All posts tagged Sales process

“When Will This Deal Close?”

All sales leaders would love to have a crystal ball that would accurately predict incoming sales revenue. Too often sales management is left wondering at month’s end where the promised sales are from the sales team that said it would come in and then failed to appear…again.

If we looked at this company’s sales pipeline, odds are this is what we would see:

a.  Not enough new opportunities

b.  Predicted closing that get delayed

c.  Not enough of the right kind of opportunities

d.  Opportunities that seem to be stuck and never move to the next stage

From working with companies over the last 20 years, I can also say with confidence what I won’t see with this company–a formal, structured, optimized sales process. Would you be surprised to learn that 91% of all companies suffer from this condition? And here’s the impact:

1.  The company loses its most powerful tool to accurately forecast sales and drive profitable revenue through its sales pipeline in a realistic time frame.

2.  Salespeople can’t effectively qualify their opportunities. They can only go with their gut or ‘quesstimate’ when  asked by management  whether their deals will close–and when they don’t close, offer up the same tired excuses.

3.  Sales management can’t effectively coach the sales team using a ‘common sales language’ and thus hold them  to a formal standard of selling strategies and behaviors which sends the underlying message to the salespeople:  “This is the way we do it at this company.”

4.  Research from the CSO Insights organization in 2012 revealed that less than 50% of forecasted deals actually were won. About 27% were lost to competition and about 26% resulted in no buying activity at all. Without a formal, structured, optimized sales process, it’s difficult for management to prioritize valuable resources to pursue deals that will actually happen and the company has a good chance to win.

A formal, structured, optimized sales process should have these two qualities:   First, it must have defined steps that are clearly performed and, when executed correctly, provide expected results and second, it must have a concrete method of measuring progress made.

A well trained and well coached sales force, following a this type of sales process will see these results:

  1. Shorter sales cycles
  2. Higher conversion rates
  3. More repeat business
  4. Higher margins
  5. More accurate forecasting

Finally, for a little bit of fun, watch this clip from “The Italian Job” and see a structured, optimized ‘process’ come to life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Do Your Salespeople Know the Score?

Sales Manager: “Is the ABC Company deal ready to close?”

Salesperson: “I think they really like what we showed them in our proposal.
We should hear back from them soon!”

Do conversations like this really take place? Maybe I’m exaggerating but I’m also sure they happen very close to the above dialogue in many companies on a daily basis.

When a salesperson responds with ambiguous, vague language or with a personal opinion (really, a guess) about the status of a sale, it’s a sure sign they’re not using a systemmatic approach to the sales process that’s designed to achieve consistent, predictable results along the way while also providing feedback relative to where they are in the process and what they must do to get a successful outcome.

In other words, they don’t know the score of the ‘game’. They’ve lost their situational awareness and worse, they’ve lost control of the sale to the prospect.

Extensive research from Objective Management Group shows that 91% of companies they’ve assessed have no formal, structured sales process. In fact, Dave Kurlan of OMG says an optimized sales process “is a huge difference maker, keeping salespeople focused on what must be done, when, with whom and in over what period ot time. It helps salespeople gain traction, improves conversion ratios, leads to bigger margins and increases in revenue.”

Is your company one of the 91%…or one of the 9% that have decided they need to know the score of every game they play?

For a real world example of what ‘not knowing the score’ looks like, watch this from the baseball world.

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Want To Sell More? Rela-a-a-a-x!

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. 

                                                                                          –Chinese Proverb

Think about this question for a moment. When you (or your salespeople) are engaged in the sales process, are you relaxed, at ease, calm on the inside? Or are you tense, uptight, anxious, nervous?

Most people will want to know what's happening at any particular point in a sales call before they answer the question. Encountering resistance from a prospect? Receiving a stall or objection to product or service offering? Or are they having a great meeting where quality information is exchanged and a next step is clearly defined and understood by both parties? Most salespeople will react differently to the first set of circumstances than to the second set.

