In 2016, salespeople have more tools at their disposal than their predecessors ever did.

The advent of inbound marketing means that inbound leads are no longer a rarity. Social media provides a wealth of information about prospects. There are a multitude of sales training courses, sales enablement tools, and professional conferences available for the enterprising rep to attend or adopt.

And yet, only 33% of salespeople make quota, according to the TAS Group.

What gives?

When you miss your number, it’s often human nature to point the finger at someone else.
Prospects weren’t picking up this month. Nobody wanted to talk to me. The leads just weren’t good.

All of these things could be true, at one time or another. But far more frequently, the fault doesn’t lie with the leads — it’s the way salespeople follow up that cause deals to disappear.

As you face a new year and a new quota, take care to avoid these six common follow-up mistakes errors.

5 Huge Mistakes Reps Make When Following Up With Sales Leads

1) Following up too slowly.
Research shows that salespeople are 100 times more likely to connect with an inbound lead if they follow up in the first five minutes than if they wait half an hour. No, you didn’t read that number wrong — 100 times more likely.

It’s also logical that this should be. Your brand is top-of-mind for someone who’s just converted on a piece of content, but wait a day (or even just 30 minutes) and they may not even remember who you are.

2) Not providing value.
Salespeople have more information than ever before, but so do buyers. And it’s easier than ever for buyers to take their business elsewhere in the blink of an eye. So how can salespeople get prospects to talk to them?

Welcome to the age of Always Be Helping, where the most successful reps act like consultants — not sellers. Buyers can easily compare pricing and feature lists themselves — what they need is an expert to show them how all that data coalesces into a coherent solution for their business problems.

Make sure you’re providing value from day one. And this means real, objective value. If your prospect really isn’t a good fit, recommend a better solution and let them go, rather than forcing them into a purchase they’ll regret.

3) Not doing research.
You can’t provide value if you don’t understand your audience. While it’s perfectly fine to be ignorant of your prospect’s most serious business pain going into your first call, it’s amateur to fumble their job title, company size, or not know what they do.

This doesn’t mean you need a dossier on every lead you intend to call. Do just enough research so you have a sense of what your prospect cares about, then tailor your call to those needs.

4) Relying on a “just checking in” follow-up sequence.
So you didn’t call in the five-minute window and you couldn’t connect with your prospect. All hope isn’t lost — 80% of sales require five or more follow-ups to close.

But all too often, salespeople resort to the “just checking in” method of following up. This might seem reasonable: After all, you haven’t done any discovery yet, so how are you expected to evolve your messaging?

You can’t be as specific as you’d like, but that doesn’t mean going to the other extreme and being incredibly generic. Instead, spend a few extra minutes on research so you can send content or suggestions based on what you can guess about your prospect’s situation — they’ll be far more likely to respond if you prove that you’re not just interested in a sale.

5) Misaligning your pitch with your prospect’s buyer stage.
The buyer’s journey has four stages: Awareness, Consideration, Evaluation, and Decision. Each of those four stages represents a very different type of buyer activity and need. If your prospect converted on a top-of-the-funnel offer, it’s not the best time to offer a demo. Always tailor the content you share and your advice to your buyer’s needs.

The five mistakes above are serious, but the good news is they’re easy to correct. Often, salespeople make these mistakes because it’s harder and slower to take the time to correctly follow-up with leads.

But buyers will sniff you out a mile away, and they’ll take their business elsewhere. So live by this rule of thumb when designing a lead follow-up strategy: Build your sales process around the customer. Tailor every communication to their needs, wants, and requirements.

The Leads Don’t Suck!

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Written by Rick Roberge @RainMakerMaker

I started my business in 1986 by calling every company I could in the Blue Book. There’s no sugarcoating this: It sucked. I was good at cold calls, but it was still a pain in the neck. My goal became to set up a by-referral only business.

Did I succeed? In 1994, I switched my main business line to a private number. The only way a person could call me is if they knew someone who already had my number. By that time, I had an ironclad referral process, and my business is still thriving today.

Don’t think you should wait for referrals to come to you sporadically — you should instead proactively seek them, no matter what industry you’re in. If you take the time to develop referrals, you’ll get more qualified prospects for the simple fact that people hang out with others like themselves. This cuts the sales cycle to a much shorter timeframe.

You will also virtually eliminate objections of the ilk that the prospect doesn’t trust you. Trust is already built in, thanks to your referrer.

However, getting and giving referrals isn’t comfortable for many salespeople. Building a referral process sounds great in the abstract, but requires a deft touch on the tactical level.

4 Referral Process Tips

1) You have to start somewhere.
Referrals can be an extremely effective way to grow a business, but it’s a snowball rather than an explosion. Don’t expect immediate results.

