Categories
sales fundamentals

How To Ask For A Sales Referral

Pop quiz: What’s the sales tactic with the highest ROI?

It’s neither email campaigns nor PPC ads. It’s not social media marketing, and it’s definitely not cold calls.

The correct answer is asking for referrals.

Referrals work because people are more likely to purchase products that are endorsed by people whom they actually know and trust. According to a Harvard Business Review article, “ 84% of B2B buyers are now starting the purchasing process with a referral, and peer recommendations are influencing more than 90% of all B2B buying decisions.”

Those are impressive numbers, especially when you take into consideration the declining success rates of cold calling and email marketing. What’s even better is that asking for referrals doesn’t entail spending money.

Why Do People Trust Referrals?

Sales referrals leverage the goodwill between the referred customer and the person making the referral. A referred prospect will be quicker to trust you and your product because they trust the person who referred them to you. And since they are more confident that you can deliver, they will move through the purchasing process faster than cold opportunities.

In fact, according to a 2015 Heinz Marketing survey of over 600 B2B sales and marketing leaders, 69 percent of respondents said that referral leads close faster than non-referral leads, while 71 percent of respondents said that referrals have a higher closing rate compared to leads from other sources.

This probably has to do with buyers’ wariness of traditional sales tactics, which could come off as pushy and self-serving. The shift to social selling—using social media platforms to research leads, prospect, and provide insightful content—allowed sellers to build relationships in a less hard-sell manner, proving their value until customers are ready to purchase.

So why doesn’t it seem like salespeople are using referrals to their advantage?

Perhaps they just don’t know how to ask for referrals properly.

Building Your Sales Referral Strategy

Building Your Sales Referral Strategy

1. Time it right

“Referrals need to be a process as much as prospecting is a process,” says Amar Sheth, Sales for Life’s COO. “It should be done when a customer has crossed a certain lifetime value with you—for instance, customers that have been using your solution for 6 months or 3 months, or whatever term you think is appropriate.”

It’s important that sellers first demonstrate their value before asking a customer for a referral; otherwise, they could come off as self-serving. But at the same time, don’t wait to pounce until it’s too late and the excitement over your product has run out. You need to strike when your happy customers are still buzzing about your product and how great it is.

2. Be precise  

As much as possible, don’t leave it up to the customer to decide whom they’ll introduce you to. 

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

Use social tools like LinkedIn to check their sphere of influence to see who they’re connected to. This lets you ask for strategic and surgical referrals, allowing you to enter and penetrate accounts of your choice instead of being at your customer’s mercy.

3. Use referral templates

Having templated emails ready allows you to ask for referrals quickly in a polite and professional manner.

Here’s an email template you can use for your customer advocates:

Dear [name of advocate],

I hope you're doing well!

I’m so glad to hear that our [work/service/product] has been working so well for you and your team. I knew that by working together, we’d be able to drive significant impact for [their company].

You’ve been a great advocate for [your company], and I would greatly appreciate if you could recommend us to any/all of the following people:

1. Jamie Shanks from Sales for Life
2. [Name of person you’d like to be introduced to] from [company]
3. [Name of person you’d like to be introduced to] from [company]

I’d love to help them achieve the same results you’ve gotten.

Thank you so much in advance!

Best,
[your name]

Asking for referrals is one of the simplest ways to generate new business. But while referrals have a higher success rate, don’t expect immediate results—these things can take time as your referred prospects might not need your product or service at the moment. Qualify these opportunities carefully.

In the meantime, keep building value, and have your account executives check in with your advocates and prospects to see how they’re doing. And don’t hesitate to ask your advocates if they know anyone who could benefit from your services—you’ll never know unless you ask!

Categories
Sales Management

The 5 Components of a Winning Sales Team

As sellers, it’s our responsibility to stay abreast of the latest sales trends and best practices. So when we read the Harvard Business Review article “The Sales Playbook of Successful B2B Teams”, we immediately wanted to share it with you because it really resonated with us.

Right at the onset, the article, which was written by four Bain & Company partners, mentioned one of the most common problems that sales teams face: underutilizing the tools at their disposal.

