Sales Tips for Getting Around Two Difficult Situations

Sales professionals have a tough job. While constantly under pressure to make their monthly or quarterly sales numbers they have to deal with prospects that – well don’t always represent their position of authority or their company’s requirements accurately. You know the story. How many times have you been told that someone is the decision maker, only to learn later that they clearly are not? Well here are two situations that come up frequently and what you can do about them. 

Situation 1: The Fake Opportunity

Man Shows Someone A Red Card by David Castillo Dominici ID-100122457A prospect calls and needs a complete proposal from you as soon as possible. They have never spoken with you or tried your product, but the caller claims they will be making a decision right away and you are in the running – just get us that proposal. Big red flag, don’t you think?

Chances are that this prospect needs to get one or two other proposals to satisfy others in the organization about why they are selecting your competition, and you were just lucky enough that they called you. So what do you do? Well my advice is, don’t do it. You do not want to spend valuable time creating a formal proposal for an opportunity that simply does not exist. But you can do something to satisfy this request and not upset the prospect; you never know if you will be engaged with them down the road.

Send a brief description of your product or service with a range of pricing such as: “Our high quality widgets run between $2,000 to $4,000 dollars based on the options selected.” Send nothing more. This allows you to turn the situation around. Now you are in control of the process, not the prospect. If they have a real interest they will come back to you asking for more detail, but don’t count on it. This is most likely a fake opportunity and you are being used to satisfy a decision that has already been made.

Situation 2: The Uninformed Gatekeeper

Goalkeeper by dan ID-10090311You are dealing with the person who told you they are the decision maker, or are they? This person has asked you to modify your proposal not once or twice, but three times; and you are probably not done yet. Why? Because they are presenting the information to others who are part of the decision process, and these people have questions that the gatekeeper has not asked.

If you confront this individual they may tell you that you misunderstood what they said. Perhaps they indicated that they are driving the process, managing the process or controlling it. Or perhaps they simply lied about their authority. It would not be the first time this has happened.

So what should you do? Ask to present your proposal to the group that is making the decision. Your contact will most likely indicate that this is not possible – he or she will be representing you and will be in touch if they require additional information. Well how comforting is that? If this happens to you, chances are you have already lost the sale. So how should you proceed? 

Well you have two options here. “Play the game” and wait for the results, or “Call the game” and take a proactive approach to earning their business. Tell your contact that you see no reason to continue the process. The prospect may allow you to simply walk away and fade into the sunset which means they were never really serious anyway. Or they may agree to try and work something out with you. If they are seriously interested in your product or service they will work something out, even if it’s a brief introduction to the other players via the telephone or an internet presentation. The point here is that you now have access to the right people and you know that this is a real opportunity for you. Some may think this is a gutsy approach, but ask yourself – do you want to play the game or call the game?

About the Author:

Larry Caretsky is the President and CEO of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of Customer Relationship Management software. Caretsky has run sales organizations in Fortune 100 software firms and has written numerous articles on the subject of CRM and Best Practices for improving sales execution. These articles are available at www.commence.com.

Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo Credit: “Goalkeeper” by Dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Using CRM Software for Acquiring New Customers

Can customer management software programs have an impact in acquiring new customers? You betcha! Today’s top rated CRM software solutions now make it possible to create customized drip marketing campaigns to introduce your business to new prospects and to nurture ones that are not yet ready to make a decision.

How does this work? Well first, you may be wondering what drip marketing is. Drip marketing is an automated business process that enables you to schedule the periodic release of e-mail or direct mail to prospective customers. Here is an example.

A sales organization traditionally gets three types of leads or prospects.

  • Some have a strong interest in your product or service,
  • Some prospects have an initial interest but may not be making a decision for 3 to 6 months,
  • Others may have an interest but have no time table whatsoever for a decision.

So, how can CRM software with drip marketing help you turn these prospects into customers?

Your sales team will be immediately engaged with the hot leads so there is no need to worry about them. But what’s happening with the ones that are 3 to 6 months out, or those that have no timetable for a decision at all? Well if you are like most sales organizations these have a tendency to fall through the cracks, but not if you have a CRM solution with drip marketing.

