The practice of sales prospecting is surrounded by confusion and misconceptions. Prospecting may sound simple enough, but ask a group of sales professionals about the best prospecting approaches and you’re bound to get several conflicting answers.
How many times have you received a prospecting email or phone call and said, "Sure, let's meet right away?" If you're like most of us, it probably doesn't happen very often. If you're on the other side and the one sending emails or making calls, what's your success rate? Probably pretty dismal. Congratulations! You're like most of the people we surveyed.
"Willy: I don't know why—I can't stop myself— I talk too much. A man oughta come in with a few words. Charlie's a man of few words, and they respect him. Linda: You don't talk too much, you're just lively." Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller We all have sympathy for poor Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. He knew he talked too much, but he couldn't figure out why. And he couldn't stop talking too much even though he wanted to be like Charlie, a man of few words who was respected by all. Let's face it: salespeople talk too much.
"Can you send me a proposal?" Sellers love to hear these six words from buyers. Once you submit a proposal, you can move forward to the win. While a good proposal summarizes what you've already discussed and agreed to, a proposal is, at its core, a persuasive document that communicates to buyers why they should buy, and why they should buy from you.
When you're considering sales training, it's important to know what results you want to drive. Before any initiative, you need to answer one simple question: What do we want to achieve? There are many possible targeted outcomes of sales training from growing revenue and improving margins to increasing the average size of sale and growing accounts. Make sure whatever sales training initiatives you choose match up with your desired outcomes. As you think about your own sales training efforts, consider these possible results and how to achieve them.
I had a conversation recently with a client who was struggling with his sales efforts. The conversation went something like this: Me: How has your selling effort been going? Client: Unbelievable. I sent out four proposals last week and three more this week. Me: That's great. How many new deals have you closed?
Imagine it's the end of a long, important sales process. Your buyer has given you the verbal 'yes' to buy, but he has to deliver a summary of the value proposition case—why he's made the decision to move forward with you—to his peers and the board of directors. And no, you can't attend the meeting and speak alongside him. He must make the argument himself, and it has to be good.
Your sales team isn't hitting quota. You have aggressive growth goals but keep falling short. You want more of your sales team to transition from average to top performers.
Bringing in new customers is expensive. According to research by Fred Reichheld of Bain & Company, it costs 6 to 7x more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer. In our own work, we regularly find companies have significant, untapped opportunities for growing existing accounts. Yet cross-selling, up-selling, and growing accounts is a major challenge for many companies.
Sales training is a multibillion-dollar business. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated to be more than $5 billion (according to Dave Stein in Sales Training: The 120-Day Curse from ES Research Group). Yet, also according to Stein, between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days. If we do the math, that amounts to somewhere north of $4.25 billion of unproductive training.
I spend a good percentage of my time selling. I also spend a lot of time coaching and training sales teams. One question that comes up time after time is, "How do I shorten the sales cycle?" My quick response is usually, "Have more in each stage of your pipeline at all times, so the sales cycle just seems shorter." Of course, that rarely makes anyone feel better. So based on our experience, here are 10 rules that will help make your sales process move more quickly:
It’s 4 PM on a Thursday. You’re about to meet the CEO of a large company you’d like to win as a client. The conversation starts as you walk into the office, approach the CEO, stretch out your hand, and say, “Nice to meet you, Jill. I’m Steve Webb.” Fast forward 7 months later. It’s 3 PM on a Wednesday. You head into the office. Jill gets out from behind her desk and says, “Good to see you again, Steve. Here’s the signed contract for the initial $1.2 million. Let’s get started.” Suffice it to say, a lot has to happen between “hello” and “let’s go.” Yet two things are true. 1) This is how it happens. And, 2) how to lead sales conversations, influence your prospects to want to buy, buy from you, buy a robust solution, and pay full price for it confounds many people. But it doesn’t have to.
How many of us have heard from prospects, "Your fees are too high," "Someone else will do it for less," or "I don't see why I have to pay all that money just to have you do an audit, write a brief, create a marketing plan, etc.?" And, more important, how many resist the urge to simply lower our fees to get the work?
Sometimes it’s just easy. You meet a person and connect. Conversation flows. You find common areas professionally and personally. Ideas bounce back and forth, and you start talking about how you can work on something together. Before you know it, work is under way, and the collaboration is the definition of one plus one equals three. Sometimes it ain’t easy. You meet a person, and they’re all business. Getting them to engage with you in any sense is slow. Painful. You open up and share, provide great ideas, and work hard to get the other person to see the value in working with you. It should be plain to see, but it’s not. You’re met with aloofness and suspicion. You try to engage on a personal level and ask, "How was your weekend?" His reply, "Fine." Then dead air.
Achieving your goals isn't a slam dunk. Can you do what it takes to meet them? I recently started going to a personal trainer. At the beginning of our very first session, she asked, "So, what are you trying to accomplish?" "To get in better shape?", I hesitantly answered. "Well, without a clear goal, you will not be able to see your progress, you will lose momentum, and we won't be able to see if the training is paying off."
There are thousands of ways to kill a sale. Some are obvious like not showing up to a meeting prepared, not following up, not listening, not establishing trust, going to proposal too early, not speaking to decision makers... the list goes on. These are all pretty easy to see and with some work and practice can be overcome. Then there are the killers that hide beneath the surface that many sellers and sales managers do not even know exist. They are the sales weaknesses that are a part of an individual salesperson’s makeup that act like weights pulling them down.
The following is expanded content from our new book Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation. In this piece, co-authors Mike Schultz and John Doerr explain how to get at the root causes of need so you can solve prospect challenges in the most permanent and helpful way. Read more about the book here.
The following is expanded content from our new book Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation. In this piece, co-authors Mike Schultz and John Doerr explain that to improve sales persuasion skills, the underlying components of influence must be understood and applied. Read more about the book here.
“If I could just get a meeting with my target prospects I am certain I could close five (or six or eight) out of every ten.” How many of you think the same thing? You know that when you get in front of the prospect you can wow them. Every time a lead comes into the firm and you go on the sales meeting, it's a slam dunk. Made-in-the-shade. Can of corn. You know you'll get the gig. Let's assume you set a meeting with someone you believe will be a good prospect. It's not from a referral – they neither know you nor have they heard of you beforehand. Thus there is no transferred trust as when you are referred in. It's also not from a client who's sought you out, thus there's no hot need. You targeted them, and you asked them for a meeting.