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Field sales is one of the oldest professions and one that hasn’t been phased out despite centuries of technological innovations. There’s something irreplaceable about human interaction, and a computer or app will never be able to provide the personal touch that a good salesperson can.
That doesn’t mean, however, that salespeople shouldn’t be using technology to their benefit. Whether it’s pipeline management, appointment scheduling, or GPS navigation, there are a lot of field sales management software tools out there that can help drive bigger and bigger returns on all the effort you’re putting in.
Of course, these are all the things you’d expect technology to be able to help you with. The problem is that most salespeople invest in a field sales CRM or field sales app expecting them to eliminate tasks for them so they can focus on other things. That’s good. But the real opportunity field sales software offers (and the opportunity that’s most often overlooked) is the insight it provides about your own performance. A truly great salesperson- a truly great member of any profession- is constantly reflecting on their performance and making adjustments. Tech can help you do that better than ever.
So let’s talk about some of the ways sales tracking software can help you automate your tasks and, ultimately, make you a master of outside sales.
Outside sales can be a fast moving business. If you’re not in a meeting with a potential client, you’re busy doing a thousand other things, maybe even preparing for another meeting or travelling to the next one. This can make it hard to incorporate a new habit into your life, but successfully building the right habits will bring you more time, more success, and more happiness with your job.
We’re mainly referring to one habit in particular-- data collection and analysis. We know, it sounds boring and mathematical, and nobody wants to deal with that. But it’s the key to progress and success, and that’s something everybody can get behind.
On the bright side, sales tracking software makes it easier than ever. Before, you’d have to worry about always having a notebook or some kind of writing utensil handy to log notes. Now, all the necessary tools fit on your phone, something you’d always have with you anyway. In fact, you’re probably already in the habit of using your phone after every appointment. You’re checking emails, making phone calls, texting people, etc., so just add one more step to that process and quickly log some info about the appointment you just left.
Start with tracking the obvious stuff. Pick two or three KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and measure them carefully for a week. Start with indicators that measure the raw effort you’re putting in each day. For most reps, this is the number of appointments you created/attended. Tracking this is easy--after you leave an appointment, log it. At the end the week, ask yourself how many appointments you made it to. Then, set a goal to get a specific number more in the next week.
Once you’ve developed the habit of measuring your effort, start tracking different steps of your sales process, so that you can measure your abilities in relation to each of them. Gradually forcing yourself to be more and more specific in your data collection is a key step to your training and improvement process.
If you don’t have a sales process or aren’t sure what is meant by that, we can help. Start by thinking about your most successful clients. (Or, if you’re new, some of your team’s most successful clients.) What were the different steps that client went through before they became a client?
You might write something like:
You might have different customer journeys by lead types. For example, a customer referral will likely go through a different set of opening steps than a social media lead will. But overall, feel free to start with a general enough process that it will incorporate all kinds of lead types.
Each of these steps are key target areas that you can measure and improve on. That means you should be logging data about each of them so that you can learn more about your performance and improve it intelligently.
Here’s an example of what we mean by intelligent improvement: say you use a field sales CRM to start tracking the “Initial Contact” section of your sales process and learn that all your top customers are coming from referrals. Once you learn that, you can start tracking the amount of referrals you get each week. You might find that you spend very little time asking for referrals, even though customers from referrals are your top source of income.
Once you make that realization, you should set a goal. Start by aiming for three new referrals a week. Then, shoot for five. Then shoot for two a day. Imagine how much better returns you’ll see when you’re getting 10 times as many leads as you used to and they’re your most successful lead type.
Of course, that’s just an example. But every business has a sales process of some kind, and even if it isn’t a well-defined process, there are steps every potential client has to go through before becoming a client. It doesn’t matter if you’re in field sales, outbound sales, door-to-door sales, or outside sales-- measuring and analyzing the steps of your sales process will improve results.
You should also be tracking data about your clients. The more you know about their buying habits, product needs, purchasing cycles, etc., the more efficient you can be. These are going to be dependent on industry, but here are some general examples/suggestions of things worth thinking about and tracking:
Is the customer going to need a refill? If you’re selling a product that will run out, how long will it take them to run out and how can you reach them just before that happens?
Do you sell any products that go well together? Do you have any customers that have bought and love one of your products and could really benefit from an accompanying product?
Do you have recent product upgrades? If you have customers who are currently using an outdated version of one of your products, focus on selling them newer or alternative products to increase their satisfaction and utility.
How long is the customer buying cycle? What steps take shorter or longer? This will help you know when the ideal time is to follow-up and move through the rest of the process.
What are their buyer priorities? Stephen R. Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Are you just telling the customer what you want to tell them or are you genuinely understanding and addressing their needs? This may even be different for different buyer personas.
How do most current customers respond to your product/service? Understanding that will inform all future interactions with customers and potential clients.
