50 Sales Strategy Secrets and Tips from Top Sales Pros
Sales strategy: It’s top-of-mind for nearly every sales manager, sales consultant, sales leader, and sales professional in every vertical. But there’s no single, cut-and-dry sales strategy or technique that works for every company — nor for every rep within the same sales organization. However, a well-defined sales strategy is a must for providing a clear framework and process from which your company’s sales representatives can create their own unique style that’s aligned with your company’s overall objectives.
But where to begin? Sales strategy is such an overarching theme in any sales organization, and the field is rife with tips and tactics promised to bring results to even the most struggling teams. While crafting a sales strategy for your organization is an individualized process resulting in a unique roadmap, there are some general best practices and strategy tips you can use to guide your efforts.
To help you navigate the complex world of sales strategy, we’ve rounded up 50 of the best sales strategy secrets and tips from top sales pros. Listed in no particular order of importance, the following 50 tips encompass everything from building a rockstar sales team to motivating your sales reps to succeed and closing secrets of the best in the field, as well as important facets of sales strategy that you should never ignore, such as customer retention and effective goal setting. You can easily jump to a specific section using the links in the table of contents provided below.
Table of Contents:
- Building Relationships and Winning Customers
- Goal Setting
- Sales Strategy Planning
- Customer Retention
- Sales Team Training and Motivation
Building Relationships and Winning Customers
1. Always, always, always agree with the client. “No matter what the buyer says, states or demands, you should, under no circumstances, ever disagree or make the buyer wrong or suggest their request is impossible. Once you perfect this simple strategy, it will save your sales.
“The old saying, ‘the customer is never wrong,’ is not true. In fact, often, the customer is wrong, or they even lie, but that doesn’t mean you should call them out or make them wrong. When you tell someone you can’t, won’t, not allowed to or that’s impossible, you cause the customer to become defensive, more dug into their position, and make them less likely to agree.” – Grant Cardone, Strategy of the Week: Always, Always, Always Agree, GrantCardone.com, Twitter: @GrantCardone
2. Learn the “art” of pressure. “Creating FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) in your client’s mind can be a good thing because it will lead to serious consideration of your concept. In the TerraCycle world, we reward brand exclusivity by country and by category. I often need to tell potential clients that their competition is also talking with us. The trick is to mention it once and to NOT rub it in, which is likely to anger them. No one who is angered into saying yes.” – Tom Szaky, Founder of TerraCycle, My Top 10 Sales Tips, The New York Times, Twitter: @TerraCycle
3. Pre-call research is essential. “To get into big companies, you can’t make a 100 cold calls saying the same thing to everyone. Several years ago corporate decision makers stopped answering their phones and rolled all calls to voicemail. They delete most messages within seconds because they sound like salespeople making their pitch.
“I discovered that the only way to capture the attention of these corporate decision makers was to create a very personalized message based on in-depth research in their firm. Once I started doing this, I started setting up meetings.” – Jill Konrath, Top 5 Sales Tips for New Sellers, JillKonrath.com; Twitter: @jillkonrath
4. First, help your prospects understand that they have a problem. “Another tip I learned from my mentor Stu Silverman. In case you missed my previous Stu Silverman-ism and Stu’s background; please read Focus on the Nut of the Job. In sum, Stu has been one of the most influential people in my life.
“As CEO of our small consultancy, he was the primary sales person. He rarely if ever lost deals and he absolutely NEVER discounted. When you meet him, your first impression will not be that of a natural sales person. Passionate = yes. Sales person = not necessarily. We were selling very expensive consulting services to build sales development and inside sales teams to startups. Interestingly, only a handful of our customers came to us knowing they wanted to solve a problem and needing a solution. We got the majority of our deals from a cold start.
“He used to run an amazing process in sales cycles where the customer didn’t realize they had a problem. After an hour (or longer) discovery with the prospect, he would determine if they had a problem or needed help. If they did, he would ask for a meeting. He would kick off this meeting with a very transparent agenda. Here is what he would say:
“My goal for this meeting is to help you understand you have a problem that you need to fix whether you choose to work with us or not to fix it or not. After you agree that you have a problem, then I will try to convince you that we are the right people to help you fix it. – Stu Silverman
“He would then make a case for why THEY had to do something to fix this problem. He didn’t talk about his company. Once they admitted they needed to fix the problem, then he would launch into how we would fix it.
“This wasn’t a trick. He meant it. And the customers could see it. And they trusted him as a result.
