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Why You Should Invest In Sales Training And Coaching

If you want to build the best sales team, regular training and coaching sessions are necessary. This gives your sellers the knowledge and skills necessary to better grow and support your client base. The result? Empowered, competent sellers who can deliver better value for your organization. 

Why Sales Training Is Important

Training and coaching all starts with sales leadership. Sales leaders have to understand why training is needed—not just the impact it will have on their teams, but also how it drives accountability.

There’s a saying that goes, “inspect what you expect.” In this case, the frontline sales managers need to be capable of inspecting their teams for green flags and red flags—the right and wrong things their sellers do. They should be able to coach their sellers and hold them accountable, building upon green flags and correcting red flags. 

This is where sales training comes in.

With regular sales training, frontline sales managers will be more knowledgeable about the latest and most efficient selling methods. They will be equipped with the leadership skills necessary to lead a team and can incorporate everything that they’ve learned into the sales strategies they prepare. 

Once your sales managers are ready to be accountability coaches and leaders, they can gradually transfer this knowledge into the sellers’ hands. Sellers typically consume information in bite-sized chunks: They learn a skill, apply that skill in the market, and then they amplify that skill with the other skills they know.

This whole loop typically happens over a period of 60-90 days.  If this keeps compounding week over week, your sales managers could build a business case—a creative, actual live opportunity in the market.

And it all begins with a great training program.

The Importance of Sales Coaching

Here at Sales for Life, we’ve always underscored the importance of sales coaching. While it’s included in the sales training programs we offer, we highly encourage the sales leaders we train to make it a permanent part of their one-on-ones with their sales team members.

Not only does regular coaching establish an actionable feedback loop that, through practice and repetition, help sales reps improve their performance, but it also allows sales managers to improve their established sales processes, honing their training techniques by pinpointing their teams’ areas of progress and improvement. 

When to Schedule Sales Coaching

Sales coaching is most effective when it’s integrated into a broader enablement strategy, implemented alongside training, upskilling, tools investment, and other seller development initiatives. It should be a formalized process based on data, with a regular cadence and measurable KPIs.

If you want to establish an optimal sales one-on-one practice with your team, we suggest that sales leaders schedule one-on-one sessions with each member of their team every week. We call this a $500-value creator, in which the sales leader would spend a period of time identifying an inflection point in a coachable moment, which they can use to help the seller improve.

We recommend a series of regular weekly coaching sessions—52 weeks of 52 different coaching moments that will be analyzed and actioned upon through the year. One-on-one sessions can also follow a read-and-react model based on feedback from the seller, wherein both manager and seller focus on how a particular moment could be improved.

Regardless of the coaching format you implement, one-on-ones need to happen every week in order to properly track your sellers’ progress. This way, you can have 52 opportunities in a year, as a leader, to transfer knowledge and add tons of value to your sellers, contributing immensely to their personal and professional development.

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The Importance of Growing Your Online Professional Network

An average of 8 stakeholders influence buying decisions within a company. But most sellers only have around 1 or 2 contacts within a company—and sometimes, they aren’t even influential decision makers. And the fewer contacts you have, the higher the risk of the account leaving you.

That’s why the modern seller should be savvy enough to use social media to broaden their networks. 

Always remember: Your network is your net worth. Although it may sound like a cliche, it really holds true—especially in sales, where you especially need to capitalize on the relationships you have built in order to boost your career.

That’s why you should learn how to grow your network in ways that are doable and easy to understand. And the most optimal way to do so is via LinkedIn.

The reason content sharing and network development are so intricately tied together is because of the viral nature of content. Can you grow your network on LinkedIn without sharing content? Definitely. But if you want to accelerate the process, you’ll have to share content.

That’s because content sharing on social networks has one distinct advantage—it can be seen by others outside of your network. If you share an article for IT leaders, and 3 of them in your network engage with it, your words and opinions will be broadcasted to those 3 people’s entire networks. 

Think of the people your buyers are connected to—they are probably in similar roles or industries. So if 3 IT leaders like, comment on, or share your article, similar people outside of your network will see your words and opinions giving you free publicity. And that’s powerful.

Basically, content sharing allows you to grow your network with the right type of people, naturally growing your influence on them in the process.

Here’s how you can capitalize on creating content on social media to grow your network.

