Volumes have been written about the sales process because mastering it is essential to getting (and keeping) a business off the ground. You can build a great brand, but it’s your sales team who has to convert your prospects to customers, upsell existing customers to more profitable products or services, grow referrals and retain customers.
Depending on the size of your business, you may have an in-house sales training program, or an outside vendor who conducts training for your sales staff. They probably do a great job, but the problem with many programs is that they tend to put most of their focus on the “soft middle”; that is, the sales presentation your rep will make once an appointment has been set and they’re in front of the prospect.
But that leaves two key areas that are often glossed over: lead generation and customer follow-up. To help ensure that your sales teams’ skill set complements each stage of the sales funnel, here are some tips for boosting lead generation and customer follow-up:
- Research market segments. Knowledge is power. Sales reps who excel at generating leads usually are quick to explore the market segments in which their employer is most successful. This research, which can be conducted quickly and easily on the internet, informs the sales rep’s understanding of your company’s value proposition. Doing it themselves (as opposed to having the information provided to them) keeps them in touch with a changing marketplace.
- Leverage field technicians. Many organizations have service techs in the field, performing installations or service calls, etc. These staff members may not be in a position to sell, but they usually have access to insider insights through their contacts, who can provide reliable sales leads. Successful sales reps, more often than not, will look to partner with field techs. The tech gets a piece of the sales commission, the rep gets a new client and the company wins big.
- Keep track of customers. Non-business owners jump ship. Lead generating sales reps are like good soldiers: they never leave a customer behind. If a customer or client goes to another company, the successful rep will reach out to congratulate them on the move up—and to see how they might continue doing business together at the customer’s new company. Worst case, the sales rep will find out who their new account contact is, and if it would be possible to get a “warm introduction.”
- Prequalify contact sources. “Smile and dial” is the mantra of many a sales manager, but cold calling contacts who aren’t a good match for what you’re selling is a soul-crushing waste of time. Sales reps who excel at scheduling quality appointments—where presentations convert to sales—make a point of pre-qualifying their lists.
- Request referrals. For a sales rep, referrals from happy customers are one of the best lead sources available. Successful reps know referrals are worth their weight in gold, so they make a point of asking for them as part of their overall lead generation strategy.
- Join a tribe. Everyone loves LinkedIn for making business contacts, but joining a good business or nonprofit group can often translate into more sales, especially if your reps are selling to a local or regional market. Successful sales reps know the advantage of helping a group achieve a commonly defined objective: it’s only natural for friendships to develop, and friends do what they can to help each other in business.
- Mind your mental state. Too often, sales-driven businesses take a lackadaisical approach to customer follow-up, as if it’s the customer’s job to visit your website to get their questions answered. It’s not. Sales reps who consistently close sales understand that proper follow-up means picking up the phone and talking to the customer or prospect. Think of your own experiences as a consumer; in the history of your recent transactions, did you ever once feel valued or satisfied when an employee of a business referred you to their company’s website for information? Yet many do because they just can’t be bothered, or they don’t think the person inquiring is a “good” lead. The truth is, it’s impossible to tell good leads from bad until you engage them in a worthwhile conversation. Do it and stand out. Most of your competitors won’t make this crucial effort.
- Want it more. The most successful sales reps cultivate an inner hunger that’s never quite satisfied. Every part of their sales process—including follow-up—offers its own set of challenges to master and feeds the larger objective of closing the sale. As speaker and business coach Andy Paul writes in his book, Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies that Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions, “If you’re a salesperson and you lose that desire to follow up a sales lead and discover whether it has the potential to be your next big order, then perhaps it is time for a career change. On the other hand, if you’re too successful and too busy with customers to take on new leads and you can’t be bothered to follow up, give the leads to those who will.”
- Need to win. To be a sales rep is to be someone who competes fiercely for a living, month after month after month. Those who are consistently successful at sales hate to lose. It’s not enough to find a lead on their own, or to follow up on one provided to them—they need to be the first one out of the gate making the presentation, because they know they’ll only get one shot before their competitors show up. They’re not interested in closing the sale next week; they want it now. Today. Your sales team should, too.
- Show you care. You can’t fake sincerity, and successful sales reps wouldn’t even try. The fact is, customers have a need to feel valued—and that means you and your sales team need to care about them. But you don’t have to bend over backwards to show you care; just ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were the customer, and then act accordingly. That’s it. Mystery solved. Be likeable, show interest and answer their questions intelligently and with respect—because nothing says you care like a high-touch follow-up call.
Sales activity is vital to the survival of every small business. By adopting these tips for boosting lead generation and customer follow-up, your business should soon see happier customers and a more profitable sales funnel.