Drip marketing allows you to nurture the leads by placing them in segmented lists whereby you can automatically schedule mailers, updates or educational materials such as white papers to be sent out on a pre-determined timetable. Perhaps for the warm leads you schedule this every month, but for the ones with no definitive decision time frame it’s every quarter. Regardless of what you do the value here is that you are keeping your company name and product in front of these prospects so that when they do decide to make a decision chances are they will be in touch with you versus your competition.

CRM Software Now an Unavoidable Investment

Business hand holding touch pad by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot ID-10093484In today’s fast paced on demand environment if you are not able to address customer inquiries quickly and efficiently you’re out of business.

Organizations big and small need to efficiently manage customer relationships and they can no longer do it with a spiral notebook or an Excel spreadsheet. You need to be agile, social and prepared to engage your customers. The only way to effectively do this is to have one central database where you can capture, track, manage and share customer information with people throughout your organization. This is the promise of CRM software.

For those who have invested in implementing this technology, it has proven to significantly improve sales execution and customer service. But people need to understand what I mean by investment.

CRM software is often viewed as a commodity or a tool like a hammer that simply provides value on its own. It doesn’t. There is a human being on the other end of that hammer who needs to be trained how to use and realize benefit from the tool. The training aspect is just as important as the software you select.

There are some pretty good CRM solutions out there and even the most basic ones can provide you with an account and contact database and store all communications and history about your customers. These systems are easy to use and affordable so there is no excuse for not making this investment.

You may even find that you will want to do more. While the basic low cost solutions can be a bit limited in their functionality, most mid-market CRM systems offer the ability to manage sales, automate marketing, and track customer service issues via a help desk ticketing system. If you plan to do this or grow into it, look for a solution provider that offers not only training in these areas, but best practices for the proper implementation and use of their software.

You’re going to have to invest in the technology and training if you are looking to become a more efficient sales and service organization. Make sure the vendor you select has the resources and value added services you need to be successful with their solution.

Photo Credit: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot/freedigitalphotos.net

Sales Question and Answer #25 – How much time and money should I spend on my own education?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

Businessman with idea lightbulb by basketman ID-10097088Q.   I’ve read your ideas about the need to invest in developing myself. Can you quantify that? How much time and money should I spend on my own education?

A.  Now that‘s a question I’m rarely asked. It’s refreshing to receive it.

I’m assuming that you are referring to your education beyond formal schooling. After you’ve finished your degree and you’re done with your academic education, how much should you invest in your continual growth and development?

Let me share some research with you. ASTD, the association for training and development, does an annual survey of its member companies. While the numbers vary a little bit from year to year, generally good companies spend about 3 – 3. 5% of payroll on training their employees. The Distributor Research and Education Foundation found that high performing distributors spend 3.2% of payroll on training, while average distributors spend 1.5%.

So, if you are asking from the perspective of your company, figure somewhere around 3% of your sales payroll will put you in the general area. In other words, if you have five sales people, averaging $50,000 each, that’s $250,000 in sales payroll. Three percent of that would be $7,500 spent each year in continuous development.

If you are asking from a personal perspective, the answer lies in how serious you are about developing yourself. A good way to gauge this is by using the same measurement – percent of payroll. In this case, the question is percent of your income. Let’s say you make $50,000 a year. If you take my Kahle Way® B2B Selling System course in its on-line version, for example, you’ll spend $274 for tuition, and an additional $35 for the exam and certificate. That’s less than 1% of your income, which is hardly worth talking about.

I believe that a serious sales person, dedicated to making a career of professional sales and committed to improving himself, should be spending around 2- 3% of income a year on the task.

What about investment of time? I believe a company ought to spend about 4 hours a month in developing its sales force. And the same for you. One hour a week, week in and week out.