5. What you say means nothing; what your customer believes is everything. “You can have the best sales presentation in the world, but if the customer doesn’t believe your proposition, then you don’t have a chance. Take the time to engage with the customer.
“Ask them questions and let them tell you their wants and needs. Yes, many times they don’t know what their needs are and you’ll have to guide them, but in the end, if they don’t believe it, you don’t have a chance.” – Mark Hunter, 5 of the BEST Sales Tips Ever, The Sales Hunter; Twitter: @TheSalesHunter
6. Understand what’s standing between your customers and their goals. “Brevity is key. You have to be able to articulate your value proposition in 5-8 minutes. You also need to be able to talk the language of finance and business and understand what’s driving their business. What are their key strategies and how are you mapping your solution to those strategies? It’s important to understand what’s standing between them and achieving their goals in order for you to quantify your value. And finally it’s important you pounce and be provocative in your approach before someone else does.” – Joanne Moretti, senior vice president marketing and sales enablement at Jabil, as quoted in A Conversation with Joanne Moretti, Senior Vice President Marketing & Sales Enablement at Jabil, CorporateVisions.com; Twitter: @JoannMoretti
7. Turn your weaknesses into strengths. “Customers may not know your firm (a weakness) but they don’t have negative preconceptions either (a strength). You may not have an expense account for a fancy lunch (a weakness) but you can show your customer that you don’t waste money (a strength). Your firm might have meager higher prices (a weakness) but you’re willing to craft flexible terms (a strength.)” – Geoffrey James, Author of How to Say It: Business to Business Selling, in 10 Easy Sales Strategies for Small Companies, CNBC.com; Twitter: @Sales_Source
8. Have both a closing strategy and a fallback position. “Your primary closing strategy should be based upon securing the main objective for the meeting. The objective could be to be granted a follow-on meeting, have the customer start a product evaluation, receive approval to conduct a site survey, or negotiate final purchase terms. You also need fallback positions, alternatives you prepare ahead of time to present should the customer reject your primary closing strategy.
“Your primary closing strategy and fallback positions are based on choosing to issue a command or presenting foreground and background suggestions. A command is an instructional statement that creates a binary type of yes or no response from the recipient. It is typically associated with a hard close and “take it or leave it” mentality. Foreground suggestions (medium close) are explicit, but they deflect the source of the request from the demander. Background suggestions (soft close) lead recipients to believe they are acting of their free will when in fact they have been directed to follow a message.” – Steve W. Martin, Sales Call Closing Techniques using Sales Linguistics, Heavy Hitter Sales
9. Reduce pain points and friction. “All businesses, no matter the industry, are going to have to sell to the three types of buyers that are out there. According to neuroeconomics experts, nearly a quarter of these buyers will be conservative spenders, or ‘tightwad’ customers. George Lowenstein of Carnegie Mellon University recommends using bundles, reassuring words (e.g., change ‘a $5 fee’ to ‘a small $5 fee’), and reframing as strategies to better sell to these conservative buyers. Read more about his advice here.” – Greg Ciotti, “the marketing guy” at HelpScout, 15 Important Tips To Help You Keep Your Customers, Convince and Convert; Twitter: @helpscout
10. Make a compelling statement that’s sure to grab the undivided attention of decision-makers. “In Sales 101 we learning about the customer’s favorite radio station – WIIFM. Yet, we have a tendency to change the channel too often whereby the ‘Me’ is really ‘You’ and not the customer. The station the customer is looking for is the one that is ALL ABOUT THE CUSTOMER AND THEIR NEED.
“So, here is the statement that is guaranteed to capture the attention of any human being who is looking for a real solution to their issue…Ready?
“‘I Have An Idea About How You Can Grow Your Business.’
“If you are speaking to a high level executive, whom growth is a very important issue to their company, division, business unit or subsidiary – then you will have their undivided attention.” – Voss Graham, The Magic Statement for Getting Decision Maker Attention, Developing Your B2B Sales Skills; Twitter: @VossWGraham
11. Sell yourself, not your products. “Understand that your differentiator when positioning yourself to clients isn’t products, it’s you.
“Not only should superior service be your trademark, but you can also distinguish yourself by company culture. Research has shown that companies with an adaptive culture aligned to their business goals consistently outperform their competitors.
