If there were a Hall of Fame for salespeople, and you closed 30% of your deals, you would be a candidate. Forty percent close rate is a sure first ballot entry and at fifty percent they would dedicate a wing to you.
MAKE Closing Easier
Some of the biggest deals I have ever closed happened when I was away on vacation. Why? Because I did all the right things during the sales cycle so the close happened very easily and naturally (perhaps I should always go on vacation when I am working a big deal!). This includes many elements, including:
- Selling into your “Sweet Spot” as much as possible
- Doing a S.PRI.N.G. Dialogue with the people involved in the decision, especially executives or people in positions of authority
- Building rapport and developing trust during the sales cycle
- Presenting your offer in a compelling way that shows your differences and the benefits of your offer
- Handling objections through out the sales cycle
- Constantly getting a firm next step that is relevant to the client and advantageous to you
- Being responsive to the prospect throughout all stages
Too many salespeople think of closing as only asking for the deal at the end, which of course is essential (or many salespeople are afraid to ask for the close). However, it is just as important for salespeople to be closing throughout the sales process; to keep a sale moving forward from one stage to another and to keep people focused on your product or service, vs. other’s. An important psychological rule of getting people to say yes when you do ask for the order is to have had the prospect take action and invest themselves as much as possible during the sales cycle. The more they are invested, the more difficult it is to back away or to say no.
So let’s define closing as the act of asking someone to do something. It could be little like respond to an e-mail or question or it could be big like visit your office, let you visit them in their home (if you are selling that type of product), meet your family members (if you are selling something that a family can use), have a meal with you or introduce you to their boss in a professional setting.. Closing is done all the time, regardless of the communications medium (in person, over the phone, e-mail, etc.).
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you keeping people focused on your offering through a series of actions and commitments called T.E.E.M. (time – energy – emotion – money)?
- Are you testing the waters/trial closing to make sure you are on track with the people you are selling?
- Can you identify buying signals, warning signals, hidden objections and what to do with them?
- Different types of closing techniques, when to use them and which techniques work best with different DiSC styles?
- Are you getting firm, decisive next steps that are relevant to the client and favor you and your company?
- Do you know what your sweetspot it and sell to it as much as possible?
When is the first time you close? At the very beginning when you ask for an appointment. And the last? When you ask for the deal or negotiate the final item! You need to have a plan to apply as many of these elements to win as much business as possible.
“Closing is not a moment in time but a continuous act throughout the sales cycle”
To a large measure, based on where you started, and how well or poorly you have qualified and worked an opportunity, people will be in one of three frames of mind when you try to overcome their objections:
1. Not Interested, No Way:
This probably means you shouldn’t have been selling to them in the first place but didn’t qualify the opportunity early enough using the S.PRI.N.G. Dialogue or any other method. Or you might be chasing business that looks big and appealing because you don’t have enough in your pipeline. Of course, people can always lie and make you believe they are interested, or might be at the moment but change their mind, but they usually know from the start. The sooner you know you are wasting your time, the better. Go elsewhere as quickly as you can.
2. I’m Open
Unless you are the only game in town, this situation occurs often. You want people to be more inclined then less to buy you or at least be open minded to the possibility of doing so. This occurs by following the steps in your sales process, qualifying the prospect re. their interest in your offer and where it stands regarding other priorities they might have. It might also be a good time to ask the prospect what could internal or external variables could prevent them from making a decision. You can also ask if their objection is with the idea of buying you vs. excluding you.
3. I Want You
You probably have done all or most of the right things for this to occur. This will happen more and more often with experience, knowledge and application of good selling skills and experience in your business. It will also happen more often if you prospect or market to your sweet spot, meeting with the right people, building rapport, asking good questions and making a persuasive presentation that is tailored vs. boilerplate.
I learned about these 3 categories in my first job selling against IBM. At the time, they had over 90% market share so there were a lot of people and companies who wouldn’t consider my offering, even if I showed them it was better and sold it to them for much less money. Two stories stand out vividly. I remember once talking to a Procurement Manager at a University who had just ordered 120 IBM’s to put into storage. I asked him why and he said because “you never know when you will be able to get them”. The second is when a secretary hugged her IBM she was so emotionally attached to it.
Fortunately, there were plenty of opportunities in “Open Minded” and “I Want You” categories. You need to weed out any and all prospects in No Way category as early as possible. They are a waste of your time and unless you have magical powers or can hypnotize people, you will never overcome their objections.
In my last blog, I discussed the importance of asking the right questions in order to know if you are forecasting properly.
Actually, the 22 questions from this week and last week are meant to improve your sales closing and selling skills. These selling questions are meant for you to get more information so you can be more strategic about your opportunities.
