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Business ProposalThere are six things you must know in order to let your prospect pass – in other words, before you reward your prospect with a proposal. Your ability to conduct a professional and complete qualification of your prospect during the meetings leading up to this point in the sales cycle will provide you with the answers. Here are the checkpoints.

 

1.  You understand the prospect’s problem thoroughly and are able to provide, at a minimum, a satisfactory solution.

If you don’t understand the problem 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 just to do nothing. No pain, no change.  Find the compelling reason why 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. 

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, 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 the most 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 often quite 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.

map1When you open up your smartphone to access a map, you’ve got a particular destination in mind; where you want to go for dinner, a meeting, a certain address, or a landmark you wish to visit. There is a focus on the journey’s end, and you want to get there in the most efficient way possible. The map you access usually starts out with a 40,000 foot view of the landscape.

 

map2With the destination logged in, the smartphone then prompts you to input some more detailed information:  Where you are starting from; how you will be traveling- on foot, bus, or by car; and what mode of directions you would prefer, audible or inscribed? Once you have keyed in the basic information, the map application will zero in on your exact location and guide you, step-by-step, until you arrive at your destination.

1. Formulate Your Go-To-Market Strategy, and Align WHERE Sales Will Compete

A Sales Strategy is the 40,000 foot view of the vision or mission of an organization’s long and short term objectives. The strategy is carefully formulated by upper management to move an organization toward their specific destination. If, for example, an organization has the desire to increase revenue, a Sales Strategy for increased revenue may be formulated with the careful consideration of many different factors: assets, competition, the marketplace, margins, operational costs, the number of product lines, distribution, channels, value propositions, and plans for growth, to state a few.

We recently worked with an organization who wanted us to help them build a Sales Process to “get more sales now”! Their short-sightedness of only looking at the “close up” of the map gave them the misguided idea that their destination was nothing more than to get the reps out there selling better!  We were able to guide them through a Sales Strategy exercise, and THEN helped them build a Sales Process on what to do to execute their strategy.

2. Turning Strategy into Tactical Execution: Sales Process Illustrates the HOW

The principal component of a Sales Strategy is execution. Sales Process outlines the step-by-step, most efficient, customized directions to get to the final destination.  It provides information on how to get to the destinations in specific detail, based on selling skills.  This specificity enables the implementation of strategy by providing the following advantages to the entire team:

  • A common objective
  • A common path and language
  • Practical messaging tools based on the strategy
  • Skill sets that are tied to Process steps
  • Process Steps that are tied Pipeline Milestones

3.  WHAT To Do at Each Step Along the Way: A Clear Path

If you ensure that all sales reps and managers follow the Sales Process, you can outline expectations and more easily benchmark your sales team against common criteria, providing an excellent evaluation of the strategy at the rep level.  A Sales Process provides:

  • The specific instructions on what to do with respect to customer interactions
  • A measure of the skill of individual sales reps
  • An opportunity for focused skill coaching of reps by managers
  • A powerful reporting tool for leading KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on benchmark performance against key outcomes of the Sales Strategy.

When determining your organization’s Sales Strategy, take the time to ensure your understanding of the entire landscape.  Then, implement a Sales Process that allows you to execute toward your objectives, with the ability to gauge your success along the route, and soon, you’ll arrive at your destination:  Success!

 

ELIA Riga Apr 25 2014On April 24 and 25, I attended and delivered a Sales Process Workshop at the European Language Industry Association (ELIA) Conference in Riga, Latvia. ELIA is an international organization of professionals in the translation and location industry, bringing multi-lingual content to the world through the web, printed materials and simultaneous interpretations. There were 36 countries represented at the conference, which always makes for great conversation at the event and at cocktail parties and dinners. Here is a summary of the main topics discussed:

Closing the Digital Divide: Facebook Gives Back

The keynote speaker was Iris Oriss, who is in charge of all Internationalization and Translation efforts for Facebook’s multi-lingual platform. Iris’s keynote focused on Facebook’s dedication to closing the global digital divide, as only 2.7 of the 7 billion people worldwide have access to the Internet.  To close this gap, Facebook is supporting an effort called Internet.org, a consortium of companies who donate time and resources to get the web to the most remote reaches of our population.

The resource-based economy that we grew up with has now been replaced by a knowledge-based environment, and as knowledge spreads to a greater segment of our global population, how will your selling style adapt? Does this open new markets for you? Or perhaps increase the number of competitors in your space? Be prepared to answer the question and react quickly – it is happening now.

“The Who” Said It 1971: “Going Mobile” is the Direction

Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey were prophetic when they wrote and sang the song “Going Mobile” in 1971. Mobile devices have become the desktops of the 80’s. Do you recall the first desktop computer that you had? I felt like I was in the space age. Well today, mobile devices offer us more capabilities than ever before. As a result, our buyers are relying more and more on information that is pushed to them while they are on the go.