“When your employees enthusiastically share your company’s values and practices with customers, you begin to connect on a relational rather than a transactional level. And that builds a foundation for longevity.” – Mark Sokol, Adapting Your Sales Strategy for An As-A-Service Business, ConnectWise; Twitter: @ConnectWise
12. Create a moment of truth — and make it count. “Create a reason a prospective customer MUST hear you out; something so compelling or drives so much curiosity that they agree to book a call or meet with you. Then you have a single moment of truth to deliver on this and convince your prospective buyer that the solution you offer would truly change the way they do something for the better. They key to this moment of truth is to have a well honed and repeatable way of showcasing the value of your product or solution – something that goes well beyond a simple product demo but includes customer examples, ROI stories, passionate quotes, and teachings about how something is changing and how you harness it to add value. The more you deliver this personalize story consistently, the better you will get at it, and the higher the likelihood of closing business. Focus on making sure these moments of truth count.” – Jim Benton, Co-Founder & Chief Business Officer, ClearSlide, Inc., as quoted in 9 Expert Sales Tips For Startups by Vasil Azarov at Business2Community; Twitter: @jim_benton
13. Authenticity is key. You don’t need a script when you’re being yourself. “Sales scripts are a way of life for salespeople aren’t they? No matter how well you write your script, they are sure to sound scripted — and if you get off the script?
“Often the conversation can never be recovered. When you be yourself instead of working off a script, there is nothing to remember.
“You just follow your gut and you can always recover the conversation. This is true even if you wind up discussing football scores or last night’s episode of Dancing with the Stars.” – Brian Horn, Entrepreneur and Author, 6 Reasons Why Authenticity Results in More Sales, Huffington Post; Twitter: @brianhorn
14. Tell a story to make the sale. “Top sales people tell stories because it engages customers and puts the sales message in a context that captures the prospect’s attention, perhaps even tugs at the prospect’s emotions. A story provides a structure that makes it easier to understand your pitch, and to remember it, so your prospect can recommend and defend your property when you are not in the room.
“When it comes to storytelling, the opening should be dramatic and personal. The beginning of the sales conversation should focus on dramatizing the needs of the readers. If the story is delivered in the right way, it captures the prospect’s attention and involves them in the drama of the story, communicates a sense of tension and then has them interested in learning the outcome.” – Daniel Ambrose, Be a Good Storyteller, Ambro.com; Twitter: @dabrookz
15. Always map out sales calls in advance. “When selling on the phone, often times the problem sales reps have (or non sales people trying to sell) is they don’t understand how to structure a call. If you don’t have the right plan going into a sales call, it’s going to be much harder to close the deal.
“Every sales call, from a cold call until a closing call, should follow a pre-planned structure that is meant to optimize the likelihood of a desired result. That doesn’t mean there can’t be detours a long the way. It’s analogous to driving somewhere new the first time – you will almost always use google maps to give you a plan and direction. Then, each proceeding time you might use your directions a little less.” – Steli Efti, The successful sales call blueprint, Close.io; Twitter: @Closeio
16. Teach sales reps to spend five minutes every day prioritizing. “Without prioritization, it’s difficult to be efficient and productive. Hopkins suggests taking 5 minutes at the end of every day to sit down, assess and choose the 5 or 6 priorities for tomorrow so you can begin with clarity. Successful people don’t squander effort and energy on unimportant issues.” – Tom Hopkins, author of Selling For Dummies, as credited by Kevin Daum in 10 Surprising Success Tips from Amazing Sales Guru Tom Hopkins, Inc.com, Twitter: @TomHopkinsSales and @KevinJDaum
17. Teach your reps to spend five minutes each day prioritizing. “Without prioritization, it’s difficult to be efficient and productive. Hopkins suggests taking 5 minutes at the end of every day to sit down, assess and choose the 5 or 6 priorities for tomorrow so you can begin with clarity. Successful people don’t squander effort and energy on unimportant issues.” – Kevin Daum, 10 Surprising Success Tips from Amazing Sales Guru Tom Hopkins, Inc.com; Twitter: @KevinJDaum
18. Set clear, specific goals and evaluate your progress regularly. “First, people who have goals know where they want to go. You might be thinking, ‘I wish it were that simple…I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up, and never have.’ It’s not my purpose here in a short blog post to guide you in discovering your inner purpose, although, mine is to work with a gentle breeze blowing across my keyboard as I gaze out at the shimmering waters of the Atlantic.
“If you’re searching for your destination, contrary to what you might read in others’ writings about goals, you don’t have to sort out your entire life purpose in order to achieve in sales. All you need to do is set a target for yourself – that can be as simple as an annual sales target – and to have a good answer for the question, ‘Does my entire being scream with a desire to achieve this goal? Will I be in agony and turmoil until I do?’
