You’ve emailed more, called more, researched more. Your buyer personas are second to none. Your marketing team has established a strong brand identity and you’re doing your best to convey that identity in every communication you make. But it’s still not enough. You’re missing quota – or you’re hitting quota and you want to smash it. Fear not, friends.
We have 10 game-changing ideas that will help you increase your sales in 2019.
HUBSPOT'S BEN COTTON SHARES INSIGHTS ON SALES ENABLEMENT
The widespread use of social media is in its second decade now, but social selling is still relatively new. Social selling – for those who don’t know – is how a lot of sales relationships begin these days. It uses all the relationship-building techniques salespeople have been using for donkeys years, but via online tools such as LinkedIn. So instead of introducing yourself to someone via email or at a conference, you might find you are both members of the same LinkedIn group or both commenting on the same post – et voila, you have common ground to build on.
Whereas brands have been perfecting their social media marketing for many years, individuals are still learning about the importance of a professional online presence. The reality is, both are important. They each perform separate functions. Your company’s Twitter account exists to engage with customers and prospects alike, to convey the brand message, respond to questions, make announcements – but not really to sell. That’s still the purview of the salespeople. But since everyone is already hanging out online, airing their grievances, sharing their challenges, seeking solutions, it makes sense that social selling is a growing phenomenon.
In 2019, make building your personal social media brand a priority because there’s a good chance your next sale is going to begin online.
Even if your prospective customers aren’t interacting with you on LinkedIn, you can bet that’s where they will go if they want to find out more about you. (You should also think about changing the privacy settings on any non-professional online accounts, in case Google happens to rank those sites higher in your SERP.)
62 percent (of buyers) look for an informative LinkedIn profile when deciding whether to work with a sales professional
Check out our blog on how to use your LinkedIn profile to attract new customers
Salespeople waste an inordinate amount of time on unqualified leads. In 2019, make it your mission to qualify the heck out of every lead that comes your way. That means establishing the following:
Some people call this the ANUM method of qualification (Authority, Needs, Urgency, Means) or BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing). It’s not game-changing but it is important if you want to avoid wasting time on customers who are not going to buy from you. The chances are, you think you’re already doing this – but your close rate says otherwise. So let’s look at some other ways to ask qualifying questions that might help you out.
Ooh, tough question. For a start, most B2B buying cycles will involve more than one decision maker – in fact, as many as 6.8 people are involved in the buying decision according to HBR. So though you may be talking to one of the decision makers, there could be 5.8 others you also have to convince, all with different priorities and perspectives.
How about turning the question around a little. We like ‘Where do you fit in the decision making process?’ It’s a gentler approach to asking the same question, but it also opens the way for a broader conversation about what that decision making process looks like. The hope is that in answering the question, your customer will also reveal how many other decision makers are involved as well as how long they are likely to take in making the decision.
It’s one way of qualifying a customer – but it’s definitely not the best way.
Need is subjective. You might look at a prospect who has crammed a week’s shopping, a buggy, a dog and two car seats into a 15-year-old Nissan Micra and think it’s a done deal.
But they might be thinking that, as long as the engine’s running, this is the car for them. Once you show them the bigger car with the huge trunk, ISO fix points for the car seats, seat back entertainment for the kids – maybe they will change their minds.
When qualifying need, always listen to the customer. Listen to what they’re not saying as well as what they are saying. Establish need with questions that lead to pain points. Help them discover their needs with you.
By showing that you understand their challenges as well – or even better – than they do, you’re establishing yourself as a true ally and building trust right from the get-go.
We recommend Shari Levitin’s Heart and Sell, 10 Universal Truths Every Salesperson Needs to Know, which includes an excellent chapter on asking questions:
When we ask the right questions, we uncover what matters most. “Discovery questions” uncover customers’ needs, direct their thinking down a path we choose, generate curiosity, and ultimately move them to action. These questions build rapport, gain commitment, and help your prospects sell themselves. Well-crafted questions help us make a point loudly, without having to raise our voice. Good questions create change. Great questions can change the world.
Establishing urgency means figuring out all the negative implications of not taking any action. HubSpot recognized this when they developed their own version of the ANUM/BANT method: GPCTBA/C&I (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority, [Negative] Consequences and [Positive] Implications). This effectively leaves urgency in the hands of the salespeople, who can discover what is at stake if the purchase doesn’t go ahead. What are the wider implications of sticking with the same car, for example? And specifically, to use the therapist’s cliché, how does that make the customer feel? Let’s take a moment to play that out:
Prospect: My car runs fine. I don’t need a new one.
Salesperson: It’s a great car. I noticed the stroller takes up a lot of room in the trunk though.
Prospect: The stroller will be gone in a year or so. The dog’s the real problem. He finds it hard to jump in as he gets older.
Salesperson: Poor thing – what do you have to do to get him in then?
Prospect: I lift him. But it’s not easy with two kids to manage as well. I worry that one of them is going to run into the road while I’m seeing to the dog.
Urgency. It’s not necessarily the immediate problem – the car is too small for my needs – but the impact of that problem – I have to take my eye off the kids while I’m helping the dog into the trunk – that will be the salesperson’s way in.
