After 2 and 1/2 years of working, the Book that will contain much of what Daily Sales Thoughts has been is close to bring Published! It is very exciting to get to this point, and I think it will be a Real Work done very soon!
The Sales Process from Beginning to End
The first and most important aspect of Selling is to Plan the Sales Process. If you don’t define the way you, the Sales Professional, want the sales process to go, then you are already statistically behind your ability to close. Sales professionals that define the Sales Process and how it should be executed with a customer generally have a useful roadmap and some control over the sale and close. Sales people that don’t define the sales process are letting the Customer will define the process; leading to loss of control, unexpected twists and turns in the sales process, and a lower probability of a successful close!
So the focus here is how to lay out the Sales Process into pieces and always Know where you are in the process:
If you don’t define the Sales Process and confirm a plan and steps with your Prospect/Soon to be Customer, you will end up no clear path to closing the sales. Worse, you will have to continually changing path, defined haphazardly by the prospect and leading to uncertainty in your planning and scheduling. Why would any sane person prefer to Extra work along the way to the Close when a little planning can remove much of the chaos?
There are numerous aspects that are important to concept of this section: Making The Sale! The most important skill to focus on is Repetition, with a focus on making sure that what works is correctly and routinely applied to your key accounts.
Simply Stated: The Focus of Sales Professionals should be on Developing a Sales Process that can be repeated. While this sounds simple, it is a much harder skill to perfect that you might think. The main reason it is difficult to perfect is that, by their independent natures, Sales People generally don’t like process and prefer to “wing it”; that is prefer to reply on their perceived innate sales talents. As a result the majority of sales people make the same mistakes over and over without seeing the patterns of failure. In short, we as sales people just don’t learn quickly. If something works well for us one time, then we will continue to do it over and over again. If the great result we had the one time turns out to be a fluke, they will end up going down a bad path over and over again.
Therefore, the key advantage of having a proven Sales Process is the ability to document and learn. A key skill that Sales Professionals have mastered is the skill of Documenting Sales Process. Write down the steps that occurred and look for Patterns of Success and Patterns of Failure. If something worked one time in one sale it may be a breakthrough selling approach, but ONLY if is a set of steps or something you can Repeat in other accounts. By documenting, you will not need to relay on a faulty and excuse making memory. If you are not documenting and following proven sales steps, then you are really Guessing. Your focus has to be on Repetition of Key Steps that are proven to work over and over again.
Often, a Manager or Colleague can do a better job on Documenting someone else’s Success that they can their own. The Goal is to look for things that can be repeated in the Sales Process and that work. A technique or step that worked one time for a Sale does not a Pattern Make! Make sure you look at a set of steps that can be seen to be successful over and over again. If not, then you are doing some combination of Hoping and/or Guessing. Neither is part of a Success that will help you Consistently get to the end of game!
The key message is that Trusted Business Advisors (TBAs) are the top sellers in every field. They understand their customers by investing time and energy in building Customer Relationships and demonstration capabilities beyond the product.
A couple of industry-generated numbers will help you understand why account planning and building strong TBA relationships is the KEY:
- 2% of sales are made on the first contact
- 3% of sales are made on the second contact
- 5% of sales are made on the third contact
- Only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts
- 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
- And fully 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact.
Think about it. The 15% of sales people making 70% of the sales are the sales people who “get it.” They understand these statistics and have a plan for building relationships and establishing TBA status over a period of time.
Relationship management is better executed when there ISN’T an active deal. Invest a little time, all the time, for long-term success.
Too many sales people only engage when there is a deal on the table. The problem is that if you focus only the Active Sales Cycles- you miss the 95% that may not be active right now, but have the same problem that the rest of the population you can sell to has.
The other issue in working with Customers is that if you plan to help this customer in the long run you have to show on-going Commitment. It really doesn’t take that much effort to act this way, just a notion that you will continue to engage with this customer to have a Real Relationship. Too many folks in sales do not engage constantly. The Argument that everyone makes is “There is no deal on the Table.” The problem is, if you don’t engage with a Customer on a consistent basis, you won’t find out about the next Deal! It is really a Seller’s choice on what to do. However, Trusted Business Advisors maintain regular contract with their customers whether there is business on the table or not.