Mark Zuckerberg re-iterated Facebook’s commitment to mobile at the recent F8 Conference in San Francisco, saying the company will run mobile promotions on smartphones and tablets as it pushes to drive revenue (we like that phrase/ URL!) from a larger audience. So, as sellers, we must be ready to leverage mobile to deliver key insights and solutions. According to Robert Peck, an industry analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, this market may be worth $3 billion dollars in a few years.

All Customers are Unique (with the Same Challenges and Goals)

The Sales Process Workshop I delivered was attended by 16 professionals representing 7 countries, with at least 10 languages spoken among them (see picture). As you know if you’ve attended one of my programs, the focus is always on the customer. In this workshop, we worked together to determine the best ways to differentiate yourself by the way you sell.

Customers usually claim that they, or their customers/markets, are unique. In our workshop, we determined that business objectives and challenges are actually very similar, regardless of industry. What is not the same is the company’s culture as organizations represent many different countries and languages, and as sellers we must be prepared to address those nuances as we help companies meet their business objectives and improve their bottom line.

Plenty of sales reps think that productivity is the same as staying busy, or at least “looking busy”.  Strategy meetings, internet research, emails, social networking, golf dates, and dinners may be keeping reps “busy”, but such activities may be inconsequential to the bottom line.  Let’s define sales productivity as the ability to produce.  Productivity is measured by yield or throughput.

Here are four tips to help increase the productivity of your sales team giving them more active selling time:

1.  Analyze Current Processes

Do a health check on the selling processes currently being followed by your team.  Although each sales rep’s process may be unique, consider the following key productivity drains across your team:  How much time is spent weekly on administrative tasks? How many calls are being made on qualified vs. unqualified opportunities?  How many in-person calls end in a sale?  What is the average time of lead to sale?  What is the current cost of sale?   A good sales process based on the analysis of the data retrieved from these questions will provide guidelines for keeping productivity in check.

 

2.  Define Expectations/Goals

Every team member needs to know what is expected of him/her.  Once new expectations are set, look at your team and see who needs help organizing their time and territory.  Help reps prioritize which opportunities are worthy of their time and get rid of the ones that are not qualified.  Being on qualified sales calls is where results will happen.  Once you set expectations, expect them.  Set up a streamlined accountability process of reps’ progress toward outlined expectations.

 

3.  Leverage Technology

Reduce the administrative responsibilities required by your reps by providing an electronic format for as many tasks as possible.  A good CRM system will automate certain tasks and keep customer data organized.   Technology can also aid you in getting quality lead lists.  Monitor social channels.  Set up alerts on topics of interest and respond to those who show buying signals.  Consider timesaving video calls and web conferencing.  There are hundreds of time saving sales technology tools out there that can help increase the productivity of your team.

 

4.  Increase your Team’s Skills and Knowledge

Sales training, and coaching are important for every salesperson, no matter how experienced they are.  There are always new skill sets to learn and new tools to master.  Analyze deficient sales skills in the individuals on your team and coach to those needs.  These skills may include phone etiquette, product knowledge, industry knowledge, customer engagements and rapport, presentations, and everyone’s favorite topic:  negotiation.  Look for a training company that will offer a customized approach to developing specific relevant skills for your team.

 

Try these tips and you will see increased productivity in your team.  The measure of success will be evident in a yield to be enjoyed: More revenue!

Over the past few years, the majority of the work that we have done with customers is on defining (or refining) their sales process. This was necessitated by the dramatic changes exhibited in buying behavior during the economic downturn. And indeed, the most important aspect of our customer’s sales processes is that it mirrors how their customers buy from them.  During conversations in both a formal and informal settings, we are asked “how many steps should there be in the sales process?”  If we knew that exact answer for each of our customers, we would be retired and they would have Instagram-like success!

So instead of trying to pinpoint the exact number of steps in a sales process, here are the must have, Top Three milestones that each team/seller must have in place to assure success. Please note that very few of our B to B customers have only 3 milestones (or stages), but when pushed to the wall, here are the 3 you can’t live (or sell) without:

1-     Access to the Key Players (Decision Maker): there is nothing new to the notion that you must get access to all of the key players, but the budget scrutiny that many organizations have placed on all expenditures since 2008 has made this step even more difficult. A clear articulation on how all important titles would benefit from the usage of your product/service is a mandatory requirement for completing this stage.

2-     Clear Understanding of Value: once you have the access as described in #1, can the individuals understand the value that your offering provides. Without this, you will be dancing in the dark when it comes time to go into the evaluation phase.

3-     An Approved Implementation Plan: approved as you co-develop the opportunity with your customer/prospect, not after the deal is signed. This sole step can help you to determine your “pole position” deep into opportunity development, and the seriousness of the participant’s gauges how “sticky” your solution will be thereafter.

