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There are six things you should know before rewarding your prospect with a proposal. In order to discover them, you’ll have to conduct a complete qualification of your prospect during the meetings leading up to this point in the sales. Here are the checkpoints. 

1.  You understand the PBOs thoroughly and are able to provide a satisfactory solution.

If you don’t understand the customer’s primary business objectives completely, how can you be sure you can suggest a solution that would be enthusiastically endorsed?

2.  The prospect has to do something – it is NOT an option to keep things the same.

If keeping things the same is an option for the prospect, they might very well select that option.  Problems tend to fall into the “fix it” or “forget it” categories. Unless there’s a compelling reason to change, most find it easier to do nothing.  Find the compelling reason they’d want to go through the hassle of changing suppliers or implementing something new. If they can’t present a compelling case for change, they probably won’t change.

3.  You have access to the decision maker and will make your presentation to him/her. 

You must have access to a decision maker before delivering a proposal. A good rule of thumb is never to make a presentation to someone who can’t say “yes.”  It’s that simple. 

4.  The prospect needs to implement a solution in a time frame that makes sense for you from a business standpoint.

Time kills deals. What’s the point if your prospect doesn’t want to do anything for 18 months? Too much can happen to in the interim to send the deal sideways.

5.  You understand the prospect’s selection criteria, and have a reasonable chance of meeting those criteria successfully. 

What are the top three things they’ll evaluate when selecting a business partner, and why are those things important?  This will give you a good handle on just how good your chances are.  If this is a price-driven deal, for example, and you can’t or won’t compete on price alone, why try to compete at all?  It’s a very competitive world out there and your competitors are trying just as hard to win the business as you are.  You’ve got to know their strengths and weaknesses, how they’re likely to react in certain situations, and how hard they’ll fight for the opportunity that you’re trying to win.

6.  The prospect is considering only a small number of suppliers and is not putting the deal out to every company in the area. 

Generally, “RFPs” are not an optimal type of business to win, since price plays such a major role in the selection process and the opportunity to communicate openly with the prospect is limited. Prospects whose attitude is “the more, the merrier” are more interested in price than a relationship. Finally, increasing the number of options for the prospect decreases your chances of winning.

If you made it through the checklist above with a reasonable chance of proceeding, your job is to now understand what will happen after you deliver the proposal. You must have this conversation BEFORE you provide the information the decision maker is looking for in your proposal. If you wait until after delivering the proposal, you will be in the age-old game of cat and mouse, chasing a decision with endless call backs and delays.

Join John and three other experts on Thursday, April 30th at 4PM EST/1PM PST who will cut to the chase to provide contrarian insights on how to navigate in this new environment. You will get perspectives from Strategic, Financial, Sales and Growth capacities that can be applied straight away to make a difference.

Forget the rest, join the best! See you on Thursday.

John will be discussing how to sell value when everyone else is selling themselves. There will also be 3 other expert speakers. Click on this Zoom Meeting link to register .

For many companies, buying has changed again, which means that sales teams and their leaders have to adapt. And amongst the chaos in the current environment, adaptation must come quickly. So here is an offering for your teams to utilize to navigate through this maze.

“Selling In Uncertain Times” will help you through. The perspective comes from conversations with customers and prospects and how to help them to better understand the value you can bring.

I have already spoken with several of you about this, and look forward to the conversation to get started. Call me directly (858 518-7039) to discuss how we can customize and deliver this for you, or get you ready for the delivery.

decision maker

Over half the problems encountered by salespeople are caused by their inability to gain access to the decision maker. Failure to be in front of the person with the ultimate authority to approve the purchase will, in every case, eliminate your ability to get a positive decision.  You will, however, get lots of stalls (“I need to run it by…”) and plenty of “think it overs.”

Since one of your biggest challenges is to gain access to the decision maker, let’s take a moment to look at some proven tactics that will help you accomplish this difficult task and help you avoid spending your time with the wrong people.

