by Dan Miller
Implement these five simple sales techniques without making major internal changes and see your revenues increase dramatically.
What if I told you that you could double the amount of business your company is currently doing without adding salespeople or spending a fortune? Not only that, what if I said that you could do this without a great deal of extra effort or pain? You’d probably think I’m crazy or dismiss me as another one of those title people who’s finally gone over the edge. Fortunately, I’m neither. Instead, if you’re willing to spend a few minutes reading this article, I’m reasonably sure that you’ll be convinced you can make a significant impact on your order counts and profitability without a great deal of aggravation. Not only that, I think you’ll find the process enjoyable and rewarding for you and your employees; it’ll be almost like getting paid for watching an unbelievably good movie in your living room while being fed chocolate-covered truffles and drinking $300 champagne. Well, maybe not quite like that.
The Secrets Revealed
After serving the title and escrow industry for sixteen years and helping countless numbers of companies create measurable sales impact, I am about to reveal five of the best kept secrets about getting organizational sales results. Please try to contain your excitement and read on. First, a definition of sales impact would be helpful. There are probably a number of valid definitions of the word “sales” in the world. For the purpose of leading a sales organization, the definition is simple. Sales growth occurs when you increase the amount of revenue you get from an existing client, or you earn revenue from a client who hasn’t given you business in the past. I like this definition because it’s simple, easy to communicate, and measurable. Activities that contribute to one of these events are sales activities. Activities that don’t are not sales activities. This seems straightforward to me.
When leading your organization to greater sales success, you’ll want to focus on both areas: increasing business from existing clients and gaining new clients. There have been many studies demonstrating how much less expensive (and less difficult) it is to generate more business from existing clients than to create new client relationships. Thankfully, doing this proactively (and well) doesn’t require a lot of extra work. In fact, it can be done pretty effectively without ever leaving the office or learning a lot of new skills. This is especially important for our title and closing employees who are too busy closing transactions to get out of the office to develop new client relationships or for those who hate to make sales calls, or for some combination of the two. All of which brings us to our first sales secret.
Train Everyone to Ask for Orders
The easiest and most effective way to develop business from existing clients (and new clients for that matter) is to get everyone in your company asking for business every single day. Our company did a study once that showed the power of asking for business. We had a group of escrow officers ask for an order from a minimum of five real estate agents per day during the normal course of business (mostly when they talked on the telephone) during a period of one month. They didn’t have to make a special call; they just asked for an order during the course of any telephone call with an agent. This one activity alone resulted in a month over month increase of business greater than 20%! We then had the escrow team refer any conversation that resulted in an agent committing an order, but not opening one immediately, to the sales team. Their subsequent follow-up increased orders by another 18% the following month. Imagine what could happen if each of your employees asked for business just five times every day!
Before we get too much further along, it should be mentioned that some of our employees don’t like our clients (“They expect us to do their jobs for them.”) and have no desire to grow the business (“It just means more work with the same amount of staff.”) This unfortunate but real mentality leads us to the second secret to building a sales organization.
What’s in It For Me?
Sell the concept of the sales organization internally by focusing on what’s in it for your employees. The truth is, helping employees focus on the sales effort makes their lives easier, their clients happier, and contributes to job satisfaction. I know it sounds crazy, but stick with me on this. Our staff likes their jobs better when they feel as if their clients respect them, they feel in greater control of their day, and they are treated well. When escrow officers (or attorneys or anyone else for that matter) have the opportunity to proactively choose who they work with, they will choose to work with people who make them feel important and valued, improving their attitude about their jobs and themselves. A focused sales effort gives the power to employees to choose who they want to work with and allows them to feel a greater sense of control over their day and their life at work. When the organization is focused on selling, everyone feels more in control, more valued, and a greater sense of accomplishment. So the way to “sell” your employees on the importance of their own involvement in the sales effort is to explain its benefits: a greater degree of control, more trust from the clients, and a higher sense of accomplishment. Not to mention that incentive plans tend to favor those who are sales- oriented. Money, power, adulation, what more could a person want?
