Rather than allowing the prospect to take control of the call, we need to play a pro-active part in the sales call, so we can show the prospect what is best for their business.
Think of yourself being the pilot of a plane. You have control of all the equipment, you make the moves, you determine the result of the journey. The flight has a plan, a checklist from which we determine the journey’s route. We scan the instruments and start the engines. We request permission to take off and taxi out. Then we go through the journey stages; take-off, climb, cruise, descend, approach and land.
A properly staged sales call has a similar flow and stages that we go through. When we have agreed the agenda of the sales call with the prospect, we can plan and carry out the journey effectively.
Here are typical steps you can take to enable the flight to take place, and, with little exception, you should find agreement with most prospects:
1. Build business rapport and find out the prospect’s buying style
2. Agree and get buy-in to the meeting’s agenda
3. Ask probing questions that get to the meat of the problems and opportunities that exist
4. Deliver the powerful proposition on how you will solve the situation the prospect is in
5. Lead the prospect through any objections that may exist
6. Define and schedule the next steps
Think of it like you being the pilot flying the journey. You check out everything before you start your take off (step 1). You taxi forward and agree with the flight control what the planned journey direction will be (step 2).
Then you take off and climb through the clouds. You ask questions of the engines and they deliver to get you to your cruising altitude (step 3). Then you deliver the power as the engines do their work (step 4).
You may go through some turbulence, and you, as the pilot, have to navigate the problems this may cause (step 5). And, as the journey nears its end, you are able to approach and land successfully (step 6).
Think of structuring your sales call as a pilot would plan their plane’s journey. By doing so, you create a backdrop that will support any call you may be asked to carry out.
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The salesperson of today is a problem-solver who works in conjunction with the prospect to identify any issues that his organisation has and then uses that information to present solutions to the prospect’s problems or situations. Before you make your sales presentation, the tricky part of this situation is ensuring that the problem that the prospect is attempting to solve is the actual problem that exists.
For example, when you first speak to a prospect, she might say that she needs a specific type of software. You could just make a presentation on the software and that would be the end of it. Or instead, you could ask the prospect questions in order to determine what the problem is that they are trying to solve. Then during your sales presentation, you will be able to:
The final point above may not seem like a solution you would want to offer. But the fact is that telling a prospect the truth will establish you as a reliable, trustworthy source of information for the next time they need something.
The first step in problem-solving is to ensure that the problem the prospect is trying to solve is the actual problem that needs solving.
One simple problem-solving tool is to use something called ‘The Five Whys.’ It is simple because it uses the question ‘why’ up to five times in order to help get to the root of a problem.
But remember that it is indeed a simple tool – if you are dealing with a more complex problem, you may need to learn other problem-solving skills. An example of how to use this tool is below. Notice that in this case, it’s not necessary to use five ‘why’ questions to get to the root of the problem.
Prospect: I might be interested in a copy of your ABC billing software.
You: OK, may I ask why you’re interested
Prospect: We are having problems keeping track of customer bills.
You: I see. When you say ‘having problems’, what might they be?
Prospect: We do it by hand, but now our customer base has grown so much that we can’t keep up. Correspondence in general is difficult.
You: I understand how your customer base has grown, so why does that make correspondence difficult?
Prospect: Because we have about 10 different pieces of information that have to go out to different customers in addition to the bills. Keeping all that in order is quite a challenge.
You: It sounds to me like you need more than a billing system – it sounds like a customer contact management system is what you really need. Why don’t I show you some of the benefits it could provide?
By digging deeper into the prospect’s business challenges, you actually find there are bigger problems that need to be sorted, and this is one way it can be achieved. Use this tool when appropriate and you’ll see it helps you solve prospects’ problems easier in the long run.
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A family friend told me recently how she had a total change in the way she viewed her job, and asked me if I could help her get back the motivation she once had.
Naturally, I helped her out. But her story got me thinking about how we, as salespeople, can help prospects make changes too.
Here’s her story…To keep anonymity, I’ll call her ‘Ann’.
Ann works in retail, and was doing OK in her job. She earns around £20k and was quite happy with that salary. The job challenged her, kept her on her toes and gave her satisfaction.
A friend then told Ann about a job advert in a local paper. Ann saw it and noticed the salary offered was around £22-£25k, quite a bit higher than she was on now, but for doing essentially the same job.
Ann applied for it. She got a favourable reply and went for the interview. She thought it went well.
A couple of weeks later, she got the letter saying thanks for attending, but they weren’t going to take her application further.
