One of the greatest difficulties in sales is helping buyers understand what outcomes they will achieve when they work with you.
Creating a picture of what outcomes are possible with the solution you present is imperative for two reasons:
Helping buyers to understand the value of the solutions you provide is an exercise in teaching and learning. Buyers need to understand what will be different for them and their organization if they purchase from you versus not doing it at all or buying from a competitor.
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?
How many times have you left a sales meeting and thought, "I should have said that..."?
Or, during a meeting, as you listened to what a prospect was saying, you thought, "That's not right; he will be making a big mistake if he goes down that path," but you never voiced your opinion?
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.
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.
Ask a group of professional services providers how much of their business comes from existing clients and the answers usually will be 60%, 70%, 80%, or even more. Then ask them how much time they put into nurturing those same clients and the answers will be a little, not much, or none. Finally, ask why they spend so little time building relationships when there is potential for so much new business and the answers will be:
"Don't want to be a pest."
"Don’t have the time."
"I am not sure what to do to keep in touch."
"I feel like a stalker."
Obviously, doing great work is the first step in keeping in the best graces of your clients. But client loyalty can be fleeting and is not something you should take for granted.
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 RAIN Group’s research and experience, here are the first five of ten commandments that will help make your sales process move more quickly.
It usually takes a long time to find a shorter way. - Anonymous
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.
(This post is the first in a series of blog posts on the new rules of selling.)
Win-win is a common negotiating philosophy. The idea is to find solutions that satisfy the interests of both parties, and maximize value on both sides. Since repeat business and referrals are so important in complex sales, employing win-win as part of your selling technique and philosophy should be a foregone conclusion.
At RAIN Group, our advice to organizations looking to create a culture of sustained, serious selling: Make sure the bucket doesn't have any holes or it won't hold water.
Time and again we see organizations doing a certain percent of what they need to do to help their teams achieve more sales success and increase sales performance (our favorite, “Can you come in and give a 90-minute speech that will charge up the team for the next 12 months?”), but rarely do they put forth 100% effort. If you're only doing 70% of what you need to do to increase sales performance, you don't get 70% results; you get much less. Like patching a leak in the bottom of a boat, if you don't patch it 100%, it still takes on water.
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."
I have been truly obsessed with baseball lately. My beloved Red Sox folded faster than the deck chairs on the Titanic in one of the greatest meltdowns in all of baseball history. And the talk shows are full of Danny from Quincy and Al from Everett suggesting changes that need to happen in the off-season. One fan suggested freshening up the pitching staff by having relievers start games, starters come in to relieve, and closers (generally relegated to the ninth inning) pitch from the seventh on. What a disaster that would be!
This summer, I finally decided I was ready to go from the junior varsity batting cages (65 mph) to the high school varsity cages (80 mph). Boy was that a mistake. I did foul one off, but the experience was mostly entertainment for my sons and their college friends. Later that day, I checked to see just how fast my reaction time had to be to square up on an 80 mph pitch. My findings: less than ½ second. I had no chance. I can’t imagine facing Justin Verlander and his 100 mph pitches.
Fast forward (no pun intended) to yesterday. I was in Chicago speaking to a client about his sales team. In his view, they have the necessary selling skills, the desire to sell, and the motivation to sell. But something is missing. He knows they can be doing so much more. As we dug deeper, it became clear that they can’t catch up to the fastball.
First of all, the products and services they sell are complex and require a great deal of sales knowledge to understand. My client does provide extensive “product” training and when quizzed some of his salespeople will get most of it right…and most will get some of it right. Good, but not good enough. Buyers are picky, looking for guidance, and want to buy from experts. Knowing some of it only sometimes…strike one!
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.
I love the movie Groundhog Day. If you haven’t seen it, please do. If you have, then you will remember that Bill Murray, the lead, masters the piano, develops incredible medical diagnostic skills, becomes fluent in French, and learns to change tires in minutes. All the while covering the breaking news of the emergence of Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog signaling a longer winter – hence the movie title).
And Murray does all this in one day. I want to do that. The fact that he has to live the same day over and over and over again until he gets his life right is…well, just a minor detail.
|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.|
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 stress the importance of continuous self-evaluation in your efforts to reach sales success. Read more about the book here.
Imagine for a minute you’re a master carpenter. You’ve been building houses your whole life, trying your best to hone your craft and deliver the highest quality work every day that you possibly could.
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.
Arthur Miller - Death of a Salesman
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.
And when sales people talk too much, they generate too few customers. So why do those of us trying to grow our pipelines constantly find ourselves in this position? Perhaps because, we do not understand why we talk too much.
I recently conducted a webinar for a client on sales prospecting. Leading up to the webinar, I asked what questions the client had in regards to prospecting so I could tailor the content to their particular challenges. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I only got one response. And that is not because they are masters of prospecting. Quite the contrary. It's because they do so little of it and were unsure of what questions to ask. Like most sellers, they were doing little prospecting at all.
“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.