  1. Assume it. Early in the sales cycle ask, “When am I meeting with the decision maker?” If you get some push back, you need to say, “I’m confused, why not?”
  1. Ask for it. Simply state, “I’ll need to meet with the decision maker.  Can you arrange the meeting?” (I’m confused, why not?)
  1. “Company policy.” “It’s company policy that we meet with the decision maker.”  (Maybe it isn’t, but maybe it should be.)
  1. Bargain for access. Some lower level folks who want to protect their “turf” or have an ego trip may deny you access until you’ve “proven” yourself. In cases like this it’s important to find out under what circumstances they would introduce you to the decision maker. When you’ve found that out simply state, “So if I understand this correctly, in return for proving to you that we can adequately address your challenges, you will introduce me to the decision maker. Right?”
  1. Justification. “I need to understand the issues from everyone’s point of view. If I don’t understand what the decision maker’s issues are, my proposal may miss the mark. That’s probably not a good strategy for either of us, is it?”
  1. “Biggest concern.”  “My biggest concern is that I won’t be able to meet with the decision maker during this process and that might impact my ability to completely understand the company’s challenges and ultimately present a really good solution. Can we avoid that?”
  • Peer to peer. “Our president (EVP) wants to come to the meeting and wants to meet your president.  Sorry, I have no control over this. Will you let him know?” Obviously this tactic gets other people involved, but sometimes that’s important.
  1. Asking for help. People want to help other people. Use comments like, “I’ve got a problem and I need your help” or “I’m a little confused.” You’ll be surprised at how much mileage you get from this tactic.

Formerly, an elevator pitch was a short summary designed to describe your company or product.  As the name implies, it should be short enough that it can be delivered during the span of an elevator ride.

Why the brevity? The truth is that when you are “cold calling” into a prospect, ten to fifteen seconds is all you have to make an initial connection and get permission to continue the conversation. In light of this, it is critical that you can quickly establish trust and pique interest.

Today’s prospects are receiving so many incoming sales calls, that they are particularly wary of being “sold.” The old way of delivering your company’s message is no longer good enough.

Let’s take a look at how elevator pitches have traditionally been made and how they should evolve to become more effective in today’s selling environment.

The Old Elevator Pitch

The call starts with, “I’m Bob with XYZ Printing. How are you today?” 

The “clever” segue into the sales pitch, assuming we still have the prospect on the line, goes something like this.  “We’re the premier printing company in the area.  We’ve been serving the local market for over 20 years and have the most advanced digital printing equipment in the area.  Our specialty is quick turnaround and competitive pricing.  I’d like to set an appointment to meet with you to show you how we can save you time and money on your next printing project. Would Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning be better for you?”

Does that sound familiar?  It probably does and there are many problems with this approach:

  • “How are you today?”  Every telemarketer in the world starts the call by asking about the prospect’s “well-being.”  While this is an honest attempt at politeness, prospects know you don’t really care, so it comes across as insincere and makes you sound like a telemarketer.
  • The “compelling” pitch by the printing salesperson sounds like the other printing company that called the prospect yesterday.  They said they were the best in town and could save him or her time and money too.  Whom should he or she believe
  • “Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning?”  How many times have we heard that over-used alternative choice close?  Nearly every salesperson uses it.
  • The salesperson wants an appointment but doesn’t want to take the time to find out if there’s any pain.  This is the typical product pusher’s strategy and the prospect knows it.
  • The easy blow off that the prospect can, and often does, use is to say, “Just send me some information about it.”  And you know how sincere that request is.

The New, Improved Elevator Pitch

Never fear, there is a better way. Take a look at this new, improved approach.

This call starts with, “I’m Bob Smith with XZY Printing.  Thanks for taking my call.  Can I take about 20 seconds to tell you why I called, then you can tell me if we need to talk further?”

