Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Be a student of your profession
Regardless of your profession, it's critical to stay on top of the latest trends and continually educate yourself on your industry. This couldn't be any truer for sales professionals, yet it's common for people to get stuck doing things the same way without making adjustments and paying attention to what's changing around them.
Whatever business you are in, you have to stay educated on what is happening around you. In today's fast-paced business environment, technology has drastically changed the game and forced everyone to make changes to the way business is done.
And when it comes to sales, selling has evolved more that many of us realize. There are countless reasons why, but I thought it would be beneficial to share some of the latest trends and research that may help you make adjustments to your approach and increase your selling effectiveness.
Smiling and dialing is less effective: There's no doubt that using the phone to reach prospects is a critical aspect of every sales approach. However, sales trends point to prospects being less responsive to unsolicited cold calls. It's important to recognize this trend and adapt accordingly. It doesn't mean it's gone, it just means that it's important for every sales organization to recognize the value of alternative methods of initiating contact with prospects.
Consensus buying is here to stay: Research from CEB (www.executiveboard.com) shows that on average there are 5.4 people involved in every business-to-business buying decision. Gone are the days when a sole executive makes the buying decision. Having buy-in from multiple parties is wanted, and sales people face an uphill battle in these types of sales situations. Never underestimate the likelihood that one person on the consensus buying team can stall or completely stop a sales cycle.
Educated buyers: CEB also has compelling research that shows customers complete 57 percent of the buying/decision making process before their first contact with a sales person. This is due in large part to the vast amounts of information available to buyers. I always use the TV example. If you were buying a new TV, would you walk into a store and tell a salesperson, "I'm interested in buying a TV, what would you suggest?" Not even close. You would have done research online and walked into the store with a solid understanding of what you wanted. The same is true for the majority of decision makers in a business. That's a key factor for every sales professional to consider.
Best times to prospect: Research from Insidesales.com was featured in the Harvard Business Review titled "The Best Practices for Lead Response Management." The research is eye opening. Following up with a prospect between the hours of 4 to 5 p.m. was 164 percent more likely to lead to a qualified opportunity compared to following up between 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. It's related to the first attempt to connect with the prospect and tied to the likelihood that you will actually reach the contact. The second best time to call was between 8 to 9 a.m. Makes sense to me. That's when I'm most likely to be at my desk.
The purpose of me sharing the research and trends is less about the data provided and more about the importance of being a student of your profession. It's critical to stay connected to what's changing around you, and paying attention to trends and research is one way to stay on top of your game.
Christopher Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News. Thompson is the vice president of sales and services for Leadership Solutions at Skillsoft, a Nashua-based provider of learning solutions. Visit Skillsoft on the web at skillsoft.com.