Ann was very disappointed. She still had her current job but now, where she used to enjoy the challenges, she now felt overwhelmed. Where she used to have satisfaction, she now had disdain.
What had changed? The job was exactly the same, the pay was the same, the conditions were the same. But she had been shown something else, an opportunity that would have given her a better standard of living. And the fact she didn’t have it made her feel disillusioned with her current state and situation. Consequently, she is now looking for job opportunities that she wasn’t looking for before.
Why am I telling you Ann’s story? Because it’s possible that our prospects and clients might be feeling the same way.
Many times, you approach a prospect and they say they are happy in their current situation. They are in their comfort zone, with no reason to change. Like Ann, they are satisfied as they are.
Then, you show them an opportunity, helping them see how things could be even better with your services. You prove to them that what you have could bring more benefits, better productivity and greater profitability.
What you’ve produced is called ‘dissonance’.
Dissonance is defined as a simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion. This creates disharmony, a feeling of discord, and may make a person feel unhappy with the current situation, wanting to resolve the disharmony that they didn’t even knew existed before.
It’s like the old television programme called ‘Bullseye’, where the contestant who lost out was then shown what they could have won, when the curtain was drawn back. Before that, they didn’t know what was on offer….now they did and they felt gutted!
Prospects who are happy with their current supplier often don’t see what might be available with someone else. When they DO see it, it could create discord between what they have now and what they could have in the future.
So this is your opportunity to raise that discord. Show your prospect how they could benefit from your services. Paint the picture of how their future could be different with you. Associate more benefits with your products than with what they have at the moment.
This will help them see how things would be better with you. If they stay as they are, they will feel less satisfaction than before, because they see what they could have. Just like Ann, they feel less happy with the staus quo. Just like Ann, they feel they have to now look at what opportunities might be out there for them.
And, if your products and services can help them achieve the better future they could have, you have provided the answer to that discord, that disharmonious feeling between current position and future possibility.
I helped Ann get her persepctive right by talking about how she can still be happy and content now, while still seeking better opportunities in the future. You can do the same with clients, helping them see those opportunities that only you can bring for them in the future.
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On my first day at work, I was given a list of people to call and a phone. I was told that the more people I called, the more success I would have.
Well, although it was a partly successful , I soon realised this was not the most effective way of getting sales! Simply having a list developed by people who would never actually have to call the people on it wasn’t the best strategy ever devised.
Later in my career I learned that a salesperson has to realise he or she is running their own business, and that business (like every other) has to have a firm foundation laid in a plan that focuses on two main areas: The development of a solid sales pipeline built on a quality database, and a proactive prospecting plan.
Build a Quality Database
Take the time to research your prospect’s business online prior to reaching out. Leverage social-media information that you can find on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. While it is tempting to create as large a database as possible in the hope that high numbers will produce prospects, this is only partly true. Yes, you need lots of prospects, but if they are not a great fit, they will only dilute your focus on the best opportunities.
Linkedin will help you find the right people to contact. Remember, it’s a database for your prospects and doesn’t replace the skills you need to sell effectively. It will, though, give you a list of people who are connected to you in more ways than you will imagine.
Think about whether or not your prospect looks like your ideal customer. Do they look like the last several closed deals? Build a database in your CRM consisting of quality prospects that you know are a fit for your products or services, and be honest about deleting and adding to it every day. This is the pool from which you will find prospects to fuel your pipeline.
Develop a Sales Strategy
Now you are ready to create a well-planned, consistent, proactive, outbound plan to ensure success.
Think of your prospects as a network of professionals to whom you can offer help. Reach out to them with a phone call, a Linkedin message or an email, and if you don’t catch them directly, leave a voicemail followed up by an email introducing yourself and your company. Explain to them why you believe they should take a few minutes to speak with you. You might try a message like this:
Give them a compelling reason to speak with you, not an airy-fairy marketing pitch. These people get calls every day, and if you don’t sound like someone who can add value, they will not take the time to speak with you. You have to stand out, and if you don’t, then you’re just like all the rest.
Always fine-tune your message for each industry segment and job function. Don’t use one boilerplate message on every call. Customise, personalise, individualise, and optimise your calls. Engage interested prospects, and remove those who are not ready to buy, but always keep in mind that it is your job to add value on every call. Don’t be afraid to drop prospects if they don’t help you to achieve your goals
Build your database, especially through social media, reach out to your prospect base consistently with a value-add message, set a goal to complete an good amount of quality conversations per day as appropriate for your business, and hit that conversation goal every day. Completing your plan will turn your target-rich pipeline into sales and commission.