- What is the exact process from now to PO? Inc peoples names and roles
- What could prevent this (holidays, people, etc.) from happening?
- Has this been account you are forecasting been delayed before? If so, why is it being forecast now?
- If we got the verbal, what needs to happen to turn it into revenue?
- Any opp’t to upsell or get more on the RFP
- Any chance we will get less?
- Is the competition eliminated?
- How can we move it up or money from elsewhere into this deal?
- Where are we vulnerable
- Do we need executive involvement
- Can we make into smaller pieces so they can process it more easily
- What’s the next step?
What questions do you ask? If you want a list of these and other great questions, click here and I will be happy and send them to you
Most salespeople and sales organizations use %’s to forecast their business, but they aren’t clear about what questions they should be asking to see if the sales opportunity is as good as they think.
Some organizations don't even dig into the specific opportunities. They just ask how confident a salesperson is in their forecast.
This is dangerous stuff since everybody’s definition of 50% is probably different.
So here are some questions you should ask yourself or discuss with your manager if you are saying an opportunity is 50%:
- What are we proposing
- Do we have other business or history with them in the last 12 months
- Is there a compelling event? Who is behind it? Who is champion or Driver?
- Does the buyer have money to make this kind of purchase?
- What are the buying criteria for the potential buyer? How do we fit?
- Did we influence the RFP?
- What value add was offered if any?
- What is our strategy?
- What history do we have to believe them or feel confident?
- Who is telling you it will happen?
What questions do you ask? If you want a list of these and 12 other great questions, click here and I will be happy and send them to you
Below are ideas 5-8 that can be helpful in closing bigger deals.
5. Know their decision process and the people involved so you don't have to chase or guess.
Bigger deals involve many more people and checks and balances. Companies are very bureaucratic and processed when larger deals are involved. Different people have different signature authorities for money or influence dependent upon their role. Find out as early as possible what the process is so there are no surprises and you can align resources
6. If you must, use discounting wisely. Keep something in your back pocket.
Regardless what people say, discounting is a standard or common part of a sales process. I am not saying you should discount haphazardly or unnecessarily, but if you have to offer anything, do not offer it too early and not have anything left at the end. Having said that, if you can offer something has more value than money to the prospect, then do that.
7. Use your management and pre/post sales support team early and often.
A lot of salespeople do not use their resources well or properly. Specifically, they don't introduce the people that will be supporting the client. It diminishes your ability, makes you look smaller than you are and puts you at a competitive disadvantage, especially if the competition is doing it. It also gives you different people to establish relations and get information that is critical to win large deals.
8. Know your negotiation strategy so the deal doesn't get delayed.
There are multiple negotiation strategies you can use. The way you start establishing your negotiation strategy is to use a selling strategy that reflects the same. You can take a more direct, conciliatory or integrative approach with the prospect. It also means knowing how the prospect tends to negotiate and setting the right expectations in what might happen in a negotiation.
Stay tuned for more, in the meantime, do reach out to me if you have any suggestions or questions.
The next 4 blogs will break down 19 different action items, tactics you can take to close bigger deals.
This is certainly not the definitive list, but it will help you be mindful of some of the most important things to do.
1. Assign an executive sponsor early as possible
• There is an old saying “build the bridge before the flood”.
• Having an executive sponsor will help you get into higher levels of an organization.
• This is essential because you can use this relationship to gain information you would not
gain otherwise and to either close the deal faster or save the deal if you are in trouble.
2. Increase Face – Face time
• Big deals take longer to close.
• Many of us have so many accounts and responsibilities that we work on what are in front
of us and forget to pay attention to the bigger deal.
• Having face time with the prospect is critical because it puts you in a position of
advantage if your competition isn’t doing it and builds the relationship at many levels.
• This is particularly important if the prospect is far away from everyone and rarely gets
3. If the deal crosses territories or oceans, share in the wealth and work with others
• More often than not, compensation plans are not written to promote cooperation amongst
different territories or regions.
• Larger deals often have people in the decision process who are in multiple regions
• It is incumbent upon you to get other people involved even if it means a smaller part
of the commission.
• It is difficult to cover this kind of opportunity otherwise and shows the depth of your
organization to handle a larger opportunity.
4. Get contracts done or issues ahead of time. Use contract as part of close
• If you can get the contract process done earlier than later (which is not easy),
you can shorten the sales process and you can use the contract to close the deal.
• If it has already been invested in, and it is a good contract for both parties,
you have already taken a lot of the pain out of the process.
Watch for my next blog and if you have any questions reach out to me.
