Key Sales Activities and Tactics that Only the Pro’s Use!
Over the years, I’ve our key sales activities had to evolve.
I started with straight forward prospecting, networking functions, etc. My first “office” was at a cafe in downtown Phoenix. I was shaking lots of hands.
As I began to hire sales reps and build a sales team, I had to continuously evaluate what sales activities were worth keeping and which needed to be scratched.
This post uncovers the lessons learned.
These key sales activities can actually increase your revenue when done consistently.
Many salespeople are busy with the time-honored tradition of performance reviews and goal setting to guide their sales efforts.
Not many sales reps are re-evaluating their key sales activities to look for areas of improvement in their sales process.
Those sales reps who aren’t scrambling to meet their targets are probably eager to check these boxes, finalize their bonus calculations, and coast into the new year.
If this sounds like your plan, you could be missing out on a few more important key sales activities.
The reality is, you’re not the only one that feels like checking out until after the ball drops – and when everyone else goes dark, that means fewer distractions to keep you from getting a head start on your next quota period.
The top sales reps I know use time to re-assess what they learned and develop a plan for crushing their sales goals.
If checking out is what you need to recharge your batteries, go for it. But, if you’re interested in gaining a competitive advantage over your competition, read on to learn how to differentiate yourself using five key sales activities in your sales process to drive more results.
Obvious Sales Activity
I’m not even going to mention this in the key sales activity list below. That’s because it’s such an obvious part of an effective sales process. However, this a necessary mention as it’s what top sales reps do consistently as part of their sales activity plan.
So happens, this is exactly what LeadFuze helps sales teams accomplish.
LeadFuze is a software solution that helps sales reps build lists of accurate leads automatically, while integrating with sales outreach tools to allow you to contact those freshly verified leads.
Now, lets get into 5 specific sales activities every sales rep will want to make sure to implement. Then, I’ll share some research backed psychological hacks you can use in your sales process to ensure these sales activities are being used consistently.
Here’s an infographic summarizing the day to day sales activities you should be implementing. A deeper dive, and the bonus hacks, are below!
Key Sales Activity #1: Check In With Your Favorite Customers
How often are you, or your sales team, checking in on customers?
The traditional image of a sales person is the hunter-gatherer, hell-bent on tracking down prospects and bringing home the bacon. This is a necessary part of the job, but if the tempo around your office has slowed down, now is a great time to strengthen your relationships with existing customers.
Customers are going through a lot of the same end-of-year activities that you are, so consider asking them how their year went. Listen for opportunities to help them get better in the next year, but file them away for now.
This call isn’t about selling, it’s about nurturing the relationship. You don’t want to be the guy (or gal) that only calls to ask for more business.
Checking in at the end of the year with a no pressure discussion about the customer’s situation provides a ton of value. Recognizing them for their loyalty and taking a genuine interest in the future of their business can strengthen personal connections at a time when people are feeling both social and generous.
These conversations can often lead to up-sells, contract renewals, or referrals that shore up your pipeline for 2017.
Key Sales Activity #2: Warm Up A Relationship That Has Cooled Off
If we look at the other side of the coin, the holidays are also a great time to reconnect with some of those old relationships that may have dropped off your radar.
A top sales rep knows the end of the year means there are residual budgets to be spent, next year budgets to be finalized, and more relaxed gatekeepers.
All of this adds up to greater access to decision-makers and more opportunities to rekindle relationships that may have cooled. Assuming things are going well at the prospect, people are usually more generous with their time and resources at the end of the year.
Lead with a compelling, value-added conversation rationale and you might find decision-makers more willing to schedule a meeting in January than they were back in July.
Even if you don’t secure a formal meeting, you’ll still be keeping your name at the top of a prospect’s mind.
Make sure you, or your sales team, are checking in on old relationships?
Key Sales Activity #3: Give Your Pipeline a Check-up
Truthfully, pipeline management should be a daily or weekly practice, but our natural tendency to reflect back at the end of the year makes it a great time to also look at your pipeline through a more clinical lens.
If you were to objectively assess your pipeline, how healthy would you say it is?
If you’re not sure how to answer that question, be consider what you might learn about your sales effectiveness by considering last year’s:
Stage Velocity – What did your velocity look like at each stage? How long did it take a prospect to become a qualified lead? How long until that qualified lead become a pursuit? How does your actual velocity compare to your expectations? Where are the roadblocks? At what stage did leads get “stuck” – and why?
