EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part 2 of a two-part series by the author. You can find Part 1 here.
The R-S-P-F Sales Formula™ focuses on four measurable and repeatable habits, traits and processes that all salespeople must be proficient in, and that all sales leaders must monitor closely. Part One of this series outlined the first two crucial habits: Research and Scheduling. But that is only part of the equation that differentiates salespeople who are consistently exceeding goals from everyone else.
Equally important is mastering the final two habits: Presentation and Follow-Up.
Ground rules reminder
Many sales leaders focus only on “the numbers.” They never look beyond a few key performance indicators (KPIs) to identify where salespeople are struggling and how to help them improve. Unfortunately, this often leads to salespeople being replaced or put on performance improvement plans (PIPs) based solely on sales metrics reports. While quotas are important, they present only a partial picture of why a salesperson is successful or underperforming.
The long-term health of your business depends on understanding how to train and develop each member of your team into a successful contributor.
Habit Three: Presentation
I regularly ask sales leaders when they last went out on sales calls with their veteran team members. The response is often “not recently” or worse, “never.” How can this be? What could take precedence over ongoing field training that coaches sales teams how to present in the most efficient way possible to increase positive results?
The answer: sales leaders are too busy onboarding new salespeople to get them producing quickly to focus on anything else. But neglecting ongoing coaching only leads to an endless loop of replacing underperforming salespeople (and missed sales goals for the organization).
Pandemic-related restrictions in the past two years drove substantial revenue drops in industries like special events, hospitality and others. This resulted in high employee turnover for many employers. Top-performing salespeople left to find stable sources of income elsewhere, and new employees became “veterans” overnight. Sales leaders had no choice but to put all their efforts into sourcing and training new hires.
Adapt and change
Social distancing and lingering concerns about the pandemic will remain for many years. The consequences of the pandemic have forced many sales leaders to reevaluate how they train their salespeople to work with potential customers who expect information delivered differently than in the past. Long gone are the days of extended close-contact presentations. All salespeople, including veteran salespeople, need to adjust their tactics.
• Cut to the chase. Customers are not going to sit through drawn-out presentations. Train your sales team to get to the point faster. If you meet in person with a customer, be prepared for less time to pitch. That means
• Ask more, tell less. Don’t lead with why you are “so great.” Lead with questions that will quickly move the conversation to how you can help your customers accomplish their goals. Customers have never been more conscious about stretching their money. The faster you can provide the bottom line, the more you will earn their trust.
• Come prepared. Well-prepared questions expose problems or objections before they are presented. These are opportunities to upsell your products and outsell your competition.
Turn technology to your advantage
Most consumers have spent the past two years locked inside their homes doing all of their shopping online. Having everything they need just a click away works for them, it is not changing, and you need to incorporate this reality into your customer presentations.
• Replace text with visuals. People are used to seeing what they are going to buy before they buy it. Whether you use a tablet, computer or smartphone, work images into your pitch.
• Upgrade your website ASAP. Over the past two years, most companies have realized that consumers rarely need to talk to anyone to purchase whatever they need. If your website does not include high-quality images of your products, video clips and interactive information, you might be losing sales to the competition. Make your website a 24-7-365 fully functioning part of your sales program.
Habit Four: Follow-Up
Michelle Moore, author of the book Selling Simplified, said: “Not following up with your prospects is the same as filling up your bathtub without first putting the stopper in the drain.” I could not agree more.
Everything we have been reviewing over this two-part series means absolutely nothing if you don’t have a strategic follow-up plan. Sales leaders need to understand that some salespeople love “the hunt” but not the follow-up. They sometimes need to be reminded that they were hired to actually close the sale, which means following up with energy.
Here are some non-negotiables for follow-ups:
• Connect creatively. You MUST be comfortable utilizing multiple communication methods including email, text, social media messaging, phone and actual in-person follow-up. If prospects don’t reply to an email, get creative and connect with them on another platform. Don’t give up!
• All sale quotes should have an “expire by” date. That not only creates urgency for the customer to make a decision, but it also gives salespeople set follow-up dates to put on their calendars.
• Schedule blocks of time weekly for follow-up. Every single week. The follow-up is as important as the quote!
• Management must support follow-up. Spend the same amount of time you dedicate to pushing your sales team to generate new quotes to pushing them to doing the follow-up to close the quotes.
• Follow-up must be a daily discussion. In every meeting with salespeople, discuss the status of their open quotes. You must consistently emphasize the importance of follow-up or your team will drop the ball.
• Make deadlines the norm and not the exception. Deadlines give sales leaders an easy follow-up date for every outstanding quote. Your team should give you daily/weekly updates on all open quotes without you having to ask.
• Celebrate follow-up that directly leads to new sales. Share these wins with the entire team and highlight the follow-up efforts made to close the deal. Successful follow-up is the lifeblood of a business!
So now that you have learned about the R-S-P-F Sales Formula, here are your actions steps for success.
• Do an honest review of each member of your sales team.
• Rank their four R-S-P-F habits from 1 (best) to 4 (struggle).
• Meet with each salesperson and have them rank the four R-S-P-F habits for themselves.
• Review the results together. Develop a timeline and a plan to address identified challenge habit areas.
The goal is to identify where your team is excelling or struggling within these four key areas and address these issues to improve performance. You will become acutely aware of where you need to lean in as a leader with each sales representative.
James Auerbach is vice president, Event Segment at the American Rental Association (ARA). He joined the ARA in November 2020 after spending 25 years in the event rental, event planning/production and hospitality industries. He has managed businesses of various sizes from small owner-operated companies to large corporate and private equity-owned businesses.