Tag Archives: Closing

Overcoming Those Dang Objections

4 Oct

objectionblog33

You thought you were going to close the deal – and now you hear one of the five put-offs listed below. What gives? As a salesperson, you must take accountability for everything – and when you do so, you start to realize that a lot of this is actually in your control.

Every salesperson should expect one of these objections:

“I need approval from my manager…” In the early stages, you aren’t just selling to one person. So ask about who else is going to be involved in the decision. You also need to make sure that you understand what all decision makers are thinking from the first step.

“We don’t have it in the budget…” Initially, you must ask about their budget. The pricing “fit” is determined as you make the sale – not at the end. There should be no sticker shock when it’s time to close because you’ve already had conversations about your pricing.

“We are looking at other options…” What – really? You didn’t know from the on-set which competitors they were looking at in comparison? You need to know who/what you are selling up against. That way you can overcome this through selling your value proposition prior to the close.

“I don’t think we are ready to make a change right now…” These last two objections are more difficult to anticipate ahead of time. It seemed like they were buyers in 2018 – and for some reason that has changed. Overcoming this one starts with simply asking “Beyond the expense, what are your concerns?” IF they are responding to fear of change, then you need to show them the danger of NOT making a change. What is it costing them in delaying this purchase?

“This just isn’t a good time…” I hate this one as it’s ambiguous.  But again, take accountability for the deal because if it’s your fault, it may be within your control to help them see that this IS a good time. By asking better open-ended questions along the way, you will reduce the number of times you hear this in the final stages. That said, it may not be the right time. Unless they just aren’t interested, you are going to stay in touch with them every week – until it is the right time.

  • Encourage them to share concerns early in the sales process.
  • Communicate with all of the decision makers.
  • Be aware of their budget and how they can afford the purchase. Your product or service should essentially save them money within 12 months and you are building excitement about the earnings or savings tied in with only your solution.
  • Understand your competitors and how betting on your company isn’t a gamble.

Once again, my primary message is to anticipate the objections above in the early stages. If you expect them and do your homework on the front end, you are going to overcome their concerns and hear a lot fewer objections in the closing stages.

It’s time to grow faster~

Drew Schmitz

blueoctopusllc.com

 

 

The Challenger Sale?

12 Dec

goldfish jumping - improvement and career concept

Recently, someone asked me about the Challenger Sales program; it gave me pause and led me to thinking about all of the sales training methodologies that have been introduced over the years. The long list includes sales models like SPIN, Conceptual Selling, SNAP, CustomerCentric, Sandler and now, the newer Challenger model. Below is a short recap of these six models. For the purpose of this blog, I’ve summarized this list in very simplified terms.

SPIN (Situation Problem Implication Need-Payoff) Selling – Don’t tell the prospect… ASK and help them find the best solution

Conceptual Selling – Listen, share and get commitment

SNAP Selling – Keep sales on track by keeping it simple, being invaluable, aligning with the prospect and raising priorities

CustomerCentric – Collaborate and empower the buyer to buy

The Sandler System – Uncover the pain, determine obstacles, decide together to continue; move on or close the deal

The Challenger Development Program – Teach, tailor and take control. The customer already knows what they want, so your job is to inform them about larger business problems, ideas and insights. Through educating and challenging them on their preconceived beliefs, you will ultimately lead them to the sale.

There are many similarities between all of these models. To a great extent, a lot of the solutions are just semantics. Most of these systems can be effective – and most of them still need to be tweaked according to your customer and your solution.

I personally like the Challenger model because of the initial premise – the prospect may already believe that they know what they want. They may not give you the time to go through discovery questions and therefore you may need to challenge the buyer to consider alternative solutions.

I also prefer the Sandler model because it stresses the need to qualify through questions and understanding at the beginning of the process. It also encourages you to walk away if your organization doesn’t have the best solution and it isn’t worth the time to push back. You simply cannot always customize your solution and/or be all things to all buyers.

Ultimately, these are the most important areas on which to focus:

1. Teach your internal sales team a model. Any sales process is better than winging it.

2. Always be consultative, collaborative or whatever you want to call it. The old-fashioned push doesn’t work.

3. Understand the decision maker(s) and their personality style which determines how they buy.

4. Uncover the prospects’ potential needs. Whether that’s gathering intel before even speaking with them or through a discovery process (even if it’s only 2-3 questions).

5. Figure out their budget parameters.

6. Determine if your solutions are a fit (or move on).

7. If there is a pain, then move forward with the Sandler or a pain-selling process.

8. If you KNOW they are a good prospect but the pain or solution is unclear, then move into the Challenger Sales. Educate and push back … still moving them to yes or no.

