In fact, having a good sales system is crucial for any company.
I realized that fact when I set up my business, which is why I have spent a good deal of time reading and studying different sales systems and thinking about my own system, which I’m constantly tweaking.
Even though I’m no sales expert, I’m going to share what I’ve done and what works for me.
My current sales system for my business is simple, and it’s really just an extension of who I am as a person, which is why I think it works.
Why You Must Have a Sales System
I used to laugh at the idea of having a system for sales.
But every business should have a system, because no system means lost opportunities, which means lost money.
There’s a brewery/restaurant near my office called BJs where every single time I go there, no matter what time of day it is or who is waiting on my table, the server asks “Can I get you a beer, maybe our new Porter or an India Pale Ale?”
When they ask if we want an appetizer, they say “Can I interest you in an appetizer, maybe our crispy chicken wings or some chicken nachos?”
The same thing happens with desserts – they always name off a few desserts, rather than just asking if we want a dessert.
It’s clear BJs has a system where each server is required not just to offer to bring drinks, appetizers, or desserts, but also to name a few appetizers.
Why do they do this? Because it must work. No doubt they have tested this system and found using this script increases sales, which means more money in the door.
The Three Parts to My Sales System
There are three parts to my system: (1) I keep in touch with as many people as possible, (2) I remind them of my existence and what I do regularly in an unobtrusive way, and (3) I make it easy for them to sample my wares for free.
I will elaborate on each of these areas.
How to Sell by Being Yourself
First of all, I believe it’s important to be yourself. That means showing a little bit of your human side.
It means letting your guard down and being honest and sincere.
It’s kind of the opposite of Martin Landau’s character in Entourage.
No, that’s not something I might be interested in.
People want to do business with someone they connect with on a personal level, no matter what you do.
That’s why I think it’s OK to show some personality, to crack a joke, and to acknowledge you have a family and hobbies and interests outside of work, because it humanizes you.
A few years ago, I found that people who I knew only through the professional world became better connected to me after they met my wife.
Part of the reason for this might be that my wife is awesome, but that’s not the only reason. I also think it’s because meeting my spouse humanized me.
Even if you are a diehard Red Sox fan (my condolences) and you are trying to woo a prospective client who bleeds pinstripes, you are both baseball fans. It’s a connection. It tells those you do business with that this is someone who isn’t going to “sell” me every time he contacts me.
It also tells me we can give each other a hard time depending on whose team is winning. It makes business more fun.
(Note: some of the links below are affiliate links.)
Part 1: Keep In Touch With Your Target Audience
The first part of my sales process is to keep in touch with people. If you don’t keep in touch with people, you can’t develop a relationship with them.
If you can’t develop a relationship with them, they can’t grow to like you. And if they don’t like you, they can’t build trust in you.
You’ve already failed at the know-like-and-trust funnel.
For some people, it won’t make sense to keep in touch with everyone they know. Because they are selling a very particular product or service to a very targeted customer.
In my case, almost anyone can become a client, or can refer a potential client to me. So I will try to keep in touch with a wide range of people, although I definitely focus on my efforts on business owners and entrepreneurs.
Part 2: Remind People Of Your Existence In an Unobtrusive Way
The second part of my sales process is reminding people in an unobtrusive and hopefully helpful way that I exist and what it is I do. This is the trickiest part, and it requires some finesse.
You can’t be heavy-handed and you can’t lead with a sales pitch. People crave usefulness, and value.
If you haven’t heard from someone in months or years, you can’t send them an email asking for something from them. You need to give first.
You know how you never hear from someone and then suddenly you get a mass email asking you to sponsor their AIDS Walk?
Good cause, bad execution. If I haven’t heard from someone in years, I don’t want the first time you contact me to be hitting me up for money.
I mean, buy me a drink first before you try to get me in the sack.
What I do is I offer value relevant to my offerings. It starts with what I write for this blog. Secondly, I share that via email and social media. Using social media, it’s possible for me to share a blog post via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – connecting me with different audiences.
