I come from a family of golfers on my dad’s side. My grandfather was a State champion and avid golfer who passed the passion down to my dad, uncle, and in turn they did as well, to my cousins and siblings. Given the lockdowns of COVID-19, I imagine that few of us ever thought we’d be so thankful for a game such as golf! Where almost nothing feels normal, playing golf may be one of those rare exceptions. An escape to fresh air and sunshine, and plenty of room to social distance, golf provides an opportunity to momentarily tune out current events and focus on one single endeavor…how to get that little white ball into the next hole. Approaching the task at hand, our most pressing concern boils down to “What club should I use to win this next hole?”
I’ve often thought of golf as a great metaphor for the sales process. We have a course ahead of us and our bag of clubs. Each club designed for a specific purpose that we as golfers need to understand in order to improve our game. Our approach to the game, confidence in each club, pre-game knowledge, and belief in self all come into play. Our golf clubs may also be thought of as sales tools. Each club a member of our person arsenal that can be used in the sales process, in various ways depending on what is in front of us, to get the job done. Today we’re using our sales tools to play a course we’ve never played before. A killer course. Par 72, with knee-high rough, constant wind, a ton of bunkers and competition from other pro-golfers. For many, that’s pretty much what selling security solutions can feel like these days.
This idea truly represents the beauty of golf and life. It’s our game. We decide what to do with it each time we get out there. We can choose to get frustrated, letting our own head-trash take over, shrinking from the challenge and calling it quits. Or, we can learn new ways to use the clubs we have in the bag, practice honing specific skills that help us to continuously improve. Taking practice swings, focusing on our next shots, and completing each round ultimately makes us better sale professionals.
What’s In Your Bag?
Before teeing off on each new COVID-19 Course, consider the sales skills, tools, techniques and data you’ve traditionally relied upon. Each of these represent clubs that you may wield at different points and for different reasons during the sales process. These include:
- Time Management Skills
- Prospecting and Interpersonal Skills
- Opportunity Development Skills
- Technical Knowledge and Expertise
- Investment Development and Presentation Skills
- Closing Skills
Now, let’s think about how each can be leveraged in new ways.
Time Management Skills: Time is the number one thing salespeople wish they had more of. Establishing routines helps to keep us organized. With our routines off-kilter, it’s easy for time management and organizational skills to slip and contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed and lost, thus losing more time. Building time management habits that keep you organized is like practicing “chip shots”. Perfecting your chip shots is part of a solid strategy to make par more often. Whether you’re making sales calls remotely from home, in the office, or even venturing out occasionally, time-blocking your week into chunks of selling time and designating what sales activities will happen when, is a huge help in achieving your daily, weekly and monthly sales goals. Keeping a steady flow of new prospects in your pipeline today is very high priority. Create your monthly prospecting plan and activities in your sales management software, like WeOpportunity. As you create new prospects, the software automatically tracks your activities and allows you to schedule next steps and keep notes against your prospecting plan. If you see that prospecting activities are slipping, prioritize and reschedule them for earlier in the day, schedule more time for them, or break them down into even smaller “chunks” so that progress is manageable. When used throughout your sales process, sales management software becomes your virtual sales assistant, guiding you to stay on track, identifying prospects, automating lead creation, tracking opportunities, and producing actionable sales data. You easily track sales opportunities in all sales stages, prioritize next actions, and receive real-time evidence and visibility into your sales world. You can see what’s working, what isn’t and reallocate your time and align your game. Reporting makes it easy and efficient to validate where you’re at, assess concrete next steps, and even update sales opportunities and activities on the fly. Visibility of data enables use of data. Use of data enables validation of strategies and confirmation of next steps, realigning and changing as needed. Let’s face it, time is the number one need we have and the one thing we fight to control. Staying organized and allocating time keeps the sales process flowing in every stage and keeps you on track for success. This is all about establishing process, using methodologies and our behaviors and actions. Staying organized and structured during COVID-19 times may involve re-evaluating what works, varying your approach, yes, getting out of your comfort zone again and again. The same commitment to establishing positive, productive behaviors and routines that have served you well in the past, are needed even more so today. Don’t be afraid – practice those chip shots to find the right swing, pressure and control to enhance your game.
