Two Simple Rules to Close More Effectively

Tired of chasing too many prospects that just won't close?

By Dave Kahle

Excerpted from Chapter 13 of Take Your Performance Up a Notch

Whenever I ask sales people to rate themselves on their competence at all the different parts of the sales process, they invariably rate themselves low at closing the sale.  Unfortunately, sales people who don’t close consistently waste a lot of their time, waste their customer’s time, and are not nearly as effective as they could be.

Rule Number One:

Being adept at closing the sale, and every step in the process, is an important key to productivity.  So, let’s examine the issue of closing, beginning with the first principle: Closing is a process which always ends with your customer’s agreement to take action.

As you consider this principle, you’ll realize that closing is not just asking for an order, although it certainly is that.  In addition, it is a process you repeat at every stage of the sales process.  In fact, almost every time you interact with a customer, you can close the interaction by asking for some agreement.  Whenever your customer agrees to take some action, you have closed that step in the sales process.

Let’s illustrate this principle with a typical real life situation.  Suppose you’re talking on the phone to a prospect, and he says, “Sounds interesting.  Send me some literature.”  You say, “OK, I’ll put it in the mail today.”  Have you closed that step of the process?

The answer is no.  You have agreed to take action — send some literature — but your prospect hasn’t agreed to do anything.  Remember, a close always ends with your customer agreeing to take some action.

Can you turn the same situation into a close?  Back to the same situation.  Your prospect says, “Sounds interesting. Send me some literature.”  You remark, “I’d be happy to.  After you review it, will you discuss it with me over the phone, say next Friday?”  If your customer says, “Yes,” you’ve closed.  He’s agreed to take some action.

“Closing almost always involves the use of a good question. Learn to ask questions better. – Kahle Wisdom”

Rule Number Two:

That leads us to the second powerful principle of closing the sale: Every interaction can and should be closed. In other words, at the conclusion of every interaction with your customer, ask for an agreement on the action he or she will take.

The telephone conversation described above is a good example of closing the interaction. Here’s another common situation. Let’s say you’ve discussed a product or proposal with your customer. He says, “It looks interesting, but we’re not ready for that now.” You might then say, “When do you think will be a good time?” Your customer responds, “Probably around June.” You might typically say, “OK, I’ll make a note to discuss it with you then.” At this point, you haven’t closed the interaction, nor have you resolved the issue.

Let’s take the conversation one more step further. Suppose you now say, “At that point in time, will you spend a half hour with me to discuss it in detail?” You have now attempted to close the interaction by getting an agreement for action on the part of your customer. You’ve put the issue on the table, and are attempting to resolve it.

Let’s take the conversation one step further. Suppose your customer says, “No, probably not.” You now have a decision to make. Should you probe the reasons why, or should you accept his decision? Let’s say you decide to accept his decision. The conversation has value to you in that you learned that this proposal isn’t going to fly in this account. The early “no” was valuable to you. You didn’t waste months chasing something that wasn’t going to happen. That’s the value in resolving the issue.

Let’s now say that your prospect, instead of responding “no,” responds to your close by saying, “Yeah, I think it has enough merit to spend that time discussing it with you.” You now have his commitment to spend some time with you, so you have moved the issue forward. You’re one step closer to the ultimate sale.

Implement these two principles and you’ll dramatically improve your productivity. Keep in mind that closing is an agreement for action on the part of your customer, and make it your goal to close every interaction.

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About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every salesperson at every level. To connect to the Sales Resource Center use this link:
http://www.thesalesresourcecenter.com

It’s Time to Adopt a Digital Marketing Strategy

Online Marketing

The success of your business is highly dependent on your ability to create and implement a mix of marketing programs that target the right customers, effectively communicate your message, and convert new prospects into customers. If you are not doing this, or if you are still using old school marketing programs, you are most likely struggling. Your competitors are probably using a digital marketing strategy and it’s time that you take the steps to compete on a level playing field.

Before embarking on your digital marketing campaign take the time to understand three core criteria about your business.