Which form of communication is most effective when following up? Which one do they best respond to?
How do most current customers respond to your product/service? Understanding that will inform all future interactions with customers and potential clients.
Once you start thinking about customers in this way, you’ll compile your own list of data-tracking points. The important thing is to get started and think critically about the implications of your customers’ behavior. Everything is an indicator, especially when you’re trying to replicate the success that you’ve had with some of your top clients.
Once you’ve gathered all this information, it’s time to start changing your approach based on your findings. Before mobile field sales apps came on the scene, receiving training on-the-go was near impossible. But now, there’s no reason why training shouldn’t be a constant part of a rep’s day.
It has to start with a curious mentality. Curiosity is the chief characteristic of the highly intelligent. You might feel like the level of your curiosity is out of your control, but you can actually develop and improve this area of your life. In order for you to be hungry for knowledge, you’ve got to have a belief that you can get better at what you do and that knowledge is the key to that improvement.
This means you have to start. Pick one skill-- whether it’s having a better morning routine, being better at closing a pitch, or setting smart goals-- and ask questions about them. “Who is the best salesperson?” “What makes them better than everyone else?” “How can I emulate them and develop similar skills?” Then find answers-- even if you start by researching for 15 minutes each day. Every day you should try and make one small change based on the thing you read the previous day. Eventually, you’ll start to see results. This will reinforce your desire for knowledge and expedite your improvement.
Once you’ve started building this habit, you can start being more precise and deliberate with your improvement. Think back about what we said about tracking your sales process. Say, for example, you know that you don’t do a great job at getting people to keep appointments. Now you can start your research with more specific questions: “Why do people avoid meetings?” “How can I help them want to stay?” “Who is the best at selling a meeting and how can I emulate them?” If you focus your training efforts on these things specifically, you’ll get better at selling your meetings and you’ll lower your no-show incidences.
Then, if you consecutively target the weakest areas of your performance, you’ll methodically and rapidly improve. The most important thing is to actually value and listen to the data you’ve been collecting. Then be certain to consistently set aside time every day to learn and set goals based on your learning.
This will be one of your most important areas of improvement. When it comes to field or outside sales, you’re working with a few major resources-- the most important of them being time. The more capable you are of managing your time, the greater success you’ll experience in the field.
The obvious first step is to understand how you’re spending your time. The results might surprise you-- as you can see in the linked Docurated graphic, the average rep only spends approximately one third of their time actually selling.
Obviously that’s not good. Of course, it’s going to be impossible for you to spend all your time selling, but we want to get that number as close to one-hundred percent as possible. Here are some areas you can target as you focus on making gradual improvements in this area:
So start by monitoring your own behavior and using tech to get a digital view of your habits. As mentioned earlier, the only way to start improving is by figuring out where you are now. The graphic we linked is informative, but it’s also general. You need to figure out how much time you are spending and where you’re spending it. This means finding out where you specifically are wasting time, and why. You’ll be surprised how much of your time has been lost without you noticing it.
You should also pay attention to the way that your actions throughout the day impact your mood, behavior, and, ultimately, your productivity. Are you struggling to get started every day? You should rethink your morning routine. Or maybe you’re strong in the morning, but you’ve noticed that you have less productive afternoons? Maybe it’s time to revisit the best ways to take a lunch break. The point is that your actions and behaviors shape the rest of the day, so pay attention to the consequences of your actions and make sure that they’re working for you, not against you.
Once you’ve started to fix your overall productivity problems, we can start focusing on specifics. The best way to do this is to prioritize- this will guarantee that you’re spending your time with the right prospects. It can be easy to just spend your time working and not spend it doing the best possible work.
How do you know how to prioritize your time? Again, this is going to require some data collection and reporting. You need to find out what lead type produces the most frequent sales. So, start by dispositioning all your leads, regardless of how well you think they’ll perform for you. Once you’ve started doing that, you can calculate the value of those types of leads.
The best way to do that is to measure performance percentages. Take a lead type-- a social media lead, for example-- and measure how many of those leads you had in a week and how many you sold. Then, divide leads sold by total leads of that type. Multiply this by 100 and you’ve got your percentage.
Now you can compare that number with the percentages of other lead types and use the results to prioritize your efforts. Say your social media leads are closing at about 6%, but your referral leads are closing at 20%. Obviously, you’d prioritize referral leads in that situation. You could even alter your process to be better at collecting referrals instead of worrying about your social media campaign, simply because you know they’re going to close more than three times as often.
This exercise will also ensure that you always have a Plan B. We’ve all been in the field and have something fall through that messes up the schedule for the rest of the day. Instead of calling it a day or wasting time until your next appointment, look at your list of priorities and move down to whatever item is next on the list. Maybe you know that upselling customers is your next most profitable action, so take thirty minutes to send some e-mails checking up on customers you know are happy or are due for an upgrade. While you’re at it, see if they have any referrals for you so that you can fuel your top priority in the future.