Pipeline Leaks – Did your funnel have any leaks? Were there points where a large percentage of prospects drop off? What could be causing this and how can you patch that leak going forward?
Lead Distribution – Was your pipeline balanced? Did you have plenty of leads coming in, but very few closing (read: possible leak)? Did you have plenty of opportunities in later stages, but very few new leads coming in (read: more prospecting needed)?
Data Integrity – If you see something that shocks you, ask yourself how accurate the CRM data behind your pipeline report might be. Is there missing or inaccurate data? How might that be impacting what you see on your dashboard?
“Getting right” with respect to your pipeline can put you in a very strong position going into the new year.
While everyone else struggles to get up-to-speed coming off of their holiday break, you’ll already have a plan in place to start aggressively chipping away at your quota.
Invest the time now, while there are no distractions (or excuses) and thank yourself later when you have more time to dive in to meaningful work.
How often are you, or your sales team, evaluating their pipeline or their sales process as a whole?
Key Sales Activity #4: Audit Your Collateral/Review Your Processes
If we’re being honest, when was the last time you sat down and reviewed your marketing collateral to assess whether the information is accurate and the messaging is targeted at the true needs of your customers?
You may not regularly review your sales materials, but a substantial number of your customers do.
If some feature descriptions seem off or a value proposition doesn’t hit home, they notice – and that can make the difference between a win and a loss.
Your marketing department does their best to research customer needs and create collateral that strikes a chord with your target audience. But their efforts are often targeted at serving the rule, not the exception.
If what you actually hear from the people sitting across the table doesn’t jive with what’s in your brochure, you’re missing an important improvement opportunity.
The slower operating tempo of December lends itself to conducting an inventory of your collateral and determining how you can best use them in real-world selling scenarios.
Maybe the message is on point, but you realize that the brochure you’ve been using for SMBs might be better suited for an enterprise sale.
Maybe you’ll discover that there is an updated version of a product overview that never made its way to your hard drive (whoops!).
Regardless of whether you uncover opportunities to improve the content or utilization of your collateral, the end of the year is the best time to review and submit feedback to marketing.
Make sure you, or your sales team, are reviewing and updating your collateral!
Key Sales Activity #5: Initiate Knowledge Sharing
We all know that learning is important. That’s why companies invest time, resources, and many thousands of dollars creating and distributing manuals, training programs, and learning management systems to give their employees to knowledge and skills they need to excel.
But is it working?
Unfortunately, a study conducted by International Data Corporation suggests that Fortune 500 companies lose billions of dollars every year by failing to efficiently share knowledge within their organization.
This lack of communication results in operating inefficiencies, repeated mistakes, project delays, and a host of other corporate maladies.
So, why is it that we often take our annual review forms and file them away in a drawer or on a shelf? We all take time to talk about what went well and where we have opportunities to improve, but how many of us share those insights with someone other than our manager?
How many of us consult with our team members to see if we’re struggling with some of the same challenges?
If you want to be the rising tide that lifts all boats, initiate a conversation among your peers about experiences, both positive and negative, and the lessons you’ve learned over the last twelve months. The discussion can (and should) be about both internal and customer-facing interactions.
This level of knowledge sharing has been shown to significantly improve overall performance, as described by Harvard Business Professor David A. Garvin:
“Ideas carry maximum impact when they are shared broadly rather than held in a few hands… open up boundaries and stimulate the exchange of ideas.
Boundaries inhibit the flow of information; they keep individuals and groups isolated and reinforce preconceptions…General Electric CEO Jack Welch considers this to be such a powerful stimulant of change that he has made “boundarylessness” a cornerstone of the company’s strategy for the 1990s.”
Carve out an hour to exchange successes, failures, and ideas with your sales team.
You’ll be surprised by the number of insights that surface to help everyone perform at a higher level.
Make sure you dedicate time (at least weekly) for you, or your sales team, to review results and share knowledge with one another. Make sure your top sales reps are doing most of the sharing!
Psyche Yourself Up!
Sometimes you just need to look in the mirror and give yourself a pep talk, or a slap to the cheek. Let’s get into some research backed strategies for getting yourself over the hump.
