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In last month’s article entitled Committing to the Sales Process, we discussed the overall concept and the importance of that commitment.
Many sales representatives fail because of their lack of commitment to their sales process at one or multiple steps, from prospecting to the actual sale itself to following up. For the sake of this discussion, we are referring to full-time business development reps.
By committing to a sales process, reps can increase their effectiveness and efficiency in their everyday sales activity and add more to the bottom line.
Fully committing to a sales process actually has several components:
- Developing and implementing a sales methodology.
- Setting goals, both short-term and long-term.
- Getting to the decision maker.
- Getting the decision maker to make a commitment to you.
- Consistently executing that process throughout the sale, from the hunt to the sale itself and after.
Part 1 of this article series focused on how to better commit to the process during the prospecting stage or, as we call it, “the hunt,” and covered the first few bullets in the list above.
This month, we will focus on how reps can better commit during the actual sale itself, which begins when you get in front of the actual decision maker.
Eye to eye
Let’s say the rep has been able to get in front of the decision maker(s) and has their attention. It has most likely been a bit of battle just to get to this point — several calls, e-mails, maybe even stopping by the decision maker’s office. Finally, the prospect has responded to your many attempts to request a meeting, and has agreed to give you some of their time.
Now that they’ve agreed to meet with you, it should be smooth sailing and an easy sale… right? Wrong. Remember, getting in front of the decision maker is only half the battle. Just because the prospect has decided to give you the time of day, it does not mean that they are sold on your services or product.
You must continue to commit to your sales process by using your skills to see it through all the way to the end — getting to the point of commitment. That commitment can be a yes or a no; either is fine. Highly effective salespeople avoid maybes, “think it overs” and other time wasting energy suckers as much as humanly possible.
Your tenacity in consistently prospecting and reaching out for the meeting has resulted in you getting in front of them. Now that you are in the sale itself, you must continue to be tenacious throughout the remainder of this sales process and get the prospect to make an actual decision, which may be “no.”
A little bit of (sales) courage
Many times, a prospect has walls up because they hate being sold. Typically, the sales rep will encounter an unpleasant reception from their prospect: Uninterested, annoyed and sometimes even rude. The prospect’s walls are up and it’s your job find a way to lower those walls so you can have an effective communication.
If you can’t have a conversation to discover whether or not there’s a mutually beneficial reason to do business, there’s little hope of moving forward.
At this point, it is common for most salespeople to take the prospect’s icy reception as a blow-off and call it quits. And, you guessed it… this is not in line with committing to the sales process. Remember the famous saying by the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz? “If only I had a little bit of courage.”
For the sales rep, they must dig deep and find their “sales courage” in order to keep proceeding with the sale, regardless of the gruff or disinterested prospect on the other side of that telephone or desk.
To do so, the rep must use their skills and strategies to plug forward and stay in control of the conversation. Your confidence and professionalism will bode well with even the roughest prospect, as they will gain respect for you not taking their “put-off.”
Lowering the walls
In order to help lower those walls, it’s important to avoid starting off the conversation by talking about you and your company. By doing so, the prospect is most likely to immediately tune out and hear the same type of “wah wah wah” noise that the famous cartoon character Charlie Brown heard from his teacher.
To overcome this, try a different approach. Start the conversation by getting the prospect to talk about them and their business challenges. The tone of the conversation and the reception from even the iciest prospect will start to turn in your favor, and begin the process of establishing trust and rapport.
In order to get the prospect talking about them, you can use a set of questions to help stimulate the conversation from their end. Your goal with these questions is to, of course, let them talk about themselves (their favorite subject), but to also find what we call pain. Pain can be thought of as a problem significant enough that it will motivate them to change whatever it is they’re doing now and instead work with you and your company.
Without motivation, getting your target to change is a low percentage activity.
Ideally, you can present a list of pains that other targets like them have shared with you. We call this the “other guy” strategy and it is amazingly effective at starting a meaningful conversation.
For example, “We work with a lot of insurance adjusters. Let me tell you about some of the challenges they tell me they are facing in their business these days.” This is almost irresistible as everyone wants to know what other people that do what they are doing are encountering.
Needless to say, this is not something you come up with on the fly. You should have already put together a list of pains or motives that you know a high percentage of your targets have concerns addressing successfully. You should ensure your company has organized a business model to address these pains or motives.
