These 8 Steps Lead to More Closing

25 Jul

keep-calm-and-close-the-deal-3

In my last blog, I discussed the top of the sales funnel. Now, we are assuming you have secured the prospects interest and an in person meeting is set…

Here are the “only” 8 components left to worry about:

1. Metrics: Every sales organization needs to start here with the data and number crunching – the analysis of all historical sales data from the initial leads with suspect to the deals you close. Does it take 2 good leads or 100 until you close a deal? This is a mark for expectations (the odds) and areas for improvement in the process:

  • Total # of leads pre-call (management will want to know the breakdown of these methods and $ per lead)
  • The percentage of these leads that convert to phone or email conversations (qualified as interest)
  • The percentage of the email and phone conversations that lead to meetings, presentations or demos
  • The percentage of meetings that lead to proposals
  • The percentage of proposals that convert to a sale

Compare this data to your peers. Feel free to add more metrics unique to your sales process if it will help you understand your efficiencies. Maybe you need more leads… maybe you need to put more work into your presentation. If you aren’t looking at the sales metrics, then you have no idea if your goals are realistic – you will have no idea how many phone calls or meeting it’s going to take.

2. Listening: How many times have you heard that you have two ears and only one mouth? How many times have you found yourself talking through more than half of a meeting? 1/3 is your time to speak and the other 2/3’s is for the prospect – this is especially crucial if you are meeting with more than one person! We talk when they ask questions. Otherwise, it’s a 60 second pitch and open-ended questions. Writer for Forbes, Sharon Michaels, describes sincere listening as one of the three most important components of successful selling (http://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2011/08/22/3-powerful-skills-you-must-have-to-succeed-in-sales/). If you suck at listening, you suck at sales.

3. Client Meetings: Woo Hoooo! We are finally to the exciting part! What’s the plan? Go in and shake their hand, talk, and hope you charm them? Hopefully, you have a preset agenda, an intentional work flow, and a series of open-ended questions. I have a favorite that I picked up years ago from sales classes at Slattery Sales Group (http://www.slatterysales.com/) and similarly at Sandler Training (http://www.sandler.com/#):

  • Meeting Agreement: “I’m not sure if I’m visiting at the right time, but what I’d like to do is just ask you a number of questions about your business and I’d encourage you to do the same. I can take whatever time you need today or in the future to go as deep as you wish. If it looks like there is no value, we will probably both realize that at the same time and we can end the discussion and get on with our days. Are you comfortable with that approach?”
  • Three Probing Questions: (uncover pain): “I’m never sure which is more important, but usually when I’m talking to a CEO, they’re often dealing with X issues and it’s usually one of two things:” (next should be a money and time problem that is related to your product or service’s solution).
  • A Catch-All Question: Is there anything else keeping you up at night in regards to X?”
  • Summary: “In regards to evaluating (their challenge), what were you planning to do next?” OR summarize issues and ask “What would you like to discuss first?

4. The BudgetHopefully this can all happen as a continuation of the meeting above. In many cases, you can cover this over the phone as a qualifier.

  •       Discussion: What do these issues cost you per month“?” They won’t know. “How could we find out?” What do you think that problem is costing you every year?” They answer and you respond “Interesting. Where did that come from?” (their guess or actual number). “On a scale of 1-10, 1 not being a problem, 10 being a must change, what number would you give your intention to fix the problem?”
  •       You Must Ask This: What is your process for making a decision on this in the present quarter?” Somewhere in here you should find out their process for deciding on you or other vendors. If there are a lot of steps and decision makers, ask “How long can you wait to grind down the vendors while it’s costing your business even more?
  •       Get them to Commit: Assuming we came back with a solution that (1) fixed the problem(s) (2) stayed within your budget and (3) we answered all your questions – What action would you take?” If you don’t get a commitment, say “Tell me more about that” or “I’m not sure I understand.Shut up and work through an often uncomfortable moment and let them talk.

This meeting and budget process works.If you ignore all of my other steps, figure this one out and perfect it. In an ideal world, you can work through all seven steps in one single meeting and come back the next week to sign the contract. If your sales meeting is a demo or showy presentation, great, but work through these seven steps before you put a lot of work into an organization that is still only a prospect.

The proposal should include unique solutions catering to a prospect’s needs. It’s your “canned” proposal with unique answers to their business so that it doesn’t look like your competitors template.

