We are in a new age of technology breakthroughs, one where artificial intelligence or cognitive solutions are upon us and getting a lot of hype. One thing I have found over the last year while being involved in these cutting edge technologies, the most important thing during the sale is the business value. This has not changed in dozens of years. If there is no business value, why would the organization make an investment in the first place?
The fact that technologies are advancing and becoming more capable of providing greater insight, analyse more data, analyse new data (like unstructured) and “learn”; this just improves the business case. Now, these greater capabilities enable new visions. This is where the opportunity for selling value comes in. A truly talented sales person asks “what if” and sets the vision. The truly talented sales person helps the client create their ideal world.
It is this vision setting step that is being forgotten today by some. Too many sellers I come across are selling technology or products. They see everything as a nail for their hammer. The truly gifted seller helps to create vision empowered by their technology or products.
The issue is not only with sales people. Clients have forgotten to ask the question “what if”. they have grown accustomed to accept the status quo. It is our responsibility now with the new technologies that are available, to remind clients we can take fresh eyes and viewpoints on existing business processes or lines of business. It is with this new fresh view and prior barriers removed, that we unlock true value.
Over the last 20 plus years I have been involved with a variety of advanced analytics. But today I am truly excited for the creative solutions we can help clients develop through the latest advancements, including cognitive!
I was told a long time ago we were given two ears and one mouth for a simple reason….speak less and listen more! Listening is one of the most basic skills needed to be a great sales executive (and that is many times overlooked). It is this skill that allows sales executives to truly understand a clients pains, visions, goals and barriers. It is this skill that also allows a sales executive to connect with their client and understand their dynamics and truly create a solution to their pain or a path to reach their goals.
Below are some basics to being a good listener:
Probe, don’t interrogate
Don’t jump to conclusions
Lead, don’t solution
Interpret internally and wait patiently for a window to reiterate what was heard and ask for confirmation
Focus on what and how is being said relative to context and tone
Pay attention not just to the words, but to body language
Listen for what is NOT said
Turn your phone off and remove distractions
While this may seem very basic, that is because it is. But too many times in client meetings, I see sales people cut customers off before they are done sharing their vision or business issues. Too many times sales people are not focusing on what their client is explaining, instead they are already “solutioning” or “sizing” their recommendations.
Try it yourself in your next meeting. If you find yourself ready to interrupt your client or make a recommendation, ask if they are finished first or count how often you find yourself ready to cut in. It might surprise you how differently the meeting goes with a patient listener.
Before I start any new sale, there a few basic items that I always have:
1) a repeatable sales process
2) have a playbook
3) contingency plans
Every top sales organization leverages a sales process (but that is roughly only 10% of sales organizations out there). There are many training organizations out there that help organizations to implement their sales process. Even sales force automation tools enable default or customer sales processes to be implemented to enable consistent use of sales processes. Personally I do find these very valuable as a sales rep and as a sales manager. In simple terms, a sales process is a systematic approach involving a series of steps that enables a sales force to close more deals, increase margins and make more sales through referrals”. Put differently: it provides your sales people with a map and a GPS for winning each deal. A sales process consistently guides salespeople toward the right activity throughout each and every opportunity. Studies have shown that sales executives who follow a sales process have a 48% higher win rate that those who do not. However, a sales process is not the same as a sales playbook.
Playbooks are not terribly different for a sales executive than that for a head football coach. A sales book combines content and tools to a sales process. The sales process dictates when we should engage in a workshop, which is a tool in the playbook. Together, these greatly improve a sales executives odds of winning.Playbooks provide this critical information. They also provide relevant content (for example, white papers or case studies) and tools (such as email templates, important questions or other software tools). Simply put, playbooks give sales people everything they need to follow your best practice sales process at every step of every opportunity.
Contingency planning allows the sales executive to be prepared for most scenarios, at each step of the sales process. Lets say your client has agreed to go to contracts after you demonstrate the solution. During the demo, the client gets cold feet and decides to deviate from this agreed upon path and asks for one more reference. Are you prepared for this scenario? Do you have a response ready or a reference prepared?
One theme you will notice to successful selling here in this blog is preparedness. Successful sales executives over prepare. This is one consistent trait I have found in the top sales people I have interacted with in my time.
With the holidays upon us and so many sales people rushing to close year end deals, I thought it would be timely for a brief list of some close techniques that may help you out there:
Assumptive Close : acting is if the client already said “yes”
Customer Care/Implementation Manager Close: having the implementation manager or customer care representative call to discuss when to start
Calendar/Economic Close: year end discounts or incentives to sign
Exclusivity Close: offer a window where only your client will be able to use the technology or get this special offer
Give -Take Close: give something as part of the deal they client wants, then take it away
Handover Close: bring your boss in or someone else more senior from your corporation to close the deal
Opportunity Cost Close: measure and present the cost of not buying the product or solution now * (personal favorite)
Requirements Close: review with the client that you have met all of their requirements to sign off on the deal. Have the paper and pen ready
Reversal Close: act as if you are having second thoughts that your offering may not be right for the client (be ready for unpredictability from your client)
Trial Close: see if your client is ready to sign
While these are just techniques one can leverage, there are still many core principles that a seller needs to remember along the way. Be sure that you have identified what the close process is; who can sign off, what the procurement process is, what the legal process is, and signing authority is relative to dollar amount of the deal. If this is a federal government deal, be sure to have your contract vehicle identified.