant), buying habits, roadblocks to purchasing, digital preferences (mobile search or desktop search, email, etc.), brand affinity, and other defining attributes. Tools that help define a customer profile include:
- Customer relationship management (CRM) program
- Marketing automation (MA) system
- Email distribution platform
- Analytics software
These tools provide essential customer attributes which, when the “dots are connected”, enable salespeople to have a clear picture of a typical potential customer. Such attributes include:
- browsing habits
- shopping preferences
- social commentary (and sphere of influence)
- engagement with web content
- search behavior
According to eMarketer, a marketing research firm, 50% of consumers prefer the convenience of digital interactions with companies over face-to-face encounters. Because of this, salespeople must be able to understand the typical customer in a way which allows them to hit the appropriate pain points – without actually communicating with a prospect – to make a sale. Without a customer profile, that task becomes more challenging, and conversion rates will suffer accordingly.
[Tweet “50% of consumers prefer digital interactions w/ companies over face-to-face encounters”]
Sales professionals must be proactive to boost productivity. Even in an environment where customers are empowered with so much information on the web, it is critical that sales agents don’t wait for prospects to call. Being proactive helps to become more effective by generating a greater understanding of available opportunities and more efficient by managing activities in a way that maximizes results with less effort. There are several ways in which salespeople can improve efficiency thus maximize effectiveness by being proactive.
Manage Territory Efficiently & Efficiently
One of the most important steps to becoming a successful sales agent is to manage a territory in a way that maximizes return on investment for the time spent. To do so, salespeople must do the following:
- Prioritize leads, suspects, prospects – and customers. A primary step towards becoming a more efficient salesperson is prioritizing how accounts are managed. As buyers move through the sales pipeline, they should be prioritized for follow up along the way. Prioritization should be updated as new factors impact the buying cycle. For example, a prospect’s delay in budgeting for a purchase may lower the priority for the short term, whereas, an inbound call asking specific questions about pricing can increase a prospect’s priority. It is important to set priorities for all accounts, including existing customers, as there may be opportunities for add-on sales.
- Manage the timing and content of communications. Sales agents must be effective with the delivery of sales messages in order to generate interest. Today’s consumers are better informed and more in control than ever before because of access to information. This means that salespeople must be diligent when it comes communicating with prospects. Create messages that differentiate solutions and provide incentives to buy from you. With so much data available on consumers these days, salespeople are able to get a “leg up” on making contact with potential buyers by effectively crafting and scheduling the content that is sent.
- Uncover new leads using digital tools. Sales leads can come from a variety of digital and offline channels, such as email, pay per click (PPC) ads, search activity, trade shows, signage, etc. Digital tools (such as those discussed in the Streamline Your Activities section) allow salespeople to aggregate data from many sources into a customer profile that will enable better communications, more accurate timing for contact, and a clearer understanding of a buyer’s preferences, tendencies, wants and needs.
- Monitor web activity. Today’s successful sales organizations are using digital tools to track browsing activity, responses to contact attempts, buying habits and more. The information collected is analyzed to reveal unknown attributes of their customers as well as their online behavior. Because over 90% of adults now research products and services online, web activity monitoring has become a critical aspect of successful sales.
[Tweet “”Know your enemies” – SunTzu, most successful salespeople have in-depth knowledge or competitive activity.”]
It can be challenging to sell in a vacuum. The most successful salespeople develop a solid knowledge of competitive activity. What are the leaders in the industry doing? Who are the closest competitors? Which advantages and disadvantages of competitive enterprises are obvious? Sales leaders find as much as possible about competitors. In many cases, a salesperson could uncover some valuable information such as:
- new product releases
- discounts and other incentives
- promotions and events
- new entries to the marketplace
- changes to business practices
Those who expend the effort to investigate competitors are better positioned to compete for a customer. To be an effective competitor, sales agents should learn the following attributes of competitors:
- people (C-suite, sales, marketing)
- market segments
- sales practices and tactics
In cases where a lead has an existing relationship with a competitor, a sales agent who is knowledgeable about her competitors will have three distinct advantages over an unprepared sales agent:
- be better able to compare products (benefits, features, advantages)
- be better able to offer a competitive price
- be better informed about current incentives being offered so she can make a competing incentive to switch
Use Social Media
These days, social media has become a useful tool for marketing and selling in many verticals. The key is to get consumers to engage through the most appropriate channels.
Social media can be an effective tool to showcase a personal side to an organization. These channels should be used with caution, however. It won’t be prudent to communicate through any of these channels using a “salesy” approach. People use these channels to talk informally, share content, find answers and connect with friends and businesses.
A better approach is to communicate casually, be honest, offer help, and respond, respond, respond. There is no faster route to failure using social media as a sales channel than to avoid, ignore or forget to respond when someone shares your content, makes an inquiry, shows affirmation through “likes” and “favorites”, requests a connection or responds to your content.
