Steps To Success: Navigating The Sales Lifecycle

Oct 15, 2012
  |  by Andrew Hamilton

You can pitch new clients all day, but if you don’t first confirm that you can actually help them, you’re wasting their time, and yours. “A client is a good fit for your company if the product and services you provide will truly add value to their business,” says Debra King (BSCN’03), director of national accounts at ACC Telecom. 
“Identify clients that need your solution, and share with them how it will help.” King currently sets the strategy for the sales force at her company and starts each day by checking in with her sales team via conference call. “Referrals are the heart of every business,” she says, “but no matter how you find clients, you must do research before you approach them. ”Learn about their business cycles, review their websites and follow them on social media. King and her team also discuss news and trends that relate to their clients’ business sectors, which range from health care to legal fields, and she spends part of each day networking. If you’re making cold pitches, remember that “digital tools are the best resource available to find new clients and to find the best person to talk with,” she adds. “But that means those potential clients are being called on more than ever, so you better have something of value to say.
Once you’ve identified prospective clients, the next step is to connect with them. “The most critical aspect of business development is the strength of your relationship with the customer,” says Travis Queen (BBA student), director of business development for U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force at Thales Communications Inc. That means you have to look beyond your own objectives. “Avoid being a stereotypical ‘sales guy,’ and focus on what your client is trying to achieve,rather than your own sales goals” Queen says. Identify what you have in common with your contacts and talk on a personal level. “It’s important for your clients to trust you. Finding commonality with them, such as military service,recreational activities or an interest in football goes a long way in developing that bond,” he adds.
Queen relies on his 12 years of service in the U.S.Air Force to demonstrate his credibility with military clients.And even though it’s easy to reach out by phone or email, old-school ways of doing business can go a long way. “If you are not in front of your customer, then your competition most certainly is” Queen says. “Take the time to travel to your customer’s location for face-to-face talks. Look for reasons to drop by for a quick visit. There is nothing more gratifying than a handshake and smile after a productive client meeting.
Signing a contract doesn’t mean that your job is over: You still have to deliver quality work. “To enjoy long-term success, you have to consistently deliver the right solutions to your customer,” says Darris Rollins (MBA’11), major account manager for Verizon Wireless.
That means you need to keep your promises and provide results. If you told your clients that you would deliver a product at a specific price, you’d better do it. And if you promised to send reports within a certain period of time, make sure you are doing just that. “The customer should see the value in every interaction,” Rollins adds, noting that he is so passionate about his company that he often extols the virtues of his personal(Verizon) phone service when chatting with customers.
That said, he cautions against getting overly familiar.“Professionalism is extremely important when dealing with clients,” he says. “It is important to represent yourself, as well as the company you work for, in a manner that makes the client feel comfortable.” The bottom line:“Believe in what you sell,” Rollins says. “And do what you say you’re going to do.”


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