Check Your LinkedIn Views

As your buyers become more digital, a greater number of them will be visiting your LinkedIn profile. However, you can be proactive about it, speeding up the process by sharing content that will naturally spark other people’s curiosity. This will cause them to be, in turn, curious about who you are, why you do, and why you’re talking about a specific topic.

Sharing content allows you to drive people to your profile. And if you happen to share content for a particular type of audience or customer, there is a strong chance that those types of people will come to your profile.

Now, how can you capitalize on this?

The most important thing is to check your LinkedIn profile views daily. Then, identify people who have titles that may be important to you as you want to grow your network. These could be actual customers, or just people who could help amplify your message. Reach out and connect with them by writing a custom message that allows them to understand the reason why you’re reaching out. 

But don’t just connect with everyone who checked out your profile (unless you really want to do so!). Just as you would qualify someone’s interest on phone, email, or text, a visit to your LinkedIn profile must be qualified as well. Imagine a spectrum of interest, where one side is cold and another side is hot. If you don’t qualify the interest of the LinkedIn profile viewer, you could be missing out on a good opportunity.

Check your content engagement

As you seek ways to grow your LinkedIn professional network, don’t forget to check your content’s engagement to see how you can optimize it to boost your efforts. See who’s liking, commenting, and sharing your content—and you should take note of who these people are and find out why they engaged with your post.

To check content engagement, click on the Notifications bell on the top navigation bar to see who’s liking, commenting, or sharing your content. Then spend some time engaging back—reply to comments and react to shared posts. Next, connect with those whom you feel would bring more value to your network, and could benefit you in return.

If you see that someone has taken the time to engage with your content, you should not only engage back but also reach out and connect with those whom you feel would be a good fit for your network. These could be people that could directly help you, or people who have the influence and clout to help you spread your message. They may not be able to help you immediately, but by connecting with them and providing value to them, they can, in time, positively influence your business outcomes.

Connect With Unknown Key Account Stakeholders

The most natural way to grow your LinkedIn network is by reaching out to those whom you can identify in particular accounts.

Gaining a connection on LinkedIn is seen as a big deal by many, especially when you’re connecting to salespeople. Because let’s face it: A lot of sellers don’t really make the effort to provide value or substance to their customers. No one wants to be hit with a sales pitch out of the blue, so connecting with sellers doesn’t make sense to most buyers. But if you proceed by providing value and insight, you can turn things in your favor.

Always remember that the best way to have someone accept your LinkedIn invite is by leading with value. Connect with them in a professional manner and let them know why you want to connect, without mentioning your sales pitch. Be humble in your approach and messaging, and don’t settle for generic commentary—focus on why you’re reaching out, and mention your desire to genuinely connect and learn more from them.

Connect With Known Account Stakeholders

If you want to expand your LinkedIn network, it makes sense to start with people with whom you’re already actively engaged with. You’re probably already talking to several people within the accounts you’re working on—but have you made an effort to connect with them on LinkedIn?

Just because you’ve got someone’s name and email in your CRM, doesn’t mean that you’ve established a professional relationship with them. It just means that you have their contact information in your database. A relationship happens when there’s interaction, and doing this online via LinkedIn can be a beneficial way to achieve this.

Start by opening up all the accounts or leads that you’re actively working on in your CRM. Decide how early or late-stage they are, but identify the key people you’re working with in each account’s respective sales cycles.

Next, reach out and connect with these people with a custom message. Since they already know you, they wouldn’t feel apprehensive about your effort to connect with them. Once you’re connected, send them a message saying that you’re looking forward to staying in touch on LinkedIn. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

Even if you already know each other, it’s still crucial to connect with these people online. This increases their chances of seeing and engaging with your content, allowing you a new opportunity to nurture your relationships with them.

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6 Ways to Keep Your Sales Pipeline Full

Keeping your sales pipeline full seems to get more challenging with each passing year.

Quotas keep rising, but the number of people you can sell to seems to be decreasing.

How are salespeople supposed to hit their targets this way?

One of the leading causes of this problem is a lack of prospects. Think of it this way: When there aren’t enough leads at the top of your sales funnel, you would eventually be left with zero opportunities to close deals.

Unfortunately, most sales methodologies begin at a point where there are already prospects that you can convert. The focus more often than not is on closing, not on prospecting. 

But if you don’t have any prospects, you can’t close any deals.

That’s why building a strong sales pipeline is important.

What is a sales pipeline?

The sales pipeline is a visual representation of all the stages of your sales process, from your first interaction with a lead or a contact all the way to capturing a sale. It shows your selling performance at a glance, allowing you to easily see which activities and strategies are working and which ones need more work.

