Sales is simple and so is developing new business. Your business may be complicated but selling is not. I get concerned when a struggling salesperson or sales leader starts a conversation by explaining how complex it is to sell his services/product/solution. Typically those who tell us how complicated selling is are either confused themselves or using that complexity as a smokescreen to hide their lame effort and poor performance.
This past week I was in New York leading a two-day new business development sales bootcamp for a global company. We had a great time together. The meeting was well-timed as this sales force was hungry for a team meeting and a refresher on the simple basics of selling. Spending two full-days reviewing concepts from New Sales. Simplified. with this team was a good reminder to me that almost all new business development sales problems have a simple cause and a simple fix!
My New Sales Driver framework boils prospecting and new business development down to three elements:
- Selecting Targets
- Creating & Deploying Weapons
- Planning & Executing the Attack
When working with sales teams and individual producers, I spend a good percentage of my coaching time focused in these three areas, and I also make a bold, simple promise: Assuming there is demand for what you sell, and further assuming that the sales talent is B-minus-ish or better, if you’re not filling up your pipeline or acquiring new pieces of business at the desired rate, then we can find the problem right here in one of the three areas listed above.
Targets: Salespeople struggle to develop new business when they don’t have a strategic, finite, workable list of targets to pursue. Or they may have a list, but not enough thought went into who’s on that list, so they end up pursuing the wrong customers and prospects. In other cases, the salesperson has a solid list, but does not laser-focus the attack against these targets so not enough traction is created. If you or your team’s results are not what you want them to be, take a look at whom they’re pursuing. The issue may be as simple as revisiting their target lists.
Weapons: When going to battle, it’s really helpful to be armed with powerful weapons. Salespeople need not only to be equipped with strong weapons, but they almost must become proficient at firing them. There are literally dozens of possible sales weapons in the arsenal ranging from the sales story, social selling, email, telephone and voicemail, face-to-face sales calls, collateral, executive selling, referrals, presentation, proposals, references, etc. If your sales attack is not producing the desired results, it’s time for a weapons check. Are you or your people armed with the proper weapons to shoot at targets on your list, and how effective are you at actually aiming and firing those weapons?
Plan & Execute the Attack: You can have the most strategic list, the sharpest sales story, and the most powerful sales weapons, but if you don’t make time in the calendar to execute the proactive sales attack then it’s all for naught. If your pipeline isn’t full and growing, or you’re not closing enough business, dig into your calendar and your key sales activities. How much time is spent proactively pursuing new business versus the amount of time spent babysitting existing business and doing account maintenance? How much outbound, proactive activity is there? Are you making enough calls, securing enough discovery meetings, having enough meaningful conversations? If you’re like most of the salespeople and sales teams I observe, then the answer is that you are probably not.
Developing new business is simple. I’m not saying that it’s easy. Not even close. But it’s not complicated. If you’re struggling to create new opportunities and close new deals, do a quick evaluation of your sales effort in these three categories. Assuming there’s a market for what you sell, I’ve got a high degree of confidence that you can identify the causes of your shortfall using this simple framework.