In working with a client in helping define their sales process for an enterprise solution, we went through the usual steps of what has to happen, when and who has to do what.
We created a master list and then we chose the items they could apply to existing deals in order to shorten the sales cycle. This was extremely helpful in having them see what they could do.
Finally we turned the whole sales process upside down and started with the end in mind.
So here is what we suggest:
1. In first meeting the client, tell them what your objective is which is to demonstrate a significant cost savings. In fact, the account they are speaking to was chosen from the few that met their criteria. If they didn't meet the criteria, they, the vendor wouldn't have reached out.
2. The vendor is so confident of their offer they will do real testing and modeling showing the prospect what their actual savings is (you may have to offer something else based on your company’s capabilities).
3. Of course, the vendor needs to show them how it will be done and answer questions, but
4. After that is done they are asking the person they are meeting with to sponsor this project in the organization.
5. If the prospect doesn't know how to make this happen, the vendor will show them how it has been done in other organizations.
Of course in the real world there will be many prospects who will not respond to this and the vendor may have to go back to a more traditional model.
In addition, the vendor and salesperson has to avoid being too verbose or arrogant but present the offer in a way where the prospect can see the opportunity in front of them.
I hope you like this idea. Try it in some accounts to see how people react.
Reach out to me if you have any questions.
Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, etc. all automate the process of interacting with a prospect or customer from the beginning to the end of the sales process.
But what if you can’t afford any of these services, or for whatever reason you are not using them. What if you are a small company or even a sales person working on your own?
The most important thing you can do is to understand the SOE (sequence of events) that increases your close ratio.
Sales Time Line
Bring to mind a deal you are working on or have won in the past that you would like to repeat as often as possible. Do you recall what steps you took with the prospect during their buying process?
It is important to know that the more you can get a customer to do with you the more likely it is you will get the sale since they have committed a lot to you. They will want to recoup their investment of time, energy and sometimes even money.
Here are some ideas of things you can do during the sales process:
- Have a reference call the prospect
- Send some information or a white paper if you have one
- Use Google Alerts or other source to keep track of what is happening with the client or their industry and use that to stay in touch
- Have them visit your office or set up a time for entertainment
- Use LinkedIn or others to see where you have common connections and let the person know
- If you know their personal interests or hobbies, send info about these.
If you can identify the tactics that work best, you can put them into your process and just remind yourself with Outlook or some other tool to remind you what to send and when to send it. It will have the same impact as the more sophisticated solutions available in the market.
Let me know if you have any suggestions, need help or want to talk about it.
technology enabled selling,
It is the second week of the year, (really the first full week) and it may be your first week back.
Let me go a little bit more in depth with some of the points from last weeks blog, Salespeople, 22 Tips for 2013 -- Another New Year! to help get you started:
Do I know where my success came from last year?
What did I do to make things happen and be a successful salesperson?
- did you prospect more
- were you more disciplined in your approach
- did you get any sales training that you used well
- did you work with your partners (if you have any) more effectively
- did you learn your product so well that you could play it like a violin
- did you get one big real client and can you do that again this year
- did you use your resources better than others
- did you just work harder
Can you be more organized and/or effective by being more focused and wasting less time in a day?
- If you can give yourself one more hour a day to sell by being more organized, after holidays, etc. you have 5-6 more weeks of selling time. You just gave yourself an extra month or more to make your quota. Not bad.
- Here are some questions to ask yourself about wasting time:
- Do I handle emails well or am I reacting and wasting time
- Do I qualify requests from customers, prospects and internally regarding when they need something vs. just jumping at the request?
- Do I delegate and follow up many tasks vs. doing them all myself?
- Do I have ONE system where I keep notes, to dos, etc?
- Do I browse the web, Face Book, etc. on unrelated work items during work hours
- Do I gossip, Twitter, IM too much?
- Do I qualify appointments as to whether I can do them on the phone vs. in person?
- Do I use my selling hours to sell and do non-sales tasks at the appropriate time?
Please let me know if you would like to talk or I can help in any way. I wish you the best, healthiest, most fulfilling 2013.
technology enabled selling
A presentation, proposal or demonstration is a key event in the sales process for most of my customers, but much of what happens in a presentation depends on what has happened prior.
As a reminder:
- do you know what the compelling event is and the financial value to the client
- have you planned your presentation to clearly differentiate yourself
- are you doing it alone or should you have others help you
- have you set traps for the competition
- do you have the right story to tell and stories to illustrate your story and presentation
- do you have somebody at the client who can give you advice
- are you prepared for any objections that come up frequently
- and more
Feel free to use this planner if it will help or call or email me.
Happy Holidays everyone!