Sales professionals should make use of 3-5 social channels, which may include the major websites, such as Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and LinkedIn (which is especially useful for business-to-business, or B2B, sales). In addition to traditional social media, there are other venues which can be used to communicate with prospects such as:
- Community forums
- Comment feeds on blogs and other publications
- Product-specific forums
- Bulletin boards (i.e. Craigslist)
Most social media users react negatively to hype and constant marketing-type content. Use a messaging mix for each channel used for sales purposes. For instance, some social media marketing experts advise using a 40/40/20 split: 40% shared content (from other sources), 40% company and product content, and 20% personal content.
Avoid Lead Abandonment
A popular cited statistic holds that 80% of sales leads handed from marketing are lost, discarded or ignored. Unfortunately, within those leads are potential customers who may buy. Several studies have shown that nearly 80% of “bad leads” eventually buy a solution within 24 months of initial contact. Lead abandonment reduces the chance of closing those potential prospects.
Sales agents should make some effort to uncover productive leads that have been ignored or discarded. Some marketing teams tend to send every lead captured through digital advertising to the sales team; while this isn’t optimal, a sales agent can nurture some potential leads into worthwhile prospects through automated messaging tactics, a practice called “lead nurturing”. This does not require a great deal of time and can yield valuable rewards.
Streamline Your Sales Activities
To become a better sales agent, it is important to be efficient at managing a territory. A 2013 study by research publication CSO Insights revealed that most reps spend at least 20% researching prospects and preparing to make contact. This is time that can be more effectively used selling. Therefore, to be more successful in sales, agents should turn to digital tools to streamline activities.
Customer Relationship Management Tools
A customer relationship management program provides tools and functions that help streamline sales activities. Pipeline management is a critical component of a CRM, allowing sales agents to
- update account status,
- enter new account information,
- assign accounts to various follow-up categories,
- coordinate inside and outside sales activities,
- store and share important documents,
- automatically contact prospects and customers, and
- track responses to digital communications
There are three primary areas where a CRM helps to streamline sales activities, as shown below.
|Solicitation||Lead Tracking||Post-sale Management|
|Lead generation via targeted messaging||Review behaviors||Prioritize customers according to purchase history|
|Message creation based upon past successes||Track responses and contact events||Focused reselling to high value customers|
|Coordination across various marketing activities||Score leads according to interest, ability to purchase, profile, etc.||Tracking customer issues|
|Prioritized response activities according to customer value|
A CRM not only enables sales teams to operate more efficiently, they can be a significant tool for maximizing customer value. Users can see the entire order history, as well as online behavior, of each customer, which can enable the leveraging of customers as discussed earlier.
Task Organization & Management Tools
Sales agents also have options to streamline daily routines through task management programs called productivity dashboards. These dashboards allow salespeople to manage territories more effectively and become more efficient. The use of such dashboards (which may include functions of a CRM program, marketing automation platform, task management software and/or email marketing system) reduces the number of repetitive tasks which would normally be completed manually.
For sales managers, a productivity dashboard – especially a CRM – provides the ability to communicate with and manage a sales team. Daily activity can be monitored, accounts can be assigned to specific agents or routed in a “round-robin” format, teams can be quickly and easily updated about objectives and team goals. A robust dashboard empowers sales teams to be more efficient, focusing on high priority prospects .
One way to streamline daily activities is to automate several routine tasks, including
- Sales report generation
- Account updates
- Communication with customers (i.e. email)
- Social media posts
- Product inventory updates
Dashboards and other digital tools vary in what they offer; however, there some common features among most of them:
|Common Dashboard Features|
|Account information||Sales pipeline stages||Web analytics (site traffic, ad traffic, email open rate, etc.)|
|Task notifications and alerts||Document storage||Integration with email delivery platforms|
|Automated message delivery||Customized report generation||Integration with social media channels|
The desired outcome when you deploy such tools is to focus salespeople on direct sales activities, such as making outbound calls, assembling information to send, following up on inquiries and other activities.
5 Digital Sales Tactics That Work
In an effort to share some practical sales tactics that can improve results, we will discuss five popular digital channels that can help bring customers “through the door”. Tactics such as email campaigns, webinars, mobile and desktop apps, mobile promotions, and local search optimization have been used for years, resulting in favorable outcomes for those who concentrate on selling with a customer-centric approach.
Email campaigns have proven to be very effective when compared to other digital sales tactics. Email can be customized for market segments and personalized for individual consumption. Software programs provide message and design templates, making the creation of a mass email delivery campaign achievable for non-technical sales agents.
In addition to a single-shot email campaign, many successful sales organizations have deployed “lead nurturing” or “drip” campaigns. In this case, messages are staged to be delivered at various times, including as a response to a request for information or following a registration to receive a newsletter or other publication.
[Tweet “E-mail may not be the latest trend, buy it’s still one of the most effective digital sales tactics.”]