Now here’s the tricky part: There isn’t one foolproof, tried-and-tested way to build pipeline. Since sales pipelines vary from business to business, different sales organizations tend to have their own unique processes and rules for pipeline creation. At times, it even varies per member of the sales team.

The lack of standardization in pipeline creation poses several risks, such as:

  • Difficulty identifying specific areas for improvement
  • Less accurate sales outcomes
  • More good leads getting stuck in dead zones

That’s why salespeople who can create, maintain, and improve pipelines will have a higher chance of thriving in today’s cutthroat world. 

How to Keep Your Sales Pipeline Full

Having plenty of sales opportunities prevents you from relying on bad sales practices that could harm your bottom line, such as offering discounts or guilting prospects. A full sales pipeline allows you to confidently set the price your product deserves, knowing that there are plenty of other opportunities you can fall back on. This results in a larger average deal size, more referrals, and positive feedback.

1. Always be prospecting

Spend time every day to look for new leads on LinkedIn, look for buying triggers in the news, and reach out to new prospects via email and phone.

Your prospecting efforts need to be consistent. You see, if you let yourself take a day off one time, you’ll be tempted to do it again a week later, and then the week after that.

And before you know it, you won’t have new leads in your pipeline anymore.

Try blocking some time on your calendar, setting an alarm on your phone, asking another salesperson on your team to keep you accountable, or writing “prospecting” on your daily to-do list. Force yourself to prospect daily—whatever it takes to make it a habit.

2. Upsell and cross-sell.

Sure, working non-stop to attract new customers is exciting. However, if you want to increase revenue without ramping up your lead generation efforts, upselling to existing customers is key.

You see, with new customers, you need to establish trust before they’ll even listen to you, let alone buy your product.

In comparison, your existing customers already trust you. Since they already purchased from you before, they’re much more likely to buy from you again—provided they’re happy with your service.

It’s also a lot cheaper to sell to existing customers than to new ones. According to the 2016 Pacific Crest SaaS Survey, the median Customer Acquisition Cost for upsells is just $0.28 per $1. This is a bargain compared to the $1.18 spent to acquire $1 of revenue from a new customer.

So take the time to regularly check in with your existing customers. Keep providing them with value and identify win-win opportunities to upsell them.

3. Incorporate social selling.

Social selling is necessary to survive and thrive in today’s modern, digital sales environment. The sooner you embrace this, the faster you will meet quotas, grow your pipeline, maximize your profitability, and elevate your team’s skills.

The SPEAR Selling strategy is an effective way to fill your sales pipeline and prospect more efficiently. First, a seller needs to be accountable for their own territory by visualizing their Total Addressable Market (TAM). This allows them to see clearly where gaps and opportunities lie, and they can apply signal intelligence against accounts in their TAM so they can objectively Select and Prioritize the most promising prospects using data-based Signals.

From there, the seller moves on to Planning—developing executive business plans for the top accounts. Engagement starts after, powered by synchronous and asynchronous video.

Next, the seller Activates customers by applying the signal intelligence and the stories they have created against their accounts. The seller should gauge the customers’ feedback—also known as buying intent—before moving to the Reprioritize phase. In this last stage, the seller will redevelop their TAM based on all the data they have gleaned.

4. Ask for referrals.

Your current customers are the best source of your next customers. They believe in your value proposition; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have bought your product.

So once a customer has crossed a certain lifetime value with you, ask them to refer you to someone in their sphere of influence who can use your product.

“Traditionally, when B2B salespeople ask for referrals, they would ask the customer to determine who they should be introduced to,” says Amar Sheth, Sales for Life’s COO. “That’s actually very dangerous. It’s not a smart thing because the customer now has to think about it, which means that there’s a high likelihood that this request may not even be fulfilled.

The best way to go about it, Sheth continues, is to aim for an introduction to a specific person.

“if you could find out who they’re connected to using the power of social media, then you can ask for strategic referrals,” he says. “Using tools like LinkedIn, you can determine who they’re connected to and ask for a strategic and precise referral. This way, you can enter accounts of your choice, not just the choice of the customer.”

5. Know your top customers and focus on them.

a. Grow deeper in existing accounts

In time, you’ll observe that your team closes more deals with companies from a certain industry. For example, if you close six times more deals with mining corporations than food companies, then it makes sense to focus on mining corporations. 

