"Good things come to those who wait," my father used to say, "as long as you work while you wait."
Another favorite saying of his: "Waiting is not a strategy." While there's certainly no doubt many companies are struggling today due to the down economy and the fact that customers are spending less, simply waiting for a recovery will not help your company to maintain (or even increase) business in the near term. So what can you do?
As a young sales manager in the early '90s, I was told by my boss that I could not change the results—but my job was to change the behavior. What he meant was, if I continued to run my sales team in the same way without pushing for improvement and developing my reps, their results would not be any different.
That realization taught me that as a sales leader, I needed to push the "better button" of my sales reps and my management system. Observing many clients, it's obvious those who continuously develop their sales reps and have a clearly defined sales process and sales management system are well on their way to becoming the best that they can be. So I ask all of you: What are you waiting for?
I'd like to share with you a proven best practice for changing the behavior of your sales force and focusing your reps on the right activities, while providing them with tools to get better results. The practice? Focused call days.
Focused call days are dedicated times when all sales reps are making proactive outbound calls. Basically, you're asking your reps to do their job, but in a very focused and deliberate manner that builds competition and team camaraderie, while also offering reward and recognition.
Many of you already may be requiring some or all of your sales reps to spend a certain amount of time each day making outbound calls. Focused call days, however, take this approach to another level, ensuring those calls are directed toward specific goals, are productive, and are the absolute best they can be. Over time, this type of intentional selling will likely become a habit after your reps see and feel its success.
Focused call days should address a specific theme; have clear direction, goals, and measurement; and include reward and recognition. Your themes should vary to incorporate prospecting, penetration activities, and retention, and can actually be defined well in advance to ensure there is a balance in the sales activities.
Potential themes could include the following:
• Focusing on customers buying you core product, but not other product or service offerings.
• Focusing on customers whose business is down over the past 60 days.
• Selling a particular product or service or represent a specific manufacturer.
• Pre-qualifying customers from a dormant account list.
• Reactivating customers who haven't purchased in the last six months.
• Reaching out to your top 100 customers as a thank-you for their business.
Your focused call days should be prescheduled weekly so all reps are aware they need to be in the office during that time—no exceptions. Some companies feel weekly is too often and choose to schedule bimonthly dates. Regardless, the practice is extremely effective for gaining great sales results that otherwise would not have taken place.
Ready to get started? Here is the suggested format for outlining and communicating expectations, as well as for providing the appropriate scripts, reporting, measurement, and recognition to make your focused call says successful.
Describe in detail the Focused Call Day theme and why it's important for your reps and their business.
Objectives. Outline the objectives of the day, along with any secondary objectives that you can measure.
Scripts. Provide written phone scripts for live conversations and leaving a voicemail, as well as a sample follow-up e-mail message. Each sales rep may customize the scripts to their selling style, yet everyone will have a similar "talk track" for the day. You'll discover even the most seasoned sales reps appreciate advice on "what to say and how to say it."
Reports. Because these call days are focused around a particular type of promotion or business opportunity, you will need to determine in advance via data intelligence appropriate customers to contact. Supply a report to each sales rep with a list of customers to call. If you simply allow sales reps to call whomever they want, they will naturally migrate to their friends, favorite customers, and family, and will not be as productive.
Goal. You must establish and communicate a team goal, as well as individual sales rep expectations. Examples of a goal might include the following:
• As a team, contact 200 customers in a three-hour period.
• Have each sales rep contact at least 50 people.
• Leave a voicemail every time a call is unanswered, and follow up with e-mail if you have the address.
• Have each sales rep secure 10 appointments.
Measurement. At the end of the dedicated time, be sure to get together as a group and share results. If your company uses a CRM tool, you can print activity reports following the calling period.
Otherwise, the sales reps may need to keep a manual tally of the number of live conversations conducted, voicemails left, e-mails sent, or orders and quotes received. Each rep should come prepared to share their results and success stories with the team.
Reward and and recognition. Focused call days will naturally provide reward and recognition. Because you have established goals and a measurement system, reps who obtain their goals will feel rewarded and you will be recognizing them for their achievements. This type of day satisfies those who are motivated and inspired by short-term achievements and long-term sales success.
You also may want to attach a monetary reward for top performance, such as gift cards, dinner coupons, or paid time off, or allow teammates to choose a winner for each day.
Don't wait any longer for something to change. Start taking steps to change behavior, and push that better button to get the results you need. Best practices like focused call days will have long-term residual effects. As your reps feel their success and change their behavior, your business will only continue to grow.
SMM online columnist Krista Moore is president of K.Coaching, LLC, an executive coaching and consulting practice. For more information and free resources, go to www.buildyourships.com or www.kcoaching.com.