It’s complicated.The best salespeople can use both Sandler and Challenger accordingly. The sticking point is whether you continue to push the sale or give up and decide to move on. I’m concerned that the Challenger model can be a waste of time if the salesperson is overly bullheaded and refuses to give up and possibly offends the customer or prospect; but the Sandler pain-solution doesn’t always work with good prospects when they won’t reveal their challenges and needs. Teach your salespeople a method; more senior salespeople can learn more than one. In the year ahead, I challenge sales leadership to buy their teams a few books and discuss the different approaches in selling your solution.

Forward never straight~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

How to Close More Deals

18 Dec

imageedit_8_4789026856

The one question that I’m asked most often is simply “How can I close more deals?“. It’s a loaded question, but if I had only one response it would be that you have a specific sales process which gives you control throughout the entire sale.

Sales is completely different than customer service. In customer service, you bend over backwards to take care of the customer. You react to their needs.

In sales, you only bend over backwards if there is a high probability of closing a deal. As the salesperson, you drive the deal and the prospect reacts. You still want to help people but only if you get something in return. If this sounds selfish than you probably aren’t wired for sales.

1. Call the decision maker(s). If you can send over some more information, I can ask my manager…” How many times have you heard this? You are calling the wrong person and need to be talking to that manager directly.

2. Don’t waste time on maybe’s. Sometimes it is hard to tell if people are seriously interested. It’s your job to always ask questions that identify the following:

  • Am I speaking to the right person?
  • Do they need my product or service?
  • Do they understand my offering?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Do they have the budget for my product or service? (see below)

3. You have a series of questions prepared for every phone call or meeting. That means having a series of questions prepared for every phone call or meeting. I repeat – have a series of questions prepared for every phone call or meeting. This requires preparation. Are you putting the work into it?

4. There is always momentum. From the first phone call to inking the deal, there is always a next step. Whether it’s a phone call, meeting or a simple answer, it’s on the calendar and both parties are in agreement on those deadlines. You are continually dictating or asking for the next step. This weekly or daily momentum is where a salesperson is essential.

5. Every meeting has a preset agenda. It’s your job to make it a good one. Do you know everyone involved in making the decision on their end? Figure out who should be there and don’t hold the meeting until everyone can be present. Prior to the meeting, speak to every person involved and simply ask them directly what they’d like on the agenda.

6. At the meeting, use a version of this script.

  • Meeting Opener: “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. I’d also like to answer any and all of your questions. 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?”
  • Pain Probing Questions: “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 X, what were you planning to do next?” OR summarize issues and ask “What would you like to discuss first?

7. At the meeting, discuss the budget. 

  • 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 best guess or an 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?”
  • What is your process for making a decision on this in the present quarter?” Somewhere in here you should find out their process for vendor decisions. If there are a lot of steps and decision makers, ask “How long can you wait through this process while it’s costing your business even more?
  • Assuming we came back with a solution that (1) fixed the problem(s) (2) stayed within your budget and (3) includes answers to all of 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. Let them think and elaborate a complete response.

8. The Proposal. It should include unique solutions catering to a prospect’s needs. It’s your “canned” proposal with specific answers to their business so that it doesn’t look like your competitors’ template. By the time you are pulling this together, the deal should already be 90% closed and this is only the window dressing.

This process has worked well for me for a number of years even though my prospect doesn’t always like it. You aren’t in sales to make prospects happy, you are selling to close deals and make clients happy.

It’s time to grow faster.

~Drew Schmitz

"M@il" button (blue)

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

www

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

LinkedIn_logo_initials

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/

sshot50462796e044d

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blue-Octopus-LLC/176668965728096

twitter_newbird_boxed_whiteonblue

Twitter: @drew_schmitz

 

 

 

Would Johnny Manziel be a good salesman?

20 Aug

sleazy-salesman

Cocky or just confident? As a sales coach and sales recruiter, I am always seeking confident salespeople. It comes with infectious enthusiasm, drive, optimism and carries immediate respect. Cockiness is interpreted as brash, arrogant and unlikable. What is the fine line between the two?

20 years ago, I went out on sales calls with a guy that entered an office suite without an appointment. He often flashed the lights on and off to get their attention and to get a laugh. I was amazed how Tom usually got away with it… and then followed it up by selling his printer cleaning services. Tom had a likeability about him and could quickly disarm the prospect at the front desk with a wink, smile and a joke. Later on in life, I realized that he probably wasn’t going to get away with selling anything that cost more than $500. Tom had half of what I was looking for – confidence, but he never succeeded as far as I know, in making a connection with a CEO and selling a bigger ticket item because his borderline cockiness would not fly today.