Urgency can be discovered together by asking the right questions.
Another slightly awkward – but essential – qualifier. Sometimes lack of budget is implied in the earliest stages of conversation – some buyers will put it front and center from the moment you begin talking. In other cases it’s a conversation both parties put off – for too long, until the salesperson feels they’ve invested too much time to let the deal go, at which point negotiations may go in favor of the customer. In any event, you’re probably going to hear at some stage that the price is too high. But how do you tell whether it’s a genuine obstacle or an excuse?
The answer can be found in value rather than cost. What is the value of what you’re offering – both in terms of ROI and emotionally? Return to those positive implications and negative consequences – some of them will be financial but many more might be personal.
Ditch the old ‘What is your budget?’ question and talk to them about value. Try to put a cost on their pain points – time lost, staff turnover, standing in the marketplace. Remember the horseshoe nail – no purchase is too small to make a big difference.
If the customer can’t see the value of what you’re offering and you can’t change their minds, they are not a good fit for your business. Cut the cord. Move on to the next.
Have you heard of microlearning? It’s our top training trend for 2019. But what is it? Let’s refer to the Training Industry definition:
Microlearning is a method that uses small moments of learning to drive job performance and employee development.
Whether or not you agree that millennials have short attention spans, it’s true that all of us increasingly receive information and entertainment in short bursts. Facebook, online news media, YouTube – even LinkedIn is full of 30-second videos from Cheddar (just me?). It’s easy to digest, easy to share, it doesn’t take much of our time and it has encouraged video creators to be smarter and more efficient with their content. All of that has transferred to the learning sphere particularly well.
The theory behind microlearning is that people engage better with short bursts of learning than they do with longer sessions. By repeating bite-size ‘lessons’ over extended periods, the information is more likely to end up in your long-term memory. And by lessons, we could be talking about daily 30 – 90 second pop quizzes. It’s that micro.
Microlearning doesn’t replace traditional learning methods – if you need to absorb a large amount of information, for example about a new product, you are still better off starting with a 2-hour training sessions. But whereas traditional formats might deliver that 2-hour training and send you away with a manual to revise, by adding microlearning to the training landscape you supplement the initial training with regular follow-up micro sessions until the learner has demonstrated that they have achieved the desired knowledge level.
This is where microlearning is really effective – it is targeted and it is intelligent. It can be used to test the learner on the course material, to focus on the gaps in their knowledge until those gaps no longer exist. It basically addresses the Forgetting Curve, ensuring that knowledge imparted during training sessions is retained.
Can you say ROI? We’re convinced. If you’re investing in training this year, ask your training provider what their microlearning options are. It’s a sure-fire way to improve your knowledge and that’s certainly going to help increase sales.
Some people put on a suit like a costume and go to work every day pretending to be someone they’re not. Women don’t talk about their children. Men don’t talk about their feelings. No one talks about their cultural background. Apart from the strain that faking it puts on your mental health (more on that below), what is it doing for your customer relationships?
It’s more important than ever for sales professionals to earn and maintain trust as consumer skepticism of big brands peaks.
As the world grows more digitized and communications are increasingly automated, the sales industry is talking more and more about the importance of customer relationships. Building trust. Making time for customers. Learning about them as people as well as buyers. Supporting them as an ally and an advisor.
How is it possible to do that without bringing your whole self to work?
Being authentic, being genuine, whatever you want to call it, pays off in your levels of happiness, confidence, and psychological safety – the feeling that you can say what you want without being judged, an ideal state of affairs for organizations that want people to share ideas, be innovative and speak up when something is wrong. And all those positive feelings pay off in your work – with bigger deals, increased sales and better customer relationships.
Also, just because it’s interesting, when Google conducted an in-depth study into what makes a successful team, psychological safety came out top. Here’s a quote from the New York Times article about the study, named Project Aristotle:
"What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘work face’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘psychologically safe,’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations... We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor."
The article describes the behaviors that create psychological safety as ‘conversational turn-taking and empathy’ – also behaviors that make for great sales conversations. The rules of good relationships apply equally internally and externally.
73% of salespeople rate their job as highly stressful. If you’ve been ignoring your mental health until now, make 2019 the year you actively devote some time to looking after yourself. Your sales figures will thank you for it.
Of course, resilience is considered to be a must-have aptitude in sales. Anyone who has to take as much rejection as salespeople do and not take it personally needs resilience in spades. But it’s not just about hearing ‘No’ for the twentieth time that week, or being this close to a deal that goes south and having to pick up the phone and keep going. The pressure of being in a commission-based profession, of knowing that one bad quarter could see you packing your things, of facing unrelenting competition both within and outside the company – it’s immense. It builds up over time. And it can wear you down.
So. What are you going to do?
We know you work long days, you travel a lot, you can’t commit to regular events. But you need a hobby – something that’s not work-related. Apart from the fact that it gives you an outlet to blow off steam (physical or emotional!), it will make you a more interesting person. And more interesting people are likely to do better at building customer relationships.
