The Fine-Tune Resolution

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An honest self-review of your last 12 months’ sales history will likely include a few reflections on where your efforts did not produce the outcome you had wanted. Even if you’re performing in the upper percentile and faring better than others in your firm – or in your industry as a whole – you’ll still likely admit there were some opportunities that you just didn’t win. In other words, you could have (and should have) achieved more.

Maybe in the past year you experienced some of the following:

  • Numerous prospects remain in your pipeline, undecided and unclosed although you’ve properly presented your products or services to them. You forecasted closing more of them by now.
  • You lost sales to competitors – for myriad reasons including getting beaten on price (which means if your product is unique amongst the competition and superior in quality, there’s been a misunderstanding of your value proposition as they compared brands X, Y and Z)
  • You were driven to cut price for the clients that you didn’t want to lose – ultimately cutting into the expected profit and your commission, and conditioning the client to expect future discounts.
  • You have certain types of clients that consume so much of your time after the sale that they become a more “expensive” client as they take up discernable amounts of your potential selling time.

The list of examples could go on, but you know first-hand what your particular miss-queues might be. Identify the ones that are pertinent to you. Recognizing you could have done more in the last 12 months means your gross earnings stand to make some improvement too – and frankly, that’s a perfectly selfish and legitimate reason for aiming to be more productive moving forward.

So go ahead, resolve to take action where you can. Provided your recent sales history is considered “adequate”, a little fine-tuning in some areas may be all you need to produce superior results. For those sales people who are really struggling, I’m comfortable saying a little fine-tuning in a lot of areas may be all you need.

Here’s a path to consider:

Assemble Your Baseline Stats:

Improvement must be measurable, so establishing your baseline is an important first step. Crunch the basic numbers to expose patterns and trends about how you sell. The aim is to use stats and records at your disposal to generate meaningful reports and guideposts as reference.

Outbound Activity Summarize a measure of actions including outbound phone calls for prospecting and following up, your marketing and/or email correspondence and your in-person presentations and pitches. Honesty is a big factor in setting an accurate baseline from which to build – be fair with your reporting of your usual outbound activities and take note of what appears light or too low.

Sales & Marketing Metrics To take your performance to greater heights, your personal metrics are necessary information – and the more specific the better. Look to track the tangible results of your actions. Metrics will include the likes of Prospecting Metrics, Closing Ratios, your Average Sales Cycle, and Cost per Order across the backdrop of a Breakout by Products or Services that you sell.

Clientele Demographics Information about your clients is most useful when you can specifically identify their unique attributes – both on a company level and personal level. You can really focus your prospecting efforts through this insight so it pays to model your clientele as accurately as possible. Start by taking the time to assemble a list of your “best” clients – whoever they might be, however you would describe them. Specific classifications like Industry Codes (NAICS) are an excellent way to depict who your client is, and a quick path to knowing how many more like him exist. Remember, you want to replicate those best clients as often as possible – the goal is to find more just like them. We should all want to “clone” our best clients, and Scott’s Directories can help you with that mission.

Get to know the metrics pertinent to you; review them carefully and highlight where your strengths are. Once you frame your best scenarios, you’ll be ready to…

Identify Areas for Improvement:

With enough stats and metrics at your disposal, you’ll notice which ones indicate a need for improvement – in some way. A professional sales rep can’t deny and overlook the telltale signs of a day not fully maximized or tasks and distractions that keep getting in the way of closing more sales with qualified prospects. Scrutinize your numbers, and don’t ignore the trends. Make a point of listing your red-flag areas that need some attention and get ready to fine tune.

Need some quick insight on where to improve? – How do your stats and metrics compare to your colleagues selling the same product / service? What was the main commentary from your management team during your last review and have they identified areas they need to see improved in the coming months? If not, ask.

Fine Tune to Win:

In auto racing, a million-dollar car can roar around the track with what appears to the spectator to be great mechanical music but the driver might report back that something just doesn’t feel right – the car is too loose around corners, for example. Back in the pits the crew chief looks at the lap times and speed, and crunches stats and analyzes the data feed from the car – and through those observations understands that the car at that point is clearly not poised to win the race. Despite over 90% of everything working perfectly, the car needs an adjustment before it can be a true contender. Once the car comes into the pits, the crew rush to change tires, add fuel, wipe away the debris from the front air intake and they might do the most important thing of all – they make a couple of quick turns of the wrench to fine tune the suspension setting. Minor changes to one aspect of the car can make a world of difference to its overall performance at track speed. In the world of racing, small adjustments performed mid-race have often helped cars come up from the back to take the checkered flag. It’s just one example of where fine-tuning makes a huge difference to something apparently “firing on all cylinders” already.

Now’s the time to decide what adjustments you’ll try, and your options will be many. But we’re looking for small, fine adjustments that will make a big difference – if they work. You can decide what works and what doesn’t by measuring the results, and the great thing about personal fine-tuning is you can recalibrate and try something else. Fine tuning is the way to zone in to the perfect balance, and therefore requires subtle variances until you reach the right result. The point is if the fine-tuning works now, the results over time could be significant, if not staggering.

Try to apply a timeless approach used by marketers – the A/B split. Simply stated, A/B splits are an approach to creating 2 variants of marketing pieces to test in a small audience, and then after gauging which works best, using the winning variant to go out to a larger target audience. For example, how you handle telephone calls – inbound and outbound – should be carefully considered and clever variations should be attempted and the results reviewed. Trying something a little different can be fun, and seeing it produce improved results is most gratifying. You might experience the “I should have tried this long ago” sensation once you see it working firsthand. How can you improve your follow-up phone dialogue, your approach to objections, or your voice mail “script”? Trying something new might provide gigantic results

Keep Track of Your Time:

By resolving to improve, you’ll need to commit to maximizing your time which includes eradicating anything that stands in your way of reaching your goals. Treat each day like gold; protect your time.

Prioritize your day and stick to those prioritized tasks as best as possible; ignore the activities that don’t get you closer to your sales goals. When picking a time to handle administrative chores, apply your time wisely. Once you choose an area or two for improvement, you’ll benefit from keeping track of how you spend your time each business day – and quickly eliminating the time-wasters.

Reassess as You Go / Make Adjustments as Required:

Too often we set a goal and forget about the need to periodically reassess. It’s important to track the progress of your goals and adjust accordingly as you go. You might need to adjust your goals every quarter to maintain a tighter correlation with overall market expectations. Reassessing may be the best way to ensure you are always “fishing where the fish are” as the year progresses.

Not re-visiting your stats, your metrics, and your personal observations on what’s happening can keep you at a plateau which seems impossible to break free of – and in challenging economic times you can’t afford to overlook relatively simple ways to improve your prospecting and sales skills. Fine tuning throughout the year is a logical approach to finding the right solution to various problem areas.

Any day of the year is a perfect time to take the initiative to invoke lasting change that makes a difference. Remember – It’s Always a Good Time for Resolutions.

Wishing you success in the months ahead!

© 2012 by Paul Stuckey. Paul brings dedication and accountability to the role of Group Publisher at Scott’s Directories. With a focus on product integrity and customer satisfaction, he works closely with Editorial, Sales, Marketing and Programming to deliver the best quality and value possible for every Scott’s client. Through his strategic partnerships and strong leadership, Scott’s Directories offers even more today, and will continue to develop new and effective ways for customers to reach their markets and grow their revenues. Always a true salesman at heart, he writes for Scott’s Sales KnowHow™ which he developed and publishes to share easy tips and actionable advice for anyone in professional sales. Paul can be reached at +1 416-510-6769 or pstuckey@scottsdirectories.com

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