“If the answer is yes, then you’re in great shape to get started. (Perhaps you don’t need all the angst and agony, but salespeople who are not dissatisfied with where they are don’t often make it to the next level).” – John Doerr, Your 6-Step Guide to Setting and Achieving Sales Goals: You Can Get There From Here, RAIN Selling Blog; Twitter: @RAINSelling
19. Use last year’s results to make accurate projections for the coming year. “At Metal Mafia, I start the goal-setting process by looking at the company’s overall business from the year before. First, I check the increase of total sales over the prior year and account for where it came from month by month. Did I add a sales rep in a certain month? Did I change the number of trade show or industry appearances in a specific season? Did I change the frequency or type of customer communications, and–if so–when? Once I gather that information, I project any changes I expect to make to those areas in the coming year. Because I can see approximately how much each source increased or changed our business, I can predict fairly accurately how much I expect the business to grow this year.” – Vanessa Merit Nornberg, President of Metal Mafia, How to Set Demanding-Yet-Doable Sales Goals, Inc.com; Twitter: @VanessaNornberg
20. Skip the easy-to-achieve goals and aim higher. “Setting goals that are easily achieved can defeat the purpose of goal setting. The desire to do better should be behind any goals that are set. Top sales people use goal setting to outline challenges for themselves that encourage them towards making a stronger sales impact. Challenging goals should:
- Present a challenge while still being achievable; unachievable goals can be discouraging rather than encouraging, and don’t provide the same benefits that realistic goal setting can.
- Be aligned with your personal and professional desires; the more involved you are with the goals you set, the more likely you are to achieve them.
- Reflect the core priorities of your organization; in this way your goal setting can benefit you and your employer and lead to recognition and other career benefits.” – Doug O’Grady, How Top Sales People Use Goal Setting to Achieve Greatness, SalesForceSearch.com; Twitter: @DougOGrady
21. Skip the sales goals. Set activity goals instead. “Imagine a bookseller who sets a goal to sell $1,000 in books each day. What if he sold nothing after talking to 17 people? And worse, what if prospect number 17 happened to be a very harsh rejection? It would surely get you down and make it harder to keep going.
“Take it from us, before we founded Pipedrive, we got our start in sales in exactly this way – selling books door-to-door and dealing with harsh rejections.
“Now what if the same bookseller had an activity goal of talking to 20 prospects each day? Taking your focus off the $1,000 result-goal and shifting it on the activity goal meant that even if 17 were to say no, it wouldn’t matter – he would only have three prospects left to talk to.” – Timo Rein, President and Co-Founder of Pipedrive, How to Set Great Sales Goals That Bring Double Digit Growth, Pipedrive; Twitter: @timorein
Sales Strategy Planning
22. Identify your targets. “It’s easy to get carried away when promoting a product that you’re passionate about. It’s important to first identify those individuals whose organizations will get you the most traction. Creating a list prevents you from spending time chasing targets who will do little to help you. Remember, it’s easy to get distracted, so stick to your goals, and be strategic.” – Colin Behr, VP Business Development & International, Vungle.com; via 7 Ways to Beef Up Your Sales Strategy, Mashable, Twitter: @colinnathanbehr
23. Analyze sales and revenue trends from last year. “Where did your sales and revenue come from in 2014? Is most of your company revenue from existing customers or new customers? How long was your average sales cycle? Who were your best (and worst) customers – why? What are your best lead sources? Are prospects getting stuck anywhere in the sales cycle? Why did you lose the opportunities you think you should have won? Could your close rate be improved? Document your lessons learned, and start thinking about improvements you’d like to make in 2015.” – Marisa Smith, 14 Tips for Developing Your 2015 Sales and Marketing Strategy, The Whole Brain Group, Twitter: @wholebraingroup
24. Clear the path to avoid the shareholder challenge with a landmine map. “If you do not provide an outline of the anticipated problems and your resolution to them, then it will be provided for you. The problem is that when the stakeholders provide the outline it is usually amplified outside the bounds of reasonable expectations. By showing a thoughtful analysis of the risks, you can reduce the resistance.
