Data, dials and a few distractions - Sean McPheat's sales trends of 2015

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Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training
Columnist
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It’s at this time of the year when we all take a deep breath and ask ourselves “Where did the year go?”

Yes, it’s just flown by and you can get so wrapped up in the daily tasks, calls and sales meetings you make that you can sometimes miss what has actually happened.

We train thousands of salespeople each year and I’m fortunate enough to hear of the issues they face and the latest trends in the world of selling.

So let me share some of my major findings throughout 2015. What follows is a summary of all of the feedback, enquiries and conversations that we’ve had with key sales decision-makers throughout the year.

 “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted” - Albert Einstein

Data, data and even bigger data!

Big Data was a key theme throughout 2015 and in the main there were three camps when it came to this.

Camp 1: “I need to collate everything together into one source”.

Camp 2: “We’ve got too much data and I’m overwhelmed with it all. Where do I start?”

Camp 3: “What’s Big Data?!”

There’s a saying that goes, “Complexity is the enemy of implementation” and when it comes to Big Data, this is so true.

There’s no doubt that it is vital to the success of your organisation but breaking it down into bite-sized chunks, that’s the project to implement it correctly, not the data itself, which is so critical.

Faced with a complex task, too many organisations do nothing or they do so much research on the topic that they become even more overwhelmed with it all.

Did you know that data wordwide is growing 40% per year? This will only go up. So with this in mind, here are 3 quick tips to get your started with Big Data:

  1. Know your outcome – what are you trying to achieve with this? What will have the biggest business impact? Know your outcome first and then work out the data that will support it
  2. Start small – work out some key, yet simple analytics that will not take too much time or data to run and then build this up over time
  3. Break it down – Big Data needs to become small data to operate efficiently within your organisation. Make smaller datasets based on a category or niche.

“If you torture the data long enough, it will confess” - Ronald Coase

Analyse This!

The use of sales analytics was another key theme throughout 2015.

CRM is no longer seen as a place just to keep score. Instead, sales organisations are changing what they do with all of the wealth of CRM data they have at their fingertips.

They are now using the information they have to increase win rates and shorten their sales cycle.

Here are just some of the ways that sales analytics are being used more often:

  • More visible dashboards/leaderboards for sales reporting – at exec and sales person level.
  • Accurate forecasting based on probability and previous performance.
  • Customer insights – what is the likelihood that a buyer will close?
  • Where are your buyers hanging out on social media and what do they do on these mediums?
  • Analytics are allowing “fact based decision making” to take place rather than hunches.

And some quick tips to get this right:

  1. Make sure that you’re measuring the right things.
  2. Get buy-in from the top down of why you are using analytics and the “WIIFM” from sales people to use the information.
  3. Analytics are good but remember you need to take action on the insights!

“Build it, and they will come” only works in the movies. Social Media is a “build it, nurture it, engage them and they may come and stay” – Seth Godin

Social Media - Weapons of Mass Distraction

Talking to buyers throughout 2015 and from my own experience has led me to believe that too many sales people are using social media in the wrong way.

Does this sound familiar…

You receive an invite from someone on LinkedIn and you accept. 5 minutes goes by and “ping” – you receive a LinkedIn message from this person that you’ve never met before and they are trying to flog you something!

I mean, come on! At least court me first!

Unfortunately too many salespeople are using LinkedIn and social media in this way which is making it, day by day, a little bit more difficult for those of us that use it in the right way.

Each day these “Spammers” are eroding LinkedIn’s power to connect seller with buyer.

Some quick tips to get this right:

  1. Use social media to build relationships and to position you and your company as the pre-eminent resource for your prospects.
  2. Use social media as a slow burn rather than a big bang way to drum up more business.
  3. There is a time to sell but it’s not at “hello”.

“This telephone won’t dial itself” - The Wolf of Wall Street

The Telephone Revisited

One of our best-selling courses in 2015?

Telesales and cold calling!

Yes, there was a throwback to the pre-internet days when salespeople had to actually pick up the telephone to drum up business. Remember them? Telephones!

Cold and warm calling have always been and should always be in your arsenal of business development weapons but some companies threw the baby out with the bath water and moved away from the telephone completed in favour of a virtual approach.

So why the increase?

I’ve got 3 theories based on the discussions I’ve had with key sales decision-makers.

Theory 1 – “With everyone using the internet now, there are less and less organisations in our market using cold calling as a method. So the market is less saturated as it once was with cold callers. That’s why we are doing more”.

Theory 2 – “We’ve tried the “internet thing” and it didn’t work for us”.

Theory 3 – “We use the information gathered from internet analytics, social media and sales analytics to make intelligent calls rather than just cold calls so want to do this in a smart way”.

Some quick tips if you’re going down the cold calling route:

  1. “Opening is the new closing” – pay particular attention to the first 5 seconds of your call. Don’t be too cheesy or sound too slick because you will sound just like a stereotypical cold caller who the receiver has had a bad experience with before.
  2. Set objectives for your calls. If you are setting up appointments then sell the appointment not your product or service. Have a secondary objective up your sleeve like gathering some information for next time if all else fails.
  3. Understand your numbers. Understand how many calls you need to make per week, per day and per hour based on your ratios so you know exactly the activity you need to make to achieve your objectives of sales/appointments.

“Most of the people we want attention from are too busy getting someone else’s” - Anon

Attention – Getting it and keeping it!

One of the major frustrations I heard throughout 2015 was the inability for sales people to get someone’s attention.

That was not only on initial prospecting calls and visits but also for existing clients too.

After all, it’s getting noisier and nosier out there!

On a daily basis I was hearing of instances where:

  • Emails were not being answered to in a timely manner or at all.
  • Voicemails were not being returned.
  • Meetings were planned and then cancelled. Then planned and cancelled again.
  • “I’ll get around to reading your proposal next week”.
  • “The project is on hold because due to XYZ”.
  • “It’s been mad here, I just have not had the time”.

The list goes on.

Here are some quick tips on managing this situation and grabbing the attention of your prospects and existing clients:

  1. Qualify better up-front. Does this prospect really have a need or is it a nice to have? By qualifying more effectively you can work out the time and effort you need to put into this opportunity.
  2. What are you doing to keep “front of mind” status with your existing clients? You need to create value over and beyond what they would expect so you always have their attention.
  3. “You don’t need to be the best to win business nowadays, you just need to be different” – how can you stand out from the pack? I mean, really stand out.

So how was 2015 for you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and any experiences or trends that you had.

 

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17th Aug 2016 09:15

Sean. Really enjoyed your post.
WoWS has taken over Gordon Gekko in the quoting stakes!

My top trend this year was using social media more for sales. LinkedIn has got that market tapped! We’re using SN, Inmail, SSI, the lot…the question in our team has been how much attention to give it. Quantifying leads, building on pipeline by posting more Tweets and setting up an LI group. How do we justify spending more time on this stuff and what do we call succes? Were working with marketing more to try and establish how to align what they're doing and what were doing on social to make better use of it. I can see this being a big part of what we do next year.

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