  1. What customers do you serve better than anyone else and what are the competing alternatives?
  2. How will you communicate this to the market? What is the proper vehicle to attract the right prospects?
  3. How will you measure the effectiveness of your marketing programs?

Digital marketing is all about taking advantage of the tools and services that will enable you to quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively put your company, your product or your service in front of as many potential buyers as possible. This includes:

  • search engine optimization on sites like Google, Yahoo and Bing
  • creating quality content for distribution on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and others
  • creating a blog with educational material
  • enhancing your web site with a call to action and a giveaway for those who provide their information, such as a free white paper or product trial.

What is important is to understand that you need a marketing mix that incorporates much of the above to be successful. If you are not comfortable doing this on your own, there are a lot of resources available to help. To learn more visit commence.com/marketing-enablement

Managing Information

Managing Information (S-11)

“I’m spending more and more time  managing information.  It’s squeezing out my selling time.”

Welcome to the information age.  You are not unique.  This problem of information inundation is a relatively new but almost universal threat to your livelihood.  Four or five years ago, sales people were not too concerned with it.  Today, dealing with information is so critical that it is an important part of almost every seminar I present.

Here’s the issue.  Technological advances in recent years have multiplied the amount of information that you must handle.  The quantity of information landing on your lap has increased from sources all around you.  Think about how much information you must keep about your customers.  A few years ago, it was OK to keep everything in your head.  Today you need forms, documents, files and systems, both electronic and paper, to keep it all straight.  Consider the technical details of the products and programs you sell.  Aren’t they more complex and sophisticated than just a few years ago?  And all that complexity takes the form of additional information that you must organize and master.

What about the computer systems you use and the information produced by them?  Most sales people I know could spend eight to twelve hours a week just reviewing computer printouts if they choose to so.  Add in memos from the boss, service bulletins, price increases, government regulations, new product specifications, the details of ever more complicated applications, etc. and your job is awash in information.

The sheer volume of information coming at you is like an approaching tidal wave.  If you don’t create some safe haven for yourself, you’re going to be rendered ineffective by the absolute mass of information.

Imagine how many precious selling hours you could waste each week if you don’t harness that tidal wave of information.  Or, imagine the time robbed from your family and personal life by the time it takes to handle more and more stuff.

It’s time to recognize the problem for what it is: A serious and malevolent new threat to your effectiveness.

So, what do you do?  How do you overcome this threat?  How do you get control over the flow of information and protect your valuable selling time?

Defend yourself!

One strategy is to become defensive.  In other words, to develop ways to defend yourself from being overcome with useless information.  The idea is to keep tempting but useless information from stealing your time.

To do so, you need to understand and implement two key processes.  The first is “screening.”  Imagine the screen on your window.  This fine mesh allows those breezes that you want to flow into the house, while it keeps out of the house those insects that you don’t want.  So, it allows in that which you want, and keeps out that which you don’t want.

That’s the idea behind the process of screening – allowing in that which you want, and keeping out that which you don’t want.  Unfortunately, you can’t surround yourself with a physical screen.  But you can implement the discipline of “screening” all the information that comes your way.  To do so, you need to establish the habit of quickly assessing every piece of information that cries out for your time and to quickly decide if it is likely to be useful.  Useful is the key and operative word.

If your quick perusal of a piece of information leads you to believe that it may be useful, you let that piece in.  If you believe it will not be useful, you keep it out.  In other words, you dispose of it.

Let’s imagine a scenario.  You’ve come into the office and pulled a pile of stuff out of your mailbox.  The first thing you see is a new price list for a product line you rarely sell.   Is this useful to you?  Probably not.  You throw it out.  Next is a service bulletin on a piece of equipment that you haven’t sold in years.  Is it useful?  Probably not.  Out it goes.  Next is a computer report comparing last year’s sales in three product lines to the sales from two years ago on those same lines.  Is it useful? In the round file it goes.

Finally, there’s a memo from the boss outlining the agendas, location and schedules of sales meetings for the next two months.  Better hold on to that one.  You continue on this way, quickly appraising every piece of information, and disposing of every piece you deem to be not useful.