Sometimes we all need some advice. If you’re struggling – even with the small stuff – a mentor will be able to look at your work and suggest ways to improve your processes to get better results. Look for someone outside the company if you can. Otherwise you risk talking at a mirror.
Are you wasting precious time on sales admin jobs? Necessary, but tedious. Find out if there are tools that can take the load off.
All salespeople work towards quotas, but sometimes small, short-term goals can help give you a little extra motivation.
Take a holiday. The world will not end if you take a week off, but you might just come back from it feeling refreshed and creative. Remember, you work hard so that you can afford to take a break. All work and no play makes... you know the rest.
Running the same processes day in, day out can fry your brain. Change things up. Enroll in some training courses that give you a new lease on sales and see if you come out of the other side feeling brighter.
Whatever you do, don’t let the year go by without taking some time for yourself. Work/life balance doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.
Everyone is good at something. This year, take a closer look at what you do well and see how you can build on that and apply it to your work to increase sales. Let’s look at just a few brief examples.
Almost anything that you’re good at, that gives you joy and makes you feel confident can be put to use in a sales context.
Do you think of yourself as a team player? The traditional image of the lone wolf salesperson – with an ‘every man for himself’ mentality – is dying away. Not only should salespeople be working together, sharing ideas and information, but they must also work hand in hand with marketing and customer success if they really want to achieve more sales. Call it alignment, call it the growth of the revenue team – but whatever you call it, make it a priority in 2019.
A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that, at many companies, around 80% of an employee’s day is spent communicating with colleagues, in person, by email and on the phone. All of this communication puts you into teams, whether you think of it that way or not.
According to the Google research mentioned earlier, the success of those teams depends not on how smart the team members are, or how much time they put in. It comes down to giving everyone a chance to speak and considering the feelings of others in your team – what Sir Clive Woodward, who coached England’s rugby team to World Cup glory, calls Teamship.
Teamship is about the team discussing things, sharing ideas and being open. When you have a small team, you can often create that by meeting regularly and being together. But technology can help you scale Teamship.
You don’t necessarily need team bonding days and trust falls to make your team a success. But you do need an environment where everyone feels able to speak up. Set some ground rules and ensure that they’re being enforced.
We know it’s not a good idea to badmouth the competition. But have you considered the benefits of praising them?
It’s a bizarre aspect of human nature, but when you criticize someone’s choices, they tend to defend them, whereas when you praise them, they will quite often tell you the things that make them unhappy about that choice. It’s the same psychological tick that makes it a very bad idea to criticize someone’s mother, but makes it perfectly ok for them to criticize their own mother.
So next time you’re sitting with a customer who is currently using – or about to choose – a competitor’s services, try praising them. Pick on something specific – something that can’t be compared unfavourably with your own product/service – and say why you like it.
What does this do? Well firstly it makes you seem like the bigger person. You must be confident in your own product if you can talk up somebody else’s. Second, now that the customer knows they can share with you their true opinion of this product – without hurting your feelings or worrying that you’re about to denigrate their decision – perhaps they will open up about the concerns they have: The specific thing that you said you liked is great, but this other thing is a bit of a nuisance. And that’s where you can jump in and talk up your solution some more.
Or whatever personal social media you waste your time on.
Have you read the article that says in the time we spend on social media each year we could easily read 200 books? It calculates that the average American spends 608 hours a year on social media and 1642 hours a year watching TV. I’m not saying all of those 2250 hours are a waste of time – some of that social media time could be spent on social selling (which is crucial to today's sales process), some of that TV time could be spent watching Game of Thrones. But large swathes of it are just mindless scrolling through a ‘news’ feed – probably with the TV on in the background – because we have forgotten how to be bored.
Ditching unnecessary social media time opens up your day in two ways:
This second option might seem like more of a waste than scrolling through cat videos, but there is a lot of research out there on the value of empty time to feed the creative mind. And salespeople have to be creative to solve problems and increase sales.
It’s worth a try, right?
According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales 2018 report, almost three quarters of sales professionals use sales technology, and of those people 97% believe it is an important component of their job. The report goes on to say that the use of CRM platforms is on the rise – but with 64% of sales professionals using CRM software, that leaves more than a third of salespeople without.
To be successful in modern sales, you need to build relationships at scale—tapping into advanced sales technology to engage with the right contacts faster, while fostering human connection and trust.
Ok, not all sales technology is applicable to every salesperson, but most reps would like to find a way to automate tedious tasks, improve sales processes and find new ways to increase sales.
At the other end of the spectrum, some organizations report using 60 or more different sales technologies. Many sales technologies are designed to integrate with your existing solutions – but equally, many do not, which can cause frustration and bottlenecks.
Make 2019 the year you review your technology suite and how it’s working for you. New technologies are being launched all the time, while M&A activity in the market is also having an impact on how technologies work together and what your service providers can offer. There are a variety of ‘top 10/20/100’ lists out there, so get searching and see what comes up.
We hope these ideas help you increase your sales in 2019. Good luck and keep us posted – we’d love to hear what worked for you.
HUBSPOT'S BEN COTTON SHARES INSIGHTS ON SALES ENABLEMENT