Before I sign off, here are some more tips on becoming a great sales person:
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Below are three clear and simple mistakes that sales people routinely make while prospecting. Prospecting mistakes are the most costly problems because most sales people and sales management never actually realise the full affect of prospecting errors.
What You Can Not See CAN Hurt YOU
The problem is that it is much easier to see and understand others selling issues that result in loses, such as closing mistakes, poor customer service issues, or losing sales to the competition. It is easy to spot lost sales opportunities.
However, it is far more difficult to recognise or quantify the lost in sales revenue when it comes to sales opportunities that NEVER developed in the first place, due to poor prospecting. So, please take these three prospecting mistakes to heart and avoid them at all costs because it is likely they are already costing you more money than you can imagine.
#3 – Failure to Get Referrals
Not getting enough referrals; especially getting referrals from the prospects that do not buy, is a killer. You must become and expert at getting referrals and if you are already good at this, then practice getting more.
#2 – Selling the Product or Service Prematurely
Prospecting is but a set in the sales process, and it is not the close. However, far too many sales people confuse prospecting with closing. In that I mean, when they should be qualifying the prospect, or identifying the decision maker ort just setting an appointment—they are trying to sell the product.
When a prospect objects to an appointment, you need to sell the appointment and not the product. Avoid falling into the trap of trying to sell your product or service during the prospecting stages.
#1 – Poor Record Keeping and Customers Relationships Management
The most costly prospect mistake is the lack of effective record keeping. Most sales people overlook the importance of keeping accurate sales-activity records. Prospects that slip through the cracks are often the difference between success and failure. Prospects you forgot to call, emails you failed to send or lost leads, are a fraction of what slips through your fingers. If you are using post-it notes, an A4 pad, memory or the back of a cigarette packet for prospecting, you are losing money!
Avoid these costly prospecting mistakes and keep your sales funnel fill.
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With the influx of social networking sites flooding the Internet, LinkedIn has emerged as the premiere resource for business professionals. Launched in 2003, LinkedIn reports to have more than 120 million registered members in over 200 countries worldwide. Business professionals around the globe use LinkedIn to establish a professional profile, reconnect with colleagues, share information and look for jobs or hire talented professionals.
Elevating business networking to the highest e-level, LinkedIn also affords users the opportunity to forge new relationships by advertising, posting articles and participating in industry specific discussion groups. Boasting over 21 million unique visitors per month, LinkedIn is an excellent resource for business contacts.
When looking for business-to-business contacts, you can search LinkedIn. With a free basic membership, you have access to a ton of information on millions of members. Perform a basic “company” search by entering the type of company you are looking for and get instant results. For example, you could enter a search for businesses that sell business supplies and equipment in the UK, and get a list of organisations that have members on the site. For specific contacts, use the “people” search, enter a company name and get results of individuals in that firm.
Enter “MTD Sales Training,” in a people search for instance, and you will get information on yours truly, followed by our Training Director and our Head of Training. With a deeper advanced search, available with a paid registration, you can enter such search parameters as job titles and company size or focus only on Fortune 500 firms.
Get Contact Information
Often LinkedIn members will publicly list contact information like a website or business email address. However, even if such is not available, through the network, you can still send that person a message.
Join Discussion Groups
Then, join discussion groups or start your own group to stay in touch, promote yourself and generate contacts in any area of business you need.
So when you get that company that has the “no-name” policy and you need a contact, don’t get locked out…get LinkedIn!
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How many times has your manager told you to go out and prospect? If they are worth their salt, I hope it’s hundreds of times.
And they may even have given you a lead sheet to help you on your way.
Do you know the best source of leads? The people who you will want to call, rather than shy away from?
Well, you may be interested to know you’ve got many HOT prospects who you may be already ignoring.
Of course, it’s your current customers.
Why are they the best people to call for more business?
Well, firstly, they already know you, and, if you’ve done your job right, they already like you.
You’ve already got rapport with them, and they trust you.
They respect you and like your products or services.
They’ve paid you in the past, and, most importantly, you don’t have to sell to them…they will buy.
So how can you get them to buy as much, if not more, than cold customers?
Here are some ideas:
* Sell them an upgrade on what they get at the moment
* Look for other users of your services in different departments
* Give them some help in selling the product to THEIR customers
* Get referrals from them
* Give referrals back to them
* Sell them something new or in a different way
Even if they don’t buy from you today, the fact your name is in front of them continues to builds goodwill and the long-term relationship with them.
And you are always seeking for new opportunities to sell, so why not look within the companies that already love you? You know it makes sense!
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