Before I get too far into this article, I need to say this one really important thing: I’m writing this for the new, improved, modern-day sales teams, not for the old-school, smarmy types (unless they’re willing to change their ways!). Which brings me to my next point: Old-school smarmy types? Change your ways, please.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to business. A sales team’s number-one goal is to go out there and make sales, right? Because making sales means makin’ it rain. This is not new information. Sales = money = success = world domination. So how can your sales team achieve success?
Below, I’ve outlined five habits -- best practices, if you will -- to help you make it rainy all year ‘round. (Be sure, though, to please send any extra commission via PayPal to gthomas@ ... just kidding -- sorta.)
5 Best Practices for Inbound Sales Teams
1) Position yourself as a thought leader.
Think about it for a second: Would you take advice from a stranger? Would you buy something from somebody you don’t trust? No, of course not. The buying process is a tangled web of trust, emotion, education, friendship ... the list goes on and on.
Positioning yourself and your company as a thought leader can take care of several sales funnel land mines. Future customers will stop and notice you. Awareness: check. Your company will stay top-of-mind for your target market. Lead generation: check. People will trust you, become customers and fall in love with your brand. Brand advocates: check.
A lot of the following tips will help you position yourself as a thought leader within your industry, which is quite possibly the most important practice of an effective sales team. Read on!
2) Become the ultimate listening machine.
I don’t think we, as a collective society, have experienced such an incredible “Me! Me! Me!” attitude since ... well ... ever. Since the dawn of time. Take a look at your Facebook news feed for proof -- everybody’s shouting about themselves. I don’t care what you ate for dinner. I don’t care that Little Jimmy got a B+ on his spelling test. You know what would make me care about you? If you cared about me.
A successful and effective sales team has to care. Don’t pretend to care -- actually care. How do you let your potential customers know how much you care? By listening to them.
So, be ultimate listening machines. Stop shouting about how great your product is. Nobody cares! Instead, listen to what your customers need, what your customers like, and what’s causing your customers pain or trouble, then solve their problems.
3) It's time to get mobilized.
Hopefully, your sales team is mobilized. And when I say “mobilized,” I’m not using some fancy business jargon that means “ready to rip up the sales floor” or something. I’m talking about mobile devices. Does your sales team have smartphones? Tablets? Laptops? These devices are absolutely crucial for instant communication, yes, but also for conducting research while on the road.
All of your sales tools should be mobilized as well. Is your company’s website responsive, or does it look like total crap on an iPhone? Are you using landing pages, email campaigns, and downloadable offers?
Think of it this way: You have to meet your customers where they are. And your customers are online. Guaranteed.
4) Blossom into a social butterfly.
It’s great that your company is tearing it up on social media (they better be!), but you need to be there too. If you are not personally on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or, heck, even Instagram or Vine, you need to step out of the darkness and into the light, my friend.
I’m not saying you should be on all of the social networks I listed above (unless it makes sense for you). A better approach would be to pick two or three, and make sure you’re picking platforms you know your potential customers use frequently. If you work in sales at Babies R Us, for example, Pinterest might not be a bad idea.
Here's what not to do, though: create an account, leave the faceless egg blob avatar as your profile picture, and spam thousands of people with messages like, “Hey! Buy my stuff!”
Instead, you ought to: upload a profile picture that’s really you, write an interesting bio, start actual conversations, and publish compelling content.
5) The dog did not eat your homework.
We’re all adults here. I promise that your manager, boss, coworkers, and, most importantly, customers do not believe the following excuses:
Fido ate your spreadsheet.
Your Wi-Fi router spontaneously combusted.
Your presentation got destroyed by the Loch Ness monster.
Again, we’re all adults! At this point in our careers, we need to be prepared for everything. This means you need to conduct research, practice your speech, proofread your proposals, and study your competitors (hey, nobody said being prepared is easy). Being prepared takes work. But your company is relying on you, so make preparation a priority.
George Thomas is a listener, thinker, strategizer, avid podcast consumer, and inbound marketer for wildboy.co. He can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.
Originally published Nov 18, 2013 2:00:00 PM, updated August 30 2017