Although every club is designed for a specific purpose, you may find a new use, or decide on a different approach for a particular situation. The original purpose may shift depending on the present situation. You are required to be wise enough, to be present, to recognize and use a different club for the situation at hand. Don’t be aggressive, be assertive. “Whacking” the ball to get as far as possible is not always the right strategy as this approach often sets you up for a whole new set of uncontrolled circumstances. Instead, hit with confidence, focusing on where you need to go and only taking on what is needed in that moment of the sales process to get to the next play.
One last word on staying organized. After hitting a drive or playing in from the rough, your clubs make need a quick wipe down. Keeping equipment clean is important. Sales is no different. Keeping yourself polished, recognizing and working on short-comings and utilizing teammates to help your game, is part of providing the best experience for your prospects and customers. Coach teammates before jumping on a webinar with your prospects, prepare team members to know who will be on the call, what is most important to them and the outcome you are all working for.
Prospecting & Interpersonal Skills: Building rapport and trust with prospects and customers is essential in sales. Listening skills, attention to detail, reaffirming what you’ve heard all help you to truly understand and address needs. Get to know your prospects and customers better. Connecting on a personal level provides buy in by establishing common ground. People gravitate toward working with those they feel can achieve that common ground they will need in order to mutually identify and support the right solution.
The know-how, charm and charisma that gets you in the door of a prospect, along with the understanding and empathy that win their trust, may be harder to display in today’s world. But interpersonal connections still matter and are highly valuable today. If meeting remotely, make sure your camera is on and the professionalism and respect you display is no different than how you would behave and present yourself when in person. Take time to ensure good lighting, look your best for the call, establish a clean, professional background, that includes a glimpse of personal interests (good conversation starters), and keep your cat off your keyboard when on camera! Yes, we’re all a bit more relaxed these days, but security is a serious investment and your customers deserve to feel that they have your full attention. If meeting in person, explain to customers the steps your company is taking to keep them safe, and be sure to respect the boundaries and safety protocols that they’re comfortable with. This attention to detail reinforces who you are and how you will work with them.
Opportunity Development Skills: One of the best investments you can make in your game is in sharpening strategic sales skills and developing great questioning skills that help you to further develop leads into opportunities and opportunities into sales. When prospecting, working leads, and developing new sales, your head must be in the game with an actionable plan for winning. Each step represents a hole on the course. Each has to be played using your strengths, experience and projected outcomes to get you to the next level. Understanding prospect and customer needs, project goals, the players involved, decision processes, budget and what in their mind, constitutes a win requires digging in to ask the right questions and listening well to answers that lead to definition of next steps – all as part of your success strategy. Without a strategy your game is off course and hard if not impossible to recover. Strategy is easily recorded, defined and tracked in your sales management software. I can’t tell you how many times my notes have saved me, my selected next actions and scheduling of next steps have kept me focused and on track. It’s so easy!
Technical Knowledge and Expertise: This is one area where dramatic changes in the workplace due to COVID-19 offer a real silver lining for security sales professionals. Customers are seeking guidance on how to modify or enhance security systems to address new health, safety and security concerns. They may also need better technologies to manage security remotely. As some industries may not have rebounded, other opportunities have emerged – be on the lookout for these and how you can help. Now, more than ever, there’s a wealth of free educational content available to you from manufacturers, trade organizations and industry media, including live webinars, online demonstrations, white papers and videos. Take advantage of it! We are all thinking differently, finding new solutions and learning again. Sharing what you’ve learned with customers is part of a winning strategy. They’re craving direction right now. If you can help educate and provide solutions, the sales will follow.
Investment Development and Presentation Skills: Estimating solutions using a connected sales process, like that provided by WeSuite, are extremely important today. Developing detailed estimates that can be reviewed remotely by your engineering team, approved remotely by sales leadership and automated into waiting ERP solutions keeps your process flowing well. Explaining your solutions, defining the tangible value they’ll provide, and why your company is uniquely qualified to deliver them must be approached differently now too. Software tools, like the WeSuite digital Site Survey, that enables device location and builds your estimates automatically, can be shared with customers via Zoom or GoToMeeting webinars to create the collaborative dynamic you’d normally achieve through onsite meetings and walk throughs. Presentation tools like this separate you from the competition. Proposals are taking on added significance – as the face and personality of you and your company, when you can’t be there. Your proposal is a branding statement, just as much as it is about presenting the solution and investment. Proposals embody your brand. They must be visually stimulating, professional, customer focused and thorough in terms of solutions that solve their problems. Are there additional elements you should now be including, such as a statement about your company’s health safety policies? Or short bios and headshots, images of the team members supporting the project, who the customer would normally meet in person prior to awarding work and now may not? How can you represent yourself and your team highlighting key differentiators while proving your ability to address their specific needs? Are you conducting proposal presentations via webinar? In doing so, what is your strategy? The market is changing and so should your presentations. We’ll be sure to post another blog soon packed with great ways to rethink presentations, including live virtual meetings. This blog we posted is a good place to start! Silver Linings: How COVID-19 Helps Build Better Salespeople – Attitude is Everything!
