What Every Sales Professional Needs to Know in 2016 * Warning – Not a Motivational Post

This letter is written and intended for sales people in South Africa. If you are not in sales, or you do not reside in South Africa, some of this may not make sense to you.

2016 is going to be a tough year.

I wish I had better news for you, but I don’t.  Municipal elections are coming up, we will have ongoing debates on vital issues, and economists forecast a bleak economic outlook. (this morning we woke up to the USD trading at R17.99 against the ZAR) all this means that our customers are going to be more distracted, and under increasing pressure.

Just like you and I.

Of course, you could stop reading here, but it may cost you precious time. And I predict that those who will flourish in 2016 are those that realize the seriousness of our situation and dig their heels in sooner. For those of you who want to increase your probability and frequency of success in 2016 here is what I will be doing:

1. Think positively

This may sound like a contradiction given what I have just said. But, I don’t mean mindless positive thinking. And sending out an ‘intention’ to the Universe. That is not going to cut it. In this year you will need real grit, determination and focus. You will a lens through which you can accurately see the world, and still feel hopeful. This will be most important on the toughest days.

My dominant thought is this:  There is nothing new under the sun, and in every recession, in every country, throughout the history of the world, there have been those who have succeeded. Some have even flourished. That is a fact.

2. Make sure you are adding significant value

Everybody wants value. Your customers, and your company are no different. In tough economic times anyone who is coasting along will quickly find life is going to get harder for them. If you have any reservations about the value you can bring to your clients, if you are unsure of whether they actually need you in order to make the best buying decision, then you need to rectify that, quickly.

3. Increase your activity level – seriously.

Assuming you know what your conversion rate is – you can expect it to get tougher to close business. You are already fighting 4, market and technology pressures, internal consensus challenges etc. Add to the mix a massive amount of distraction, and huge pressure on your clients margins and bottom line…and, well you have guessed it. You are going to close less deals, and the value of these deals may be affected.

The time to increase your activity and your pipeline is Jan to March, get started early, get ahead of your competitors and colleagues (Yes, I know you are competing with your colleagues)

4. Get organized

Organize your database, lost deal info and dead leads. If you have 3000 emails in your inbox and a draw full of old proposals and business cards, organize your information now.  You need to be in regular contact with your existing clients, while sending relevant, educational, information to your potential or lost deal clients.  This is while dealing with your day to day pressures of proposals, presentations, opportunity reviews, management meetings etc (no-one said this was an easy job) You will not be able to manage these different communication cycles effectively if you are not organized.

5. Make sure people know what you do.

This may sound obvious, but does your network actually know what you do? Right now you are on LinkedIn – how does your LinkedIn profile look? Does it read like a resume? Or like the back of an exiting book? (hint: you want it to read like the back of a book) Do you have recommendations of happy clients? Can I find samples of your work? Are you writing blogs, creating videos, or participating in forums?

And, when you do meet people in an informal or networking environment, can you clearly articulate your value? Because, if you can’t, then you have no hope of the people you meet ever remembering why you are someone to do business with.

6. Do your homework, know your sh*t

Our customers are not going to spoon feed us. Truth be told they have been tired of answering our questions for some time now. But in the increasing pressure you can expect to feel in this year, do your homework. Make your clients life easier. Identify and articulate the business case for change (more on this next week)

7. Make your proposals stick

On average there are 5.4 decision makers in a complex buying decision. You are lucky if you get to meet two of them. The other decision makers will make their decision without the benefit of ever having met you.

Your proposal is the only score care you have of the conversations you have had, and, the value you have been driving.

If you took all the branding off your proposal, would your client still know it was you? They should. Make your proposals stick

As my Mother used to say, “When the going get’s tough, the tough get going” some will thrive, others will die. You decide which side of the line…