When you get permission, you say, “I’ll be brief, right to the point.  We’re one of the leading commercial printing companies in the area.  Typically companies switch to us because they’re upset with long turnaround times, concerned about the inconsistent quality of the final product, or frustrated that their printer can’t offer any creative ideas to improve the job.  Are any of these issues for you?”

Or, you may want to give a specific example of how you’ve helped a competitor with a specific pain, something like “We recently helped [competitor’s name] save $2,000 per month on printing fees and reduce their turnaround time to 48 hours. Is this something that would be helpful to your business?”

If the answer is affirmative, you then go on to explore the pain further.

If the answer is negative, you could conclude the call quickly by saying, “Sorry to have bothered you.  Have a good day.”  And make another call.  Remember, you’re trying to find that gold nugget quickly and not waste time with people who are not good prospects.

There are many benefits to this approach:

  • It’s different.
  • You won’t have done anything to destroy rapport.
  • You won’t sound like every other salesperson that calls.

Your ability to differentiate yourself in your initial call with a prospect will dramatically improve your success at developing new business. Try our new and improved elevator pitch for yourself and see how it works for you.

Your sales team is one of the greatest assets your company has. A late businessman, William Clement Stone, once said, “Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect.”  But how do you maintain your company’s strong standing and keep the company moving forward? One way is to turn simple habits into effective sales strategies.

Here are some great practices to help maximize your sales performance:

  1. Analyze Your Success – Don’t wait for the metrics and stats given to you by your manager to track your progress. Analyze each sale and failure to see how you can improve for the next time. Not only will this help you for future sales, but will also show your manager how on top of your work you are. It’s a win-win.
  • Encourage Your Prospects to Engage Before the end of a Meeting – Many sales people wait until the end of a meeting to allot time for questions and comments. Why wait until the end? Tell your prospect at the beginning of the meeting to ask questions or explain their concerns when one arises. This small change can increase your closing ratios significantly.
  • Never Skip a Follow-up Opportunity – Most sales don’t close on the first contact, maybe not even on the second. It can take multiple touches to get your potential clients to trust you and your product. Do not hesitate to follow up. These opportunities just may be your actual sale.
  • Know What You Want – Have a purpose before starting your sales. What goal do you want to achieve? The best sales people know what they want before starting so they know how to manage their buyers and every action they make gets them closer to success.
  • Celebrate – Celebrate after each sale. This is a habit that can be done with the rest of your team. Hang up a bell that you can ring each time you close a deal or find something else to let others know you’ve helped the company get one step closer to your goal. Celebrating is a great way to boost morale.

As a sales rep, you are a key player in your business. Focus on building simple habits that reinforce key selling behaviors and, when implemented, help create effective sales strategies. Are there other habits your sales team uses to maximize performance? We’d love to hear them!

We have a lot of exciting things to look forward to in 2020. One of my personal favorites is the Summer Olympics, which are coming to Tokyo this July. The event I’m most looking forward to is the 4×100-meter relay race. This is consistently one of the most popular events in the Olympics for both spectators and tv audiences alike. It’s an athletic endeavor which combines both speed and endurance, great individual performances as well as cohesive teamwork.

I was recently thinking that the 4×100 relay can be compared to a great sales process. How? Keep reading: 

  1. Leg 1 – REFINE: The opening leg of a relay is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important stages of the race. It’s critical for runners to get out of the blocks quickly to establish their team’s position. Similarly, the “Refine” stage of a sales process is where sales teams hone the steps they will take to build a steady, repeatable revenue stream. This includes how leads are generated and moved through the sales funnel.
  • Leg 2 – BUILD: The second leg of the relay is where runners build a steady, consistent pace in order to hold onto their positions. The runners are taking inventory of their positions, maintaining steady speed and lining things up for a clean handoff.
  • Leg 3 – DELIVER: In the third leg, runners rely on stamina in order to set their teams up for the best chance to win in the final leg. Getting ready for that transition to win is critical to delivering the best case possible for success in the end.
  • Leg 4 – REINFORCE: The final leg is where relays are won and lost. The first three legs may go well, but if runners in the anchor position don’t finish strong, their teams won’t come out on top.  In the same way, your sales team may have a solid sales process, but without ongoing reinforcement of sales skills, your overall performance will fall short. Sales managers must be equipped to provide timely, personalized rep coaching to reinforce the skills needed to consistently meet and exceed sales targets.