Let’s put this in perspective. Only about 5% of the sales people in the world spend more than $20.00 on improving themselves in the last year. If you invest just 2% of your income and one hour a week to continuous improvement, you’ll soon rise in the ranks, as your competitors and colleagues are generally content to stay where they are, investing minimally in their own development.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image Credit: basketman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Closing the Sale Means Being a Good Listener

Helping your prospect resolve uncertainty

Regardless of the type of business you are in, your prospect has some idea of what he or she wants to buy.  But most are not 100 percent sure because they may be dealing with uncertainty and experiencing insecurity.  No one likes nor enjoys being uncertain or insecure and they are not going to buy if they feel this way.

So how does the prospect view the salesperson at this point?  As someone who is going to carefully listen and address his concerns; or someone who will put him on the spot, make him admit his ignorance and then get money out of him.

The prospect will always take the path of least resistance, tacitly and often indirectly acknowledging his uncertainty and insecurity. He will say it in so many words, but you have to listen.  Here is a typical scenario:

Bob, a car salesman, noticed a middle-aged man as he walked into the dealership. The man looked around at the racks of literature, thumbed through one or two, and then headed toward the van on display.  As Bob approached, the man turned, saw him and said, “Had some time, thought I’d look at what’s here.

There are a lot of options…” said Bob.

That’s for sure – quite confusing.”  For the next three minutes, Bob heard about how his prospect had seen every option available on this particular van model he was interested in.  The man ended by saying, “So many choices.

So that’s not good?” asked Bob.

No, no. I like that I can get it just the way I want.” The prospect then took a good two minutes explaining why a van would be just perfect for his family.

At the conclusion Bob asked, “So, since the wife will be driving it most of the time, it’s her decision?

Actually, she told me what she wants and left the rest up to me.

What would you like me to do?”  asked Bob, then waited for however long it took to get an answer.

Well, I suppose I should ask if you have one here with the stuff I want, and how much?

Makes sense. Before I forget, I’m Bob Hastings.

I’m George Turner.

As Bob and George headed over to the desk, Bob said, “I appreciate you stopping in. What made you come here and not somewhere else?

I heard that you have excellent service.

Ah,” responded Bob, “so service is important?

Service is extremely important.

In the scenario above, Bob has a better than average chance of closing this sale because he asked the right questions and listened to the answers he received from the prospect.

How do the Best Salespeople do this?

Salespeople often get so caught up in coming across as knowledgeable and friendly, that they lose sight of the question – “May I help you?

Don’t overreact

I’m not sure what I want to buy, but I know I want to spend the least amount possible.”  How many times have you heard this before?  The mistake salespeople often make at this point in the sale is that they feel they have to rescue the prospect.

Offering too many options or giving too much information is also not the best sales strategy. Providing a prospect with answers to questions that have not even been asked simply adds to buyer confusion. Salespeople often get so caught up in coming across as knowledgeable and friendly, that they lose sight of the question – “May I help you?”  This question is designed to allow the prospect to open a dialogue with you, not an opening for you to tell them everything you know about your product.

Another mistake salespeople make is reading “I’m not sure I want to buy today” as a sign that they better do more selling and fast.  This approach sometimes works, but most of the time it doesn’t. In the worst outcome it serves to add even more resistance to making a decision.

Ask open questions then listen

Don’t badger the prospect or pepper him with questions.  Let the prospect work his way out of the uncertainty and insecurity.  Ask a few open easy questions that will let the prospect clarify why he is there and get him back on track so that you can close the sale.  Here is another example:

Confused by the choices?” you ask. “Perhaps this will help…the last time you bought, what was it that was important?

By asking questions based on what the prospect says, you assist the prospect out of uncertainty and insecurity.  He rescues himself.  As a result, you won’t be viewed as pushy, overbearing, or only interested in his money.  You have also shown the prospect that you are listening and not just selling.  Remember who’s the one buying – you or the prospect?  It’s their concerns that count – not yours.

Listening is a skill and good listeners will close more business than good talkers.  Remember the old sales proverb.  God gave us two eyes, two ears and one mouth so that we could look and listen twice as much as we talk.