It is certainly true that some things never change. Believe it or not, in 2010, sales teams and sales managers are still going to have only 24 hours in a day to accomplish the many tasks and roles in their professional and personal lives. And I'm willing to bet the list isn't getting any shorter for either party.
The old adage, "work smarter, not harder" is a great goal. But just how do you achieve it?
(1) Get smarter.
Are you smarter than you were a year ago or are you still trying to master new concepts and challenges with old knowledge? Albert Einstein once said, "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."
So how do you and your sales team get smarter?
- Copy Oprah Winfrey's book club idea. Select one book a month for your sales and/or management team to read. Hold a book club meeting to discuss new ideas and how to apply to your business.
- Convert your 30-minute commute to work into a university on wheels. Turn off the car radio and turn on an educational audio cassette. Multiply 30 minutes a day times five days a week times four weeks, and it totals 10 hours a month of getting smarter.
- Join or form a mastermind group. A good one will challenge assumptions, give recommendations and serve as a sounding board. In the early 1970s, some unknown business people banded together to form a mastermind group. You may have heard of some of the participants: Tony Robbins, Harvey McKay and Mark Canfield.
- Get a mentor. Find someone better than you in your desired area of expertise. Ask for help, guidance and honesty in growing your mind and business.
Successful companies and individuals make a concerted effort to get smarter because they know prospects no longer buy product knowledge. Prospects and clients are looking to buy intellect and expertise that can help them identify a problem they can't see, provide a solution they can't visualize and prepare them for a future that's getting more complex every day.
Smart companies and smart salespeople earn more because they bring more value and smarts to their customer.
Marathon runners have great focus. To prepare, they set specific training goals. By month-end, they know the distance that must be covered in training runs to achieve the ultimate goal of 26.2 miles. During training, they concentrate on specific activities, such as pace, breathing, stride, food and water intake.
Competitive athletes have focus. They haven't caught the dreaded business disease of multitasking or being all things to all people. (Can you imagine a marathoner talking on the phone and checking e-mail during a long-distance training run?)
Working smarter, not harder, means focusing on:
Setting specific goals for 2005 and making sure every activity in your sales organization -- marketing, operations, alliance partners and compensation -- is aligned toward achieving that goal.
Identification of your ideal client, and directing energy toward attracting and selling that client. Remember, your sales team can't be all things to all people.
When an organization is focused, distractions go away because choices become easier and clearer. Focused sales organizations always ask the question, "Is this activity in alignment to achieve our objectives?"
(3) Build relationships.
In this case, reverse the headline. Work hard to preserve and grow relationships with clients. Successful salespeople know selling a new client is more difficult and costly than growing business with an established one.
How many conversations do you and your sales team had about client retention? Or, have most of the discussions focused on prospecting and new client acquisition? Client retention strategies vary, but the basics still work in today's high-tech world:
- Do what you say you are going to do.
- Touch base on a regular basis.
- Host client appreciation events, such as educational seminars or networking events.
- Introduce your clients to other clients. It's a great way of expanding their centers of influence.
- Buy thank-you notes and pretend they are vitamins. Take one a day, write it and send to your existing clients.
There is an old saying: Hug your wife or someone else will. Well, hug your clients or someone else will.