“Your deals may not be in the billions, or even millions, but you still need to clear the path. Deals move faster when there is a detailed roadmap.” – Tom Searcy, Founder of Hunt Big Sales, How to Close Deals Faster and Smoother, Inc.com; Twitter: @tomsearcy
25. Start with extremely small markets – and dominate them – before moving on to broader markets or other verticals. “When you have a product with seemingly broad appeal you’ll be tempted to sell nationwide, or to move into multiple verticals. This works if you’re a well-resourced company but in general it’s best to identify the smallest market where you can have success and knock that shit down. You’ll find that your efforts in a constrained market have a force-multiplier effect: word of mouth becomes a lot more effective, PR happens organically, and your product team can stay focused on a single set of narrow challenges. Once you dominate there you can expand geographically or by category or both.” – Ryan Denehy, Building a Startup Sales Machine: 64 Things I Wish I Knew, Denehy//XXL; Twitter: @DenehyXXL
26. Always test new sales processes and strategies. “Always Test – There’s no silver bullet when it comes to building a sales process. Figuring out the best place to start is hard, but you have to start somewhere. For example, we use a 7×7 outreach method in our Sales Development team, but that isn’t necessarily going to work for another company who is going after marketing folks.
“You have to identify who that ideal prospect is and what is going to be the best way to get in contact with them. Is it social media? Phone? Email? Text!? Who knows! You just have to identify what that method is. From there you build touch points off of that.” – Sean Kester, former Director of Sales Development and the new Head of Product at SalesLoft, as quoted in Interview with Sean Kester – The Head of Product at SalesLoft, Sales Hacker; Twitter: @TheSeanKester
27. Develop a fundamental understanding of your own business value proposition, and spend time getting to know that of your customers’. “Buyers are trained to weed out the ordinary and the obvious yet many presentations start with slides on how big and how great they are. This is the fastest way to lose their interest. Buyers want to gauge the potential relationship based on their understanding of how well you know them and what impact you can have on their business.
“So what’s the right approach? Fundamentally understand your own businesses value proposition and spend time getting to know theirs. Most important:
- Convey you are a “feedback organization” and that you live and die by both positive and negative feedback
- Add value. Period. Customers measure value based on outcomes rather than the lowest price. World class sales teams maintain a philosophy that they are a problem-solving organization
- Make your customers know you are invested in a long-term relationship. Deals are never won in a day; make your customers know that you are the right long term partner” – Gay Gaddis, citing insights from Charles Bernard, founder and CEO of Criteria for Success, Inc., Proven Sales Strategies That Will Grow Your Business, Forbes.com; Twitter: @GayGaddis
28. Map out the buyer’s journey, both pre-sale and post-sale, to understand what you do currently and identify where opportunities exist. “As a growth business you should develop a singular focus on the key sales and business development activity – or at most two or three activities – that have the potential to drive the most amount of growth to your business and profit to your bottom line.
“In order to achieve this you must also be prepared to stop faffing around with other business development things that you think you should be doing, that actually add little or no value.” – Lara Morgan, founder of Company Shortcuts, Five steps to developing an effective sales strategy, The Guardian; Twitter: @coshortcuts
29. Narrow your focus. “To create an effective sales plan, ask yourself what one activity could have the largest impact on sales if applied consistently for the next three months. If it’s not possible to narrow that to a single activity, pick two or three, then put them into action, focusing all your time and effort on what offers the best return.
“Use these tips to find your sales focus:
- Map out your client journey before and after the sale to gain a solid understanding of your sales process which will help find your area of focus.
- Search for ways to cut costs and increase customer satisfaction.
- Look at how potential candidates for your most profitable sales process integrate with marketing plans.
- Allocate all possible resources to the most profitable sales process.” – University Alliance, A Good Sales Strategy Includes These Elements, University of San Francisco
30. Having a structured, well-defined sales system in place is a must. “This truth – that good systems make people effective – operates in every area of work. Even highly skilled, highly educated professionals apply this concept. There are, for example, better ways to try a case, to perform a surgery, to fly an airliner, and to counsel a mentally disturbed patient. Talk to effective professionals in any of these areas, and they will verify that they use effective principles, processes, and tools to complete these complex tasks. They use a system.
“In fact, the more important and complex the task, the more likely that the effective principles and processes for successfully completing that task have been defined and codified. How would you feel if you buckled the seat belt on an airliner and listened as the captain announced that he has his own way of flying this plane?
“This is not to say that there is not room for individual differences, for continuous process improvement, and for variations based on specific intricacies of the situation. But those are more embellishments than structure – like the icing on a cake. Without the cake underneath, the icing is meaningless. The system provides the structure on which the individual can spread personal embellishments.” – Dave Kahle, Do You Have a Selling System?, Kahle Way; Twitter: @davekahle
31. Understand your buyers. “When your sales reps aren’t knowledgeable about your prospective buyers, there’s little else other than price for them to rely on to get a conversion. But when you understand your key targets—everything from their pain points to their past purchasing behaviors—you can lead with a value-first sales strategy.
