The fastest way to derail your plan is to be vague or unclear about what you expect for your business and from yourself, your management team and their direct reports. Employees do not engage when expectations aren’t clear. Actually, the number two reason people quit their job is because they don’t know what’s expected of them and therefore can’t determine whether they’re making any impact.
Whatever you expect in terms of performance should be documented in writing, agreed to and signed off on. A great place to begin determining which expectations to set is with job descriptions/models as they contain the main functions for each role, providing you a great framework. The following are three things that should be included in each expectation, along with some examples.
Communicate specifically what they need to do/accomplish and for what purpose. For example if you’re setting prospecting expectations, be clear about what behaviors you need them to perform: phone calls, face-to-face meetings, networking, new business generation, referrals, public speaking, community service, etc. To state that you expect them to generate new business is too vague. Rather, define what you consider to be new business, aside from the obvious. Would a former client who hasn’t done business with you for two or more years be considered ‘new’? How about business from a different division of an existing client? What are your goals for their phone call activities – appointments, referrals, a definite ‘no’?
2) How Much?
Clearly state this using numbers and data. Adding on to the above new business example, you might state: You are expected to write $100,000 in new business; or, you are expected to close 10 new clients; or, you are expected to make 80 phone calls weekly to non-clients.
3) By When?
In order to figure out whether their performance is satisfactory, they’ve got to know when you will inspect what they have/haven’t accomplished. To continue with the example: You are expected to write $100,000 in new business by June 30, 2013. You are expected to close 10 new clients by March 31, 2013, each with a minimum order of $5,000.
When you provide clearly stated expectations your employees understand what they must do to be successful. This is a great gift from you to them. It also provides you with the certainty that they have no questions about what you expect. This mutual clarity and commitment are both crucial for your business growth.
When I started selling, one of the first things my manager shared was that ‘selling is a numbers game’. He further explained that if I was diligent about making 30 calls daily, striving for 4-5 face-to-face appointments per day, based on their averages I would realize 3-5 sales per week. He then asked me to choose either A-K or L-Z, handed me the phone book and said ‘good luck’.
For my training, he assigned me to a desk next to their top-billing seller affectionately known as ‘the bulldog’ and suggested that I listen, watch and learn from him. Following are the three biggest lessons I learned that first year, how they hold true today and how they’ve changed the numbers game.
Here’s what the veteran (name and station changed) would say when making calls: “Hi this is Carl from WEEE and since I’m going to be in your area next Tuesday I was hoping we could meet to see if we can make some money together.” He would begin each day repeating that same language 20+ times, day in and day out. Since most prospects hung up on him, I vowed to use a different tactic. The ‘aha!’ moment: it wasn’t enough to represent a respected brand, the prospect had to believe they would benefit by speaking to and and/or meeting with us.
To gain their perspective and learn about their business, I would have to ask questions. New questions would lead to new perspectives. No more one-sheets or statements about how far our signal reached, or how many people were listening unless those facts were important to the prospect. If they might ask ‘so what?’ then I wouldn’t make the statement. Another ‘aha!’: prospects always interpret our value propositions as sales propaganda.
Although I began to get more appointments, and prospects appreciated being in the spotlight, there was still something missing. The ‘numbers game’ wasn’t working.
Days filled by appointments with the wrong people weren’t bringing sales success. The third ‘aha’: greater focus was needed, our ‘ideal’ prospect had to be identified; we were meeting with people who had no intention of buying from us. What a waste of time, energy and resources!
Fast forward several years, add in technological advances, social media and a mobile target customer and, guess what? These three lessons still hold true. It’s still all about the prospect, not us; the prospect doesn’t really care about our claims to fame with other companies, they need to know how we’ll help them improve; now more than ever having a defined ‘ideal target’ is critical, focusing on fewer, pre-qualified prospects is better than filling your pipeline with suspects yet to be vetted.
Selling is now a whole new numbers game. Our business development behaviors must be more precise. Prospects are on the move today, so several different methods of communication must be used to reach them. We need specific plans for how we’ll reach out to them, with what medium, in what order, how often and with what message.
Prospects today are savvy. Before your first face-to-face meeting, they’ve checked you out on-line and formed an opinion as to whether you’re a thought leader in your space, or their best option. . If you’re not familiar to them, you’ll have to add several components to your marketing and business development processes to gain their attention and create interest.
Because anything and everything can be instantly researched, today’s purchaser expects you to know something about their lives, business needs and buying patterns before you approach them. Gone are the days when business owners will take the time to educate you about their business. Remove yourself, your company, your product/service from the conversation; make it all about them as it should be. Reading from a script and treating every prospect the same was never really acceptable, today it’s not tolerated. If business owners would find fewer, more targeted messages in their inboxes, they’d likely be inclined to return more phone calls and e-mails.
It’s time to re-think the sales numbers game you’re playing.
As you write your 2013 sales play book, consider creating three separate business development plans. One each for ‘touching’ prospects you’ve met and those you haven’t; a third to uncover opportunities for lift from current customers. With each, define when you’ll call it quits.
Once outlined, written and communicated, you’ll likely find that being precise about and measuring specific activities will lead you to greater productivity, referrals and sales.
This article was published in Greenville Business Magazine December, 2012.
I’ve jokingly said that the first three months I was in business I did just that. Not being from here, I spent time networking with everyone and anyone I could get introduced to in the hopes of expanding my contacts. However, a better approach quickly became apparent. Here are lessons from the trenches, so to speak.
Define your ideal target customer and figure out how to succinctly state that to someone else.
Mine is the Owner/CEO/President of a business with $2MM to $20MM in annual revenues, with 3+ sales people, that has been operating for a minimum of 3 years.
Know which events your ideal targets are likely to attend.
Much can be learned through trial and error, but let's minimize the errors. I’ve learned that my ideal targets are more likely to attend events centered around philanthropic/charitable, educational, political/government, economic development and/or health and welfare issues; and/or they’ll join groups with like-minded individuals of similar stature.
Approach prospecting as you did dating.
Keep your ideal criteria top of mind. When you were searching for that special someone you knew which characteristics you wanted them to have and whether any of those were negotiable. Most of the people you met weren’t a fit; some were worth dating for a while; a few made it to the final cut. The same applies to prospecting. You must discern whether the people you meet are a fit, in need of your product/service, have the money to invest with you and are worth your commitment, energy and resources. They’ll be checking you out in the same way. The mutual end goal is a long-term relationship.
Create a list of your top 20-25 ideal target customers and keep it with you at all times.
Introductions and referrals are precious. Seek them. When you share your list of ideal targets with others, it makes it quite easy for them to tell you whether they know them or not. Oftentimes it acts as a trigger leading them to think of others who may benefit from getting to know you. Ask them if they're willing to make an introduction and then coach them on what to say.
Remember, people refer others who are like them.
Large clients will refer other large clients. Small business owners will know and refer other small business owners. For the most part, women refer other women; men refer other men. This is a natural occurrence. If you stay true to your ideal customer definition, you’ll get introduced to those who are a fit and you’ll avoid spending time with suspects who don’t end up doing business with you.
Prospecting is about opening conversations with others to determine whether there may be an opportunity to work together. Be clear about your purpose, stay true to your ideal customer definition and you’ll soon find how effective targeted prospecting can be.