I have also organized free webinars and teleseminars, which I then send out to my email list. Almost universally, I get emails in response from people thanking me for organizing these events and telling them about it, even if they can’t attend.
Tracking “Keep In Touch” Efforts
Another important element to having a sales system is tracking your efforts. You must track your efforts to know what is working and what isn’t.
I keep two spreadsheet documents, which I keep on Google Drive (formerly called Google Docs). I keep both documents simple because if you have to enter too much information, you won’t do it.
One is titled “Conversations” and one is titled “Marketing Efforts and Payoff.” They compliment one another.
In the Conversations list, I have columns for first name, last name, referral source, company, email address, and date of next action. I track every significant communication (whether in person, via email, or phone) or meeting.
If there’s a potential it may lead to business, I will create a “next action” with a hard date of a few weeks in the future.
The next action could be something small like emailing or calling a potential client to check back in, or it could be a reminder for 2 months in the future to send an article which I think could be of interest to that potential client.
Whatever it is I do as that next action, the purpose is to keep in touch and to keep moving the relationship forward.
The “Marketing Efforts and Payoff” document is designed to track the selling efforts with hard costs, such as gifts for clients and lunches where I treated the other person.
This document has columns labeled activity, direct beneficiary of activity, secondary beneficiary, cost of activity, date of activity, and results.
If I send a gift to an attorney who referred a client to me, then I would write “gift basket” in the “activity” column, the name of the attorney in the “direct beneficiary” column, and the name of that attorney’s firm in the “secondary beneficiary” column.
The real value in these documents is it will tell you if your marketing efforts are paying off, and where you should focus your energies.
Part 3: Let Them Sample the Wares
The final step is you need to have a way to let prospective clients get an idea of what they will get from you.
Every business – whether it sells a product or a service, or some combination – must have some way of letting potential customers get an idea of what they get if they buy from you.
A face-to-face lunch or coffee is a form of letting people “sample the wares.” During your lunch, you will be sharing your expertise, style, and way of thinking, even if you aren’t speaking directly about business.
Blogging, podcasting and recorded online videos are more ways of letting people sample the wares.
I have done all of these, and the nice thing is they continue to exist online long after I’ve created them, like a fishing lure left lurking, just waiting for a fish to bite.
I also do limited phone consultations with potential clients. When I get a call or an email from someone who needs my help, I will give them 15 or 20 minutes of my time over the phone.
Fifteen or twenty minutes is plenty of time for me to get an overview of their legal problem, decide if I’m a good fit or not, and share enough of my offerings for the client to make a decision.
I used to give free face-to-face meetings but I found the only people who wanted to come in for a free “consultation” were trying to get the milk for free. So now I do phone consultations which still allow people to get a feel for what I can offer without me wasting an hour of my time.
My friend Kevin Waldron says your job as a sales person is simply to lead the person to a decision point, then to let them know what their choices are. Then it’s up to them.
I think that’s a great approach. If a potential client needs 60 minutes of freebie before making their mind up about whether to hire me, maybe they should hire another lawyer.
Selling isn’t for everyone. Some people can’t stand it, or are really not good at it.
For those who really can’t stand selling, there’s always outsourcing sales. I am definitely no expert in how to effectively outsource sales, so I will leave that up to others to espouse on how best to manage an outsourced sales force.
Why outsource? For a smaller company, it means they don’t have to pay for a national sales force with local offices and the company can focus on its core competencies.
Even companies that have an in-house sales team can diversify sales efforts by outsourcing some of their sales efforts.
There are many companies that will be happy to help you with outsourcing. For example, Cydor company out of southern California has 200 sales offices in North America with 3,000 sales people. That can really broaden the reach of a small regional company.
Check out Cydcor company overview to see if it’s a good fit for you (affiliate link).
The system I use isn’t for everyone. And chances are it won’t even be a good fit for me a few years from now as my business evolves, which is why I will need to reevaluate it and change it.
Do you have a better system or does some part of my system not work for you? Let us hear about it in the comments below.
Photo credit: Placesinthehome