You might be surprised to know how many land mines exist in the sales process. In fact, there are many more chances for your sales people to blow it with a prospect than for them to impress.
Getting people to say yes, whether it’s to a $50 monthly subscription or a $500,000 technology sale, is complex in its own right.
It comes down to this: Are your people telling your prospects everything they need, when they need it, so they feel safe hiring your firm?
Here are nine ways your sales people might be blowing it during your sales process, and how they should adjust their activities to move all of your prospective clients forward.
1. Not asking enough questions. Your prospects don’t want to hear about you. They want to talk about themselves: their business, their situation, their challenges and the solutions they’ve tried. How could you know what to recommend if you don’t ask them a ton of questions to thoroughly understand their current situation? You need to create a document that outlines ALL of the questions your people should be asking prospects. This also provides consistency across your team.
2. Jumping right to the solution. We know your sales people have been doing this for so long: They think they know what the prospect needs after just five minutes. But that doesn’t make the prospect feel safe. Even if you do know the solution, you need to take prospects through a process that makes them feel like you’re doing your due diligence. You need to ask them all the questions, spend time creating recommendations and educate them so they know as much as you do. By taking your time, you actually shorten your sales cycle.
3. Underestimating or overestimating what your contact knows. The old adage says, "You can't judge a book by its cover," and it's true. Start every conversation with a new prospect like it’s a blank piece of paper. Let the prospect fill up the paper with his or her story. Just because one of our prospects has been in marketing for 20 years doesn’t mean she knows anything about inbound marketing. Ask the right questions to uncover the right information, and then build your profile accordingly.
4. Failing to advise. Your new inbound sales process is made up of key conversations. You have to make sure that each of these includes the ability for your sales person to advise your prospect to some extent. Each conversation should come with a teaching moment. Your team should be able to share a related story, situation or example of a similar challenge that a similar client had, and how your team was able to apply something to help. Share with your prospect what you did, why you did it and how it helped your client. In doing so, you develop a much more collaborative relationship, as opposed to the sales-person-versus-prospect one that you probably have now.
5. Not saying no early enough. Most sales people hate hearing no. But with an inbound sales process, you want to hear no, and you want to hear it early. The worst possible scenario is getting to the end of a long sales cycle and not getting the business. In fact, you need to do your best to filter out prospects that don’t fit your perfect persona for the types of people and businesses you want to work with. Don’t be shy to say no to a prospect, but say it early and say it because you know whom you want to be working with.
6. Not sharing your process with prospects. The less mystery you have in your process, the more your prospects are going to be comfortable with and amenable to it. People want to be led, and they want to be part of a process if they think it’s going to get them what they want. Share your process, make sure your prospects know that you are committed to it and let them know where they are within that process each step of the way. This actually makes them feel comfortable. And when prospects feel comfortable, they buy.
7. Telling prospects what they need. You can’t just tell your prospects what they need, even if you know. You have to work on creating the solution together. We call this co-creation. When you co-create the final recommendations, pricing and terms, it’s very difficult for them to say no. And it’s even more difficult for them to change any of those details at the last minute. After all, they told you what they wanted. This also helps you predict revenue and forecast when new clients are going to close. It’s going to increase your close rate dramatically.
8. Calling or emailing without something to share. Don’t call or email me unless you have something interesting. Don’t just call me to “follow up.” Following up doesn’t even fit into a well-defined selling process. While persistence is great, it’s better when you have something to help me make a solid purchase decision. You're able to fix this by creating a sales process that defines what calls happen when, and what information gets shared during those calls.
9. Not being hyper-responsive. Your sales team only has one task: to help your prospects. This is an opportunity to be hyper-responsive, especially today, when everyone's smartphones allow them to respond via email, text or phone instantly. This is one of those land mines. Have you heard this before or even said it yourself: “If they can’t get back to me when they are trying to earn my business, how are they going to treat me after I’m their customer?” Blow prospects away during the process by being hyper-responsive, and you’ll have one more way to deliver a remarkable experience.
Yes, there are a lot of places to screw up the opportunity. The good news is that most of these risks can be mitigated with a solid process, training and a team of people committed to an inbound sales approach. Don’t try to make all of these changes at once. Sales people are notoriously slow to change. Just keep making small adjustments to your process over time, and before you know it, you’ll be running an inbound sales effort.
Start Today Tip – Yesterday, your homework was to document and map your current process. Today, start adding in extra steps, stripping out the sales stuff and inserting the guiding and advising parts. Set some guidelines for your team on how to be hyper-responsive, and work in planned emails with educational information for your team to share at just the right moment in the process. Ask your team to share this new process with your prospects and gauge their response. You’re going to be surprised at how engaged prospects get when they know you're taking them through a series of well-thought-out steps.
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