Cocky Salespeople:
  • Sell you stuff – if you don’t like the product, all they have is words…
  • So they talk a lot.
  • They tell you this product is the best one then make you feel bad for not buying it today (like most people in car sales).
  • This trait develops when people externally are continually telling them that they are important. When this breaks down, they usually don’t have the internal wherewithal to recover well.
Confident Salespeople:
  • Sell you a product and/or service with choices, solutions and benefits surrounding their offering(s).
  • They usually don’t talk that much but ask you what you are looking for and answer questions.
  • The urgency to buy belongs to the customer – the salesperson is urgent, but can sell it to you as slowly as you’d prefer.
  • This trait arrives from an internal self-assurance. It is built from within through a realistic view and trust in your own talents and abilities. It allows you to authentically respond to your customers and prospects.

If you are still waiting for the punchline on Johnny Manziel… NO, he wouldn’t make for a good salesman!

There are two things a salesperson can do this week:
  1. Have your manager or one of your better coworkers join you on a call with a prospect. Their number one job is to evaluate you while in the meeting.
  2. Video tape your presentation in a mock sales call with a coworker.
Evaluate your sales approach and make sure your confidence never comes across as cocky. You can always learn something about yourself through these two simple methods to keep yourself sharp.

It’s time to grow faster.

~Drew Schmitz

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blue-Octopus-LLC/176668965728096

Twitter: @drew_schmitz

8 Things Kids Can Teach You About Sales

3 Mar

imageedit_1_4730028502

On Saturday night, I watched my 11 year-old daughter give a speech in front of 200+ adults at a fundraiser. I was reminded that I’ve really taught her everything I can in terms of values and life skills. The rest of the parenting journey involves modeling the right behavior – no longer preaching the rules of life. Children often live the basics better than we do in our haphazard, busy lives. Now it’s time for me to start learning a little from my daughter…

8 Things Kids Can Teach You about Sales:

  1. Say please and thank you. Those old-fashioned manners are important.
  2. Be authentic with everyone you interact. Be you.
  3. Do the things you enjoy doing. If you don’t love the sales profession, why are you doing it? If you don’t love the company you are working for, why are you working there? If you aren’t really good at it, why bother?
  4. Stand up for what you believe. It’s okay not to agree with everything people say. 
  5. Ask questions. We can’t ask “Why?” too often.
  6. Be playful. Jump over the fence if that’s the fastest way to get there.
  7. Tell the truth. Admit it when you don’t know the answer and apologize when you make a mistake.
  8. Keep learning. Never stop getting smarter and please learn from your black eyes, bumps, bruises and mistakes.

These are fundamentals that will help you sell. Customers and prospects want to know that you are a good person before they buy from you. If they don’t like you, they know one hundred other people selling your product or service. Be inventive and genuine – be the best and do it with a smile.

Make every day count!

~Drew Schmitz

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/131nqty

Twitter: @drew_schmitz

8 Paths to Better Team Selling

31 Dec

team-selling

Organizations simply aren’t team selling often enough. Here’s what I mean by team selling…