Of course, for sales mastery, the objective is to be relaxed at all times, no matter what's occurring in the sales process. Only when we are relaxed can we perform in a manner that allows us to use our knowledge, skills and abilities effectively.

It's when we "tense up" that we get in trouble. Some salespeople are still stuck in the old "selling" mindset of "I have to go in and sell/show/convince them why they should buy from us.". These salespeople think they should be 'salespeople' and 'sell' their prospects. What happens as a result? They look, act and sound like salespeople which is the opposite of what prospects prefer. They want to work with problem solvers who will fix their problems, issues or concerns and add or create value as part of the sales interaction.

When a sales professional moves from the old "selling" mindset to the new "problem solving" mindset, all of their tension melts away and disappears.

Why? Armed with a way of thinking and belief system that says that prospects must sell the salesperson that they have a problem worth fixing and they want the salesperson to help them with the solution, the 'relaxed' sales professional feels more confident and in control when executing their sales process! They don't sell the prospect. The sales professional creates the environment where they don't have to close. Instead the prospect buys!

Which method do you want to use? Which method do you want your sales team to use?

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Knowing vs. Doing

How is your sales team doing with the 'knowing vs. doing' challenge? You know what I'm talking about.

The 'knowing' part of professional sales is a salesperson's knowledge of selling as a process. The elements of this process are qualifying for problems, money and decision process, positioning value, etc.

Along with these process steps salespeople will also need to know the selling skills necessary for executing the process. These are the communication skills–asking questions, active listening, getting commitments, building relationships and dealing with resistance.

As a sales leader you should be working on developing your team's selling skills based on evaluating your team and what you are observing on joint sales calls in the field. This can also be accomplished by consistently conducting role-playing in your sales meetings. You should monitor this role playing and listen/look for gaps in your salepeople's skills. Based on your evaluations and observations you can then provide the 'knowledge' to fill in the gaps. This is the knowing part of the equation.

However, as noted sales guru Dave Kurlan is fond of saying, a salesperson's "knowledge of selling as a process is not enough to help them execute effectively on a daily basis."

Execution is the 'doing' part of selling. Rationally, we all know what we should be doing in the sales process. But taking what you know and turning it into what you do is one of life's biggest challenges. Those of us that have ever taken a golf lesson know what I'm talking about.

Again, as sales leaders, you should be evaluating your team for certain sales weaknesses that prevent them from executing what they know how to do in the many different sales situations in which they find themselves. In other words, they know what to do…but they don't do it.

These sales weaknesses can be one of a number of things–need for approval, non-supportive buy cycle, self-limiting beliefs, a tendency to get emotionally involved (internally), discomfort in talking about money or difficulty in recovering from rejection.

Addressing these weaknesses requires a more concerted effort by sales leaders than when working with salespeople to improve their selling skills. While the fix for each weakness is different and unique, the common denominator is addressing the individual's beliefs about selling that serve as an obstacle and predetermine their effectiveness and outcomes.

As an example, if a salesperson is uncomfortable having an in-depth financial discussion with a prospect about budget, pricing or terms, it's usually because of a limiting belief about money that was passed along to them by a parent or authority figure when they were younger:  "It's not polite to talk about money, son."

Note:  Working on these weaknesses with salespeople should always be done in a one on one coaching setting. Salespeople will be more open to your coaching and you'll get the best results in this type of setting.

Last thought on this subject–when coaching your people to overcome these weaknesses, remember to be patient. It takes time to fix them. At the same time, be firm, hold your people accountable and accept no excuse-making for not making progress!

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The CEO and the Sales Call

Here's a familiar scenario that is happening more and more these days. Company CEO's are now more active than ever participants in the  company's sales process for retaining current customers and developing new business. The most common form is the "joint call" with the salesperson in the account.

Whether you are a CEO or a salesperson here is a short list of guidelines (there are more) for a joint call that includes the sales organization's CEO.

1) "Plans are worthless but planning is everything."