One of our customers in the Medical Device industry was struggling to get into conversations with the key players in their existing customer base on a new offering they had obtained through an acquisition. The offering was an existing diagnostic test with a new enhanced feature.  The challenge was that the enhanced feature  provided a benefit that had never been completely commercialized. We sat down with a cross functional team from their organization and built a pro-forma model of what impact the solution had on the existing practices in the testing environment, and who would benefit from this.  They went searching for data to substantiate their assertions of what value this add-on widget could provide.  They found a reputable research company that had done a study that provided the information they were looking for.  We were able to help build a dollar value and a testing value into a pro-forma model (Benefit Summary). The Benefit Summary provided all involved with a complete understanding of the value of their new enhanced feature.

Next, we helped them to create a prototype of an Implementation Plan that correlated with how they could roll this out to their customers. Once completed, the sales process plan was delivered and executed with their main customers.  As a result, they have successfully sold an additional 12% in total revenue on this product alone in an $80 million dollar division.

What are you or your organization waiting for to drive more revenue? Let us help you to define (or refine) these steps and start picking up incremental revenue now!

Keeping the pipeline filled with qualified opportunities is one of the toughest things a sales person is required to do.  And just as water in a pipe will follow the path of least resistance, so will a sales person when not kept on task.  It’s like homework in college or that dentist appointment that you’re putting off;   eventually these issues have to be addressed.

But why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?  Introducing the #1 pipeline killer – procrastination.  Just like pressure gets water in a pipe moving, a plan is the best way to prevent procrastination from sneaking in.

Here are 3 ways to bite off a “chewable” plan and keep constantly back filling the pipeline:

  1. Assess Current Customers – in many industries 60-70 % of new revenue is generated from the existing customer base.  These prospects are the most likely to close in a timely, predictable time frame.  Forecasting this revenue is the most accurate.  As a frequent customer of a Brooks Brothers, I was recently contacted by a sales person.  Through our conversation I gathered that I was a targeted customer because I spent $X in their store every year.  They know that I’m already a buyer and with an assigned salesperson they could easily increase those sales.
  2. Assess the Quality of Leads – no matter if leads are given to you or leads are organically generated, the most qualified leads are those with a personal connection.  In today’s world we are interconnected as in no other time in history.  That’s the marvel of social media.  I find in my business that the business-focused social media is very beneficial. Do I know who someone in the company that I’m targeting?  An introduction from a mutual acquaintance turns a cold lead into a really warm lead in an instant.  To spend time most effectively is the name of the game, and one of the ways I do this is with social media.
  3. Assess Progress with a Milestone – This is adding water pressure to the pipe.  The speed and velocity of the water through the pipe depends on pressure.  Sales people need triggers in place that quickly determine the speed and velocity of deal from contact to close.  There needs to be a trigger immediately after the first conversation.  Did the customer share any goals with me?  If so, that’s someone I need to spend more time pursuing.  The best milestone that can provide a great forecasting tool is a Deal Map. This is a document that lists by date and responsibility a map of the deal.  Buyer and seller agree to the terms and proposed timeline of the deal.  When both parties are working off the same document, forecasting probability and close date are easy to determine.

To get to the golden customer sometimes it means you have to sift through 100 not-so-golden ones.  It’s easier to tackle this daunting task with a plan.  As the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, so wisely said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

On return from a recent trip, I was making an international connection in an airport and passing through security for the second time. The security guard asked me the same standard questions, but the last question she asked me I found to be most curious. She said, “Should I trust you?”  I paused and then answered in the affirmative, but it got me thinking.

When meeting with a prospect for the first time, how do you establish trust?  This is not the same type of trust that you have with a family member or loved one, but the trust that allows someone to have a candid conversation about their business issues.

There is plenty written about how not to do it, such as being pushy, talking too much or just falling into stereotypical selling behavior. But in that critical window of time (some say as short as a minute) how do you make a connection that allows the prospect to feel comfortable sharing information with you.

In his recent book “The Speed of Trust”, Stephen M.R. Covey identifies trust as the one thing that changes everything. He defines trust as confidence, confidence that the words that come out of a salesperson’s mouth show genuine interest in understanding the situation before a “spray and pray” feature dump.

Here are a few simple steps to follow to make sure that you can earn initial trust:

1-    Be prepared with questions geared towards the prospect’s organization and needs, not statements or brochures around your product, service or organization.

2-    Allow the prospect to set the pace for the meeting, and only offer suggestions for items to review after they have expressed their priorities.  Help the prospect discover needs by listening to what they say.  A few well -constructed questions will help the prospect come to their own conclusion.

3-    Be sincere.  Being sincere means doing what you say you are going to do. The first way to establish sincerity is a prompt, written follow up after an initial meeting that captures the important components for the prospect and their organization.

Some think trust takes years to cultivate and develop.  The security guard in an airport thought it could take one second, a reaction to a question.  One thing is certain; establishing trust is a central component to all healthy relationships.

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