“To help your reps get to know your audience better, practice the following tactics: craft buyer personas, outlining the specific characteristics and demographics of your target market; create real-time alerts on potential buyers so you can stay current with where they are in their purchasing life cycle as well as chief milestones or obstacles they are encountering; and pinpoint their corporate roadmap so your reps can glean insight into how your specific products/services can align with their forward-facing mission.” – Don’t Be a Cost-Cutter: Emphasize Value Over Price, Hoovers; Twitter: @Hoovers
32. Don’t forget about referrals. “But instead of asking a silly, weak question like ‘who do you know that might be able to use my products or services,’ ask to be referred to a specific person. Although the typical referral question is simple, it is very ineffective.” – Paul McCord, in a guest post, How to Build Your Business on Referrals, SalesMarks.com; Twitter: @paul_mccord
33. Focus on relevancy. And no, it’s not marketing’s job. “Relevancy. This one word describes what Apple has done for us. iPhones, iPads, iTunes…me, me, me. Whether it’s music or a marketing message, we live in a world where we expect and demand a personalized and relevant experience. Does everyone in our sales pipeline and our customer base deserve the same monthly newsletter? Logically, we know the answer is “no.” So why do so many companies continue to deliver a one-size-fits-all communication strategy?
“There is a misconception that it’s difficult — and that it’s marketing’s job.” – Lori Grass, Sales Tips For Every Stage of the Customer Lifecycle, Pipeliner CRM; Twitter: @PipelinerCRM
34. Test customer perception vs. reality. “According to customer-satisfaction studies, in order to meet the client’s expectations, salespeople must first understand the customer’s needs before attempting to match a possible solution to the client’s goals. Doing so is the difference between solution-led selling and product-led selling. Yet, although the majority of salespeople believe they focus on selling solutions rather than products, they also admit that they often don’t understand their customers’ issues before presenting a possible solution—an admission that is too often corroborated by the customer, unfortunately. This disconnect can ultimately determine whether a customer chooses your organization’s service or product.” – 5 Ways to Test Your Customer Perception vs. Reality, Miller Heiman; Twitter: @MillerHeiman
35. Sales should interact with the rest of the organization in order to ensure a consistent customer experience. “The first step to making sure you can fulfill the things that your sales team promises is to host a discussion between sales and your other departments about what they are able to deliver. Sales trainer Victor Arocho says that your departments should decide together what kind of experience customers want to have after working with your organization. The reason that they should be together is so that everyone can see the work required from each department to deliver on customer promises.” – Will Brooks, Is The Customer Experience Consistent Across Your Organization?, The Brooks Group; Twitter: @TheBrooksGroup
36. Customer retention is a substantial contributor to your company’s bottom line. Treat it accordingly. “Customer retention is on the minds of small and medium-sized businesses across the world. With rising customer acquisition costs, businesses need to innovate and assume a proactive role in retaining clients.
“Studies from the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Chamber of Commerce have found that acquiring new customers can cost as much as five to seven times more than simply retaining existing customers. The fact that customer profitability tends to increase over the life of a retained customer is added incentive for businesses to allocate more resources to sharpening their customer retention strategies.” – Ross Beard, 9 Customer Retention Strategies For Companies, Client Heartbeat; Twitter: @RossBeard
37. When customers or clients leave, find out why. “Customers don’t walk away without reason, so get to the heart of why this one left. Be honest with yourself. Conduct a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (or SWOT) analysis, assessing why your product or service was no longer perceived as having the best value.
“What are the company’s weaknesses, especially in light of potential changes in the market?
“Are you staying current, both in your pricing and level of service? Has the market moved beyond your capacity to stay competitive? How was your relationship with the client?
“Look hard in the mirror for the underlying answers. And if you can’t be objective, put someone who was not on that account team on the case. This is not only an important first step to winning back your client; it’s critical in ensuring that more customers also do not depart.” – Dave Mattson, CEO and president of Sandler Training; via How to Win Back Lost Customers, Entrepreneur, Twitter: @Dave_Mattson
38. Evaluate ways to sell more to your existing customers as part of your overall sales strategy. “Before you decide to pursue new clients (something you will absolutely do as part of your plan), you need to look at the customers you already have.
