What We Can Still Learn from Old School Sales Guys
Every sales department has one. And, sadly, new recruits born into a world of web often sneer at them. The experienced sales executive who prefers landlines to telepresence, remembers the birthdays of his clients’ children and writes stuff down on paper. Yes, that guy.
The guy who’s kept three £250k accounts loyal for a decade.
Salespeople who started work in a different decade aren’t always familiar with CRM technology and, sometimes, it frustrates their (often younger) colleagues charged with getting the most from their IT investment. To the point where our traditionalist hero – let’s call this hero Bob – ends up excluded from departmental strategy, with the millions of business pounds he brings in, ignored.
Bob isn’t anti-CRM. In fact, he’s the most pro-CRM guy you’ll ever meet. (He just doesn’t always do it through software.) It’s important that you can make sure his decades of learning becomes part of your CRM’s ongoing improvement programme, leading to a positive effect on conversions.
1. Attitude leads to opportunity.
The first time Bob met his client, Fred, he didn’t talk business. A chance meeting in the golf club led to a phone call, then a lunch. Over the steak sandwich, Bob asked Fred about his background. Where he went to school, how he got started in business and the glass extension he’d just added to his house.
Along the way, he learned Fred was friends with the CMOs of two companies on his hit list. Before coffee, he had those names in his notebook.
To today’s goal-focused, results-oriented salesperson, Bob’s approach might sound meandering. But look closer: doesn’t it sound a lot like a CRM nurturing pathway? Bob’s first task was to establish rapport and learn something about his prospect, which is also the purpose of a well-written blog or email marketing campaign.
So while Bob doesn’t think much of computers, his attitude towards Customer Relationship Management is spot-on. The right approach to CRM opens up opportunities far beyond one prospect.
2. Read the situation before acting.
After lunch with Fred, Bob dropped him a note of thanks and said he’d call again next month. Nothing else. Bob’s primary ethos is never make your client feel uncomfortable.
After a few lunches and coffees, Fred started asking what Bob would do about a problem facing his finance department. Bob thought for a few minutes, then asked if he could visit the team to gather information. Still no sale. But the time was right to move closer.
Nurturing sometimes looks like timewasting because some of those nurtured prospects never become customers. But sales is a numbers game. One percent of lunch dates turning into £100k accounts still adds up.
Someone you just met isn’t ready to make a buying decision. How many times have your less experienced sales team lost a hot prospect by drilling them with offers too soon? It’s just as applicable to an e-CRM strategy, from first cold mailing to final contract.
3. Connect through connections.
The following week, Bob called those two connections of Fred’s. He’d heard great things about them and wondered if he could buy them a coffee. Both accepted.
In his highly advanced CRM user interface, (a battered old leather notebook), Bob scribbled out “cold suspect” next to both names and wrote in “warm lead”.
The right CRM application lets you do a lot more than just contact people. It helps you build a relationship in the most effective way. Some are even able to map connections between people and show you the easiest approach pathway.
Flexibility and openness characterise Bob’s approach. A connection through another connection is a lot more valuable than a cold call. It’s messy, it’s chaotic, it’s human and warm. If the digital natives on your team have trouble with this, your most experienced salespeople may be the right people to train them.
4. Keeping customers means more than winning them.
Sales Directors often trumpet their big acquisitions louder than their long term retentions, which is a shame, because Bob’s trio of long term customers delivers a profit margin of 30% every year. Contrast that with the three years it takes a new client to break even. Turnover is good, but profits are better.
Every sales person knows it’s easier to win new business from an existing client than a cold lead. So keep congratulating your young team on each big win, but make sure they’re not neglecting last year’s client win. They need to learn the importance of maximising Customer Lifetime Value.
5. Formalise the methods – but don’t freeze them.
Bob likes the golf course but he always checks whether a new prospect prefers football. Expert users of CRM software have a tendency to formalise “what works” in terms of “hard aspects” rather than “soft aspects”.
This is another approach Bob uses that’s perfectly in tune with best-practice CRM. His methods don’t change from sale to sale, but his execution does. Rather than blasting all prospects with the same offer, he adapts each touchpoint to a situation he knows the prospect will prefer. All of this contributes to a sky-high conversion ratio.
6. When the time’s ready, “make the sale” to Bob.
Bob isn’t technoid, but he’s pragmatic. When he sees something working, he adopts it. So when he realises the wealth of client information in his notebooks can do more for the company as part of its CRM database, make the time to help him put it in there.
As a closing exercise, take Bob’s numbers from last year and calculate your jump in sales if every new client win delivered the same billings at the same profit margin. 30%? 100%? You can do it – with Bob’s help. That’s why Bob might be your CRM system’s greatest asset.
Your old-school sales guys aren’t just sales executives. They’re mentors for the next generation. Your CRM application is just waiting to make use of their knowledge.
This post first appeared on the Redspire blog