Every sales rep is different, but deploying these sales activities will increase sales.
Recruit Your Drive
Your drive is in there somewhere. The challenge is knowing how to recruit it. An analysis of 41 different studies on the effect of choice on motivation found that choice enhanced intrinsic motivation, effort, task performance, and perceived competence.
The reason? Having a choice makes the task meaningful and maximizes psychological ownership of getting it done and done well.
If you want to make work meaningful to you, you need to first choose your New Reality — the place where you’ll be when things change for the better. It’s your desired future state.
To make this happen, you need to know where you’re headed.
You need an action plan to increase sales that’ll help you reach your New Reality.
This will give you the “why” of what you’re doing and will make you more motivated to do it. If you’re connected to the “why,” you can withstand almost any “what.” This is a great way to recruit your drive.
Prospecting is typically one of the least favorite activities for sellers. Many sellers we work with have a difficult time getting motivated to prospect. However, when we talk to sellers about their goals and help them build plans to achieve them, their motivation increases.
Here’s an example of how a New Reality can be connected to a seller’s prospecting activity:
Let’s say your goal is to reach $2.5 million in sales this year. Assume you can count on $1.5 million to come from growing existing accounts. You also know that your average client is worth $150,000 each year. This means you need to bring on 10 new clients this year. Based on a 40 percent close rate, you’ll need to generate 40 solid pipeline opportunities. About a third of your new conversations turn into real opportunities, so you need to generate 120 new conversations (or 10 each month) to reach this New Reality.
The question then becomes: what are you going to do to generate those 10 new conversations each month?
I would hope the effective sales activities I’ve shared so far at the top of your, or your sales team’s list.
By tying your prospecting efforts to your big picture goal, it makes the task more meaningful.
Ignite Your Proactivity
Getting started on difficult tasks can be hard. Once you start, however, it’s much easier to keep going.
Twenty percent of people are chronic procrastinators, and almost everyone is a periodic procrastinator. This is because something we want to do—or know we need to do—seems difficult and requires significant energy, so we avoid it. Even if they’re key sales activities that can help fill our pipeline, we still avoid it.
Many of us are lacking a catalyst—something that will jumpstart our productivity. Here are three catalysts to help you get started on important tasks:
1 Calendar Investment TIME
Investment Time is the time you spend focusing on becoming more effective, getting the right things done, and achieving top performance.
You get an outsized return on your Investment time as it pays dividends to gain skills and knowledge, accumulate experience, and drive priority initiatives forward. Investment time can also be personal, such as investing in exercise, that can affect your happiness and professional success.
A study in the British Journal of Health Psychology analyzed the results of people who committed to the following:
During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].
Group 1 committed to “keep track” of whether they exercised. The second group “group 2” committed to “keep track and read a pamphlet on the benefits of exercise.” Group 3 committed to “keep track, read a pamphlet, and make a plan for when and where to exercise.”
In Group 1 (the control group), 38 percent of people exercised at least once per week. Group 2 (the motivation group) exercised weekly at a rate of 35 percent. Group 3 (the intention group) exercised weekly at a whopping rate of 91 percent.
If you put it on your calendar, you’re much more likely to do it. If you need to spend time on prospecting to generate those 10 new conversations each month, add times to your calendar to focus specifically on that.
2 Talk to Yourself
The United States Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Teams (Navy SEALs) are universally renowned as an elite military unit. In the early 2000s, the military needed more SEALs, but also needed to keep the elite standards for whom they admitted to the program.
To maximize SEAL candidate success, the military developed a mental toughness program in which candidates learned essential skills. One such skill was positive self-talk.
Passing rates for new SEAL recruits who completed the program improved from 25 percent to a third, a 32 percent increase in pass rates. Change how you talk to yourself. If you know you can achieve something, positive self-talk will limit negativity and help you reach your goals.
Henry Ford’s old adage holds true: whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. If you don’t think you can, you won’t even bother getting started. If you think you can, you’re more likely to get to it.
3 Say “3…2…1…Go!”
Positive self-talk can get you in the success mindset. There is, however, a different kind of self-talk that will help you get started on important activities. We call it Rapid Activation Talk.