Negotiation – consider never negotiating. If you are a profitable company, I don’t know why you should bother. If you do make sure it’s quid pro quo – a little less of this for a slightly lower price. Here’s a good article on negotiation: http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/print-edition/2013/03/01/one-rule-of-negotiating-is-never-to.html?page=all

5. Team Selling: How does team selling work in your organization from the lead generation to close? You should not be an island. Maybe one salesperson can handle 90% of the deals, but what about the big ones? If you are selling something worth more than $10,000, then ownership or management should be involved. In emails beyond the initial stage, cc 3-4 people in your company so the prospect understands they are a big deal and the entire company wants their business. Management can call the prospects when they are primary targets to make their introduction or ask the prospect if they have any questions. The implementation team or project managers that will do the work or deliver the product can make a phone call as well. You may get some internal conflict here, but what’s the point? You are in business to sell services or cool stuff and that means the receptionist and mail clerk may need to get involved in wooing the prospect. Your customers pay their salaries and give everyone job security, so I won’t accept a lot of push back on this part of the sales process. Make sure before the big presentation that someone else is helping you sell and close the big deals.

Are you selling to the entire team on the other end? My teamwork mantra goes both directions. Don’t sell to one person. Figure out their organizational chart and make sure others understand that you are here to make their life easier if their company purchases your product. Obviously, that means keeping the money decision makers involved (ownership or C-suite). It also means finding a co-worker or report that you can cc in those emails, ask questions, and make your introduction and share information and materials. Encourage others to come to the in-person meeting. Your main contact has a 10% chance of getting the measles or leaving the company – do you want to start all over again then? Have your entire team sell to their entire team!

6. Jedi Mind Tricks: Interactions with prospects are opportunities you can learn to control. Before selling your amazing product or service, understand your body language and master the sale. Here are 10 of my favorites:

  • Don’t sit across the table – try to get the spot next to them. This may be difficult to maneuver in a meeting with just one person, but usually you can grab a chair so that you are only looking across the corner of the table (don’t sit down until they are seated).
  • Move slower. Breathe. Pause. Talk slower… Everything in your confidence mode is probably slower than you think. Because you are so comfortable, you aren’t startled by everything and you move slower than the other people around you.
  • Your hands should usually be ABOVE the table and seen when listening or writing. Put your hands on the table with palms up when not writing or talking to show openness that you are listening. Feel free to hold a pen or brochure in your hand when you are talking.
  • Don’t cross your arms. We tend to do this more often to stay warm, but your client or prospect may take it as disagreement (see Brad Pitt in Fight Club).
  • Don’t touch your face when talking. It is a sign you are shy or indecisive. Only Malcolm X can get away with this one!
  • Hold your head and eyes up. Your neck should feel like it is exposed.
  • Don’t lick or bite your lips.
  • Don’t smile or laugh excessively. I’m all for someone smiling, but if you do it too often, it can be taken as a sign of nervousness.
  • Use direct eye contact, but not too much! It can look a little weird if you don’t look away. Your eyes should be on the person or people you are meeting with about two-thirds of the time optimally.
  • If you are thinking in response to a question, you will appear more confident looking directly at the person or to the side (not down).

7. Authenticity: Be yourself! I have all kinds of formulas and scripts, but at the end of the day they need to sound like you and include your personal brand. If you are funny, tell clean jokes. If you are a nerd, then listen better and follow-up better than anyone in the world. Strengths Finder 2.0 is a great book with an online personality exercise that highlights your top 5 strengths. If you like people, these are the only five traits you need to succeed in sales. Capitalize on your strengths. If you don’t like people or pursuing a sale, then we have a bigger problem.  If you can’t have fun selling, you shouldn’t be in sales. Salespeople like winning, competing, helping and interacting with other people. Make sure this isn’t just a way to make more money but an occupation that you can really enjoy.

8. Closing: And then you close. You need to learn and hone this skill. It’s about confidence – confidence in yourself, your company, your product or service, and your comfort with your sales process. There are too many competitors out there and closing is the most important sales attribute. Closing faster than your peers is the mecca.

Practice your meeting work flow over and over and over (did I say over?) again. Record yourself a few times and you will probably hear yourself “um” or “ah” and notice clumsy body language that you’ll want to fix. The great part is, no one was really born understanding how to close. Other salespeople might be more aggressive than you and maybe they learned earlier from a parent that was constantly selling around them – but the reality is you can learn how to be a great closer if you will put the work into it. My #1 suggestion is the script you need to follow in my meeting and budget sections above. The rest of it is about making the little adjustments here and there. Work your ass off, read more about sales and your industry, relax and become a real closer.

Before you start pounding the phone and meeting with anyone that is willing to meet with you, start at the top of the sales funnel in my last blog and move onto this blog and take a day to analyze your sales methodologies. I guarantee you will save yourself days, weeks, and months in the long-term. Good Luck!!

Make it a great day~ Drew Schmitz

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

@drew_schmitz

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/

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