Fashions change, seasons change and so do customer needs. So when is the last time your company looked at your sales process to determine it was keeping up to date with the times?
The information age has dramatically changed how businesses compete. Small businesses look and act big. New ideas are copied quickly and lead to service and products looking like everyone else. Customers have more options than ever before with access to the internet. The market has changed….has your sales approach?
To quote late night host David Letterman, “You know it’s time to update your sales process when…”
- Your sales process includes overcoming objections. Think about this archaic, distasteful selling technique that has been taught to salespeople for years. It sounds like this: “The first objection is never the real one. Overcome the prospects objection three to seven times. Keep overcoming the objections until you get to a yes.” It’s truly amazing that more salespeople have not been physically thrown out of prospect’s offices!
Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. Does sitting in front of a salesperson who is ‘overcoming your objections’ really encourage you to tell the truth? Does this type of interface build trust and relationships?
If you and your company desire a reputation built on integrity and non-game playing, seek the truth on the sales calls versus the answer you want. For example, if your service is one that a prospect could possibly administer with their in-house staff, bring up that possibility as a discussion point. The so called unspoken objection is on the table and a well trained salesperson can facilitate a meaningful conversation of pro’s and con’s.
A sales conversation that examines all sides of the argument is smart, real and results in the right solution for the prospect and your company.
- You are still using leading questions. “If we could, would you want to hit your deadlines? If we could help you make more money, would you want to engage us?” Now, what kind of a question is that?
Of course, your prospects want to hit their deadlines and make more money! Can you imagine an attorney saying the following to a potential client? “If we can prevent your spouse from going to jail, would you want us to do that?”
Today’s prospects identify leading questions and know the salesperson is trying to lead them to your answer, not their answer. The walls go up and ‘sales dodge ball’ begins. Prospects start holding their cards close to the chest and information gathering gets tighter and tighter. The result is a superficial conversation with no depth.
Better questions to ask are, “Let’s fast forward. What does it look like if your company continues to miss deadlines? Tell me your view on the profit situation if you keep doing what you are doing. Is the problem going to stay the same, get bigger or go away?” Your job as a sales professional is to gather data, not force and create data.
- Selling features, advantages and benefits are your primary tactics. The prospect asks the salesperson, “What makes you different?” Outdated answers sound very generic. “We increase productivity, save you money, have good quality and service.”
This is about the time your prospect goes into ‘sleep mode’ since the last three salespeople answered the question the exact same way. There is a well known phrase in sales: prospects don’t care about what you do, they care about the problems you solve.
The new global economy requires salespeople to be critical thinkers and well versed in consultative selling skills. The salesperson trained in consultative sales skills knows how to introduce compelling talking points when setting up the agenda for the sales meeting. “We typically work with companies who are taking too long to get product to market and as a result are losing market share. We work with companies who are tired of spending all their time in company voice mail trees trying to resolve customer service issues.” Focus on the prospects issues, not your product and services.
- Your sales team is overly cheerful and enthusiastic. In the good ‘ole days, salespeople were taught to be enthusiastic and upbeat. Walk into the appointment and be high energy.
Question: are your salespeople calling on introverts or extroverts. Probably a combination of both and the poor introverts are often bowled over by fast talk, energetic handshakes and overused expressions like, “how are you today?”
The astute salesperson takes her authentic self to the sales call. A question to ask your sales team: “Are you at the appointment to impress or influence?” The impressive salesperson looks good; the influential salesperson makes the prospect look and feel good by adapting to their behavior and communication style. They pay attention to something besides themselves.
You know it’s time to update your sales process when you are doing one or all of the above.
Colleen Stanley, is president of SalesLeadership, Inc., a business development consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, referral strategies, consultative sales training, sales management training, and hiring/selection.