You may be familiar with this Dwight D. Eisenhower quote. The critical thinking and discussions that occur during a pre-call planning session prior to a sales call are more valuable than the plan that emerges. Obviously, you won't need to do this for every sales call but if you are pursuing a 'whale', exercising your planning muscles before the call is indispensable. Take the example of a PGA golf professional. What do they do during the week of a tournament? They play a practice round to find out how the course is 'playing' to determine what it will take to shoot a competitive score and win the tournament. It may rain the third day of the four day tournament and playing conditions may change completely. Because they went through the planning process (the practice round), they will more easily be able to adapt to a new approach and still be successful.

CEO Tip:  Allow your salesperson to lead the planning process. It will not only help them take ownership of the plan, but it will give you a measure of their strategic thinking capabilities as well.

2) Define what success will look like.

Too many salespeople don't have a clearly defined goal for the sales call. This is usually revealed in the pre-call planning session. If a formal planning meeting wasn't done, perhaps because of the size of the account, the lack of a specific meeting outcome will then become known during the car ride to the call when the CEO asks, "So why are we seeing this person today?" What he will hear is some vague, ambiguous response about how the salesperson thinks that it's a good idea for the customer to meet the CEO.

I may be exaggerating, but not much.

CEO Tip: As CEO, consistently ask your salesperson what the goal of the call is and don't accept anything less than a clear, concise action step to be taken by the customer.

3) "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players."

Maybe Shakespeare was a sales leader at one time as well as a writer. I can't stress enough how important it is for the CEO and their salespeople to be on the same page and know what their roles are in the sales meeting. Is the CEO there as a presence for the company, to share the company story or conduct part of the call? There should be no mutual mystification here.

CEO Tip: Remember the 4 W's: Who will say What to Whom When?

4) Follow your process.

Dave Kurlan of Objective Management Group reports that 91% of the companies OMG has evaluated since 1985 (covering 500,000 salespeople) do not have a formal, structured sales process. That is an amazing number. If your company currently has an effective sales process, congratulations! Make sure that you and your team stay focused in it and execute it consistently! If you don't, I'll remind you of W. Edwards Deming's thoughts on the subject: "If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing."

CEO Tip: Because you wear seventeen hats and all before noon, it's not necessary that you have the same mastery of the company's sales process as ideally required of your salespeople. However, you should have enough knowledge of it in order to recognize that it's being implemented effectively in the field and to be able to ask great coaching questions in your sales call de-briefings with your salespeople.

5) Be prepared to be unprepared.

A sales organization can faithfully follow all of the above guidelines and somthing totally unexpected may still occur during the sales call. Anyone who has been in sales for awhile has experienced one of these moments. Embrace them! They are tests of how well you and your sales team have developed their competence in executing your sales process, it's concepts and strategies. Learn to use these episodes to learn a lesson that will enable your people to react better in the future and improve their effectiveness.

Sales organizations that follow these guidelines for CEO involvement in the sales process will see significant effectiveness in their sales results!

 

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Are You Still Winging It?

I recently came across something that totally astounded me. While doing some research, I came across a business resource website that contained information covering a wide range of topics. Under 'Sales' was a section that was devoted to 'Closing Techniques'. Out of curiosity I clicked on it and it listed sixty-eight (68) different closing techniques! You read that right! 68 closes!

Now granted, if you eliminated half of these closes because they are more appropriate for retail sales than business to business sales, that still leaves you with over thirty different closes. Even if you wanted to use them, who can remember all of them, at the right time, in the right situation? I don't think anyone is that good!

But do you have to be 'that good'? Here is my point: The necessity of using a 'close' in a sales process or relying on a 'close' to make a sale is the direct result of not having well-designed, systematic sales process to use in place of a 'close'.

