- by Mike
There are natural laws of the universe, like gravity or the laws of physics. There are also man-made laws, most of which were written by legislators for our own good. Similarly, there are Sales Laws. My friend Anthony Iannarino, who also happened to provide the Foreword to my Amazon bestselling book, occasionally refers to the Iron Laws of Sales. I agree with his Iron Laws and would encourage you to read them for yourself.
Today, I feel compelled to offer readers of this blog what I have been calling my “Non-negotiables for New Business Development Sales Success.” I’ve been finding myself in more and more passionate conversations with senior executives about these non-negotiable “laws.” I am usually brought into a company to help increase sales – specifically, to help sales teams become more effective at acquiring new business – i.e., new clients or customers. And while my initial charge involves coaching the sales leader and members of the team on the very important basics of new business development sales (getting in, conducting sales calls, finding pain and opportunity, presenting, sales process, pipeline management, etc.), very often I discover that there are bigger issues hindering sales success. Everyday, I see companies that want more from their sales teams, yet they ignore these Sales Laws as if they don’t exist. I’ve got news friends: gravity is real whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. And there are truths about what is necessary to succeed in sales, that supersede any pressure or coaching directed toward a sales organization. Since I’ve been sharing my perspective on these Sales Laws so frequently lately, it seemed like a good idea to offer them up here.
Law #1 for New Business Development Sales Success: Clarity
Clarity is absolutely essential when asking salespeople to execute a proactive new business sales attack. I have yet to see an individual salesperson or a sales team succeed in the marketplace without a crystal-clear picture of their mission. Said differently, Sales is supposed to follow Strategy. The sales team is not supposed to be making it up as it goes along. Sales’ job is to execute the strategy, not create it on the fly. I am continually amazed by the lack of clarity surrounding the sales attack in many midsize businesses. Senior leadership of a company must be able to provide:
- Clear direction in terms of which markets to pursue and where their offerings are positioned in those markets
- A clear description of what the company sells and why (Yes, there are companies that have a very hard time articulating what their offerings are or to whom they should be selling these offerings)
- A picture of the competitive landscape and how they stack up against competitive solutions
- Why the current pricing is appropriate for the value delivered to the markets being pursued and versus the competition
Quite simply, it is wrong to expect a salesperson or sales team to succeed acquiring new business without clarity on all of the above. I’ll go even farther by saying that you can’t execute a successful sales attack without clarity. I have seen it attempted to no avail enough times to declare this Law #1.
Law #2 for New Business Development Sales Success: Focus
A good portion of today’s sales population spends very little time actually selling. And those that do often devote most of their energy to managing existing relationships. I’ve written this a thousand times: No one defaults to prospecting mode. No one. This is especially true for those in what I call the hybrid “Hunter-Farmer” sales job. Why would you do the heavy-lifting of prospecting when you can feel good about caring for and serving your existing customers — particularly if you are being judged (or paid) on your total book of business/territory/overall revenue? The vast majority of salespeople entrusted with account management responsibilities AND charged with acquiring new customers imbalance their efforts toward taking care of (even babysitting) current customers. And why wouldn’t they? It’s easier. It’s reactive. It makes you feel valued. And it provides a great excuse for not getting around to prospecting for new business.
The other glaring observation regarding Focus has to do with companies burdening salespeople with increased non-selling responsibility. I don’t know if it’s from a desire to be efficient and lean, or simply because senior management doesn’t understand the effect, but I cannot believe some of things salespeople are doing that have nothing to do with increasing revenue. One organization had me coaching an inside sales team with very aggressive growth goals. Yet these inside reps were tasked with all kinds of service and operations responsibility – including preparing shipping documents for certain types of orders. Really. I was shocked how small a percentage of their time was actually spent in outbound mode versus the time spent playing customer service rep or good corporate citizen. In other companies I see supposed sales hunters asked to sit on all kinds of committees and attend an unreasonable amount of meetings. In yet other businesses the salesperson invests inordinate amount of time helping to onboard new clients and even playing project manager or shepherding work through operations. I could go on for paragraphs, but you get the point.
Lack of Focus on New Business Development = Lack of New Customers (feel free to nominate me for a Noble Prize for penning this brilliant and radical observation).
Law #3 for New Business Development Sales Success: A Strategic Target Prospect List
If we are going to ask the sales team to go on the proactive attack for new business, it really helps when they know whom they are supposed to target! Reactive salespeople who spend most of their days simply responding to demand or servicing existing business don’t require a target list, because, quite frankly, they aren’t targeting anyone.
A strategic list of target prospect accounts is a non-negotiable for new business development sales success. “Strategic” is a fancy way of saying that some thought should go into what accounts end up on the target list. The clarity gained from obeying Law #1 above should be very useful when selecting accounts to target. Yet, I am regularly surprised by how few salespeople with new business acquisition goals cannot produce a strategic, focused, written, workable list of target prospects when asked.
Law #4 for New Business Development Sales Success: A Compelling, Succinct, Client-focused, Differentiating “Sales Story“
The “Sales Story” is the salesperson’s most important weapon. It gets used everyday and bits and pieces of the story end up in all our other weapons (Linkedin profiles, telephone call outlines, voicemail scripts, emails, presentations and proposals, just to name a few). Yet, most salespeople and executives I meet don’t have a compelling, succinct story that grabs and holds a prospect’s attention or differentiates their offering from others in the marketplace. When our story is great, it changes everything. We become proud of what we are selling. We are more willing to engage prospects because we are talking about things that are relevant to them. And we are confident about the price we charge because we can articulate the value we deliver.
A great story is imperative when we are headed into the sales battle. Sharpening the sales story is one of the very first things I work on with new clients because I don’t know how a sales team can be expected to win new business without one. Hence, that’s why it is Law #4.
Senior Executives: Do you believe these Sales Laws are valid? Is it fair to say that your sales organization requires Clarity, Focus, a Strategic Target Prospect List and a Powerful Sales Story in order to succeed bringing in new business? I truly believe these issues are non-negotiable. If you want to hold the sales team accountable for results, let’s ensure they are equipped to succeed! Is your company is in compliance with these Sales Laws?
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