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The Only Thing a Salesperson Can Control: Sales Activity

The Only Thing a Salesperson Can Control: Sales Activity

October 6, 2014

Pity the many salespeople who set off each morning with high hopes of beating their quotas (or even meeting them), only to lose steam by lunchtime as — despite their best efforts — nothing seems to be happening.

No sales. No new leads. Not even a returned call or email.


The first tendency is to blame the leads themselves, especially if supplied by the folks in Marketing or a manager. Next comes a general finger-pointing towards the world at large, including “the economy,” the war in the Middle East, locust infestations in Africa, and witchcraft.

Finally, as bosses start to give the evil eye and their confidence erodes further, salespeople will drift into self-loathing and start to blame themselves, putting into motion a dwindling spiral that is hard to break out of.

So how does one escape a slump? In the words of renowned sales trainer Tom Hopkins, the answer is “GOYA.” No, not the frijoles brand, it stands for:  “Get Off Your Ass.”

To be a bit less crass, this means to get out there and do what are factually the only things which a salesperson can control, which are SALES ACTIVITIES.

This means you have to perform the actions of selling instead of being on Facebook, reading magazines, or complaining about your company’s prices.  It means following a process with defined steps and objectives — a “battle plan,” if you will, and setting high targets for these sub-activities and getting them done.

Something like:

  1. Find 100 names of newly promoted execs from the local business journal, LinkedIn feed, social media, word of mouth, etc.
  2. Research them on the web
  3. Send them a postcard congratulating them.
  4. Follow up with a phone call to each one within one week
  5. Quotas: 10 appointments from this activity, 2 new accounts.

However, you can follow your plan to a “T” and still not make it. What is missing? Oftentimes, I observe that salespeople go through the motions, but their actions are not refined enough to be successful. There are subtleties in how those activities are performed that can make all the difference.

Here are some examples of ways salespeople can get control of sales activities by working on improving the subtleties of approach.

1.       Take the Chill Out of Cold Calling

Very few people actually like cold calling. The idea of working your way down a list, calling relative strangers and receiving rejection after rejection just isn’t anyone’s idea of a good day at the office.

So, refine the approach. In general, the most effective way I find to reduce call reluctance is to somehow make these leads a bit warmer in your head through research. Examine your prospects’ habits. With LinkedIn and social media you have a lot of information on people at your fingertips — check out their Youtube channels and see what they sound like and how fast they talk and be prepared to match them to help in rapport building. If you notice they are from New York, be fast and to the point on your call; if you are calling someone from the South, be slower and more cordial.

Okay, what I am truly saying is: stalk them. At least until you feel you have an edge when calling.

2.       Make Asking for Referrals a Habit not an Exception

Getting referrals is easier than you think, and it is always the highest closing biz, but many salespeople incorrectly assume that referrals will just come in when they are warranted.

No. Don’t wait. The best way to pick up referrals is to flat out ask for them. If you’ve taken care of your customer, met expectations and earned their respect, asking for referrals isn’t a problem. They should be happy to connect you with people.

A good money-making tweak is therefore to TRULY ask for referrals from all of your clients as a standard part of your sales routine, not just hope they give them to you. As a matter of fact, call or send an email to a past client right now to check in and  add a “BTW, can you provide a couple of names of people who I might also want to ______ (benefit, like “save money”) by using our _______(product/service) too?”

If you do this, I bet you will pick up at least one viable lead…or you need to work on your approach some more.

3.       Improve Your Listening and Acknowledgements

If you tend to be talkative, you should practice simply listening and giving acknowledgements when making sales calls.

This is a great example of how salespeople can control a sales activity where they might have been struggling before. Just practice asking a question and shutting up most of the time. If you do this, many buyers will practically close themselves as they explain their business pains to you. So just repeat their problems back as questions to confirm the issue and show you are listening, and then give them their solution.

Too many salespeople blab. Or worse yet, talk themselves OUT of a sale.  Control this sales activity and win more business.

4.       Perfect Your Closing Techniques

There is perhaps no other area in sales where subtleties really count as much as the close. As you know, closing the sale isn’t about running through a pitch as quickly as possible and hammering the prospect to part with their cash, unless you are working the door at a carnival freak show.

Closing is like a dance where you have to lead your partner: speeding up, slowing down, and guiding them to trust and follow you.

This means adjusting the subtleties in your tone of voice, your body language, and the words you use. Even your attire should be tweaked to fit the prospect’s environment and expectations.

Any little thing which detracts can cause a sale to go bust. Adjust yourself so this doesn’t happen. Control the close and the closing environment.

TIP: Monitor your conversion rate. If you are not moving prospects along each step of your sales funnel in the same ratio as your high- performing peers, or your closing ratio is just way lower, there could be something wrong in your delivery.  Listen to and copy the high performers, and do some ROLE PLAYING.

In short…

  • Every day, write out your sales activities.
  • Make it a battle plan, with set objectives and numbers.
  • CONTROL your activity by working your plan, and refine the subtle points you discover where you aren’t performing well.

How could you possibly not make more money this way?

Need more help? Contact Volohaus through this quick little form or just call me (Shaun) at 760.815.4464 and let’s start driving more revenue to your coffers —free consultation, no pressure, that’s my promise. 

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