This whole process may have only taken a few seconds.  But your disciplined “screening” process kept a lot of “useless” information from sucking away your time.  The net effect was that you created more selling time for yourself by disciplining yourself to keep out that which is useless, and to allow in that which is useful.

OK, so now you have a pile of stuff that, on first glance, looked like it might be useful.  Now what do you do?  Implement the second key process – triaging.  You may be familiar with the word.  It has a medical origin.  In every hospital emergency room, there is someone who performs the ‘triaging’ function.  They make a quick assessment of the condition of the incoming patients, and then send them to different degrees and types of treatment depending on that initial assessment.  So, one person is told to wait in the waiting room for a while longer, another is sent directly to the OB department, yet another is admitted to surgery, etc.  The person who does the triaging sends each patient to a location for treatment based on that initial assessment.

That’s what you do with the pile of information on your desk.  You look at each piece of information, and send it to the location where it can be dealt with appropriately.  So, for example, you have a spot for “Read and handle immediately.”  You have a file for “Put this stuff into my account folders.”  You have a folder for “Study this when you have time.”  You have yet another marked “File with product information.”

Now that you know what your options are, you are ready to ‘triage’ the pile of information on your desk.  Look at each piece, and place it in the location where you can deal with it appropriately.  If you have thought about this beforehand and arranged an effective file system, this process may take you a just a few moments.  At the end of that time, you have everything in its place and you can now deal with it in the time and place you choose.  You sit down with the “Read and handle immediately” pile and process it.  The “study this when you have time” file goes in your briefcase to be reviewed while you are waiting for appointments, or on those occasions when you are having lunch by yourself.  The stuff for “account folders” and “product folders” goes home with you and is reviewed and filed in your home office all at once on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings.

By implementing these two disciplines, you’ve taken what could have been an hour or two of information-engagement and turned it into a few moments of disciplined involvement on your part.  You’ve gotten back hours of selling time, and not allowed the tidal wave of information to wash you away.

This process of screening and triaging can work for you with any kind of information.  Apply it to your list of daily emails and email attachments.  Ditto the stuff in your inbox, and the pile of envelopes and catalogues that appear every day in the mail.  Do the same with your choice of Internet surfing and TV channel hopping.

Unfortunately, the information-rich world in which we live has created a situation where some of the techniques and strategies that used to work for you are no longer as effective as they once were.  To maintain your effectiveness in a rapidly changing world, you need to take on new skills and processes.  Defending yourself from the tidal wave of information which threatens to drown you is one of them.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every salesperson at every level. To connect to the Sales Resource Center use this link:
http://www.thesalesresourcecenter.com

Are You Hindered by Formerly Effective Sales Policies?

Raise the bar to reach your goal | Kahle Wisdom

By Dave Kahle

I call it FIP.  Fine in the Past.  It refers to all the sales and marketing efforts, ideas, policies, principles, techniques, and strategies that worked well in the past, but are no longer effective.  The past is everything that’s pre-2012.

I still recall a poignant moment with an attendee at one of my seminars.  During the break he came up to me and said this:

“I’ve been in business for seventeen years.  And we’ve done well.  But now, it seems like everything is changing, and I don’t know what to do.”

He went on to explain that he had built his formerly thriving tool and die business on certain core principles:  Quality workmanship, competitive prices, and good service.  Those principles, adhered to with discipline and conviction, had brought him word-of-mouth business consistently over the years.  But they were no longer working, and his business was floundering.  The pain and confusion were written all over his face as he contemplated the prospect of seeing his business wither away.

Those principles are some of the most common examples of FIP: Business principles and policies that were sufficient on which to build a business, but today are not.  At one time, you could distinguish your business from others on the basis of these and other FIP principles.  Now, however, the bar has risen.  Because there is so much churn in our marketplace and the competition is so fierce, the kinds of service and quality that were sufficient to distinguish yourself from your competition are no longer sufficient.  Your customers expect previously outstanding levels of service and quality from every supplier.  What was sufficient a few years ago is still necessary today, but no longer sufficient.

