February has started to creep onto my calendar, so it must be time to discuss agency new business resolutions. They may be your “New Year’s resolutions,” or they might be your annual new business goals, formal or informal. Either way, these annual new business “resolutions” are notorious for ending up on the back burner and fading away into good intentions, as we quickly fall back into familiar habits. Before that happens, I want to share a few tips that can help you set up positive, repeatable sales habits while the new year is still full of maximum possibilities.
By establishing routines early on, and sticking with them through the end of the year, you’ll set yourself up to meet your annual resolutions or goals. Below are some simple things that will help you and your team keep on track with agency new business and stay motivated for a successful year.
Establish Daily Rituals & Routines
Particularly where sales is concerned, people need daily rituals and routines. Once something becomes a habit, following it is second nature. Without productive rituals and routines in place, it’s easy to default into less-efficient practices out of habit.
One example of a productive daily routine is preparing a to-do list. To-do lists are a great way to train your brain to stay focused and to manage your time. You can organize your tasks into categories, identifying what needs to be done today, tomorrow, for the week, and for the month. A good to-do list can serve as a map leading to your goals. Ending the day with all the tasks crossed off and completed provides a huge sense of accomplishment, making the routine easier to repeat the next day.
Another helpful routine is to establish patterns around your personal productivity rhythms. For example, you should block out time for sales calls and outreach during the time of day when you are most productive. Morning people should not plan to make their important phone calls in the afternoon when they are sluggish and not at their best.
Set (Mostly) Realistic Goals
While your list of annual goals should include some aspirational or stretch goals for good measure, it’s the realistic ones that will bring you the most enduring success. It can be discouraging and counter-productive to set too many stretch goals.
In sales, we tend to swing for the fences hoping that one big hit will pull us out of a rut. If we focus too much on those far-shot opportunities, though, it takes attention away from our more likely candidates. Then, as the year progresses and the stretch goals become less and less likely, that hope can give way to a sense of desperation — particularly when our efforts to realize the realistic goals have suffered because we were overly-focused on reaching for the stretch goals. It’s most important to focus on doing day-to-day activities that lead to the realization of realistic goals. It’s okay to have stretch goals but be careful to put limits on them.
Tackle Worst Things First
It’s always wise to knock out the most difficult or tedious tasks on your plate before moving on to other things. When those dreaded tasks are finished and behind you, it puts you in a much more positive frame of mind and makes tackling the remaining tasks feel much easier.
Studies have found that multitasking makes you less efficient and decreases your quality of work. Doing too much at once results in avoidable errors such as emails sent to the wrong person, or with the wrong subject line. Focusing your brain on one task at a time delivers better results in the long run.
Embrace Repeatable Processes
One of the best investments you can make in your new business success is reducing the time and resources spent re-creating the wheel. Create a repository of reusable assets, such as sales scripts, email templates, strategic questioning logic, qualifying criteria, client onboarding documents, sales process and procedure maps, pre and post-call checklists, case studies, and other sales-supporting agency assets. If you have these stored in one location that can be accessed by everyone who needs them, it will improve your team’s productivity and give you more time to focus on selling.
Protect Your Resources: Qualify Better
Get more value from your time when you are vigilant about eliminating the wrong opportunities and focusing your efforts on the right ones. Use qualifying questions to determine if a potential prospect is a match for your agency before you waste unnecessary time pursuing them. Trying to force a fit is a losing proposition—even if you close it. When you appreciate that truth, you will gain a new respect for the importance of lead qualification. One qualified lead is worth many unqualified leads, regardless of their size.
Improve Your Sales Skills
Get better at critical sales skills, including strategic questioning and listening instead of talking, by setting aside practice time. Practice responding to common questions and push-back points in a non-defensive manner that provides necessary information and then turns it back to better understanding the prospect’s needs. A conversation with a skilled salesperson shouldn’t make a prospect feel like they are being sold to; rather, it should feel like a conversation with a knowledgeable consultant who can help answer their questions and determine if there is a mutual match. The ability to deliver that experience comes through repetitive role-playing and practice.
Additionally, take advantage of every opportunity for self-improvement, be it through pre-call preparation, post-call analysis, discussion of lost opportunities, listening to recorded sales calls to identify where you could have responded differently, or participating in sales training classes and groups.
Get Better at Follow-up
Today, some of us have more marketing automation tools than we need, but that certainly doesn’t mean we are using them all effectively. Whether your system is tasking follow-up activities in Salesforce, writing them down in a notebook, or sending yourself automated reminders via a workflow or calendar system, make sure that it is effective at helping you manage your follow-up activities promptly. Putting off follow-up calls and emails shows your prospect that they aren’t that important to you, which is an impression you never want to give.
Grow Your Network
In sales, your network is everything. Conversations and opportunities don’t happen when you don’t put yourself out there. It’s important to attend events, meet clients, and regularly ask people (even prospects!) for introductions to others who may be interested in your agency’s services. This is one of the hallmarks of a good salesperson, so if you aren’t already doing enough of it, work on cultivating this habit for better results this year.
In sum, if you establish easy-to-follow ongoing routines, set realistic goals, invest in sales skills development, and prioritize the right opportunities, you will have a solid shot at meeting your agency’s new business goals this year. By following these simple suggestions, you’ll improve your sales discipline and productivity, and cultivate better results.