What does creating a sales funnel have to do with aerobic exercise? How many of you exercise? How frequently? Now and then? Or do you have a regular schedule that you keep, say, at least four times a week for at least 30 minutes?
Think of how it was when you started your exercise regimen, or perhaps took up a new sport or tried out that new golf swing you read about. You weren’t very good, were you? And thinking about doing this perfectly doesn’t increase your level of fitness or effectiveness. You have to practice to get better. Eventually, muscle memory kicks in: through a consistent and methodical training program your muscles remember the right way to execute. You successfully change your habits and the positive results are tangible.
Business development is the same way. To create an effective sales funnel, approach business development as a discipline you are in the process of mastering.
You need to focus on the basics, consistently, every day. You want to invest in some decent equipment, like free downloadable podcasts on the web or subscribing to thought leaders’ blogs, so that you are constantly incorporating different perspectives and subsequently improving your technique and level of fitness.
Think of the sales process and business development cycle as Sales Aerobics for Engineers.
We’ve looked at the importance of prospecting referrals and having peer-level discussions with Key Decision Makers in winning business for your company. How do you get to the place where you have Sales Aerobics for Engineers Muscle Memory: you are naturally incorporating a business development perspective while simultaneously implementing engineering projects?
This sales funnel creation process doesn’t have to feel like patting your head and rubbing your stomach. In fact, it may be easier than changing your golf swing.
Think about how you begin each day. Most of us have a schedule. If we work for a company, we go to work, where we have activities scheduled. Many times we engage in firefighting and accomplish little of our scheduled activities. Same thing if we work for ourselves, except the activities we have scheduled are directly dependent on our ability to create our livelihood and income stream.
Sales Aerobics Discipline #1: make time every day to identify companies with whom you’d like to work.
Ask yourself why these companies interest you. If you are interested in these companies, you are not churning and burning through call lists as a means to an end. Which means you are prospecting instead of cold-calling.
Think about it. These organizations may be companies you’d like to prospect, in terms of business development. However, in this economy, these entities also may be companies for whom you’d like to work. So how do you get on their radar screen? The more you learn about these companies, the more familiar and comfortable you will be when conversing with their Decision Makers.
1. Read about them online
2. Find out about their structure and hierarchy via Hoovers or other online corporate information services.
3. Go to their website and get a sense of their corporate culture, mission, deliverables, track record.
Sales Aerobics Discipline #2: make time every day to create and add to your list of high-level expertise that you bring to the table.
What do you do best, across all projects, over all career choices? Think about it. You will determine your common denominator. Be strategic rather than tactical. Are you the type of engineer who always brings in projects on time and under budget? Are you an innovator and how have your innovations impacted your customers’ bottom line? What you do best is your Personal Brand. And make sure this resonates in your LinkedIn profile.
Sales Aerobics Discipline #3: focus on working with those clients and on those projects that bring out your best skill sets and value sets, including areas which are new to you and a source of personal growth.
This is where the rubber meets the road. You may work in a corporation where you can’t pick and choose your project assignments. However, you can bring your best stuff to each one of these projects. And you can grow and learn from each project. If your entire day is spent on non-fulfilling activities, review Sales Aerobics Discipline #1.
Sales Aerobics Discipline #4: write your personal list of criteria for the type of company, client and projects that are an “ideal” fit for what you bring to the table.
Then review Sales Aerobics #1, #2 and #3 to determine how you can move your personal scorecard and dashboard so that WHO you prospect, WHO you win as customers, WHO you work with as existing customers and WHAT skill sets you develop are constantly moving towards the ideal.
When you work with the best – and they, in turn, are working with the best – you do your best work. And you provide value to yourself, your customers and your organization.
Time to start your Sales Aerobics for Engineers® regimen?
Babette Ten Haken is a catalyst, corporate strategist and facilitator. She writes, speaks, consults and coaches about how cross-functional team collaboration revolutionizes the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) value chain for customer loyalty, customer success and customer retention. Her One Millimeter Mindset™ programs draw from her background as a scientist, sales professional, enterprise-level facilitator, Six Sigma Green Belt and certified DFSS Voice of the Customer practitioner. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. Visit the Free Resources section of her website for more tools.