When you get into your car, you have a destination in mind and an idea of the steps involved in getting theree. In the same way, when you want to write an article on a topic you usually outline it and then add the detail. It’s a lot easier than having no idea of what you’re doing and making it up as you go along. Sales is no different, you need a plan of action otherwise you’re going nowhere.
If you want to write you need a topic, if you want to sell you need a customer. The very first thing you need to think about is therefore your ideal customer profile (ICP).
Your ICP is a description of the business or organisation that would greatly benefit from your offering. We’re not trying to be too granular here – that will come later with the buyer persona but what you want to know is the industry, size and budget.
Once you’ve got those basic details you will have narrowed down the field considerably, allowing you to begin to tailor your sales process for these ICPs. That is hugely important because otherwise you’ll be lost trying to figure out how to appeal to everybody but in the end appeal to nobody.
The next thing you’ll want to know about these ICPs is where they congregate. Are there networking events that they go to? Any industry specific events? Linkedin or some other directory? Find that watering hole and stake it out and find your targets.
Once you know who your ICP is and where they can be found then you need to come back to thinking about yourself. What value are you providing them? This means having a frank and open discussion around what your USP is, the advantages of your offering and also the limitations along with what competitors are offering and how you differ from them.
In what ways are you better and worse? When you step through the door or get on that first call you’re not speaking in isolation. In the back of the prospect’s mind they’ll be comparing you to what else is out there. That’s their benchmark so you need to know that benchmark too.
It also means figuring out how you fit into their business. A set of features divorced from their context is meaningless. If you know their pain points and can place your offering as a solution to these problems then you’ve demonstrated utility to them. Basically, you did the thinking part for them as they don’t need to think about how your offering would fit in.
Part of that also means being able to speak their language. Are there certain phrases or motifs they’re likely to use? If you know them too and can display that knowledge it signals competence and will get you respect. That’s hugely significant in an effective sales process.
Your buyer persona and how to reach them
You have a general idea about the organisation you’re targeting, now it’s time to deal with the people within it.
A buyer persona (BP) is a pretty simple concept. It’s simply a profile of an ideal customer. It could be John the accountant or Betty the marketing consultant. Its purpose is to allow you to craft a message specific to that person. If you don’t know who you’re selling to then you don’t know what your message is going to be so all of your marketing is up in the air. This is about creating focus.
For example, if you are selling sales CRM software you’ll probably be looking at the sales team within an organisation. Ask yourself who is likely to be the decision maker within that team. What’s their job title? What are their specific needs?
If the ICP is the macro level analysis then the BP is the micro level analysis, both are critical to success.
How to reach them
Once you’ve got an idea of who your target is and how your offering can fit into their needs – you have to move on to figuring out how to effectively reach them. The key is to be effective. If you’re spending all your time doing cold calls in an industry where cold calls are a bust, sure you’re doing work but its not effective.
So you’ve got to do your research ahead of time. What channel is the best way to reach your targets? Is it email, Linkedin or do you have to go to industry specific events to sell your wares?
Often, the answer will not be obvious so you’re going to have to try multiple channels and A/B test them. You should be keeping track of them and if you see one that’s a dud cut it out and double down on winners.
At the beginning, you don’t need to worry too much about scaling – that will come later – but whatever you do make sure you keep things personal rather than generic in any communications you make. There is nothing worse than receiving generic sales spam. It gets deleted or ignored nearly instantly. By putting in the work through the ICP and BP to make your approach more personal this shouldn’t be a problem.
Record your interactions
You should record what you’re doing because not only does it stop you from duplicating work but it helps the you team and the future you. Your memory is finite; you can’t remember everything but by recording your interactions you’ll know what works and what doesn’t and it’ll prove an invaluable resource as hopefully you succeed, grow bring in new people.
These new people don’t know the background and history of each prospect but by having access to the interaction history you’ve kept they can be further ahead on day one. A really simple way to start doing this is getting a CRM so that all that information is in one easy to access place.
Culture, Motivation and Scaling Up
Building a healthy sales culture is difficult but not impossible. Having the right incentives takes some thought.
Think of this example: You want to maximise the number of sales your reps make. Therefore, they work to maximise their sales. However, they do it by giving away the house with giant discounts. Now all of a sudden those sales don’t look so great.
What you need is to create clear success indicators and rewards that make sense and that allow people to evaluate how well they’re doing, and be able to provide real and honest feedback so they can improve. Creating a culture where that can occur without bruised egos is important. Sales is ruthless and it does not care about your feelings but at the same time you don’t want a whip in your hand – it’s a fine balance.
Hopefully as you grow, you’ll begin to expand your sales team and people will be promoted. Now its about having in place the proper processes, structure, rules of engagement and organisational discipline to make sure it doesn’t spiral out of control. Leading by example to show what is and is not acceptable and having the right set of policies to deal with people who just don’t fit for whatever reason.
It’s going to be difficult but it’s also going to be fun and if you succeed the sense of satisfaction will be immense.
This winning sales process is going to be the backbone of your business. Building it will be the challenge around which to rally your team. Even when things become difficult – and they will – just remember the glory doesn’t come in the final achievement but on the struggle to get there. If you adopt that mentality you’ll have the personal motivation to march onwards and lead your team.