Closing Skills: In golf, maybe you’ve heard the phrase “Drive for the show. Putt for dough.” Ultimately, your sales success is going to come down to putting. Judging the combination of direction, velocity and personal touch for making the putt is the essence of closing the deal. You have to know yourself, you must understand your customer and their needs, and you must be able to prove that you can deliver the solutions they need. As sales pros, we need tools that support our strategies, that help us to recognize dead ends, identify real opportunities and move those forward in meaningful ways. Software that automates the sales process, helping us to recognize next actions, draw conclusions, re-align strategies and move the process to the next conclusive stage, based on real-time factual data is perhaps our greatest ally in sales strategies. Software provides the hardcore data you need to make decisions, stay on track and automate processes to save you precious time. Centralized product and service pricing, automation of engineering reviews, internal approvals and ultimately, proposal and contract generation with electronic signing, dramatically accelerates the “contact to contract” process. Utilizing tools that give you and your company time savings competitive edge, pricing accuracy, and brand presentation advantage, prove that you indeed use technology to sell technology elevating you well beyond your competition.
The Advantage of Every Club in the Bag: On one of my golf outings years ago, I remember someone laughing about a hole we were about to attempt that might need “every club in the bag”. In that moment I realized that understanding and using the power of the clubs I carried was my ticket to becoming a better golfer. That memory is often recalled when I think of what is needed in the sales process. Really good salespeople know and understand the clubs they carry in their bag. They know what to pull for each hole in front of them. Situations change. Sometimes they know it will take two shots to get to goal, other times they can hit a long shot and play the short game. Those using WeSuite sales management software know they do indeed have the advantage of “every club in the bag” available to support them and their sales efforts throughout the spectrum of the sales process. Security system sales require flexibility, creativity and accuracy. Having a connected process wherever you are working from, with centralized real-time sales data, and automation of redundant, manual steps, saves invaluable selling time and is a game changer. Predictive actions allow you to work on what’s real, lose – but learn – from what isn’t, and have complete visibility of your past, present and future sales world making life easier, much more fun and rewarding.
So, Do You Want to Walk or Ride? Okay…here’s where my golf analogy may fall apart a bit. Some of us are golf “purists,” who believe the game is meant to be walked, while others prefer the speed and convenience of a cart. As usual, there are clearly merits and reasons to both. Sales management software is like a cart. It automates the sales process, “burning fewer calories” along the way and getting you there a bit quicker. That means you have more energy to focus on your swing – making sure you’re using each of your clubs to their full advantage. When it comes to selling, who wouldn’t want a cart? If your organization is still “walking” the course – with time consuming paperwork, redundant data entry, individual pricing spreadsheets, manual calculations and piecing together proposal and contract documents, it’s high time to improve your game with a single stroke.
Times are changing in sales and will continue to. Customer needs are ever evolving. Even those customers you have known and worked with for years are experiencing changes that will change how you must interact with them. You may be on the same familiar course, but the winds change, maintenance is different, a difference in you may change your swing as well.
Sales management software is not only your cart, it’s also your caddy. Your caddy is your personal course coach. What is the caddy telling you about the course, the next steps, the approach, how you’re playing? Caddies observe you and provide real-time feedback to help you win. That’s what you get when you couple your personal skills with your sales management software.
I’ll leave you with this last humorous golf and sales analogy. I loved a t-shirt I saw that succinctly summed up the game of golf between two buddies. Playing a round together, the first repeated after each hit:
“I hate golf.”
“I hate golf.”
“I hate golf.”
He stepped up to the next tee and hit. His buddy said: “Nice shot.”
Of course, he replied: “I love golf!”
Winning at sales requires staying in the game, taking lots of shots you may not like but, when you hit a great one, you close a deal and you know, this is the game you love.
We’re here to help you love sales. Hope to see you on the course!