Todays economy makes it more important than ever for sales people to be productive. With fewer purchases happening, its simply not acceptable to waste any sales time on tasks that dont involve interacting with businesspeople to create a new relationship, guiding a project or identifying new needs. This situation especially applies to sales people with limited corporate support, as well as services franchise owners, independent consultants, entrepreneurs and business development professionals and independent sales representatives.
Freeing up your day from inexpensive-to-free tools and cost-effective support
Ive been experimenting with a variety of free or inexpensive Web 2.0 tools and inexpensive, outsourced labor to eliminate as much unproductive time as possible from my work as a consultant. The goal is to achieve 90% or more of my time on direct sales and creating business offerings for my clients. The web tools will filter and deliver information to you, but its still a problem to screen out the irrelevant news, move that information to your personal file system, and fix administrative issues like PC problems or travel set up. With outsourced labor costs on Elance and Odesk dropping to $5/hour for simple tasks like data entry, and $15 to $50 for higher value business research, administrative assistant, and technical support, you can combine web tools with labor to complete your outsourced sales environment and achieve a compelling ROI whether paid for personally or by your company.
Where do you lose selling and relationship management time?
Consider the following tasks. Ask yourself how much of your day they take up. Include in the estimate disruption time that is, the extra time lost from getting to the heart of intense prospect/client conversations when you have to switch frequently to read emails of questionable value, enter data into systems, etc.
- Identifying qualified prospects through web research and online chat boards. Then, researching their industry, company situation and key contacts, as well as social network referrals you can use for a warm lead.
- Prioritizing your queue of new calls and follow-ups each day, and bundling together meetings at nearby companies when you travel (not to mention printing maps and booking hotels).
- Entering contacts and prospect/opportunity status in your CRM system.
- Finding quality networking events to attend, researching the attendees and following up with those you spoke to with an email thank you. Furthermore, finding events and webinars you and your company should speak at or have a booth for.
- Drafting proposals, especially locating a relevant template from similar work and entering basic information like the signatory contact.
- Staying abreast of your clients industry by reading email newsletters, picking quality blogs, loading podcasts on your MP3; then actually reading these sources to find the most relevant handful of stories each day that will improve your sales outcomes. This helps you sell more intelligently and come up with reasons to get back in touch with hesitant prospects, beyond just checking in
- Entering expenses, fixing your PC/Mac or getting VoIP and VPN to work from your remote office, re-ordering business cards and supplies, and other office administration.
I estimate that at least 1/2 of the week is consumed with these tasks by many salespeople, including productivity lost by getting back into focus after a disruption. Now, what if you had a virtual sales assistant that took care of almost all of these for you and you could just follow a queued-up daily plan for client interaction?
Lets see how close we can get to this ideal situation. The next several blog posts will cover each of these areas and demonstrate how you can put together the tools yourself, or use a service to do it.
Finding networking and speaking opportunities
For example, I have been using the services of AtHandz, an Internet research outsourcing firm, to identify speaking event opportunities for an attorney client of mine that wants to expand her clientele. After defining the industries and event criteria for desirable speaking slots, Ive had AtHandz find compile event calendars and association lists; find over 50 events for which my client is a relevant speaker (and there should be no cost to speak); enter those events in a spreadsheet with details on the organization, event/speaking invitation process and contact; create Outlook business cards and draft email inquiries; and update my status by reading BCCs of email correspondence. When theres a positive email response, I make the initial call to the organization. If and only if theres a mutual fit, my attorney client joins a second call to create the deeper relationship. Its even much easier for your support staff to read about and filter networking events where you want to attend, meet people and collect business cards, than it is to find speaking opportunities.
The next blog posts will look at the hardcore sales tasks of identifying and research prospects, setting up your daily call queue, as well as administrative support such as my quest for quality desktop PC support at under $25/hour.
Outsourcing for marketing and job hunters, too
The same approach to combining free or very inexpensive Web 2.0 tools with inexpensive, outsourced labor can also work for the marketing function and even for job hunting. Marketers need to engage in the conversations on the web which now involve their product, and filtering these conversations take a lot of time (even with Google Alerts). Job hunters, by definition solo workers, can have their job search time consumed by filtering through the email alerts from job boards, entering contacts into Outlook, tracking which openings to follow up with and reading news and articles with ideas for their future. In both cases, individuals need to spend just a little in order to raise their productivity and value quite a bit. Outsourcing marketing and job search support will be covered more in future posts.