The same logic applies with roles within a company. If historical data says you’re more likely to win a deal when you work with the research team versus the culture team, you should get an introduction to a research team member ASAP.

b. Focus on account retention

Account retention entails building relationships with your customers and maximizing revenue from every single one of them. But it’s not a one-way street: You have to provide more value to your existing customer base as well.

Your sellers should ensure that the customers they have acquired will have a great experience with your company and will stay satisfied with your products and services. Some strategies include improving customer support, offering discounted renewal rates, and rolling out multi-channel engagement campaigns for existing clients.

6. Automate as many processes as possible.

The simpler and easier prospecting is, the less you’ll dread doing it—and the more efficient you’ll be.

There are several CRM tools that you can use to make sales pipeline management easier. You should set reminders and create automated emails to reach out to prospects. Always try to move them further along the pipeline, even after the deal goes cold. Automation lets you focus on warm leads while keeping an eye on cold ones, as well as prospects with longer buying cycles.

Conclusion

Creating and maintaining your sales pipeline isn’t an overnight affair. You have to take good care of properly plotting your pipeline in a customer-centric manner, and this is a process that could require a lot of trial and error. But the result will always be worth it.

Above all, you should never stop prospecting.

A lot of people only prospect at the start of the sales cycle, and that’s not a good strategy. As a seller, you should always find ways to drive new business, no matter where you are in the customer life cycle. You need to be intentional about it, and all your actions should be centered around the creation of new opportunities.

Remember: Building sales pipeline for the sake of building pipeline is meaningless unless you understand what you need to achieve by what date as milestones to get you to your goal. You need to be pointed about the actions and activities—the only things that you control—you should do to achieve that goal.

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Striking a Balance Between Traditional and Modern Selling

These days, traditional selling techniques are no longer enough to meet your sales quota. The pandemic made this very clear: Forced to keep physical interaction with others to a minimum, we all had to rely on modern selling methods to nurture our relationships with our customers.

While you will still get results with cold calling and emailing, modern selling techniques will get you better prospecting results with less time and effort.

“The blending of modern and traditional selling has been going on for quite some time, but the best way to think about it is in terms of ground cover and air cover,”

Jamie Shanks, CEO of Sales for Life

“With ground cover, the individual seller is responsible for their total addressable market, and the accounts within it. Their job is to socially surround the customer and the buying committee. So all the champions, influencers and decision makers, they need to identify who these people are and how they’re going to engage them in a bold and different way.”

The marketing team, meanwhile, provides the air cover—account-based marketing best practices and directly at that total addressable market. This way, modern and traditional selling does the exact same thing.

Combining Traditional and Modern Selling

Thankfully, finding the perfect balance between modern and traditional sales techniques isn’t too difficult or complicated. Here’s how you can combine traditional and modern marketing practices in your sales strategy:

1. Share Content Regularly

“I’m sharing content three times a day,” says Shanks. “Every single day, I’m sharing best practices, pitfalls, and challenges.”

It’s a simple task, but it allows him to draws people in and build a community, contributing to his social branding presence. This way, he can easily connect with key stakeholders, champions, influencers, and decision makers from the accounts that make up his total addressable market (TAM). 

2. Necessitate Change

When the buying committee joins your community as you share more content, you’re moving them off their status quo, making them ask themselves, ‘Why should we change today instead of tomorrow?’ Your content should answer this question, eventually forcing them to study how they can start change.

Once the buying committee has answered these questions, they should start looking for people who can help them facilitate the changes they want to achieve. This is where you come in and convince them that the solution you are offering is perfect for their needs via a cadence of targeted messages, delivered via both modern and traditional methods.

The Intersection of Modern and Traditional

To recap, you need to know the needs of the people you have to engage, and from there, you can better create stories will resonate with them.

If you can answer these, you’ll have an easier time engaging your customer in a bold and different way.

“That might be via phone, email, text, or LinkedIn. I also embed smart links for video in the emails I send,” says Shanks. “In addition, I send targeted stories to my prospects using a cadence software like Salesloft, which you can use to pinpoint certain people and direct a very specific sales conversation towards them.”

This combination of modern and traditional selling techniques allows Shanks to socially surround the buying committee within his TAM.

“So I’m doing air cover by sharing content to help attract these people into my social network, like a magnet. And then I’m engaging them very directly, maybe offline using phone or text, or online via email,” says Shanks.

Always remember: The best sales strategies need both modern and traditional methods.