“Every major B2B company invests millions each year in sales technologies, yet 62% of 167 companies surveyed recently by Bain & Company said the return on their investment fell short of expectations. What companies hoped would be an intelligent CRM system ends up being used as a simple accounting and workflow management system. They’ve bought a high-octane car but lack driver training.”

At Sales for Life, we’ve also encountered a lot of companies with this same problem. Solving it isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s not just a matter of installing the tool on everyone’s computer or browser and enforcing its use. All the technology in your roster should work together seamlessly to achieve your organization’s goals, and there has to be an overarching strategy governing their usage.

The 5 Factors of a Winning Sales Team

Revenue teams need to develop different sales strategies for different occasions. Similar to how sales teams these days use data and statistics to select their players and create training routines and game plays, all of your revenue team’s moves should be based on proven facts instead of relying on gut feel or following what’s popular.

While different revenue teams have different priorities, thus having different strategies, the article’s authors observed that the highest-performing sales teams have certain distinct commonalities. These factors, described below, enable them to surpass their peers in terms of revenue growth and market share gain.

1. Detailed, specific data and sales signals that lend insight into an account’s priorities and spending habits at the individual customer level.

These data should go beyond contact information and surface-level company and financial data. Sellers should likewise know their target accounts’ priorities and goals, ensuring that their communication efforts address these.

Sales reps should also take note of Compelling Event Signals, which are specific, time-sensitive insights and events that can be leveraged to gain a competitive advantage. Compelling Event Signals give sellers a heads-up when there’s a particular situation that the seller can capitalize on, such as the installation of a new C-level executive that used to work at one of your existing customer accounts. If such a Signal comes up, the seller should act fast and play the appropriate sales strategy.

2. A sales play factory that can churn out a variety of plays that can be used for every conceivable occasion: Securing new accounts, upselling and cross-selling to existing accounts, renewing expiring accounts, and winning back former customers.

Selling isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Different customers have different priorities and situations, and they will naturally have different ways of responding (or not responding) to your outreach efforts.

That’s why it’s important to have a selection of various sales plays, ready to be deployed if a particular situation calls for it. By applying a variety of themes, messaging, engagement strategies, your sellers would have a higher likelihood of providing value to your customers during the activation cycle.

3. A command center that tracks and manages sales plays, pushing out the most effective plays to the rest of the team.

In the same way that sports teams analyze their games and continuously refine their strategies and training regimens, sales teams should keep working on their most effective sales plays in a strategic manner, at the same time shelving sales moves that failed to produce favorable results.

In addition, the best sales teams also have a global command center for their sales signals. All their signals are aggregated on one platform, which is easily accessible to the entire revenue team. This way, sellers can take note of the hidden links connecting all the accounts in their total addressable market, allowing them to see the sales opportunities and risks that might be present. When all the information is centralized, they can roll out the best sales plays for any situation.

4. Consistent, intensive coaching like what Sales for Life offers, which delves into specific areas of improvement and requires actual results.

Sales training and coaching give your team the knowledge and skills necessary to keep growing and supporting your client base. It also fosters accountability in your sales leaders, allowing them to guide their sellers to produce better results.

Remember, building the best B2B sales team doesn’t just entail hiring the best sellers and investing in the best sales tools. While these could propel your revenue team to the top, you’ll need to invest in regular sales training and coaching in order to stay there for a long time.

5. An array of interconnected sales technology tools that are integrated within your existing sales system and are fully utilized by your whole team.

Even if you have all the best sales tools at your disposal, they wouldn’t make a difference if they are not maximized.

“One software-as-a-service (SaaS) company had invested in technologies for customer relationship management, marketing automation, sales enablement and cadence, and call recording, but it was barely using them. By taking the time to embed these technologies properly into its sales processes, the company was able to increase revenue growth by 200 basis points within a few weeks.”

Conclusion

These five factors are essential for revenue teams that want to succeed in today’s cutthroat sales environment. With these systems in place within your strategy, all the departments within your sales and marketing teams work better with each other.

These five components also allow you to address your customers’ needs efficiently. You’ll be able to provide more value at the right time, benefitting your customers and giving you more opportunities to successfully close a deal.

Categories
Uncategorized

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.

Categories
digital selling training Sales Enablement sales training Social Selling Social Selling Training

How To Choose The Right Sales Training Program

Now that most sales motions are happening digitally, it’s never been more important to invest in your team’s digital selling skills.

