Urgency: A Sales Lesson From the Far Side

By Jeff Beals

I was meeting with one of my coaching clients earlier this week, and he was lamenting that one of his top prospects wouldn’t call him back.  The prospect was a senior decision maker at large company.

As my client shared his frustrations, it reminded me of an old Far Side cartoon.  The Far Side was a syndicated, single-panel cartoon by Gary Larson that ran from 1980 to 1995.  I always loved Larson’s work.

At any rate, one of my favorite Far Side cartoons was captioned, “Same planet, different worlds.”

The cartoon panel is divided in half.  In the top frame, there is a man lying in bed staring at the ceiling with a thought bubble above his head that says, “I wonder if she knows I exist…Should I call her? Maybe she doesn’t even know I exist? Well, maybe she does…I’ll call her. No, wait…I’m not sure if she knows I exist. Dang!”

In the bottom frame, there’s a picture of a woman lying in bed staring at her ceiling with a thought bubble above her head: “You know, I think I really like vanilla.”

That cartoon cracks me up. Aside from aptly describing my teenage dating experience, it’s a metaphor for anyone who sells for a living.

As the cartoon so effectively illustrates, people have different priorities and different levels of urgency. As a sales professional, your level of urgency is often greater than that of your prospects.

Think about it. Your job depends on selling products or services.  You don’t get paid until you close a deal.  Because your livelihood depends on deal making, you have a vested interest in the process moving quickly and the purchase decision made promptly.

But your prospect could (and often does) have a very different timeline for a variety of reasons:

  • Your prospect might have to go through multiple layers of decision making inside his or her company
  • Your prospect might be considering additional options/vendors in addition to you and your offering.
  • In addition to making a decision on your proposed offering, your prospect has a hundred other things to worry about, some of which are more pressing and stressful.
  • Your prospect could be dealing with things in his or her personal life that take priority over a business decision, even an important business decision.
  • Your prospect’s “clock” might be different from yours.  Different people think and move at different speeds.  What’s “fast” to one person might be “slow to another.
  • Perhaps you haven’t done a good enough job of proving that your offering creates so much value that it deserves to be the prospect’s top priority.

If you find yourself in the sales equivalent of The Far Side cartoon, what should you do?

Stick to the basics.  Be persistent and focus on value-led messaging that focuses on the prospect’s outcomes.

When you discover exactly which part of your product or service most closely meets what the prospect most values at the time he or she most needs it, the prospect’s level of urgency suddenly will match and sometimes even exceed yours.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“In the three months since Jeff Beals became my sales coach, I have signed over 20 top-tier clients and have positioned myself among the top three sales producers in my company nationwide. Jeff has helped me create a beneficial success plan and ensures, through an accountability process, that I’m actively accomplishing my goals. Not only is Jeff an incredible coach, he’s a true friend, mentor and wonderful human being.” – Carter Green, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Stratus Building Solutions, Oklahoma City, OK

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The Actions & Behaviors of Top Producers

By Jeff Beals

In last week’s article, we discussed the characteristics of top producers, exploring what characteristics, or “success factors,” were common among the top 10 and 20 percent of sales professionals.

This week, we dig into the details and examine the behaviors and actions of elite sales practitioners:

Networking – Top producers believe in creating their own leads instead of sitting around waiting for the marketing department to generate leads. One of the ways you do that is by getting out of the office and getting in front of prospects.  This is especially important if you have a geographically concentrated territory (such as one metro area) or you regularly attend events that are populated with your prospects.  Try to have a minimum number of events per month as a goal.

Prospecting calls – The best sales pros make a minimum number of calls each week without exception even when they’re busy closing current sales.  They also make “one more call,” which means even when they’re tired and want to go home, they muster the energy to make at least one more call.

Industry relationships and intelligence gathering – Top producers realize that information is power.  They study the market and constantly have their ear to the grape vine searching for rumors and insider information.  Keep your friends close and your competitors even closer!

Social media – Top producers to not depend on social media as a prospecting tool. Instead, they use social media to support their prospecting efforts.  While social media will never be as effective as calling prospects on the phone, it does help you with lead generation, personal branding and thought leadership.  Max out your LinkedIn profile, create and post interesting information that is of value to your prospects and build a large group of contacts/connections.  Social media is not the panacea that too many sales pros wish it to be but it’s still a useful tool.

Time blocking and time management – If you want to be in the top 10 percent of sales pros, it takes organization and discipline.  I recommend you literally block out time on your calendar each week to make prospecting calls.  Be rigid about this and don’t let any other activity take over your reserved prospecting time.  You also need discipline and attention to detail.

Client communication – Top producers don’t leave their prospects hanging and wondering what’s going on.  If you don’t communicate with them, even when there’s not much good news to report, you’re leaving your prospects vulnerable for poaching by your competitors.  An old rule of thumb: “If you think you’re communicating too much, you’re probably not.”

High responsiveness – Elite sales practitioners are highly responsive.  No leads fall through the cracks.  Each lead is treated like an instant-win, scratch-off lottery ticket.  Calls are returned much faster than 24 hours.

Staying front of mind – Top producers make it hard for people to forget them.  They stay in front of people, because they never know when a person might need them.  They congratulate people on successes, recognize people in the news with hand-written notes, and send links to articles that they think a certain person might enjoy reading.

A closer’s mentality – Ultimately, top producers know that all their efforts are designed to lead to closed deals and cashed commission checks.  When the time is right, they ask for the business, call the question and close the deal. Additionally, they have strong negotiation skills and don’t give into to price-reduction requests.

Work-life balance – Because they want to stay on top of their game, top producers must also reserve time for fun.  In fact, many elite sales reps tend to “play hard” but not so hard that they harm reputations or compromise their ability to do great work.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or send an email to info@jeffbeals.com or call 402-637-9300. 

