I thought about entitling this post “How to make more money,” but the reality is the techniques discussed here are about closing deals that may not have direct monetary implications. Sometimes closing a deal is as simple as setting out to meet and have coffee with an influential person in your chosen industry or profession. Other times, you might need to close a $10,000 sale to make your year. In either case, the same tools and techniques are utilized.
Clear your decks
While I was preparing The 2012 Plan, I came to the realization that I needed to devote more time to the growth of my business interests. I also realized that before I could do that, I needed to free up time by automating repetitive tasks and further empowering the various teams I am part of to act more frequently without my input.
If you allow yourself to get stuck managing people and engaging in repetitive tasks, you will end up making money like a babysitter. You will be paid by the hour; and that is rather limiting. Instead, as you free up blocks of time by automating and offloading work to teams, set aside the time saved for business growth.
The tools you’ll need
A top notch LinkedIn profile – If you think you can call on a prospective customer or client and they won’t Google you, then you can stop reading right now. Your LinkedIn profile does not need to be perfect, but it does need to be complete. Let’s start by making sure you have a picture. A solid LinkedIn presence will also help you search for and find the influencers and decision makers in companies you are pursuing.
A CRM that works for you – CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and it’s the cornerstone of closing more deals. I’ve opted for a fairly easy-to-use and simple solution, Highrise from 37signals. Find a CRM that matches the complexity of your deals, the size of your sales team and the number of customers you have. The ability to connect with your email marking system and social networks are nice features as well. Highrise links to LinkedIn and Twitter so before I pickup the phone to call a customer or prospect I can quickly take a look at their most recent status updates. Sometimes those updates give me a clue that today is not a good day to call. Other times, the update lets me know we have a solution to their problem.
Dedicated time – I block a minimum of four contiguous hours each week to engage in what I call “Highrise catchup time.” I check who I should be calling or emailing. I enter notes about important events that may have happened with clients that week. Four hours may not sound like a lot, but I generally make about 10 phone calls in that period of time.
A “sales force” bigger than just you – I’m one person, and can only manage so many customer relationships at one time. By adding an affiliate marketing option to our ProofPass.com site in February, I’ll allow a group of trusted consultants to also sell our products and profit from that sale. By having sales reps and raving fans, our voice is magnified in the space we work in.
The technique to follow
The tools above are just that tools. A CRM is only as good as the person utilizing the tool. The four hours you set aside is only as good as the use you make of the time. Your LinkedIn profile needs to be updated frequently. Your sales force needs care or people will grow bored of you and your company. Then they will sell the products of your competitors.
Do the follow up your CRM tells you is due when it’s due. Don’t let your four-hour time block be used for anything else. Sales followup is the lifeblood of future revenues for your company. Let social media be your friend. LinkedIn profiles and Twitter streams can tell you a great deal about the timing of you call.
How it wraps up
In short, use the tools. Automate as much of the process as you can with a CRM that fits your needs but never forget it’s about humans buying and selling to each other. It’s not about the products but the personalities.
The proof is in the pudding. I wrote this post because it was pointed out to me that I’ve got more sales call scheduled in the first three months of 2012 than in all of 2011. I went back to the basics I was taught 25 years ago and updated them with these new tools. If you want to close more deals, you need to spend more quality time seeking out those deals. I know, it sounds simple. But simple is almost always what trips us up.