The allure of being your own boss, setting your own hours, deciding which clients to take and having an endless income stream is incredibly intoxicating. In fact, those are probably just a few reasons why many people dive into the world of sales. After all, what’s better than determining your own destiny and “calling the shots”? Nothing, unless you forget to practice the basic sales principles starting with “pick up the phone.”

Sounds simple doesn’t it, but we have more distractions and noise today than ever before in business (and life). Of course, that’s no excuse, right? Maybe.

The ever-changing and constantly growing digital marketplace affords today’s sales force instant access to big data, including solutions and platforms that enable you to quickly analyze this data (i.e., Google Analytics). However, just because you have access to a wealth of potentially profitable data doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve hit the lotto. Or does it?

So, now that you have the data, what do you plan to do with it? How do you know what part of the data is “good” or “bad,” outdated or relevant, useful or a dead end? Then, after you’ve decided what data you can use, how are you going to effectively and efficiently use or filter the data?

Of course, you’ll use your CRM. What? You don’t have a CRM. Oh, I’m sorry, you do. Great! But, you don’t use it. Oh my. Where do I begin? It’s OK, you can unclinch your fist. No, really — you’re not alone. Great sales derive from and are driven by great systems and processes. Just look at McDonalds. They don’t necessarily have the “best” hamburgers, but they certainly have created the best process for delivering them.

So, some of you aren’t sure what a “CRM” is? It stands for “customer relationship management,” which is the concept of keeping better track and communication with your past, current and future clients.

There are many wonderful CRM solutions out there including TopProducer, Tribus, WiseAgent, AgentOffice, Contactually, RealtyJuggler, Follow Up Boss, Podio, Salesforce and, yes, even Outlook. Sorry, did I complicate things? You were probably looking for only two to three examples, which I’m sure would help you better decide where to start. That’s no fun. After all, nothing good comes easy.

Now, let’s also consider comparing local applications versus cloud solutions. How about sharing the data among your team? Brokerage versus agent version? I think I’ve veered off the subject a bit. Actually, not at all. As you can see, data can be spliced and diced in many ways, shapes and forms, and with many tools (“toys”). Are you a victim of the “shiny toy” syndrome? Do you buy or download every new “app” only to never or rarely use it? Is it taking up space on your hard drive and in your head? Once again, time to get back to basics. If you feel confused or overwhelmed, just raise your hand.

So, let’s get back to the real topic at hand: sales fundamentals. As complicated as any of us can make sales, it truly comes down to the basics: making the phone ring and what to do once it does. However, what percentage of today’s sales force is doing it “right”? Check out these facts from Salesforce:

  • In many companies, 20 percent of the sales force delivers 80 percent of the revenue. This means that hiring talented salespeople is essentially a random event. Tossing a coin would be as effective.
  • 64 percent of salespeople who fail do so because they are in the wrong job, not because they cannot sell.
  • Sales is a talent-based profession, and so the best sales training will only improve the performance of an individual on average by 20 percent. So a 5 percent can become a 6 percent, but an 80 percent can become a 96 percent.
  • Replacing your bottom 20 percent of salespeople with only average performers would improve sales productivity by nearly 20 percent.
  • More than 50 percent of sales managers are too busy to train and develop their sales teams.
  • A 5 percent reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits from anywhere between 25 and 80 percent.
  • Satisfying and retaining current customers is anywhere from three to 10 times less costly than acquiring new customers.
  • An average company loses between 10 and 30 percent of its customers each year.
  • 92 percent of all customer interactions happen via the phone.
  • 85 percent of customers report being dissatisfied with their phone experiences.

Did you know that according to Forrester Research, “It costs six to seven times more money to acquire a new client than to maintain an existing one.” What does that tell you? I believe it’s telling us to get back to basics: Focus on the present and service each client like he or she were your last.

So, now that you’ve figured a way for prospects and new clients to reach out to you, what do you do next? Simple — pick up the phone. Now, this doesn’t just mean answer your phone when people call; it means call people back and respond to emails in a timely manner (not two to three days later). Remember, you are in sales. Your job is to sell. Sell what? Your services, your worth, your experience, your knowledge — you.

People buy from people they know and like. So, don’t impress potential clients with how many years you’ve been in business or how many awards you have won; instead, spend your valuable time (and theirs) creating the relationship and paying attention to their wants and needs. Why? Simple, my friends: Consistent income is a byproduct of fostering relationships. You can’t make money unless you demonstrate your worth, and people will work only with people they know and like. Echo … echo.

Then what? Follow up. Ask for a review. Ask for referrals. Actually have a conversation with your client because if you created a solid relationship with them and did your job well, then asking them if you can do an equally stellar job with their friends, family and colleagues should be easy. After all, that’s what you do. Right? So, don’t hide from your clients and prospects. Instead, embrace them, foster them, respect them. Again, talk with them.

Want to know more about the missing pieces I’ve deliberately left out above? Stayed tuned for future articles. Now, don’t sell. Build bridges.

Jeff Chalmers is the vice president of mortgage lending for Guaranteed Rate and a 20-year-plus veteran of the real estate industry who, by leveraging cloud-based technology with old-fashioned customer service, has closed more than 15,000 residential transactions.

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