Characteristics of the Most Successful Sales Professionals

By Jeff Beals

You’ve surely heard about the 80/20 rule, which says 20 percent of sales professionals do 80 percent of the business.  I have generally found that to be true.  In fact, at some companies, it’s more of a 90/10 rule.

What does it take to be among the top 10 or 20 percent of producers?

When I look at the top producers with whom I work as a consultant, I see common characteristics that are consistent regardless of industry.  I like to call them “sales success factors.”

Characteristics of Top Producers

1. They are highly goal-oriented and monitor progress throughout the year.

2. They are obsessed with prospecting and disciplined to do it every day.

3. They have balanced personalities: Assertive and competitive but not aggressive or passive. In other words, they have a desire to win but still put clients’ interests first.

4. They tend to be more ethical than mid-level and under-performing reps.  This one might surprise some people, but unethical behavior will eventually bring down an otherwise successful sales practitioner.

5. They are always curious and have amassed extensive knowledge of their local, territory and/or industry marketplaces.  They have deep product knowledge.  They have most key things memorized, but if they’re asked something they don’t know, they can find the answer immediately.

6. They build and maintain relationships with a large, diverse group of people to whom they go for business opportunities, referrals and insider information.

7. They are organized in both their personal and professional lives.  They have a system of good habits.  They treat their time like it’s a precious resource.

8. The have the mindset of success: quickly accept responsibility for their mistakes and graciously accept credit for their successes.  They tend to be me more optimistic than pessimistic.

9. They are unapologetic/unashamed about working in sales and believe that selling is a critically important function in the overall success of the economy.  They are proud of what they do for a living.

10. They’re not afraid to call the question.  When it’s time to close the deal, they don’t hesitate.  They get it done.

As you read through the above list, how do you see yourself?  How many of these 10 success factors describe you?  If you are the leader of a sales team, how many of your reps possess most of the characteristics?

If any of the characteristics are weaknesses for you, now is the time to work on those deficiencies.  It’s never too late to develop better skills, habits and behaviors.  After all, there’s more room at the top than most people think.

IMPROVE YOUR PROSPECTING SKILLS!

Do you sometimes struggle with exactly what to say to get new prospects to engage?

If so, then you absolutely cannot miss our virtual training session on the new sales business language.

Join us, as we share:

  • Exactly what to say to engage a cold prospect
  • How to create value as a though leader
  • The tricks to identify your powerful insights which move clients to engage
  • How to completely differentiate yourself from your competitors.

You do not want to miss this content-heavy webinar on Oct 17th at 10 AM CT, as you will leave with new prospecting business acumen that will get prospects to engage.

You can include your whole sales department for just $99.  You’ll learn the strategies leading-edge companies are using to cut through the commoditization clutter and stand out.

Sign-Up NOW:  Oct 17th at 10 AM CT

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He’s an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or send an email to info@jeffbeals.com or call 402-637-9300. 

The Price of Putting Off Prospecting

By Jeff Beals

Procrastination is one of the leading causes of poor sales performance, according to research published by Gong.io, a technology company that analyzes sales reps’ conversations for its client companies.

Gong’s data-science team analyzed 15 months of telephone conversations between sales reps and their prospects.  The results showed that average salespeople made far more calls in the last month of the quarter than the first two.  The success rate of those frenzied, last-month calls was measurably lower than calls made early in the quarter.

In other words, according to Gong, having a bad quarter almost follows a pattern: two “lazy” months of prospecting followed by a frantic third month characterized by a desperate scramble to drag prospects across the finish line in time to make quota.

The study showed that average sales reps (defined as being below the top 20 percent of performers), were far more likely to follow this pattern of procrastination than those who were consistently top-20-percent producers.

It is understandable why this happens.  After one quarter ends, you feel a sense or relief if you did well.  Even if it wasn’t a good quarter, you feel like you have all the time in the world to make your sales goal once a new period starts.

Legendary football coach Tom Osborne once said, “The odds are always against you no matter what your previous history is.  You have to overcome the tendency to relax.”

It’s hard to stay on top of your game and stay on top of your company’s leader board.

If you want to be a consistently elite sales professional, you need to push yourself just as hard at the beginning of a quarter as the end.  You need to be disciplined.  It helps to start strong.

In keeping with the football theme, a team’s performance during a game is largely determined by the way players practiced the previous Monday.  If you have a big victory over a key rival one weekend, it can be hard to come to practice Monday with adequate intensity.

How can sales practitioners keep the intensity?  How can you avoid the natural tendency to relax once a quarter ends or a big sale closes?

Prospect like your life depends on it.  Because it does!  Prospecting is harder than ever, so you need to be more diligent.  Prospecting is a mindset, a way of life.  You could even call is a “lifestyle.”  Embrace it. Welcome it.  Do it every single day of the week.  While prospecting can be nerve-wracking and frustrating, push through it.  If you are positive about it, you’ve won half the battle.

Time blocking.  You have to make prospecting one of your top daily activities.  You even have to do it on days you’re closing other deals.  Top producers literally reserve blocks of time for prospecting and they don’t allow any distractions during those times. I know of no other use of your time that is more likely to lead to long-term sales success than being a dedicated, disciplined prospector.

Make a plan.  While you need to be an enthusiastic prospector, you do need a plan. If you run to the nearest phone and start dialing cold prospects haphazardly, you’re wasting your time.  Your plan should include what types of people you target, where you get leads, how you do pre-call research, the language you use to establish value and the tactics you use to push them further down your pipeline.  Ideally, you make next quarter’s prospecting plan before the current quarter ends.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He’s an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or send an email to info@jeffbeals.com or call 402-637-9300.