by David Powell, Regional Director – Yorkshire & North East England
A happy and prosperous new year to you. This is the first in a series of 10 blogs, each accompanyed by a webinar recording, all looking at ways to make the sales boat go faster. Please read on and do watch the webinars which dive a little deeper into the joy of selling
I thought it would be fun to try to look beyond Omicron and the size of your next gas bill, instead focusing on making great sales. Profitable, high value sales. Closing sales sits right at the top of the selling hierarchy of activities.
To close a sale, you must, by definition, be selling to someone. To get that far it is almost certain that you or your business has invested heavily in building a sales pipeline and qualifying prospects. There may have been phone calls emails, presentations, demonstrations, case studies and countless other interventions before you actually get to the point of closing a sale. The investment is substantial.
So, closing is the highest value activity salespeople engage in. Close a sale and hey! it’s all been worthwhile. Lose, and it has been a very expensive journey. Hardly surprising that sales managers build so many metrics around conversion rates, values and timescales. Why did you fail to close that sale? To be honest there are many obstacles to clear on the way to closing a sale; I want to focus on a few that you can personally remove, vastly increasing your chances of success.
1. Never mind the price, never mind the product or service – where’s the value?
Many years ago, I worked for a food manufacturer – selling brands into a top 5 supermarket chain. When one of their marketing team left for a competitor, I suggested that we have lunch and brief her on the business she was going to. Of course, she repaid this kindness with some insight. She revealed that our brand was so strong and so well-regarded by the shoppers at her current supermarket that if it wasn’t available, they would buy it elsewhere. Wow! Payday! So, the value of my brand is not £X or £Y, nor is it the margin earned from retailing it (which is a constant in negotiations). The value of my brand is that it stops shoppers decamping to another supermarket. That is powerful stuff.
Understanding the value and the relative value of what you offer is vital. It is almost certainly not a price. Engaging with your customers at all levels will enable you to understand exactly what they are buying (and what they really want to buy).
2. Don’t start selling too early
This one should be easy. Anyone who has been spam-called by a youth selling funeral plans will get it. Don’t start selling too early, especially not 20 years too early (fingers crossed).
Your product or service has no value until you understand what your customer’s problems or needs are. Once you understand this you can demonstrate how your offer meets their requirements. Do this and you have the basis for establishing trust because you are working to help them. Bang on about your “solution” without putting this legwork in and it will be very hard for the buyer to see you as a trustworthy seller. The point to make is that you will make sales based on what you know about your customer and what they really need. That requires research, great questions, even greater listening skills, and good judgement to present an effective response. When we bowl in selling from the off it is hardly surprising that buyers may feel that they are not part of the process.
3. Provide insight not Information
To be clear, information does have its place. “Have you seen what your competitor x have just done…” Go one or two steps further with some thought and analysis behind it and this can transform into some insight.
“Have you seen what your competitor x have just done…we were surprised by this as the data suggests that they are excluding a significant chunk of the market. We think that could be an opportunity for you – let me explain further”. It is a very good discipline not to attempt this on the hoof. To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail as the old saying goes.
4. Base your sales conversations on a great value proposition
Often confused with an elevator pitch (which is about you, your business and/or your product), a value proposition encapsulates the value that your product delivers to the buyer (so it’s all about them). My colleague Glen Williamson delves deeper into this in the webinar. A good value proposition identifies the buyer need (or pain), differentiates you from your competitors and can be measured. It will also help you focus on the only 3 sales conversations you ever need to have:
5. Look out for your customer’s needs changing
Well, this has happened to me more than a few times. Of course, this was never my fault, my omission, or my lack of focus. It was the buyer playing games and choosing a competitor’s cheaper product. Yes, of course, just like everyone else I won sales through establishing great relationships and lost them on price. Or just maybe I hadn’t noticed the changing tone and flow of dialogue. I asked the wrong questions or didn’t ask any. B2B buyers are generally rational people, but they are under pressure to meet often conflicting needs within their business. As great salespeople, we just need to notice.
I hope this has provoked some thoughts and ideas that you can incorporate into your selling process. If it has, I would be delighted to hear from you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my mobile is 07813131923. Again, I urge you to watch the recording of Glen’s excellent webinar on these issues below. In the meantime, stay safe and happy hunting.