The easiest way to achieve this is by investing in a digital sales training program that will standardize and formalize the way your revenue team’s prospecting, account growth, and account retention efforts.

Your efforts to modernize the sales process should be supported by the entire organization, from the top-down. Everyone needs to be on board, from your revenue leaders down to your frontline sales reps. The sales training program you choose should also be integrated within your existing oversight and coaching framework.

This way, everyone in your sales team can properly receive the sales coaching and guidance that they would need to succeed.

Your organization’s leadership committee also needs to be involved. As this might be new information to them, they might not see the need for digital sales training. By involving them in the process, they can better understand why a digital sales transformation is necessary. 

But how can sales leaders choose the right sales training program for their organization?

What makes a good digital sales training program

There are dozens of sales training programs available for all types and sizes of businesses, focusing on different aspects of the sales process. With so many options available, choosing the right one for your team can be daunting.

Here are four criteria that you should consider when deciding on a digital sales training program for your organization.

A good digital sales training program…

1. Should Sufficiently Address Skills Gaps
To create a tangible impact in your organization, start by identifying the most prevalent sales skills and performance gaps that your revenue team is facing. This is how you can find opportunities to upskill the members of your revenue team. Here are some of the most common issues that should be addressed immediately:

  • Lack of communication skills: Communication is a two-way street. While most sellers are great at talking, not all sellers can listen well. The best salespeople actively listen to their prospects, asking intelligent questions and using both verbal and nonverbal means to get their customers to warm up to them. Low performers usually spend at least 70% of their calls and meetings speaking.
  • Lack of preparation for sales conversations: You’d be surprised at the number of sales representatives who go into sales calls and meetings without a back-up plan or even a specific objective. There are even sellers who take on calls without knowing anything about the prospect or how your product would specifically benefit the customer.
  • Lack of a prescriptive sales process: Your whole revenue team needs to be consistent when it comes to your sales process. You can’t have a seller skipping certain steps or adding unnecessary ones—that’s how they can miss important tasks like following up with leads or sending email sequences. Even the smallest inconsistency or inefficiency could affect your whole bottom line. 
  • Lack of social selling knowledge: While the term social selling is well-known, not all sellers are aware of the techniques and best practices it involves. They might know that LinkedIn can be used for networking and prospecting, but they don’t necessarily know how to do so. And if your organization doesn’t have a prescriptive process for social selling, it’s pretty much like the blind leading the blind. Which leads us to the next point…

2. Should Teach Social Selling Skills
In this age of digital networking, social selling is no longer optional, but a must-have. It’s an incredibly important skill set that drives actual pipeline and sales. And with pipeline creation being one of the most crucial aspects of the sales process, your team needs to utilize all tools and resources at their disposal.

3. Should Be Incorporated Into Your Existing Sales Process
Training wouldn’t produce results if it’s not aligned to your company’s goals, values, and strategy. That’s why the concepts that will be taught in your chosen sales training should be integrated into your existing sales process to make it more efficient and effective. A good digital sales training program should optimize your sellers’ style, adjusting specific actions for better results instead of dictating a non-negotiable list of things to do per situation.

4. Should Be Reinforced for Optimum Learning
Reinforcement of skills is also important, as long-term growth is rarely produced by one-time training. Learnings need to be applied, and tested, a feedback loop should be established, and sales managers should be able to provide coaching and mentorship.

Wrapping It Up

When it comes to your sales team’s performance, there’s always room for improvement. A good sales training program is necessary for developing your sellers’ skills, tapping into their expertise and talent to increase sales and profits, drive growth, and cultivate a high-performing work environment. 

While there’s no harm in investing in marketing, recruitment, or tools, companies shouldn’t forget about their current sales force—your most important asset and revenue-driver. By enabling your sellers’ transformation into high-performing salespeople, you’ll be better equipped to blast ahead of your competition.

Categories
modern selling

6 Modern Selling Mistakes Sellers Should Avoid

A lot has changed in the past year. Though the world is slowly heading towards a state of cautious normalcy, the drastic changes to the sales landscape seems to be permanent.

While the transition to modern selling was inevitable, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the pace, turning what was supposed to be a gentle, gradual shift into an adapt-or-die scenario. Read on to learn about 6 major mistakes that should be absolutely avoided in the age of modern selling.