Once you share what the “other guys” experience in business, you simply ask, “Are you facing any of those issues?” If you get a “yes” you’re not done yet! Oftentimes, prospects do not understand their own pain clearly so we have to help them through our sales process.
Use these follow-up questions to delve deeper:
- “Tell me more about that (the problem).”
- “Could you be more specific?”
- “How often does that happen?”
- “What have you tried to fix or address it?”
- “How did that work?”
- “Does this problem cost you (or have the potential to cost you) money?”
- “Is this something you’ve decided you have to change?”
Once you have established that the target has pain that you can address, you simply follow through the rest of your sales process. At the right point you will need to present the value proposition you offer that will help them address the issue(s) they shared with you.
But now, instead of spewing out a bunch of features and benefits and hoping you hit on something they care about, you can tailor your value proposition to the very things that would motivate them to change.
Getting your prospect to commit
Now that you are in front of the decision maker, have lowered the initial walls and presented your solutions, what is next? The most important part of committing to the sales process is to get to that commitment stage, a “yes” or a “no” from the prospect in regards to using your company’s services.
The prospect’s commitment to you, at this point, is to give you a decision. It’s important to remember that a sale is a two-way street, and that your prospect owes you something in exchange for your time: A “yes” or a “no” as to whether or not they will use your company. It is critical to get to this point, as their response will determine your next steps in how to further pursue or not to pursue them for their business.
In most cases, there are twists and turns during the actual sale itself, much like a conversational “dance,” where you will have to not only lower their walls, but also overcome objections and hesitations.
It’s your job, as the rep, to stay committed to your process by actively listening and watching for verbal and non-verbal cues from your prospect so you can respond skillfully and successfully in order to remain in control of the direction of the conversation. It’s not about manipulating or tricking your customer. It’s about controlling the discussion using skillful sales techniques so you can make sure you’re moving the prospect towards determining and making their (yes or no) decision to use your company.
If the prospect says “yes” to using your services, ask good follow-up questions as to determine next steps of your newfound partnership.
If they say “no,” use your skills to discover why they said no and see if you can’t swing the boat back around in your favor, using any “last ditch” sales efforts. It’s also important to remember that “no” sometimes will really mean just that. No is acceptable, as long as you’ve committed to the point in your sales process to knowing why they said no and, if possible, trying to overcome their objection.
Beware of ‘happy ears’
Even though the prospect may have given you the green light to using your restoration services, you also have to use your judgment on whether or not this person will actually use your company.
Many sales reps will fall into the trap of “happy ears,” meaning that once the rep hears a “yes”, the work and commissions will automatically start rolling in without any further effort.
Part of overcoming “happy ears” is to remember that even after a yes, you still need to commit to your sales process, meaning you will need to follow-up with the prospect and implement sales activities accordingly to ensure that their commitment to you is fulfilled both verbally and in action by way of sending you work.
How to start committing
The first step to committing to your sales process is to determine if you have one. Try answering these questions when formulating your process:
- Do you have a variety of methods to get in touch with a decision maker, finding ones that you have proven to be more effective than others?
- Do you prospect consistently and frequently?
- Do you have a unique value proposition (UVP) to offer and do you communicate that effectively?
- Do you have steps in the sales process that you work through to gently lead to a natural yes or no?
- Do you have strategies to overcome objections, when you hear “crickets” and so on?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, congratulations… you’re on your way to having a sales process!
It’s important to note that any superstar salesperson will continually refine their process until they have a comprehensive, effective system to follow, which allows them to perform at their maximum potential; and when they get there, they keep refining that process.
By continuously developing, committing to and refining your sales process, you’ll start to see results beyond what you’re experiencing now, and you’ll be in better control of the outcomes of your sales efforts and in better control of your ultimate goal: Increasing your sales!
Iris Kelley is a sales and marketing consultant and the director of marketing for Business Development Associates, Inc. Kelley has more than 15 years of experience in the sales and marketing field in several industries, with a specialization in helping restorers to predictably grow their businesses through effective strategies, tactics and implementation. She has a MBA with a concentration in marketing from the University of New Mexico and is a certified WRT. You can reach her at (847) 386-6556 or Iris@GoBDA.com. You can also visit www.GoBDA.com for more information.