What I mean by a systematic sales process is one that eliminates the need for a close. Instead, the salesperson's sales process would be designed to determine 1) whether the prospect has any compelling reasons for changing his current reality, usually to fix a problem or acquire a desired gain, 2) whether the prospect sees the seller as someone who is uniquely positioned to provide a solution and 3) whether there is any urgency for the buyer to take the first two steps now. If these three steps are executed properly, there would be no necessity for a close because the prospect would take action and close themselves in order to fix the problem or acquire the gain.

So, what are you doing?

As a salesperson or a sales leader, are you just winging it when you engage with a prospect or are you implementing your systematic sales process that will efficiently help you close the sale and get the business? 

To read more about the objectives and characteristics of a systematic sales process, you can go here and here.  

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“The Mission is Ordnance on Target”

The focus of this post is "focus".

The focus of the Navy Frigate Captain's observation (above) is simple, clear, concise and easy to understand. No mystification. The ship is designed and equipped for one purpose. The crew is trained to accomplish one purpose. the captain's decisions and commands are performed for one purpose–ordnance on target.

Now let's compare the Navy's approach to its mission to how salespeople deal with the sales process–

Do salespeople approach their sales calls with a 'mission'?

Is that mission as tightly defined as 'ordnance on target'?

Are their strategies designed to accomplish the mission?

Are they trained to execute those strategies effectively?

Do they perform the strategies with one purpose–to achieve the mission?

Or–

Do most salespeople wing it?

Do they not do any pre-call planning to determine what outcome they want to get?

Do they not do 'what if…?' scenario planning to take into account any anticipated eventualities in their sales meetings so they don't get caught by surprise and thrown off track?

Do they not receive any sales training to improve their selling skills?

Is their decision making performed to achieve a tactical outcome rather than a strategic one?

One group of salespeople is high performing.

One group of salespeople is underachieving.

Do you recognize focus, ordnance on target, when you see it?

 

 

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Top Ten Ways to Be an Advisor in the Sales Process

Too many salespeople these days are just that–salespeople. In the way they look, act and behave, they don't stand out from their peers. And they definitely don't stand out in the minds of their prospects and customers. Result? They get commoditized, shopped, talked down to and ignored. Here's a list of necessary attributes to move from 'salesperson' to 'advisor'.

1. Advisors don't fear a 'No' – They know when sales opportunities are a good fit or not. They prefer to lose early, save selling costs and go and engage with prospects with whom they have a higher percentage of getting the business.

2. Advisors know how to push back – If all salespeople do is show up and accept at face value everything prospects tell them about what they want or how they view the world, they are a facilitator in their prospect's eyes. Advisors know how to effectively challenge what they hear and see and in the process, build respect and value in the minds of their customers.

3. Advisors use 'business language' rather than 'sales language' – They discuss market share, ROI, share of wallet, cost reduction, etc. with their customers. Prospects want to buy from business people, not salespeople.

4. Advisors see themselves as change agents – They are experts in quickly determining if the customer's current reality calls for change and whether the customer can effectively and efficiently execute that change.

5. Advisors recover quickly from rejection – All people involved in the sales process get rejected. For some, it's a day killer, maybe a week killer. For a very few, it's a month killer. High achievers take a lesson from a lost sale and promptly move on to the next opportunity in their pipeline.

6. Advisors control the sales process – They use a formal, structured sales process designed to achieve consistent, predictable results while providing them with feedback relative to where they are in the process and what they must do to succeed.

7. Advisors have clear and specific personal goals…in writing – They know where they are going, what they must do to get there and how they will measure progress. Period.

8. Advisors build relationships quickly – They perceive, gather and interpret all the information that prospects give out–body language, behavioral style, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), birth order, educational background, industry expertise, organizational title–and use that knowledge to make other people feel comfortable and safe with them…in a very short period of time.

9. Advisors are great listeners – There is a Native American proverb, "Listen or your tongue will make you deaf". Enough said.

10. Advisors are life long learners – Whether its reading industry trade journals, books on selling or human psychology or listening to self-inprovement audio CD's, high achievers are constantly adding to their knowledge, looking for strategies and tools that will give them that decisive edge over the competition that gains them the sale.

 

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