6 Modern Selling Mistakes That Today’s Sellers Should Avoid

1. Not putting the buyer first

Almost every company says their buyers come first, but their words don’t always translate into actions.

According to the LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021, “just 43% of sales professionals say their sales org stays actively engaged after the sale to ensure value delivery all the time.” This is worrying, as after sales service is indispensable for promoting positive word-of-mouth, increases customer retention, and strengthens brand value.

2. Delivering misleading product information

As children, we were taught that it’s bad to tell a lie. But with age comes the realization that the world is not stark black-and-white, and that it’s sometimes necessary to twist the truth a bit to get what you want. Unfortunately, some sellers carry this mentality in their work, overstating product benefits and making promises that cannot be fulfilled. After all, how much damage can these little white lies do?

The answer: Possibly a lot.

Even the tiniest bit of false information can lead to complaints, negative feedback, lost revenue, and worse, lost customers—all things you’d like to avoid.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. When you make a purchase, you place your trust in the seller to deliver as promised. And if you find out the hard way that the seller has given you inaccurate information or has made false promises about the product, wouldn’t it leave a bad taste in your mouth?

So don’t risk it—it’s never worth it.

3. Not understanding the client’s needs

You could be selling the most modern product in your industry, but no one will buy it if they don’t want it or if they feel like they don’t need it. 

That’s why you should make an effort to clearly understand what your customers want and need. This should be at the center of all your business’ efforts. All your sales communications should be anchored to this. Only then can you effectively persuade your customers that you are the best choice for their company.

4. Not understanding your own product or service

Knowing what your customers need is only half of the battle. To convince them to purchase from you, you have to effectively communicate how your product can address their needs.

An intimate knowledge of your product’s details, benefits, and capabilities can help you answer your clients’ questions and objections, and can go a long way in convincing them that your solution is the one they’re looking for.

5. Not maximizing the sales tools at your disposal

With the pandemic taking away most opportunities to safely meet clients face-to-face, salespeople have turned to technology to fill in the gap. According to the LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020, only 43% of sellers use sales intelligence tools—a 54% increase from how it was in 2018, but still not the majority. 

Knowing how to use sales tools to your advantage can help you outperform your peers by leaps and bounds. Tools allow for a data-driven approach to selling, effectively making the prospecting process prescriptive. Tools also allow for the automation of tedious administrative tasks, letting sellers focus on what they do best: Providing value to their clients. 

6. Not boosting their social media presence

If you’re a seller, a strong social media presence isn’t merely nice to have, but a must-have. With face-to-face meetings minimized, social selling, particularly on LinkedIn, is now one of the most optimal ways for B2B sellers to find prospects, build brand awareness, and strengthen relationships with potential and existing clients. It also shortens the sales cycle, cutting down on the time you’ll normally spend researching accounts and finding opportunities.

What’s nice is that it’s not exactly difficult to reap the benefits of social selling—you just have to be diligent and consistent. Start by ensuring that your social media profile is complete, up-to-date, and professional. Then, gradually expand your network by connecting and engaging with your peers in the industry.

Along the way, create and share relevant content to establish yourself as a thought leader. Try to make it a daily habit and track your posts’ engagement to see what kind of content best resonates with your prospects. 

Wrapping It Up 

 The biggest mistake a seller can make these days is to be stuck in the mindset that things will eventually go back to how they were pre-COVID.

While we all want things to be back to how they were before, we can’t deny that it’s all wishful thinking at this point. Modern selling is here to stay, and the sooner you adapt and embrace change, the faster you’ll see your business grow.

Categories
Sales Leadership

How Sales Leaders Can Improve Their Coaching using the GESTALT Method

The goal of effective coaching is to help a seller make better decisions by solving problems using structured thinking. We call these ‘Eureka Moments,’ which cause future actions to either:

  • Adjust their course: what we call a “Red Flag”
  • Stay on course: what we call a “Green Flag”

Adjusted actions that are repeated consistently create habits and form new behaviors. This is your desired outcome. To transfer knowledge that will inspire others to adjust action, you have to change two habits yourself:

1. Don’t mistake working on tasks for your sellers as helping them or your team. It’s counterproductive to value creation and steals time from you in the future. Remember: You are the CEO of the market. You’re a builder. Your primary role and responsibility is to teach your sellers to work on their priorities.

