Jack Daly knows sales.
The CEO (“Chief Energizing Officer”) of Orange County, California-based Professional Sales Coach, he is a coach, an author, and a sought-after speaker nationwide. He brings to his trade a history of successful selling, including the sale of two de novo firms, to Solomon Brothers and First Boston. Over the years, Daly has led sales forces numbering in the thousands.
We called him to ask about a subject that’s been on our minds lately: What are the best strategies for dealing with longer sales cycles—both for salespeople and the executives who manage them? Daly shared his insights with managing editor Lee Lusardi Connor.
New York Enterprise Report: People in the business community are telling us that sales cycles seem to be getting longer. Prospects are reluctant to commit to buy. How can a salesperson help shorten the cycle?
Jack Daly: Let me start by saying that successful sales people don’t “sell.” They help with the clients’ needs, opportunities, and problems. “How can I shorten the sales cycle?” sounds like it’s all about the salesperson’s needs, but the focus has to be on the client.
That said, my first suggestion is to always create an action step at the end of a sales call. You agree that the sales person is going to do X, the customer is going to do Y. It’s crucial to attach a date to that. Maybe you will send more information about your product or service, and your prospect agrees to send you some information so you can understand his or her needs better.
By asking for information about your prospect’s needs, you’ll establish a positive point of differentiation. Many salespeople take the approach “I’m here to sell, here’s how we sell it, buy this, or I’ll move on down the street.” You want your prospect to know you’re not just giving him boilerplate.
NYER: How and how often should you follow up with a prospect?
JD: I advise employing a consistent “touch” system. You can do this with a phone call, an email, a voicemail, snail mail, or fax—any way that you can reach out to the customer to remind him, “Hey, I’m here, and we’re moving this thing forward.”
You can also touch a customer about a variety of different things. It could be information about your product, service, or company, or information that could help the customer in his or her business, or news and information that’s specific to his industry.
Without your even mentioning it, the touch will remind them that the thing they promised to do for you is sitting in the corner of the desk, and they should move it front and center. And that, de facto, will shorten the sales cycle.
NYER: When you advise salespeople these days, do you tailor your counsel to take into account the current economic uncertainty?
JD: Nope. Fifty percent of selling is in your head. If you break up the national sales force in any industry, the top quartile is producing 50 percent or more of the sales and the bottom quartile, less than 6 percent. The difference between the top quartile and the bottom quartile has a little bit to do with skill set, but really it’s the way you approach the marketplace.
NYER: How can a sales manager help his or her staff be more successful?
JD: I teach people that every salesperson should have two baskets. One is “Prospects,” one is “Clients,” and they are connected by two conduits, called “Referrals” and “Customers.” I define clients as people who are doing ongoing business with us, and customers as people who occasionally do business with us, but don’t buy much.
The way this works is that at least once a month, but preferably once a week, someone—the sales manager—sits with each salesperson and does “inspect the baskets.” The manager asks, “Who’s the number one prospect you’re working on right now? The second? The third?” And on down the list. For each one ask: “When did you last ‘touch’ them? How often? In what way?” Ask: “How many referrals are you getting from clients on a regular basis?” And finally, the most critical question of all: “What’s standing in the way of their being a customer of ours?”
If a manager were to sit and do this with a salesperson every week, the company is going to be moving to more sales.
NYER: So what you’re basically saying is to work closely with your salespeople?
JD: I call it “short-leashing” them, and quite frankly when I first put this process into play at a company, salespeople are not happy. They can either choose to leave or do it. But if they stay, two to three months later they end up saying it’s really not too bad, because they see the difference in their sales and in their income. A key word in sales is “focus,” and the better you can get your salespeople focused, the better your sales are.
Lee Lusardi Connor is a business writer and editor. She can be reached at LeeLusardi@gmail.com.