One last thought on the nature of Customer Engagement: If there is nothing active on the table, it is the IDEAL time to engage with the Customer. When there is an active deal, Communication between Buyer and Seller is usually around ONLY the deal. If there is not a deal, it is ideal time to improve/develop relationships with Customers. This is the time when most Customers are Most open to dealing with Sellers. Why? Because there is nothing on the table. With nothing on the table, a there is no reason for the Customer to hide things from the Seller. Instead, this is the ideal time to Learn more about the Customer. You will be able to learn about Upcoming Projects and that sets up the relationship to be very Collaborative in Nature.
Remember: The reality is that if you want Real Respect from a Customer, don’t be a “Hit and Run” Seller. Focus your attendance on them when there is nothing on the table. That will help to let you Achieve Trusted Advisor Status
Developing profitable customer accounts requires strategy and it doesn’t happen overnight. Ensure your sales activity is based on a solid Account Plan.
In Selling, there is a need to focus not just on “Selling More” but on selling “Profitably.” Depending on what you sell, this is likely not a point for Debate. Truly accomplished Sales people need to do more than be able to “Pitch Product.” They have to be able to take on a variety of activities that will help them be successful with a particular account- not just in the short run, but for the Long Haul. The real question for a sales people is not “Selling More” it’s making the moves to make the Sale:
- Profitable – Because otherwise your Company cannot afford to do business this way in a consistent fashion!
- Win-Win – Good For both Sides – because true Sales Professionals focus on True “Win-Win.” Otherwise, the sales cycle is typically not Repeatable!
What is often Lacking in this situation is something that sounds Simple, but, if done correctly, is not easy at all:
- A Repeatable Account Plan the covers a wide variety of areas of interest, and focuses on being good for all parties.
Account Planning is not easy if done correctly. The reason for this is there are many factors to take into consideration, and many Sales People do not have the Patience to truly “Plan.” Account Planning is a Learned process, and without good oversight, many sales people become shortsighted and just focus on “The Next Deal.” You can do this, but it is unlikely that this account will be Profitable for you!
Remember: What most Sales teams Need to improve on is Building the Plan! Creating a Profitable Account is based on having a “Real” Strategy and that requires a PLAN.
At the first meeting with a prospect, many Sales People mistakenly focus on speaking about Their Product first, before listening to the actual customer’s problem. They seem to think that everyone who makes times to see them wants to hear about Product Feature and Functions. Not True. Generally, potential customers make time for a Sales Call because they “might” have a problem and are looking for a solution to address it. Sales Pros know this and come to a meeting with a Customer-focused or Prospect-focused attitude to Learn more about the customer problem!
What is the best way we learn?
By Asking Great Questions!
However there is one additional focus point here with is the Type of Question you ask. This is the nature of asking Open-Ended Questions! What is an Open-Ended Question you might ask?
The answer to an Open Ended Question cannot be Yes or No
The Answer demands a more detailed answer
What great sales people do is to continually ask Open-Ended questions that prompt conversation. By prompting a conversation, Sales Pros consistently learn more about Customers or Prospects than sales people who show up and talk about product features and functions. There will be Plenty of time to Sell and talk about Features and Functions. But, only if you take the time to Learn the Why and How of what the customer wants to accomplish. Once know the customer’s problem, you can Target Specific capabilities of your product to show your customer how something you are selling can help them address the Why and the How of what they want to accomplish.
No matter how much you know about your own product, by asking these Open-Ended Why and How Questions, you will be much better prepared to tie what you are offering to what the customer wants to accomplish.
Remember: Not preparing means that you are going into the meeting without a plan. If you don’t prepare with the Key element- Great Open Ended Questions to your customer- you are not really prepared to sell!
80% rapid execution of the sales plan is better than 100% slow execution. Rapid execution is everything.