The best way to focus on the top priorities is to eliminate time spent on the necessary low-priority stuff. In other words, automate what you can. With sales enablement software being the way it is, there are probably half a dozen services you could be using now that will pay for themselves with the time they can save you. One of the strongest benefits of these automations is that you don’t have to dedicate mental energy to menial tasks.
Companies like Zapier are really helpful with this. We built an integration with them so that our customers can automate as much as possible. For example, you can automatically populate SalesRabbit leads on a Google Sheet and most CRMs. You can create Google Calendar events straight from our app. And with hundreds of possible app connections, this is just the beginning. Automation is more available and accessible than ever, so take advantage of it.
Now that you’ve got everything prioritized and automated as much as possible, you can also start focusing on developing one of the key behaviors that separate top outside sales reps from average ones-- getting to “no” faster. You might think that’s contradictory. Shouldn’t the top performers focus on getting to “no” less frequently? Yes, but they also focus on getting the greatest return on their time.
It all comes down to profitability. Again, if your referrals bring in 3x the money, there’s not a lot of point in spending your time trying to close a social media lead when you could be spending it gathering or setting appointments with referrals.
Of course, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have a diverse set of incoming leads and clients, but it starts to become a problem if you’re spending too much time with the wrong lead type. How much time should you give them? Depends on the profitability of the lead type. But overall, you need to learn not to be scared of hearing “no.” Let’s face it-- you’re not going to close everyone, and that’s okay.
Lenny Gray said it best in his book “Door-to-Door Millionaire”-- “In order to maximize your opportunity for making sales, you must be willing to walk away from contacts that are not progressing. It makes no sense to waste your time with them while other potential sales may be much more likely to receive your offer.”
So, how do you recognize (and move past) clients that you’re wasting your time on? Part of that is just experience. The more people you work with, the better you’ll be able to recognize preemptively how they’re responding to your presentation.
But don’t be afraid to be the one that’s accelerating and defining the terms of the conversation. Lenny Gray goes on to say that you should “Make sales on your terms, and if the potential client isn’t willing to accept these terms, somebody else will. This attitude will help you to effectively gauge your contact’s interest as they demonstrate their willingness to… take advantage of your offer.”
One of the dangers of the fields sales life is that you spend a lot of time on your own. This kind of isolation creates two main issues: the first is that it’s easy to get into a mental funk and take yourself out of the game, and the second is that it’s easy for your thinking and behavior to go unchecked. A good field sales app will solve these problems by making it easy to stay connected to your coworkers and focused on your source of motivation and drive.
If you’re a manager, you want your reps communicating as much as possible, especially if they’re able to measure their performance against each other. Gamification is the key to increasing productivity in field sales, because it targets the core motivation centers of the brain without necessarily introducing hostility or other negative consequences.
Here are some characteristics of smart gamification:
Avoid zero-sum games. A zero-sum game is one that requires someone to lose. Most sports are zero-sum games. You can avoid these by having different reward tiers, organizing games around company-wide goals, or by establishing a lottery prize and distribute tickets according to individual-based objectives.
Use the right rewards. Studies show that social recognition is still the strongest reward, at least psychologically speaking. That doesn’t mean you can’t give a cash reward, gift card, or company swag, but make sure there’s a social element to the reward process so that top performers feel recognized and appreciated. Be sure to highlight strong performances from a lot of competitors, especially those who showed significant improvement.
Set realistic expectations for the competition and be clear about them from the beginning. Give everyone time to prepare for the competition, understand how it will work, and build up a competitive anticipation.
Be consistent with your competitions. You don’t have to always have one going, but you shouldn’t use them at random or make a lot of adjustments from one competition to the next. Any changes you make should be clearly communicated.
If you’re a lone wolf or don’t have any management responsibilities, then you can still use these principles to motivate yourself and accelerate your goal-setting. Everything we’ve talked about thus far in terms of self-improvement and constant self-observation can be solidified by giving yourself a consistent reward structure. You’re the one who knows best what that will look like, but be sure to give yourself rewards that are appropriate for the task accomplished. Don’t go buy yourself a new car just because you managed to close two deals above your weekly goal. Keep it creative, enticing, and disciplined. Here are some suggestions if you need ideas.
We’ve given you a lot to work with here. (That was our goal!) Don’t feel overwhelmed. The most important thing is to set daily goals and start making small adjustments. You might not feel like you are making a lot of headway early on, but all the changes you make will provide exponential returns down the road. Instead of focusing on all the HUGE changes you’re hoping to make, focus on the daily ones. Those are manageable, measurable, and will eventually lead to the success you’ve envisioned for yourself.