2) Be excellent at your job.
Customers will only want to refer you if you’ve delighted them. Go above and beyond with your customers to reap the referral rewards.

3) Don’t accept just any referral.
When I first started seeking referrals, I’d ask customers “Who do you know?” and they’d give me some names. The problem with that phrasing was that people would occasionally offer contacts they didn’t have a good relationship with.

I’ve since changed my question to “Who do you like?” to ensure I’m getting referred to a person my customer has a strong relationship with. I can then benefit from the respect the referral has for my customer.

4) Develop a referral mindset.
If you want to get referrals, you should also give referrals. This is what I call a “referral mindset.” Help your contacts and acquaintances grow their businesses by hooking them up with people in your network, and they’ll feel inclined to return the favor.

Many clients are unsure of how to reach out to potential referrals on your behalf. Sending them this email template can be just what they are looking for.

[Referral],

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve been working with [salesperson] for a few months. The other day, I was talking with him about some of the things that he and I have done, and I realized that I should put you two together. So…

[Referral], meet [Salesperson, with a LinkedIn profile URL].
[Salesperson], meet [Referral, with a LinkedIn profile URL].

Can I leave the rest to you guys?

Talk to you both later.
[Your Client]

Note that the customer isn’t asked to explain to the referral what the salesperson does. It’s not their job to sell the referral.

Phrasing it in this manner (without a lot of explanation) builds on the mutual respect between customer and referral by implying that the referral can give the salesperson the benefit of the doubt. Also, since both the customer and the salesperson are on the email, it would be appropriate for either to follow up.

After sending this template, I usually check in a week or two later with my customer and ask — gently — if they sent it out. If they haven’t, I reply that it’s no problem, and then I do not ask again.

This approach to getting referrals has worked for me, and it will work for you. Don’t wait for referrals to trickle in — formalize your process, and launch it today.

Happy Monday and Happy Selling!
Kevin

The Best Way to Ask for Referrals [+ Email Template]

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In a crowded marketplace, it may seem that price wars are inevitable. But slashing prices to beat the competition will hurt your credibility, brand image, and margin more than it helps.

We get what we pay for. Even if your buyers try to convince you otherwise, they understand this principle. So instead of racing your price-cutting competitors to the bottom, leverage your product’s strongest assets to create value that outweighs a lower price. Using the following four factors, you can build a strong competitive advantage.

1) Stand by your premium pricing.
It may seem contradictory, but charging a premium price — and sticking to it — can actually be used as a competitive advantage. It’s common to assume that all buyers will be making a purchasing decision based largely on cost, but it’s rarely the primary reason a person buys.

A prospect may lead you to believe price is the deciding factor, but buyers actually tend to be leery of prices that seem too low — it sends a message about your product’s quality. Instead, standing by your premium pricing and acknowledge that your product is more expensive — it makes a strong statement about your credibility as a solutions provider.

2) Sell value, not price.
Value, not price, is almost always the most critical factor in a purchasing decision. Having a valuable product is one thing, but having the ability to sell value is what will set you apart in a sea of cheaper competitors.

In order to create value for your buyers, you must understand the unique standards and expectations of your prospect. For example, what makes a valuable tire? To determine that, you’d have to answer these questions:

What are you going to use the car for?
Does the tire need to get the driver through the Indy 500?
Do you need a racing slick? An off-road tire?

Using value as a competitive advantage requires customizing your solution to best meet your buyers’ needs.

3) Master product delivery.
Delivery is a part of your business you absolutely must excel at if you want to sell at a higher price than your competitor. In competitive industries, a company’s ability (or failure) to deliver a product or service in a timely, agreed-upon manner can make or break a customer relationship.

When prospects tell you they can “get the same thing somewhere else for less money,” silently ask yourself this essential question: “Then why are they even talking to me?” Because if they really can get the same thing down the street, right now, for less money, why are they still engaging with you? Whether it’s implementation support or superior customer service, delivering a timely and better onboarding experience than your competitors will help you justify a higher price point.

4) Practice helpful selling.
The ability to reach out to prospects in a professional way, on their own terms, is the currency of sales success in today’s competitive marketplace. Today’s buyers are more in control of the sale than ever before, and with that added control comes a decreased willingness to talk with salespeople who only care about getting the deal.

Elevating your product or service from an interchangeable, turnkey fix to a solution to critical business pain means you’ll have to add value in a way that goes beyond price. And focusing on value over price is better for you, too. Buyers who understand value, and the higher price tag that accompanies it, will be better long-term customers than those with a transactional mindset.

Happy Monday and Happy Selling!

Kevin

How to Win Against Price-Cutting Competitors

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