Sellers tell themselves, “I should pick up the phone and call that prospect right now,” and then they don’t do it. That’s because the thinking part of their brain quickly becomes overruled by the feeling part of their brain. Here’s what happens:
You think, “I should call that prospect right now.” Then, seconds later, the emotional center of your brain tries to sabotage you.
They’re probably not going to answer the phone.
If they do answer, I don’t have enough time to get into an in-depth conversation.
What if they say no? I don’t think I can handle that rejection right now.
I need to re-read the proposal first in case they ask any detailed questions.
In order to pre-empt the feeling part of the brain from shutting you down, you need to head it off at the pass, and you only have a few seconds to do it.
To do this, use Rapid Activation Talk. Say “3…2…1…Go!” and immediately get started.
Reengineer Your Habits
We all have certain habits that drain our energy and serve to demotivate us.
Imagine you have a well of energy that you start each day with. Every task you work on drains a little bit of energy from the well. By the end of the day, the well is dry.
The key is to spend your energy on the things that are most important and to not let it get drained on the distractions that interrupt us throughout the day. It’s what effective sales reps do.
When you start work each day, what’s the first thing you do? Some open their email and begin responding to all of their messages. Others open a web browser and start perusing the latest news or sports scores.
Very few people begin each day working on their Greatest Impact Activity (GIA) — the one activity that, should you do it consistently at high quality, will get you the greatest eventual return on your time investment. This is where you should start your day.
It’s difficult to break bad habits. Many of us have terrible work habits such as checking email too often, browsing the internet, or reading updates, that allow us to be frequently interrupted and distracted. It’s killing your productivity and motivation.
Your well is draining before you even get to what’s most important.
You need to learn to break your bad habits.
In one study, researchers noted epilepsy sufferers had trouble remembering to take their medications on time. Before intervention, they only did so 55 percent of the time.
Then researchers asked them to make a “When I, Then I” statement. For example, “When it’s 8 a.m. and I’ve finished brushing my teeth, then I will take my prescribed medication.” Those who made the statement increased their compliance taking their meds to 79 percent.
This exercise can work for you, too. If you have a habit that’s draining your energy and motivation, such as checking email first thing or aimlessly reading news stories when you first sit down to work, use a “When I, Then I” statement to help break it.
If you want to do something differently, then you have to understand your bad habits and then learn how to change them.
And if you want to boost your sales motivation, you must begin by recruiting your drive, igniting your proactivity, and reengineering your habits. If you can do this, your productivity and results should soar.
The Bottom Line (and a quick win)
If this all sounds great, but not great enough to inspire you to keep your foot on the gas, this easy win could be a suitable compromise.
This might sound a little odd, but hear me out. What if you did your spring cleaning… in December?
You: You can’t be serious…
Me: I am serious, and here’s why…
A cluttered workspace, either physical or digital, has been scientifically proven to have a detrimental effect on productivity.
Neuroscientists at Princeton University used MRI scans to prove that operating in a cluttered environment has a detrimental effect of focus and efficiency.
Researchers at UCLA found that levels of certain stress hormones spike when we are distracted from a core task by the need to sift through physical clutter.
There are hundreds of studies just like these that confirm the negative impacts that clutter and disorganization can have on our lives.
However, it is important to note that we’re talking about more than just a messy desk here.
What about all of those unaddressed emails sitting in your inbox? Or that missing/inaccurate CRM data we talked about before? Or that labyrinth of files and folders you call a hard drive?
These things weigh on us and can easily sap the energy from an otherwise productive week.
Cleaning up the physical and digital spaces we occupy isn’t hard, it’s just inconvenient…and there’s no better time to do it than when everyone else has checked out.
Add “cleaning” to your day-to-day sales activities list.
Make the most out of the next few days by checking off some of these key sales activities.
Review Your Sales Activities
Each sales rep in a sales team should be documenting their sales activities.
Then, reviewing them on a regular basis to ensure the sales activities you’ve outlined are being followed.
It’s important to have a feedback loop. This way, your sales team will feel comfortable sharing insights and helping to improve the sales process.
This is critical for when you hire new sales reps, so that they can come into an effective sales team environment and know the key sales activities they need to perform to get the same results as your top sales reps.
This post was put together in collaboration with Brian Williams, a founding partner of The Brevet Group, and Mike Schultz, a bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling, Director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and President of RAIN Group.
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