After spending 20 years in sales with corporate America, I have determined that a good sale is like baking a cake.
What? You don’t agree with me? Check this out.
Walk into the grocery store and pick up a box of cake mix. It will instruct you to dump cake mix into a bowl, add two eggs, one stick of butter and a cup of milk. If you want the cake to turn out right, you cannot change the ingredients.
If you really like eggs, putting in four eggs will change the cake, it won’t turn out right. If you hate eggs, you cannot leave the eggs out, the cake will be too dry.
The sales process
The ingredients are your sales process. As a salesperson, there are 6 critical steps to a successful sale:
6. Process alignment.
We’ll begin with prospecting. In order to sell anything, you need to have someone to sell to. This is the hardest part of the process. Most sales people go all about it the wrong way. What’s worse, their sales managers are even worse at developing leads than the reps and they can offer little insight to getting more opportunities.
Let’s talk about cold calling (and why it is a total waste of time). Imagine, a man walks into a bar on ladies night. At the bar are 100 women. For a moment, let’s pretend the man is “normal” (he is not dangerous nor does he appear to be).
If this man walks up to all 100 women one at a time and asks “will you have dinner with me” he will eventually find one that says yes (after removing all the married or otherwise involved women). This is cold calling. It is extremely inefficient and time consuming.
You must connect with people and build a deep network. (Photo: iStock)
Now, let’s say that Bob is good friends with Steve and Bob says, “Hey Steve, my friend Mary will be at the bar tonight. She is single and I told her all about you. She is looking forward to meeting you, here is a picture of what she looks like. Tell her I said hello when you meet her.”
This is a “referral-based” introduction. You can facilitate dozens of these meetings through platforms like LinkedIn. The key to this method is “connect and cultivate.”
First, you must connect with people and build a deep network. Connect at work, school, in your community, with friends, with family, the possibilities are almost endless. Then you need to cultivate these relationships. You wish people a happy birthday, best of luck with the new job or congratulate them on a job anniversary (always writing a personal note and never using the standard message). You can comment on and share other people's content. You can create your own content.
The key is for the content to deliver value and not be perceived as a sales pitch or infomercial. Finally, you want to act as a connector. I am writing this article today because I used the techniques described to create new relationships and help others.
Targeted search list on LinkedIn
Once you build a network and cultivate the relationships, it’s time to prospect. Create a targeted search list on Linkedin and make sure the people you look up share at least one mutual connection. Ask that connection for an introduction.
I use the same format every time “Hi Bob, I see you are connected to Mary, would you mind introducing me? I’ve had great success working with people like her in the past and would love to buy her a cup of coffee in the next week or two. Let me know how I can repay the favor, thanks.”
This simple system will help you book your schedule out 3, 4 or 5 weeks in advance. It also allows you to prequalify candidates and engage in productive conversations with your network.
“Hey Mike, Mary isn’t the right person to speak with at XYZ Company, you wanna talk to Roger. I know him pretty well too and can introduce you.” The best part is, this process should only take you an hour a day and will allow you to send out 30-40 requests each day.
In our next segment, we'll talk about all the ways you should prepare for all these meetings you scheduled.
Mike Shelah is the founder of Mike Shelah Consulting. An admitted “LinkedIn geek” Mike loves talking: LinkedIn, sales & emotional intelligence to anyone who will listen. Mike is a frequent podcast guest, speaker and occasional guest on Fox 45 in Baltimore. You can contact Mike at 443-808-1670 or firstname.lastname@example.org.