One of the things I see that consistently slows Sales Teams down is the idea that they need to be Perfect on Execution. Consider this Fact:
Without Perfect Information, Perfect Execution is Impossible
I have seen Sales Teams get overly focused on being Perfect. It may sound Counter-Intuitive, but consider that in this day and age, Information changes at a blinding pace. As such, it is harder and harder to Execute flawlessly, even though that should be the goal. Sales Teams sometimes feel stuck and can’t move forward on executing the sales plan because they don’t have all the information. Once again, if you don’t have Perfect Information, you cannot be perfect in your execution. As such, new rules have to be devised.
In developing each part of the plan, you should focus not on Perfect Information, but on having as much as is reasonable – use around 80% of the information as a benchmark. With 80% of the Information in hand, you should go ahead and Execute the plan, always looking for the missing 20%, but NEVER waiting for it.
This 80% reality leads you to the following Guideline:
80% Rapid Execution of the Sales Plan is better than waiting on more information-
The 100% that you likely won’t get!
Speed is still the key, but you will make some mistakes. When you do, Correct the mistake and move on. This will make you more Effective in working with most customers. Most Customers judge Sales People on multiple criteria, but Speedy Execution is one of the Keys!
Remember: In this day and age, you cannot get overly fixated with being Perfect (though this should be the ideal goal). You will make mistakes along the way. The key is to make the mistakes Fast and then Make Corrections!
Prospecting is a combination of having the right message and consistently repeating it. You need both!
It is an always an interesting discussion when we talk about Prospecting. Unless you have “Game Changing” product, you are always, to some degree, playing a numbers game. Based on a large population of Prospects that you have to reach out to, a certain percentage of them will be Prospects for what you sell. The real interesting question is: What do you do when you have found a “True” Prospect?
This is the key that separates great sales people from the merely Good ones. What is your strategy to get the prospect thinking your way more consistently? There are 2 parts to prospecting that will help you really focus on the “Why MY Company” perspective:
The Right Message about your Product: It’s not a pure “Feature-Function” Discussion. It’s about how you go about positioning your product that separates you from the other sales people out there. It needs to be thoughtful and consider the customer’s position
- Consistently Repeated: Most Sales people change messages each time they call on the customer. This not only doesn’t work, it simply confuses the Customer and reinforces their feelings about you as a sales person. Is that really what you want to do? Instead, ensure that you settle on A single message quickly, and then repeat it. If the customer starts hearing a message that makes sense, and you repeat it to multiple people in the account, this will become “Your Message.”
Think of this as Water Dripping on a Rock. If you drop it in the first time, it bounces. If you keep repeating it- with right delivery, it will begin to have impact!
Remember: the Combination of Message and Consistency will help you become viewed as a unique Resource to your Customer.
If you are not demonstrating win-win with your sales approach, don’t expect the customer to think that way! Win-Win matters and closes profitable deals!
Sales is admittedly a process where it is easy to develop Winners and Losers. Many people believe that Every Sale Results in a Winner and a Loser. While this may be true in some Sales situations, it is not healthy for a long term relationship. Customers have, in most cases, been burned by Sales People. In order to distinguish yourself, take whatever steps you have to take to NOT be “Just another salesperson.”
Work at being someone who believes that Sales can be done while taking a Win-Win Approach. This approach lets you act in an Honorable fashion for both Your Company and Your Customer. Taking this approach also allows you to think for the Longer term and give you a better shot at working with each Customer through multiple sales cycles.
What is amazing is the number of sales people that approach each customer looking for a “Win,” not caring about the customer, and are seemingly shocked when the customer (knowing that they are in for yet another round of “Win-Lose” from yet another Sales Person) sets up the rules of the game so that they, The Customer, is the Winner, and the sales person Loses.
When you start down a path of Win-Win, it lets you approach each Customer thinking the following:
- Both Sides Can Win
- The Relationship is for the Long Run
- We want to do more business together in the future
Approaching the Sales Process on this basis, will allow you to be much more successful in the long run!
Remember: If you focus on Winning at the expense your customer, your Customer will Turn on you and put you in the position of Losing. Focusing on Win-Win is the only way to go!