This article was originally posted on Forbes.
By Michael Gunther
When you’re in sales, the phrase “the art of selling” is heard all the time. Keep in mind that the art of selling is entirely subjective; artful salespeople use their intuition and relationship-building skills to sell a product or service, but sometimes, despite these skills, the sales needle refuses to budge.
The science of selling, on the other hand, works objectively to create a series of data sets to scientifically track which efforts make the sales needle move. It also provides a series of tactics to try if one isn’t working. Just like a scientist, sales leaders should create a hypothesis to test as a way to determine if they are marketing to the right clients, following leads, tracking sales stages and managing the overall sales pipeline.
Every company has sales goals, but not every company has a sales plan. In fact, a goal is simply not enough to boost a business to breakthrough performance. Develop or recharge a sales plan by instilling methods and processes, and use them consistently to increase your leads and wins. By establishing this fundamental approach to selling, a business can thrive even in the most challenging of economies. Following are three elements to a successful sales plan to obtain sustainable and consistent sales growth. If you have a sales plan, evaluate these aspects first before starting from scratch and completely overhauling your plan. If you don’t have a sales plan, this information will provide a solid foundation upon which to build your plan.
1. Attitude: Before anything else, evaluate the attitude of your sales team. Rejection is a natural and expected part of the sales process, but how well is your team handling it? If your company is not achieving the sales you need to thrive, assess your team first and determine if there’s something they should shift. Look at each individual sales person’s attributes in the following categories, and analyze how well they’re working within them by answering these questions.
- Persistence: Are your salespeople aggressive without becoming overbearing? Are they comfortable with phone or in-person meetings, or do they prefer to email? Do they consistently follow up on leads within a designated time frame?
- Ability to create something from nothing: Can your sales team pivot a “no” to a “yes”? Are they able to capitalize on potential customer feedback and make some kind of sale — even if it’s not the big sale they set out for? Do they have the ability to be creative in what they are offering?
- Goal-orientation: Is your sales team able to reach goals? Do big goals overwhelm them? Are small goals not challenging enough?
- Positivity: How happy is your sales team? Are they easily discouraged? Do they give up when they have a bad week? Or are they capable of pushing through the rejection to gain a sale?
2. The Art Of Selling: The second element of a successful sales plan is ensuring your sales team is educated in the art of selling. Building long-term relationships is one key to sales success. Often, we see that our clients have a great sales structure in place and a great attitude, but their sales teams just don’t have the skill set to actually follow through on a sales plan. Evaluate your team’s ability to artfully sell by asking the following questions:
- Does the team understand your company’s competitive advantage and have the ability to properly articulate it?
- How would you evaluate the basic communication skills of the team?
- Can the sales team build effective relationships with potential customers that are carried on and built up over time?
- Does the team have strong negotiation skills? Are they able to work with a customer to come to a mutually agreeable sale?
- What is the educational background of your sales team? When they started at your company, did you put them through a sales boot camp to learn the art of selling? Do you offer continuing education to further sharpen and enhance their skills?
3. The Science Of Selling: The final element of an effective sales plan is evaluating your scientific methods. This includes measuring and tracking your sales efforts. The first time you evaluate the science in your sales strategy is the most difficult. Once these methods are in place, it will become easier to go back and analyze these steps when future sales issues arise.
- Evaluate the sales process, with a keen eye on your target clients, how you’re generating leads, how you’re qualifying those leads and the overall marketing ecosystem.
- Determine how to measure and track your sales efforts. Do you have an Excel spreadsheet or CRM in place to track sales efforts? Have you identified key performance indicators? How are you alerted when one or more of those efforts are out of place?
- Allow yourself to make as many adjustments as necessary to continually tweak your systems and processes to fit the evolving needs of your business.
These three elements are always shifting and adjusting depending on what is happening with your company. Put your energy as a manager into fine-tuning and improving these elements, and motivate your team to engage right along with you. By developing or recharging your sales plan, you can reevaluate your sales goals and ensure the company is moving in the right direction to reach your desired financial growth.