“It takes time to develop new clients. You have to market and gain their attention. You might have to prospect and schedule appointments. It takes time to work through the sales process, and you may have to negotiate contracts. You don’t have to do these things to sell more to your existing customers. They already know you, and they trust you. You might already have a contract in place.
“Which of your customers also buy from your competitors? What will you need to do to capture the share of their spend that you haven’t yet captured? How do you earn the right to that business?
“For my example, I found that 20 of my 200 customers should be spending an annual average of $5,000 more with me. That’s $100,000 of my $300,000 goal if I develop that business.
“How are you going to sell more to these clients? What contacts within your existing clientele do you need to meet with in order to increase your sales? What new value can you bring so you can capture the currently missing part of their spend?” – Anthony Iannarino, How to Set Your 2015 Sales Target, Success.com; Twitter: @iannarino
39. Don’t underestimate the “freemium” model. “Successful companies like Rovio (creator of Angry Birds), Dropbox, Buffer App, Skype and others offer either a free trial or a free version of their product offerings to allow users of different levels to test and utilize their services to determine whether they’re beneficial. The freemium model can help convert users into paying customers if your business offers a 30-day trial allowing customers to test the value of your product, a free version of your offerings limited to only certain features or free incentives if a user invites friends to sign up via email or social media.” – Brian Honigman, 5 Secrets to Increasing Customer Retention — and Profits, Entrepreneur; Twitter: @BrianHonigman
Sales Team Training and Motivation
40. Work with your reps to identify each individual’s limiting sales skill. “Identify your limiting skill to sales success. Identify your weakest single skill and make a plan to become absolutely excellent in that area. Ask yourself, and your boss, ‘What one skill, if I developed and did it consistently in an excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on my sales?’ Whatever your answer to this question, write it down, set a deadline, make a plan, and then work on it every day.” – Brian Tracy, Practice the 7 Sales Training Tips for Sales Success, BrianTracy.com; Twitter: @BrianTracy
41. Consider both motivation and skills before investing in training. “Before your company invests in sales training, you should consider two important factors: the motivation and skills of each individual on the team. To what degree do your sellers want to contribute toward growth? And do they have the tools to do it? In other words, do you have a sales team that’s:
- Skilled but unmotivated?
- Motivated but unskilled?
(Or unskilled and unmotivated, which means it’s probably time to hire new sellers!)
Knowing these answers will determine if training is the right choice for your sales team.” – Colleen Francis, Motivation & Skills: Why Sales Training Isn’t Working, Part 1, EyesOnSales; Twitter: @EyesOnSales
42. Recruit the best and provide the necessary training, coaching, and mentoring for an A-list sales team. “Your sales team, which includes inside sales, outside sales, customer service and management, must function as your ‘front line soldiers’ charged with increasing market share and maximizing profitability. It should go without saying then that you need to have as many ‘A List ‘ players on your sales team as possible.
“Your sales and independent territory strategies must also be in alignment with corporate objectives. That means you must actively recruit the best, provide the necessary resources, train, coach, and mentor your sales team, and create focus, process, discipline, and accountability.” – Rick Johnson, Sales Management: Comprehensive & Effective Personal Consulting, CEO Strategist
43. Find out what makes your sales team tick. (Hint: It’s not just about the money.) “Based on Accenture research and on our client experience around the globe, we believe that when it comes to successful motivational approaches and incentive compensation strategies, sales executives must “go back to go forward.”
“That is, they must rediscover some of the basic and deeper truths about what factors—besides financial compensation—motivate their sales professionals, and then use those insights to design a more comprehensive approach to incentive management.
“Creating a culture of trust; leveraging the power of peer recognition; and focusing on the enablers and tools that help salespeople reach their potential in an increasingly complex business environment—these are all critical parts of the overall picture of motivating a sales force more effectively. By gaining a deeper knowledge of human motivation, sales executives can put in place a more holistic approach—one that integrates people, process, technology and compensation strategies—to encourage and reward the behaviors that help produce high performance.