That reliance on quality service and word-of-mouth marketing is a FIP principle.  When viewed from the perspective of effective sales and marketing approaches, these principles are passive.  They rely on your customer’s coming to you, recognizing the superiority of your product or service, and then talking about you to others.  Your job is to create an attractive operation that will pull customers to you and then keep them coming back.

When everyone else operated in similar fashion, that was FIP.  But when more and more competitors appear, and they make the same claims as you do, your reliance on passive marketing methods relegates you to second choice.

Probably one of the greatest marketing myths of all time is encapsulated in the expression, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Once you build a better mousetrap, you then have to publicize it, price it correctly, and develop a sales system to take it to market in an effective and efficient way.  And if you don’t do that, your mousetrap will linger in the limbo of obscurity.

I’ve seen literally hundreds of businesses of all sizes who never reached their potential because of an inability to do sales well.  They were perfectly capable of rendering outstanding service at competitive prices but struggled to survive.  These FIP principles were so deeply ingrained in their mindsets that they never learned to do sales as well as they could, and their businesses never reached the level of prosperity and success that they could have reached.  The economic landscape is littered with the remains of businesses who were excellent in providing their product or service, but mediocre in selling it.

Here are some other FIP principles, followed by the more effective modern approach.

FIP # 1:  Creating sales by relying totally on outside sales people.

It was OK to hire a number of sales people, give them some basic training, and then charge them with “Go forth and sell a lot.”  Sales territories were geographically based and each sales person was a clone of the other.  Accountability was a nasty word that no one repeated.

MEMA:  (More Effective Modern Approach)

Customers are first profiled to collect relevant marketing information.  Then, they are analyzed and segmented, not only by their potential, but by the dynamics of the most effective sales approaches.  The arsenal of sales methodologies now includes a variety of weapons:  Web site marketing, e-commerce, trade show marketing, out-bound telemarketing, and data-base marketing to name a few.  The appropriate sales methodology is selected based on the potential and dynamics of the customer.  Customer contacts are tracked on a CRM system.  The sales person becomes one of many methods of acquiring and nurturing customers.

FIP # 2:  Sales management by pay plan.

In other words, pay them straight commission and everything will take care of itself.

MEMA:

The sales commission plan, while incredibly important, is not the only, nor the primary method of sales management.  Those who supervise sales people, whether they be branch managers, principles or sales managers, understand that the processes and methods they use to focus, motivate and hold sales people accountable are a necessary and strategically important part of how effectively sales is done.  MEMA companies have a formal process of hiring a sales person, training and developing that sales person, helping that person focus his/her energies effectively, and holding them accountable for the wise investment of their selling time. (See our Kahle Way® Sales Management System)

FIP # 3: Reliance on “on-the-job” training.

Everyone can learn how to be an effective sales person.  Just put them out there in a sales territory, and sooner or later they will figure out how to do the job well.

MEMA:

Sales is a profession and, like every profession, requires both a minimum standard of knowledge and behavior in order to be allowed to practice, as well as commitment to continuous improvement in order to prosper.

Would you send your children to a teacher who had never passed the minimum standards?  Would you fly on an airplane with a pilot who had never been certified?  Would you go to a counselor who had never been trained in the basics of the job?  Would you use an accountant who had never studied accounting?

Sales is an equally demanding profession.  MEMA companies understand this, and develop a curriculum and a set of minimum standards for every sales person.  Once the sales person has met the minimum expectations for knowledge and behavior, he/she is expected to continually develop and improve for the rest of their career.

FIP # 4:  Hiring by “feel.”

When it comes time to hire a new sales person, find someone who has some experience in the industry and about whom you “feel” good.

MEMA:

Create a specific hiring process with a profile of the most effective sales person as a model to which to compare all sales candidates.  Use several interviews, formal assessment documents, reference checks and a well-designed pre-hire aptitude assessment to come to a well-informed decision about whom to hire.  MEMA companies understand that hiring by “feel” is often a rationalization for a lack of effort, and that the decision about whom to hire can be the single most important decision most sales managers will make.

The list of FIP positions can go on for quite a while.  These are the most common.  If they apply to you, it is time to rethink your position and move your sales and marketing efforts into the 21stCentury.