2. Telling someone how to do a task or what to prioritize is also counterproductive. Since this does not transfer knowledge properly, it won’t change your sellers’ actions consistently enough to form habits. You are then stuck with dependents who lean on you to make decisions for them.

Instead, you want to manage a team of sellers that can make their own informed decisions. You can achieve this with Eureka Moments, which can be created with inspiration, the right line of questioning, and guidance. These moments plant a seed in your sellers’ minds, which will eventually take root, grow, and develop.

Remember, your goal as a leader is to get them to make their own decisions. So, how can you strengthen your ‘Coaching Moments’ in your 1-on-1s?

Strengthening Your Coaching Moments

Step 1: Know what you’ll focus on

Before your 1-on-1, isolate an inflection point: A moment in time where you believe the seller’s decision-making requires coaching. From this inflection point, map the seller’s decisions into a ‘Decision-Making Framework’.

Step 2: Use the ‘Decision-making Framework’

A Decision-Making Framework can be visualized as forks in a road. The process of creating a decision-making tree is called Structured Thinking. Basically, when the seller gets to a stage in their account where a decision had to be made, did they choose the left path or the right path, and what was the logic behind their decision?

Visualizing a decision-making tree is an extremely valuable practice that helps you and your seller pinpoint inflection points along their journey. To properly capture how decisions are made and to visualize inflection points, focus on WHAT or HOW-based inquiries and avoid questions that can be answered by ‘yes’ no ‘no’. Open-ended queries require detailed responses, which shed light on the decision-making process.

Role Play Example

Here is an example of a coaching conversation you may have. Assume that your seller decides to prioritize working heavily on a particular customer.

YOU: Why did you decide to focus on this customer? What was your decision-making process?

SELLER: I noticed two compelling triggers and signals:

  1. I saw that their IT team was consuming some of our new insights last week.
  2. I noticed that they hired a new CISO from a competitor last month.

YOU: What specifically about these compelling triggers and signals makes you believe you can grow the account?

SELLER: I think they might be interested in Cloud Migration for their new division on market insights. Their new CISO also came from a competitor that, according to our data, shifted to the cloud 18 months ago.

This would be a good conversation to have. Instead of giving them the answer, you presented to them the tools and know-how to empower their decision-making.

Step 3: Spark a Eureka Moment with Gestalt

The concept of Gestalt is leveraged by thousands of best-in-class sales leaders daily. The process is the bedrock of knowledge transfer from one leader to another, with the goal of creating Eureka Moments.

Now, when coaching your sellers, your first instinct is probably to tell them where they went wrong and what to do next. This might feel like the right thing to do today, but it will hinder their growth and steal from their future. Instead, implement Gestalt: the process of telling true stories that you or your team have experienced, with the goal of influencing a seller to reframe their decision-making process.

Expanding our Role Play Example:

SELLER: Does it matter in this customer account if the CISO has experience with this cloud computing platform?

YOU: 3 years ago, I decided to target a certain telecommunications provider using the exact same logic. There was a new CIO, the telecom industry was shifting from 4G to 5G, and it appeared that the stars were aligning in my favor. I initially reached out to the CIO, who pushed me down to the Director of IT Infrastructure. The director really liked our ideas, and he formed a committee to review our proposal. We had cross-functional meetings, and they scoped expanding workloads.

The new CIO got word of our project, but what we didn’t know is that he actually spoke at a conference for the cloud computing platform the year before, and had experience with their solution when he worked at his previous firm. He then called his old colleagues at the cloud computing platform and sidestepped our workload project.

The problem was that this deal took 18 months to materialize—wasting a huge amount of internal resources and creating a large churn gap in my portfolio.

So how will you gather competitive intelligence on a particular account or any of your key accounts in the future? What is your action plan to avoid committing similar mistakes in this account?

Conclusion

As a leader, you can implement the Gestalt method by doing the following:

  • Focusing on specific inflection points instead of general sales cycle stages or processes; and
  • Invoking deeper analysis of their structured thinking process using open-ended “what” and “how” questions.

Finally, always remember this: True inspirational Eureka moments come when your seller learns through self-realization.