“What’s more, gaining insights into what really makes a sales force tick has benefits that go well beyond the sales organization, since many of the lessons also apply to workforces in general. Not all workers, of course, have motivations and incentives as tied to the very definition of their jobs as salespeople do. But today, those managing all types of workforces are beginning to understand what chief sales officers have known for years: When it comes to motivating people toward great performance, it’s not just about the paycheck.” – Richard J. Bakosh, How to motivate your sales force to great performance, Accenture; Twitter: @Accenture
44. Get your sales people committed to their goals, so they can be passionate about yours. “Your sales goals literally mean nothing to your salespeople unless you can tie your goals to theirs. There’s absolutely no way to do that without turning your salespeople’s hazy, ‘maybe someday’ daydreams into concrete goals they can and will commit to achieving.” – Danita Bye, Sales Motivation Tools to Help Improve Your Sales Team’s Performance, Sales Growth Specialists; Twitter: @SalesGrowthInc
45. Treat your sales force like a portfolio of investments, with each investment requiring a different level and distinct type of attention. “Some salespeople have greater ability and internal drive than others, and a growing body of research suggests that stars, laggards, and core performers are motivated by different facets of comp plans. Stars seem to knock down any target that stands in their way—but may stop working if a ceiling is imposed. Laggards need more guidance and prodding to make their numbers (carrots as well as sticks, in many cases). Core performers fall somewhere in the middle; they get the least attention, even though they’re the group most likely to move the needle—if they’re given the proper incentives.” – Thomas Steenburgh and Michael Ahearne, Motivating Salespeople: What Really Works, Harvard Business Review
46. Build trust among your team. “The greatest teams are those who can rely on one another. They uplift, motivate, give, and bring out the best in their teammates. Would you put your trust in a stranger? Likely not. Wouldn’t your team be stronger if they actually felt and operated like a team? Trust-building exercises can be a fun technique to boost morale, ranging from physical exercises (falling backwards, letting an employee catch you, dancing, partner yoga) to simple games, like having your employees write down their most embarrassing moment on a sheet of paper they do not sign, so the other employees guess who wrote what. It lightens the mood and builds ground for further connection. Another easy option is to encourage your team to recognize one another in public for a great presentation, cold call, or landing a big deal.” – Amanda, Boosting Employee Morale and Sales Motivation Through Sports Strategy, You Earned It; Twitter: @youearnedit
47. Save the contests for rare occasions to increase their value. “Contests and SPIFFs are like exceptions: their rarity enhances their value. Suppose you have a compensation plan that is perfectly aligned with your strategy. You roll out the plan with great fanfare— but then you come out with a number of special promotions throughout the year to keep pushing your sales force to do better. Don’t be surprised if your plan doesn’t achieve the expected results since you never gave it a chance. That’s because contests and SPIFFs draw salespeople’s focus away from your overarching compensation plan, and hence from your strategy. There are specific situations when contests and SPIFFs can be very effective, such as the launch of a new product or in retaliation to a competitor entering the market. For maximum effectiveness, save your contests for such one-off, unforeseen events and make sure that such special promotions are not in conflict with the core plan. If you have done a good job designing a compensation plan that’s aligned with your strategy, you should not have to spend money on SPIFFs and contests.” – 5 Tips for Ensuring Strategic Alignment of Incentive Compensation Plans, Synygy; Twitter: @Synygy
48. Don’t coach strategy independent of skills. “When formulating a strategy for a complex account, it’s a mistake to coach strategy independent of skills. Even the best strategy will fail unless what goes on in front of the customer is executed skillfully. This means the last step in any strategy coaching session should be to plan the first call in the execution of that strategy. In some cases, it may be appropriate for the sales manager to go on the call to help the salesperson sell. Or, the call could serve as a coaching opportunity to further develop the skills required to carry out the strategy.” – Richard Ruff, co-founder of Sales Horizons, Coaching sales strategy – 4 tips for sales managers, CustomerThink; Twitter: @saleshorizons
49. Recognize that each sales rep is driven by unique motivators. “All salespeople are motivated by different things — some appreciate the competition and bragging rights that come with gamification and leaderboards, others are primarily motivated by cold hard cash. In addition to these motivation techniques implemented by leadership, it’s important to develop personal habits that will keep you self-motivated.” – Emily Stanford, 130 Sales Tips for 2015: A New Salesforce E-Book, Salesforce.com; Twitter: @emannstan
50. Don’t underestimate the value of a mentor. “Even though Katniss is a strong individual with impressive skills (see below), she would have been far in over her head were it not for the guidance and support of her mentor, Haymitch. A former Hunger Games winner of years ago, he imparted invaluable wisdom and strategy to Katniss out of firsthand experience. Sales representatives can also gain invaluable knowledge and guidance from an experienced mentor who has succeeded in the sales field time and time again.” – Kim Evans, 7 Sales Tips Inspired by ‘The Hunger Games’, Jobs.net