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“Fine in the Past: Are You Hindered by Formerly Effective Sales & Marketing Policies? (SM-27)” originally published on davekahle.com.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every salesperson at every level. To connect to the Sales Resource Center use this link: 
http://www.thesalesresourcecenter.com

5 Unique Approaches to Cementing Customer Trust

5 Ways to Earn the Trust and Loyalty of your Customers
Depending on who you ask, acquiring a new customer can cost between five and seven times the resources of simply cultivating ongoing relationships with existing customers. Bain & Company is the most prominent purveyor of the statistic, but the lesson is clear – cementing customer trust is essential to growing a business.

The modern customer has more choice than ever. With more than 5 exabytes of data hitting the Internet every two days, the noise is overwhelming for a distracted customer. Keep their attention focused squarely on your offerings with the following approaches.

Start with Empathy

It is always easier to learn the nuances of a sales funnel when you put yourself in the shoes of your customer. If you can really feel the pain of those you serve, it will come across in everything from your sales scripts to your daily customer service interactions. You may also be able to predict the needs of your customers before a problem becomes apparent, something that will definitely win you points with legacy customers.

Become a Truth Teller

No matter your industry, customers will appreciate a company that tells the unvarnished truth. A savvy marketer can even elicit some humor from this technique. One strategy that works well is to advertise in a way that turns an exaggerated industry motif on its head. Calling out the overbearing nature of industry standard advertisements instantly sets you apart from your competition. You gain trust because you are pointing a finger at confusing or misleading advice while attaching your brand to the high road.

Customers Do the Best PR

We have entered an age of ubiquitous advertising that has oversold almost everyone. The average customer can see right through an actor or a script. The result is an instant distaste for any interaction that seems fake. Savvy companies are fighting back with PR teams that cannot be interpreted as fake by customers – because they are customers.

Your best customers can easily become your best advocates, and they cost a lot less than hiring a professional PR team. For a few free giveaways, you can target the thought leaders on your social media pages, deputizing them to give away coupons for your next sale or tout the advantages of a product that has been showcased to them exclusively before its release.

Own Your Damage Control

When something bad happens, take it on the chin. There is nothing worse than a company that will not take responsibility for the inevitable mistakes that will occur in its lifetime. Anytime you try to cover a mistake with inauthentic apologies or diversions, you risk losing the most loyal of your customers. Keep in mind that these people likely understand your sales process just as well as you. After all, they are the ones on the receiving end of it.

If a batch of products goes bad or you simply missed the mark, own up to the mistake immediately. Your long-standing customers will likely understand and stay with you as long as you tell the truth and make strides to honestly fix it. The fair-weather friends that you may have earned during a single sales cycle might leave, but they should have never been your priority in the first place.

Continuous Improvement

The successful modern company always has an eye to continuous improvement. If you are still working within the traditional iterative product cycle, consider allowing your customers in on the production process. With their feedback coming at you 10,000 miles per hour, you will be able to consistently improve your products. Your operations and administration will necessarily have to speed up in order to keep up with suggestions.

You can learn of the improvements that your customers want through social media for free. You no longer have to spend thousands of dollars on third-party focus groups and surveys – all of the information that you need to constantly improve is given to you on a daily basis. Refusing to use it is almost a sin, and ignoring it is a surefire way to lose the trust of your customers.

The successful companies of the future will engender trust with their customers today. Although every company’s strategy will be unique, you can certainly follow the tips above to properly order your steps in the right direction. Loyalty is everything – make it a priority to earn the trust of your customers. They are seeking your validation and approval every day through social media, in their responses to your email blasts, and in their opt-in subscription numbers. Give them what they are looking for and solidify your company’s place in the market as well.

About the author:

Reuben Yonatan is the founder and CEO of GetVoIP, a trusted VoIP resource that helps companies understand and choose a business communication solution for their specific needs. With a 10-year track record in building, growing and strategically shaping operational functionality in all his ventures, Reuben assists SMBs align business strategy with culture and improve overall corporate infrastructure.