  1. Include Everyone Involved on the Prospect Side: This includes the buyer whom you start with and initially pitch, the people whose problem you are fixing with your product or service, the influencers and the people who control the budget. If anyone on their end says “no”, “maybe” or “I’m not sure”, you will likely lose the sale.
  2. Also, Include Everyone that can Aid the Sale from Your Organization: In bigger deals, always include a manager or higher exec (the owner if privately held), the technical experts and those involved in servicing future customers. They are included in all stages of the sale.
  3. Introduce Yourself to the CEO Early: You need to respect their buying process and avoid “stepping on toes” in selling to the C-Suite, but MOST OF THE TIME you don’t lose a sale because you call the CEO once and introduce yourself. If actually lose it, you’d hate that client anyway! Let the initial buyer lead the sales process, but never give your final presentation if he/she doesn’t own the budget. One way to stay above board, is emailing your contact that you will be calling the CEO (or Exec) in the same hour that you are making the phone call.
  4. Keep Your Team Informed: As you include everyone from your organization on the big deals, over-communicate with everyone via meetings, strategy discussions, CRM documentation and via email. If you have a strong project management software, this is a great communique for keeping all informed.
  5. Ask your Executive to be Involved in the Final Pitch: Major presentations should always include management, a technical expert (regardless of your product or service) and someone from the servicing team. A team approach of four or more presenters also achieves several benefits: (a) the prospect is impressed that you are taking them seriously (2) all of their questions can be answered (3) if you are smaller organization, a quality presentation with multiple people involved makes you look robust and qualified to handle their needs (d) multiple presenters makes it a lot easier to focus on everyone you are selling to in the room.
  6. Emails: I have a very particular way of selling in a team environment – over-communicate until you are told otherwise by the prospect (again, you rarely lose a sales when keeping the top brass informed). Once it is determined that the prospect is interested and they are a fairly large target, you need to determine all the individuals involved in the sale. Yes, sometimes it may only be two people, but you need to understand their buying process. After a one-on-one introduction to each of these people, keep them CC’d on the major steps moving forward (demos, target dates, information and movement towards a final presentation date). Also, CC everyone on your team that is involved. It’s not ridiculous to send an email to one person and CC seven or more people when you are making a $50,000 sale!
  7. Daily or Weekly Action: How can you not have a next step every week if you have four people selling to four or more decision makers? Action steps create movement. Sales is all about staying in front of them until they say yes or no. You are the ring-leader in the sale, so lead and don’t let it slow down!
  8. Focus on the Ultimate Decision Maker: If he or she doesn’t feel confident in you and your company, they ain’t buying. At the final presentation, focus the presentation on getting all of his/her questions answered first. You have others in the room with you, so your job is to focus your efforts on that one person (and make sure your executive has a similar focus). Understand the budget earlier (I’ll be blogging about this in an upcoming January post), and make sure the money isn’t the reason if the sale doesn’t close.

This isn’t that complicated. Hopefully, you are already doing most of the above – if not, rethink your team sales process. Have a safe, healthy, blessed, lucky and successful 2014!

Happy New Year!

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/131nqty

8 Jedi Mind Tricks for Salespeople

18 Dec

light_sabers_486

You genuinely like people, ask good questions, know your product, and are persistent – but for some reason you are still having difficulty closing. What gives? While you are listening or talking, you can make several subtle changes which will lead to dramatic improvements. It’s time to review a few sales Jedi mind tricks! 

Non-verbals to pay attention to when in front of a prospect or customer:

  1. Positioning: Wait to sit until they are seated. Try to get the spot next to the prospect instead of sitting directly across from them. This may be difficult to manuever in a meeting with just one person, but usually you can grab the seat at the table so that you are only looking across the corner in conference room meetings. Also, give the lead prospect or customer the chair at the end of the table (if you take it, they may be offended).
  2. Posture: Your posture shouldn’t be pulled in or closed. Lift your chest and spread your shoulders out and back. Put your hands on the table with palms up when not writing or talking to show openness that you are listening. Don’t be rigid or hunched over. You are going for a relaxed look where your shoulders are pulled back and your back is straight. You are trying to show an open, almost vulnerable posture – be relaxed and open.
  3. Hands: Holding your hands in front of you while standing is a defensive gesture. And don’t place them behind your back or in your pockets. Feel free to use hand gestures when talking!
  4. Fingers: Avoid twitching them or your hands while in front of a customer or prospect. Your hands should usually be ABOVE the table and seen when listening or writing. Hold a pen or brochure in your hand when you are talking. Also, don’t touch your face when talking. It is a sign of shyness or indecisiveness.
  5. Arms: 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 the movie Fight Club).
  6. Head: Hold your head and eyes up. Your neck should feel like it is exposed.
  7. Mouth: Avoid biting or licking your lips (and the prospect!). Also, 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.
  8. Eyes: Try not to blink too often. If this an issue for you, blink your eyes slower. Let your eyelids relax and let them droop a bit. Don’t shift your eyes around when speaking. It’s important to maintain a steady gaze at the customer or prospect’s face. Use direct eye contact, but not too much! It can look a little weird if you don’t look away. Optimally, your eyes should be on the person or people you are meeting with about two-thirds of the time. 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).

I was in Toastmasters for a few years which helped me look at myself in the mirror. We don’t act and sound the way that we think we do. Videotape yourself a few times and you’ll see your weaknesses and be able to improve them. Overall, I would suggest you simply talk and move slower: Everything in your confidence mode is probably moving slower than you think. Because you are so comfortable, you aren’t startled by everything and you can move slower than the other people around you. Like a Jedi Knight, closers first disarm the people with whom they interact! 

Happy Holidays!

