10/01/2015 08:30 EDT | Updated 10/01/2016 05:12 EDT

How to Make Your Sales Team More Proactive

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Excited businesswoman with chart giving presentation

Reactive prospecting involves a hit-and-miss approach to winning new clients. It is driven by random sales opportunities that are brought to the sales team as opposed to those created by the team members based on a predetermined plan.

As competition grows, sales become more complex and digital technology replaces traditional relationship-building. It can be challenging for some sales professionals to break through to the right person.

Here are just a few examples of some of the challenges sales professionals face:

Successful professionals stay ahead of the competition through constant self-education that puts technology to work for them so they can gain and keep their edge. They make the most of their network to win referrals and make new connections while remaining positive and proactive, despite sales complexity.

However, others fall into a reactive approach to prospecting and the lack of results becomes clear.

Five non-productive strategies and beliefs shared by reactive sales teams

  1. A reliance on face-to-face selling scripts, recommended voice mail scripts, and generic sales letters.
  2. Little interest in leveraging the organization's website as a sales aid by referring potential clients to it. They view their website as an isolated marketing tool used to engage visitors in cyberspace, not in real time.
  3. A reluctance to commit to producing top-quality marketing materials that support the brand versus just listing prices and products. This may be consistent with no interest in exploring delegating to third parties who can help to improve the team's personal communications and sales skills
  4. Setting only unqualified appointments with non-decision makers that fail to close and doing minimal (or zero) follow up with contacts made at networking events.
  5. Inability to set personal goals while getting more discouraged -- and perhaps disaffected -- with the prospecting process, which creates anxiety and a reluctance to act.

Build your sphere of influence

You will be more successful at prospecting once you realize that it is all about building relationships. Business relationships often start off on the right foot when you have someone in common in your network. Seventy-three per cent of decision-makers prefer to work with sales professionals referred by someone they already know. This helps to establish trust early on in the relationship.

Buyers are five times more likely to engage when introduced by a colleague or mutual contact. If you can widen your circle of contacts -- build more relationships -- you are more likely to make more personal connections with prospective clients and get more meetings.

Five ways to help your team become proactive sales professionals

  1. Encourage your team to make prospecting an ongoing, high-priority process, not an occasional event borne from desperation or fear of losing one's job. Share with them your successes and failures, and how you learned from them. Few strategies motivate a group -- and get results -- faster.
  2. Ensure that they measure and record their efforts and meticulously make notes about conversations (including why they closed or did not close the sale). They should also note what form of communication was used in each instance. This data will soon become useful information when discussed by the team leader and member.
  3. Harness the power of your organization's website and use it to communicate your brand uniqueness. For example, if you are a part of an established wealth management firm or bank, draw attention to your organization's history and ability to evolve to meet changing demographics and community needs. Continue to leverage the value of the site by asking a new client how much the site influenced a decision to buy and what reference material they used.
  4. Stay focused on the future instead of lamenting failed prospecting efforts. Focusing on the past and taking a "what went wrong" approach will keep you mired in existing problems versus learning from the past. Looking to the future and taking a "then what?" approach to prospecting can keep things fresh and unearth new opportunities.
  5. While each sales professional on the team has responsibility for specific accounts and has personal sales goals, remember to encourage a sense of mutual respect that will build morale and motivate the team. Regularly scheduled team meetings to keep everyone focused on shared goals confirm the manager's interest in their well-being and keeps him or her up to speed on current and future developments.

Advances in e-commerce, search engine optimization and predictive analytics admittedly test the relevance of the manual sales efforts and strategies shared above. In some cases, nimble participants with all-digital sales strategies will triumph over those relying on sales professionals. However, professionals who make their living in personal service industries such as wealth management, insurance, accountancy, education and law will ultimately always need to draw on their interpersonal communication skills to succeed.


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