Webinars can be an effective part of a comprehensive digital sales strategy, providing the ability to gather multiple prospects in a single setting. They can be used to educate prospects, generate interest, provide technical support or create excitement for an upcoming product upgrade.
Inexpensive webinar platforms have made it easy to setup and host an event. Successful webinar users are often able to generate significant returns from the registration list. In some cases, sales agents are able to export registration lists to a CRM, providing an efficient way to develop an account list.
Webinars can be especially useful for B2B selling in three key ways:
- Provide product support for complex or frequently updated products. For example, hosting group training sessions engages customers. This tactic is a good way to keep customers connected with a brand and is typically used as part of a customer retention strategy.
- Share knowledge by hosting presentations with Q&A sessions. Customers and prospects can learn about product features, discuss specific needs, and learn how others are using a company’s products/services. This tactic is a good way to support customers and generate prospects from leads who register.
- By providing sponsorship for thought leadership webinars (with industry professionals and/or existing customers). In this case, specific topics about an industry are discussed, such as The Future of Ecommerce or Website Design for HTML5. This tactic can be effective with customers and new leads alike.
The impact of mobile access has skyrocketed. In 2014, research done by mobiThinking, a mobile marketing firm, has indicated that 91.6% of U.S. adults are subscribed to a mobile service. Sales professionals should not ignore mobile media as part of their sales strategy.
According to CellPoint Mobile, a company that helps facilitate mobile commerce (“m-commerce”) transactions, consumers use mobile phones for the following tasks:
- Text messaging – 19%
- Browsing the web – 14%
- Taking pictures – 12%
- Email – 11%
- Games – 9%
- Watch video – 8%
- Facebook – 6%
- Twitter – 6%
This data reveals a few ways a sales agent can use mobile to engage a potential buyer.
- A text message can be sent with a limited time offer. A prospect can be offered an incentive that expires in a short period of time.
- A mobile web page can be built that has a click-to-talk feature, which can instantly connect a salesperson with a prospect.
- A brief email can be sent encouraging a lead to contact a sales agent immediately for an exclusive offer.
- A Facebook or Twitter post can be used to send a mobile user to a contact page which alerts the salesperson when a form has been filled out.
Mobile selling provides a unique channel to quickly drive prospects to a buying opportunity.
When messaging through mobile devices, the rule of thumb: less is more. Whether you’re sending a text message, firing off an alert or posting social content, keep it brief. As the term “mobile” denotes, this channel is active when people are on the move.
Software applications, or apps, are becoming an essential tool for selling in two ways:
- As a means to engage prospects through games, contests, questionnaires, almost any interactive activity;
- As a way to organize sales activities.
Apps built for consumers provide a channel to engage consumers who will eventually buy. For example, an app that allows a user to virtually test a product can help support a buying decision. There is some evidence that shows that prospects who interact with a proprietary application eventually make a purchase, though the strategy of using apps as a sales tool is relatively new.
On the other hand, there are many sales productivity apps that help salespeople organize, communicate, share files and other tasks. For instance, apps can be downloaded which scan business cards, estimate revenue, schedule meetings, host conference calls and plan travel.
Whether the app is designed for mobile (most target mobile devices) or desktop, sales agents can streamline their activities and encourage prospects to buy through the use of these highly engaging tools.
YouTube can be a tool for pre-sale and post-sale activities. The video site provides an opportunity to create sales presentations, product training modules and other sales support activities. Users can post videos to a channel dedicated to a company or brand, a product line or even a specific salesperson.
One key to being effective with YouTube is to create videos that are short in length. A study by SocialBakers, a social media marketing firm, showed that videos under two minutes are the most viewed among all videos.
Image courtesy of SocialBakers.com
A short video is more likely to appeal to prospects who are research product options. In some cases, an elevator pitch will be sufficient to move interested consumers to learn more. Pre-sale videos should lead to other sales engagements, such as a webinar registration, an automated email message, a landing page or a more in-depth video. On the other hand, a longer video will be appropriate as a product demonstration or training presentation.
A branded channel should be established that can be used as a resource for prospects and customers. Once videos are uploaded, it is important to optimize your “asset” so that it can be found using the YouTube search feature or major search engines such as Bing or Google. This can be done by using tags which are relevant to the content of the video. (YouTube provides tutorials for setting up a channel and optimizing videos.)
These five tactics have an important trait in common: salespeople can identify what works and what doesn’t through analytics tools that are either embedded in the platform or are available through third-party software programs. Sales agents do not have to guess whether an email has been opened or whether a video has been viewed.
In conclusion, sales professionals are empowered now more than ever to be more efficient and effective at their work. The technology available can improve lead generation, generate lift from existing customers, lower cost-per-acquisition, and improve return on investment. Becoming a more productive salesperson starts simply with the desire to get better. By reading this guide, you are on the way to a more effective career in sales. To learn more ways to leverage every customer, use data effectively, become more proactive, and streamline sales practices, visit www.striedapp.com.