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The science of sales part 1 – Intelligence based prospecting

There is a certain science behind being an effective salesperson and the approach to sales is ever changing. It is important for sales professionals to keep honing their skills and techniques in order to stay ahead of the game and remain relevant in today’s market. Sam Thomason, Operating Director at Michael Page Sales, spent time with Darren Spence, founder of sales training and mentoring business Sales Gym 360, to find out more about how salespeople can improve their prospecting skills.
The science of sales part 1
Every company needs new business and organisations use different techniques to try and win that new business. Some rely on their marketing teams, some rely on their sales teams. In reality, with the way that information flows through organisations now it needs to be a mixture of both. As a salesperson you now need to be very good at leveraging your marketing assets and sharing those assets with your relevant prospects.
A common mistake Sales Directors make is relying on their salespeople to do all the work; having the team make 100 calls from a database of prospects without knowing anything about the person or organisation they are trying to engage with. In this situation salespeople are relying in their phone manner and ability to charm a prospect and will often fall back to talking about their own business; ‘we do this, we do that.’ The reality is that the prospect wants to hear something that is relevant to them and their business.
With the wide availability of information we are led to believe that it is a buyer’s market. The buyer has access to so much information that they have the upper hand; they know what they want and they know where to get it. However salespeople have access to just as much information and can use it to their advantage. A knowledgeable salesperson who utilises the information available in the public domain can make themselves a lot more relevant to each and every prospect and as a result win more business.
        Many clients are understandably keen to grow their customer base but the importance of retaining existing clients has seen an increase in Account Manager roles to sit alongside traditional Business Development Manager and Sales Manager roles. Different roles will require different skill-sets, right from an ability to get through the gatekeeper, or to build a strategic account plan to develop growth from within, to leading a sales function and taking the business to the next level of growth or turning around a failing sales team. Tenacity, initiative, drive and vision are all good traits of a professional sales person.
        For sales people it is crucial to be able to set yourself apart from the competition; any training you undertake will only be as good as how well you apply the learnings. Developing your sales acumen allows you to create opportunities that may well be missed without advanced techniques or developed skills. Offering a good service/product is not enough to survive these days and its crucial salespeople are equipped with the right tools to create the opportunity with their client.
Sam Thomason, Operating Director at Michael Page Sales

So relevance is the key, being relevant to your client in the following four aspects is a great way to improve your prospecting:
ACCOUNT RELEVANT – You really need to know the account you are selling into. Most companies share a great deal of information about themselves in the form of marketing. Follow them on LinkedIn and Google Alerts. Use their website in your research and if the company is public listed then there will be financial information available. Being account relevant is absolutely key and the way to achieve that is to know the company inside out.
INDUSTRY RELEVANT – Industry relevance is paramount. Every salesperson should take time to understand the industry in which their account operates. Whether it is manufacturing, legal or IT services you need to be able to demonstrate that you understand the industry. If you can converse about current industry trends you become more credible and more relevant to the client. Once again there are news services, websites and portals set up and dedicated to serving most industries with news and information.
ROLE RELEVANT – Another area that salespeople should take the time to understand is the role of the person they are selling to. If you are to engage with someone on a professional level and convince them that your solution is best then you need to know about their role and the challenges it poses. Again there is a wealth of information available if you know where to look; for example if you are selling into a CIO or HRD there are portals set up specifically to service those communities with news and information. LinkedIn has groups doing the same thing for the majority of job types. By following these services a salesperson will become a lot more knowledgeable about trends and challenges faced by the individual they are selling into.
PERSON RELEVANT – the last area where you need to prove your relevance is to the person. Understand what makes them tick and what they are about. 95% of IT professionals are on LinkedIn and are freely sharing a wealth of information about themselves. If you take the time to research a person you may find that they have written a fantastic blog recently which you can reference to resonate with them. Even if they are not blogging themselves they are likely sharing information from others or following certain groups. It all paints a picture of the person you are selling to and is information you can use to develop an affinity with them. 
By demonstrating to a client that you are relevant in these four areas you are showing that you are credible and every potential client is looking for two things; relevance and credibility. For a customer to trust a supplier these two things must be demonstrated, and when they come together it’s quite a powerful thing.
Darren Spence is the founder of Sales Gym 360, provider of original sales tools and specialist sales coaching. For a confidential discussion about recruitment in the sales industry contact Sam Thomason, Operating Director at Michael Page Sales.