If you’re looking for an edge to close more sales, check out the following seven hacks. They will help you produce better results now. Each is powerful on its own, but combined they become much greater than the sum of their parts.
1. Sync all contacts to your cell phone.
How often have you found yourself in a client’s parking lot with time to spare? You can massively improve your productivity by syncing all of your contacts to your smartphone. When you have 20 minutes between meetings, make a follow-up call to a prospect or call an existing client to see what help you can provide. Over the course of a week, you can easily squeeze in an extra dozen calls simply because you have the phone numbers easily accessible. Consider Evercontact to capture contact information automatically. Evercontact ($59 a year and up; free 30-day trial) updates your smartphone’s address book by extracting contact information from email signature lines.
2. Never leave a meeting without a scheduled client commitment for the next meeting.
How many times have you promised prospective clients that you would follow up with them next week only to have your voice mails go unreturned and emails ignored? To move deals faster and more consistently through your pipeline, you should never leave an interaction with a prospective client without scheduling your next meeting. Your prospective client is busy. She has more work than she can easily complete each day. But she does keep her commitments. Open your calendar at the end of the meeting and say, “What does your Thursday look like next week? I’d like to visit so we can review some of the ideas we talked about today.”
3. Get help finding the person you need to speak to within your prospect’s company.
Salespeople learn to make cold calls. They learn to be relentless. They spend so much time calling the contact they believe to be responsible for making the decision, only to later find out they hadn’t called the correct person. Your voicemail should say, “I believe you are the person I need to speak to about this, but if I am wrong and if you will point me toward the right person, I’ll stop blowing up your phone. I am sending you an email now. If you hit reply and tell me whom I need to speak with, I’ll contact that person from now on.”
4. Leave a message that you are calling back.
Most salespeople make a couple of calls to a prospective client, leave a voicemail or two, and then disappear forever. Your prospective clients automatically believe that you are another salesperson who is going to give up and go away, and the odds are that they are right—that’s what usually happens. Leave a voicemail that says, “I’m sorry that I missed you again. I will try back on Thursday afternoon, and if I miss you then, I will try you next Tuesday morning.” People want to buy from someone who really wants their business.
5. Provide your prospective client with a risk-free sales call value proposition.
Have you ever called a client and asked whether you could introduce yourself and your company in person? Have you ever asked for a meeting to learn about a prospect’s needs for the product or service you sell? How’s that working for you? Your clients are busy. They don’t have time to meet salespeople or teach salespeople about their businesses. To capture their time, use a stronger value proposition that goes something like this, “I’d like to share with you the three insights that everyone in your business needs to know if they want to make the changes to succeed now and in the future. Even if we never do business together, I promise that what I share with you will help you make better decisions about what you do in the future.” Then deliver on that pledge with time- or money-saving strategies or best practices or industry trends that they will use.
6. Ask for a low-level commitment first.
One reason your client rejects your attempt to schedule a meeting is the language choices you make. When you ask for an appointment at 10 a.m., your clients think that they’ve just lost an hour or more of their day in order to see you. The more time they believe they are giving up, the greater their resistance to your proposed meeting. Look at the language in the hack above this one. Say this: “I need 20 minutes of your time to share these ideas with you. I promise I’ll be respectful of your time.” Now you’ve given your client an out, should you not create value for her during that call. And you and I both know that when you share your three insights, she’s going to want to hear more.
7. Block time for what is important.
In a day and age when you are constantly tethered to the electronic leash—voicemail, email and text messages—those communications can eat into your schedule so completely that it’s difficult to make headway on anything else on your to-do list. To produce better results, you will have to block the time and disconnect from the leash. (I know, the very thought of disconnecting strikes fear into your heart. Mine, too.) Sit down with your calendar on Sunday night and block time to prospect, even if you can set aside only an hour a day. Then block time to follow up with your clients and prospects. Block the time you need to write thank-you notes at the end of the week. And just so you don’t worry so much and end up peeking at the electronic intrusions, block time every couple of hours to respond to your voicemail, email and text messages.
This article was published in February 2015 and has been updated. Photo by @Katsuya/Twenty20