It’s not a “versus” or “or” situation—the two need to be used together. Only then will your team be able to achieve the best results. 

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Account Selection: Start Prioritizing Social Proximity

When entering the world of sales, account selection becomes the most important thing – and yet, it is something that is often overlooked. Both newbies and experienced salespeople tend to go after the big fish. They start planning and visualizing their account map as filled with brands and companies that they know because of their name, global impact, and popularity.

And while there is nothing wrong with this—in fact, we at Sales for Life do it too—it can cause some hindrances to your pipeline’s growth, especially if it’s all you’re going to focus on.

Here’s an excerpt from our CEO, Jamie Shanks’ book, SPEAR Selling:

When I was 16, I started a landscaping company in my small town of Manotick, Ontario, Canada. I made pink and yellow flyers that I photocopied at Mac’s Milk convenience store, and handed them out door-to-door.

Just as I was about to start my first spring lawn cutting season, my mother said to me “Jamie, if you do a great job, two people in the neighborhood will hear about you; if you do a terrible job, eight people in the neighborhood with hear about you”.

She paused, looked at me intently, and I could see what she was really saying: “The neighbors will tell me, and I’ll feel embarrassed… so don’t screw up!”

Even as a teenager, I was learning about the power of business development through social proximity and successful storytelling.

Take Advantage of Your Asymmetrical Competitive Advantages

4.2x more likely to get a sales appointment if you have a relationship than if you don’t.

Sales Benchmark Index (SBI)

So what is social proximity, and what does it have to do with account selection?

Simply put – and precisely as it sounds – it’s about utilizing your relationships, personal experiences, and customer successes (collectively known as your Asymmetrical Competitive Advantages) and placing them at the center of your pipeline efforts. You use these when creating targeted account lists, whether vertically or geographically. 

This strategy is built with a solid foundation that focuses on the customers and then grows and works outwards. Instead of focusing on which accounts will get you the biggest commissions, this strategy gives you the goal of finding asymmetric competitive advantages that other people – especially your competitors – cannot possibly compete against. 

Leveraging these advantages that exist around your company’s happy customers and the people working with them can open up a significant number of opportunities for you, which in effect can keep opening up new opportunities for you as you increase the number of happy customers in your care. Using social platforms, such as LinkedIn, can give you insights that paint a clearer picture of these relationships and the interrelationships between them.

Account Selection with Social Proximity in Mind

The next time you’re planning or reevaluating your goals for account selection (and acquisition), think of the people you’ve already got connections and influence with.

These people will include the following:

  • Employees of your current customers
  • Former employees of your existing customers
  • Your customers’ competitors
  • Partners and vendors that are associated with or are suppliers of your customers

And on a more personal level, you can also look to:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Community and social network
  • Previous school alumni

Every one of the relationships you possess with these people can create various levels of asymmetrical competitive advantages for you and your pipeline. The relationships that you’ve built with them aren’t easily copied or stolen by competitors.

While still hunting for the big fish accounts, spend a considerable amount of time and energy mapping out account selection based on your social proximity. To do this and to do it well, it is crucial that you get rid of any predetermined accounts that have been handed off to you by your superiors, your company, or even by yourself. 

We know that majority of companies will assign accounts to their sellers. However, you shall still be entitled to a percentage of target accounts to choose for themselves. This should also be a wake-up call to these companies when addressing their account selection strategies with their salespeople. Including social proximity must be given priority as early as the planning stage.

This strategy is a big, big help for sellers, especially those who are just starting out with their accounts, as well as those who find themselves stuck with their pipeline’s growth. And once you’ve been able to acquire accounts, thanks to your social proximity strategy, there’s no stopping you from reaching higher and going after the big fish.

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A Guide to Gating Content

 

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Are You A Digital Or Analog Sales Leader? [Weekly Roundup]

analog-vs-digital.jpgWelcome to your sales weekly roundup for January 29-Feb 4th. This week we’ve got the benefits of negotiation tactics, operation challenges with ABM and the unique challenges for both digital and analog sales leaders. Enjoy.

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A Guide to Creating Content for the Buyer-Customer Journey

 

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How to Build a Path for Engagement Using a Content Hub

 

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Pushy Sales Strategies Don’t Work Like They Used To [Video]

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It’s no secret: cold calling, traditional emails and other interruptive sales strategies don’t work like they used to. Why? Because the internet has empowered the buyer, allowing them to do their own research without you.