Like the talented athletes that will make up Team USA’s 4×100-meter relay teams this summer, your sales teams will rely on certain strategies to ensure success. One of the most critical is a well-defined sales process that will help sales teams get off the blocks quickly and maintain their stamina all the way to the finish line.

For more on ways sales process drives revenue, click here.

John and the FSS team traveled to Rome in the first week of February to work with a global commercial translation services company.

Many of us have attended sales training classes or retreats that weren’t very valuable or impactful.  Why is this?  There are several key attributes that sales trainings must incorporate in order to be successful.

They are:

  • Learning relies on self-discovery. Many sales leaders do a good job talking to their sales teams, but not necessarily training them. In order to really learn, sales teams need to come to key concepts on their own. The art of good training lies in fostering that discovery.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Training is about teaching a new skill or behavior, and in order to master that, sales associates need a safe environment to practice what they’ve learned and receive timely, constructive feedback.
  • Training shouldn’t be theoretical. Training should be specific and applicable – sales associates should be able to use what they’d learned right away to achieve better results.
  • Training without process is pointless.  Once trained, sales teams need process to incorporate their new skills into a regular operating cadence. This tactical execution is critical if training is to lead to sustainable, repeatable sales growth.

Sales leaders tend to be great sales performers, as well as great people developers. The best leaders are able to effectively recruit, coach, and inspire. But, most sales leaders do not have the expertise to facilitate great training. And considering the cost of putting on a training event (travel, facilities, curriculum development, lost sales time), this is one area that companies can’t afford to get wrong.

Although training alone does not equate to sales results, a great training platform coupled with excellent recruiting, a well-defined process, and effective leadership is critical to sales success. You can’t produce repeatable revenue without effectively training your sales team.

Last week, we published The Art of Referrals (Part 1). If you haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, click here.

Now, we’re going to delve even further into this important selling skill.

How to Ask for a Referral

Knowing what to say is half the battle.  First, qualify for their interest in referring people to you.  Here are some ways to do that.

  • “How do you feel about helping me grow my business?”
  • “How do you feel about helping me tell my story to people who might have an interest in what I do?”
  • “I want to build my business through referrals.  I have a goal for the quarter to secure ten new clients through referrals.  If I can help you so it takes very little time and you are confident that I will represent you well, would you be willing to help me?”

 Asking “who do you know…?” (an open-ended question) as opposed to “do you know anyone …” (closed-end question) is a far more effective way to get referrals. 

Here are a few options.

  • “Who do you know who would benefit from my product or service?”
  • “Who do you know that has plans for the future that require what I do?”
  • “Who do you know that is facing the same kinds of challenges that you are?”

Your Ideal Client Profile

Salespeople will experience more success if they can be specific when asking people for referrals.  After all, it’s easier for the referring source if you can take the guesswork out of referrals.  If you can clearly describe the title of the Key Player or company you are looking for, your referring source will find it easier to focus on someone that fits your ideal profile.  This will result in better quality referrals, and more of them.

Finally, Give More to Get More

Referring should not be a one-sided activity.  The more referrals you give, the more you will get.  There should always be something in it for your referring source. 

Try to provide them with referrals in return.  Make a point of asking your clients whom they would like to be introduced to and see if you can help them.

You might provide a reward such as lunch or small token of appreciation.

Mastering the art of the referral is a proven way to effectively build your sales pipeline without having to rely on cold calls. Do you have referral techniques that have helped you build your business? If so, we’d love to hear about them. Send emails to john@drive-revenue.com.