Friday, May 27, 2011

Tell Me Where it Hurts!

OK, you've gotten yourself in the door, so I assume you've researched your prospect and done some initial qualifying. If you are sitting across the desk from him/her, you must have done something that intrigued them enough to see you. You know who they are, what they do, who they compete with and how they market their brand. You also know they utilize a product comparable to yours and they might need some of the features and benefits that your product offers. So how do you find out if they'll buy from you or not?

This is where you have to accomplish the deep qualifying necessary to demonstrate to them that you understand their business and more importantly, how your product can be of service to them. It's sometimes called searching for pain. The prospect may not be aware that they are suffering; they may not know there is a solution to one or more of their problems; they may think they've done their job as well as they possibly can and they don't need you. But, you’ve convinced them to see you, so now it's time to go to work!

How do you find the pain without overtly telling them they are sick? This is where you become the doctor and convince them of the value in participating in a wellness check-up. They may not even be looking for a cure or know that they have a problem that requires relief. The pain can be caused by anything; maybe they're spending too much money on their current solution, maybe their requirements have changed and they need to add on, or maybe their current solution is not living up to expectations! But, it is always about solving a problem that is causing them some kind of headache. You just have to discover what it is and have them agree that they are in pain.

Deep Qualifying Stage
You, being the savvy and experienced salesperson who knows your product inside and out, your competitors inside and out and how your product fits into your prospect's business, can now start the consultative sales process. Now you may suggest that you have a conversation about their current plans, vendors, needs, budgets and upcoming changes that will  help you determine if you can assist them or not. Before you begin this process you must know the questions you want to ask to start and keep the ball rolling. The questions should be designed to bring out as much information as possible, lead the prospect to certain conclusions and cause the prospect to question whether they are being as efficient and effective as they can be with their current vendor’s solution. The more conversational this wellness check up is, the better. Let them do the talking!

In one of the sales organizations I led some years ago we used a ten point qualifier developed by our top salesperson. It had ten questions the salesperson would ask and each answer would have a value attached to it. For instance one of the probing questions was about our competition and asked; what solution are you using now? The prospect would answer the question (Competitor A) and we would know what numerical value to place on the answer because we knew how we stacked up against Competitor A. So, on a scale of 1-10 the answer value might’ve been a 6; then the next question would work the same way. By the end of the wellness check up we were able to average the answer values and if the prospect came out to a 7.5 or above, that meant they were well qualified for our solution. If not, we would tell them we probably couldn't help them and move on. Sometimes it got pretty humorous because some of the prospects that failed to qualify would ask to take the "test" again to see if we might stay and help them.

If you embrace the wellness check-up style of selling you will become a trusted consultant instead of just another pesky salesperson. You won't waste your time or your prospect's and you will create loyal customers and be very successful. Knowledge and sincerity sell, but that's another lesson.

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Mike Feeley

Friday, May 20, 2011

Feed The Funnel So It Feeds You!

Click to Enlarge
This is the infamous Sales Funnel. It is quite possibly the only sales territory planning tool you will ever need. If its processes are implemented properly, it will tell you exactly what you have to do to achieve your target sales revenue every month, quarter and year. All you have to know is what your goals are and what the average value-per-sale is and you can work backward from there to determine how many suspects are needed in the funnel. As an example; if your revenue production goal is $10,000 and the average sale is worth $2,500, you will have to close four sales to reach your goal. If you have a 14% close percentage, you will have to put 28 to 32 potential customers into the funnel to be successful. If you can keep 28 to 32 suspects in the funnel at all times, you should see the desired sales results.

By determining the number of suspects you need to have in the funnel, you can direct your prospecting efforts in a much more focused manner. Through your qualifying activity you will quickly determine the real opportunities to assign to your forecast and then you can concentrate on closing those deals. If at any time during the process you find that you have underestimated the number of suspects necessary to hit your goals, you may wish to increase you prospecting activity. To mitigate the risk in stop-and-start prospecting it would be wise to prospect on a regular basis. The sales funnel tool is invaluable for just this kind of planning.

Once you have implemented funnel management and fine tuned it to fit your industry/sector you can help your marketing team better understand the attributes of your target prospects. That will enable them to better focus their efforts in acquiring superior leads for you. And in the end, you will be concentrating on the deals that have a better chance of closing. Everyone wins!

The sales funnel is a valuable tool for any salesperson, but it must be fine tuned to fit your experience with how your suspects and prospects are qualified to make it onto your forecast. It is my experience that 75% or more suspects and prospects fall out after being firmly qualified. How do you firmly qualify suspects and prospects? Well, that's another lesson. Click the Follow button on this page to be alerted to the next lesson.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Did You Sell Today?

This is the question everybody asks a salesperson, every day. They may not ask it directly, but they all want to know. Peers, Sales Managers, Directors, VPs, Presidents and CEOs all want to know what you did to make the company successful today and you'd better have an answer. In the current B2B selling atmosphere in the US, you cannot rely on your talent alone. You must be organized and busily networking.

Successful salespeople move suspects, prospects, and customers through the Sales Funnel every day. I learned early on in my sales career that you have to sell something every day to be a success. Now, this can mean as little as moving a sale forward in the process by getting a concept across or actually closing a sale with a signed order. In complex sales that have many steps, it is nearly impossible to close an order every day, but if you move the sales cycle to the next level every day, you will have accomplished this goal.

So, how do you move suspects, prospects and customers through the Sales Funnel? You must complete the steps of the sale, which will weed out the unqualified prospects and make it much easier to move the real opportunities through to completion.

In my experience in high tech Sales for over 30 years there is a sales process that never fails. If you adhere to it, you will be successful; if you don’t you will struggle. Here are the steps to follow once you have leads:
  1. Research & Qualify
  2. Set The Appointment
  3. Meet with the Prospect
  4. Qualify the Opportunity
  5. Conduct a Technical Assessment
  6. Create the Solution Proposal
  7. Trial Close
  8. Present a Final Proposal
  9. Close
  10. Set the Deliverables Expectations
There are many sub tasks that make up these steps, but if you can move a prospect through these steps to a satisfactory conclusion and repeat it over and over again, you will have a successful sales career.

As a Salesperson, your job doesn’t end with the close. You might say this is just the beginning of the relationship you’ll want to build with the customer, but that’s another lesson.