Permit the prospect to sell themselves

This is a Sales Tip of the Week from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

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The STORY:

Nick knew that the prospect was close to making a buying decision.  Her eyes darted back and forth between her left hand and the window looking out into the parking lot.  Just a little more pushing and he knew she’d close.

“If you decide to buy today, I think I can talk the sales manager into an additional amount off.”

Good, he thought, she’s looking at me now instead of the parking lot.  I’m not going to let her get away.

“Oh,” she asked, “how much off?”

“Well, only if you decide to buy today, I’m pretty sure I can get him to go another $200.”

“If I can have $350 off, I’ll make a decision,” she responded.

“That’s pretty steep.  How about $300?” asked Nick.

“Okay.  At $300 off I’ll write the check.”

“You sure?” asked Nick.

“Without a doubt.” she responded with a smile.

As Nick walked towards the sales manager’s office, he was mentally calculating that at $300 off, his commission would be peanuts.  But, he thought, this sale would push him to the top of the board for the number of sales.  He’d win the monthly $50 bonus for most sales for the fifth month in a row.

The Result:

Nick will probably be able to talk the sales manager into $300 off, and he will probably win the monthly contest for most sales for a fifth month. And Nick will collect his $50 bonus. The problem is that Nick gave up making the sale, with a decent commission, because he was focused on winning a monthly contest.

DISCUSSION:

Even though the prospect was close to making a buying decision, Nick did not have the self-discipline to make the prospect give up.  Deciding he had to push it along, Nick gave up.  He gave up $300 without having the slightest clue whether he needed to do this or not to make the sale.

Actually the prospect in this situation was the better salesperson.  Nick offered $200, the prospect counter-offered $350 and Nick settled on $300.  The prospect made Nick give up.

In general, this tactic, which should be used by salespeople, is almost exclusively used by prospects to manipulate salespeople throughout the country.  If you criticize Nick for the dollar amount of the discount, and not the fact that he should have kept his mouth shut, then you have fallen for this prospect tactic.

APPROACH:

Why do salespeople open their mouths in these situations? Simple. They fear the prospect will walk out the door without buying. Will the prospect actually not say anything and proceed to walk out the door? Absolutely not. So don’t say anything. Eventually the prospect will come to the realization that you are not going to give up, and she will say something instead. Depending on what is said, use that as your basis for deciding on what to do next.

THOUGHT:

Prospects have been making salespeople give up increased commission and sales for years…are you going to continue to help them?

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website to register for a FREE Sales Training Workshop. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development. Breakfast is included in this workshop.

To view the latest Sales Tip of the Week please click on the link below:

SALES TIP OF THE WEEK

Are your customer relationships an asset or an obstacle?

By Dave Kahle

Positive customer relationships are the basis of much B2B business, right?  Positive business relationships ensure us an audience with the customer, make every step of the selling process go easier, and even provide us with a competitive edge.  It’s not unusual for the business to come your way just because they like you the best.

But in today’s hyper-competitive economy, relying on your relationships is like trying to paddle through the storm in a leaky row boat – your effort will keep you afloat for a short time, but eventually you’ll find that you just don’t have enough resources to challenge the storm.  Relying on your relationships is a prescription for eventual failure.

Here’s why.  The world is full of B2B sales people who have built a solid business relationship with a segment of their customer base.  They then rely on those relationships to support them.

In doing that, they have missed the opportunity to develop their sales skills.  “I have great relationships with my customers,” they think.  “I don’t need to learn to sell well.”  And, for years, that was somewhat true.

Now, however, they are paying the price of that position.  Many of their customers are seeing their businesses decline.  The relationships that so many sales people counted on to support them are no longer as profitable as they once were.  And, since they never spent the time and effort to improve themselves, they find themselves woefully unequipped to gain new customers, to create demand for their new products, or to persuasively gain bigger chunks of their customer’s business.  Their boat is sinking, and they never gained the skills necessary to keep it afloat.  The vast majority of B2B sales people have never been trained in the principles, practices and processes that are the best way to do their jobs.

Not only are they paying the price of never developing their sales competencies, they now find themselves restricted by those very relationships that were, just a few years ago, their meal tickets.

Here’s how this works.  A sales person develops a set of relationships, and then settles into a routine of seeing those people on a regular basis.  Those customers come to rely on him, and their purchasing patterns revolve around those regular visits.  As long as they order in a sufficient quantity, life is good.

But now, those same customers aren’t filling the coffers like they used to.  And the sales people find themselves boxed in.  They have created expectations in their customers, and those expectations now prevent them from investing time in developing more lucrative relationships.  How can they call on someone else, when doing so would mean that they can’t see their buddies as often?  That would jeopardize their current relationships.  And, besides, they just aren’t comfortable cold calling on prospects because they haven’t done that in years.

So, their reliance on relationships has caused them to neglect the development of their own competency, and built the walls around their comfort zones so high as to be almost insurmountable.  Faced with the demands of the new economy, they find themselves woefully under equipped as sales people, and fearful of striking out of their comfort zones.  Unsure what to do as they see their boat steadily sinking, they default to bailing even faster, and hope the storm goes away.

What to do – if you are a sales person in this position

Recognize that your relationships are just as likely to be an obstacle as they are an asset.  The solution is for you to change.  Get some education in how to excel at B2B sales.  (Check my website for lots of resources, or The Sales Resource Center® for a selection of online classes)  Start working, right now, to improve your sales competencies.  There are better ways to make an appointment, manage a first call, create a customer, expand the business, sell a new product, etc.

Gain the skills to keep afloat

Take on the mind-set that you will need to forever improve in these basic sales competencies, and start the never-ending process of improving your sales proficiency right now.  Look at it as a never ending process, not an event, and start the process as soon as possible.

Then, do a cold-blooded analysis of the profitability and potential of your current relationships, and identify those who are dragging down your productivity.  You’ll have to say “No” to some low-potential accounts before you have the time to invest more strategically in higher potential accounts.

Create two lists:  One list of high-potential accounts in which you want to invest more selling time, and the other list of low-potential relationships that are currently slowing down your progress.  (See 11 Secrets of Time Management for Sales People for details on how to do this.)

Now, methodically work at those two lists, gradually finding a way to excuse yourself from those low-volume accounts that drain your energy and time, and invest more heavily in those higher-potential accounts.

It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick.  But, it will help you keep your boat afloat while you gain the potential to take more control of your destiny.

What to do – if you are sales manager, and recognize the plight of some of your sales people

The formula is very similar for you.  However, instead of just expecting your sales people to change their behavior on their own, you need to be actively involved in the process.

Identify those sales people who are at risk of allowing their relationships to lead to their ruin.  Have a heart-to-heart talk with them, and lay out a plan for their metamorphosis.  Don’t be afraid to describe specific bench marks and deadlines.

Then, help your sales people get an education in the best practices of their profession.  Remember, it is not an event, it is the beginning of a never-ending process (check our Kahle Way® B2B Selling System)

At the same time, work with each sales person to help him rate the potential of each account, regardless of the existing relationship, and to prioritize his time to focus more time on the high potential accounts, and less on those that drain his time and energy.

Realize that you are embarking on a journey to help that sales person change his/her behavior, and that change doesn’t happen overnight.  You should, however, see steady progress.

If you don’t see progress, then you may want to consider the long-term future of this sales person, and how it impacts the company’s ability to survive and prosper.

Copyright MMXV  By Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

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