Sales is a Team Mentality
Often companies who employ sales- people take the attitude that “salespeople bring in the customers and the escrow/closers should keep them.” While this is a great theory about how the sales process should work in our business, it rarely translates into reality. Selling title and closing services is a partnership. Clients who use your company once won’t come back unless they feel that you offer something better than where they currently do business. Many times, the handoff between sales and escrow isn’t very smooth, and the customers feel they have not received anything more special or interesting than what they get from their current choice of service providers. Your job is to gain as much knowledge as possible about what the customer wants so that you can deliver outstanding service. Otherwise, you won’t get customers to change their behavior, and they’ll just keep opening orders with the company they’re comfortable with. Fortunately there’s a relatively simple fix: proactive communication. Before your team starts to work with any new client, create a process that requires the sales person to facilitate a discussion between the new client and the closing team to outline expectations, preferences, and special needs. Make sure that the relationship starts out on the right foot by clarifying needs in the beginning, which will give your company a chance to look like a superstar. Create a system throughout the course of transactions that drives the communication out to the clients (not a reactive “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” approach.) Sales and escrow have to work together to better understand client needs/expectations, so communicate aggressively and ultimately deliver great service. Create a system that supports these activities and watch the revenues pour in.
Focus on Clear, Specific Goals
Whether you work in a small settlement company, a large law office, or for a national underwriter, one of the most important aspects of any sales program is creating clear, tangible goals that everyone is familiar with. Even if you don’t have any designated sales people in your company, everyone who deals with customers should have sales goals they are partly responsible for creating and fully responsible for achieving. Goals should be measurable and focus on both results and activity. To make this simple, start with the three basic goals that form the core elements of any successful sales growth program and are easy to measure. They are:
Have each employee responsible for revenue generation come up with his or her own goals in each of these three areas. Coach them to stretch themselves realistically so that they can get the hang of sales success, rather than feel defeated when they don’t achieve an unrealistic goal. Have them work with their sales team and support team to develop activity goals that will contribute to the results-based objectives they’ve come up with. For example, who is going to ask for referrals? From which clients? By when? Have each team come up with a reasonable and simple activity-based plan with action items and due dates. Create documentation to measure progress and keep everyone’s focus on the goals at hand. Make sure that everyone participates and allow lots of dialogue. Creating, tracking, and communicating clear results and activity goals creates the best possibility for success and builds the core of a sales organization. In sales, like in many other areas, if it can’t be measured, it can’t be celebrated.
Reward Progress and Make it Fun
Life’s too darn short not to have a good time. One of the critical elements of evolving sales-oriented culture is a focus on fun. Create enthusiasm around goals by having a contest or a special program that everyone can get excited about. Limit the duration of contests to 90 days to keep them interesting and allow for little wins (gift certificates, grab bags, or small cash prizes for example) along the way. Be sure that everyone can win—focus on creating a way for each participant to have the opportunity to be successful. Rewarding anyone who achieves all three of his or her goals for the 90-day period might be an example of an inclusive contest. Make the final prizes worthwhile (a group trip to a fun place, a fun group activity, or a reasonable cash prize for each winner are all good ideas). Communicate successes along the way and build buzz internally by offering surprise gifts for exceptional performance. Be creative and enjoy yourself.
Commit to Making it Happen There you have it, five simple ways to create a selling machine out of your organization. All that’s left is your commitment to making it happen. Start implementing the five secrets of leading a sales organization and you’ll be well on your way to greater success and new heights. Now, wasn’t there some mention about something involving a movie, chocolate, and champagne?
Dan Miller is the CEO of RightNow Business Development Systems in Walnut Creek, CA, a company that helps its clients measurably create new revenue through improving sales skills and sales accountability. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.