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/131nqty

8 SALES METRICS TO TRACK

26 Nov

sales growth

How is your year going? If you are ahead of your sales goals, I’m guessing you are smiling – and if not, biting your nails throughout the 4th Quarter!

If you have read my previous posts, you’ll recall my strong belief in metrics. Sales management and salespeople need to be fully aware of the bigger picture and trends. Sales metrics are the “buttons” we all can press to repeat successes and dramatically improve your sales odds. You don’t have to over analyze, but you should automate via your CRM the numbers which can be easily tracked below. If you are a Salesforce user, check out http://www.funnelsource.com for a little more gusto to your forecasting and sales pipeline. We’ll discuss sales CRM’s in depth another day, but make certain you are able to track all of the metrics below in your system. Manage every rep to enter their activities like their job depends on it (if it isn’t recorded, it didn’t happen!). Every goal listed should be examined by the individuals and the team as a whole.

The only 8 sales metrics that you need to pay attention to: 

1. Total Conversations, Meetings or Demos, Proposals & Closes:

The math between these steps is critical to everything that follows on this list and will help you understand gaps and strengths in which to improve or capitalize.  Here is an example: In a month, Beatrice makes 160 calls speaking with a decision maker; she also goes out on 20 face to face meetings, delivers 8 proposals and closes 2 deals. Her ratio is 160/20/8/2. It takes 8 “spoke-to’s” (not calls) to achieve 1 meeting, 80 conversations to close one deal, and 20 meetings lead her to 8 proposals… Understand these ratios for every salesperson. Understand these ratios for the entire team (the larger the sample set, the better – so be willing to look at annual numbers). Overall, understand what it takes to close business (and the average margin attached to those closes). If you can track these ratios, then you can set fair expectations for the salespeople – and even better, become somewhat of a fortune-teller for sales results in your company!

Note that I want you to chart sales conversations, not the number of attempts it takes to reach decision makers. I would count emails returned as spoke-to’s but don’t give your sales reps credit for left messages and outbound emails. It’s a great way for a salesperson to hide from management if all your tracking is their attempts. Find a way to track real conversations as these are what lead to appointments, proposals and closed deals. Chart these numbers weekly and share them with everyone in the sales team.

2. The Effectiveness of Every Sales Activity:

Start with the team averages. How many conversations does it take to set to meetings and demos? How many meetings and demos result in proposals? How many proposals to prospects convert to closes? If you have a baseline high/low expectation pulled from your top producers’ results, you will start to see the gaps in individuals.

In 2011, Blue Octopus closed 24 deals. We wanted to close 30 but we only delivered 40 proposals/presentations. Yes, our close percentage was great, but the following year, we delivered over 100 proposals and doubled the number of deals. Everyone on your team should have a goal to improve a certain category based on their shortcomings. Ideally, focus on a salesperson’s closed deals, but if they aren’t meeting goal, analyze the activity at the top of the funnel to understand the cause and effect down the pipeline.

3. The Percentage of the Deals Won/Lost:

In 2011, Blue Octopus’ close ratio was 65%. In 2012, it fell to 48% but I was happy with that. Four years into running this business, I’m not sure what the right number is, but I know it’s lower than 65% based on the sales structure of my business. This year our run rate is 45% so I suspect the right answer is actually even lower (somewhere between 30-45%). Examine your win ratio by each sales rep and then the entire team. Does the number need to go up or down? What will cause it to change? What will it take from the salesperson – from you – and from the team?

4. The Profiles of Clients Closed:

This isn’t exactly numbers data (unless you are focusing on SIC codes), but it is data nonetheless. If you win 50 deals this year, examine the basic profiles.

  • What industry?
  • Location?
  • Size of business (employee count and total sales)?
  • Titles you are selling to?
  • Department?
  • Any commonality in personality types?
  • Which profiles result in better gross margins?

The more specific you can get, the better. In retail, you want to break this down even further into age range, income, ethnicity, marital status, occupation – the list could go on and on (there is a $ reason Amazon, Wal-Mart, Clear Channel, Facebook and Google are tracking our buying behaviors!).

There’s tremendous power in understanding who your customers are and why they buy from you. It is also powerful in the closing stages to provide your prospects with references of similar businesses that have purchased your product or service.

5. The Length of the Sales Cycle:

I’m sure you have an idea of the length of your sales cycle, but it is often broad and based more on feelings and history than actual data. Examine the closes made this year. When did they start in your sales cycle? How did they start? How long does it take to go from prospecting to conversation to meeting to proposal to close? In many businesses, all four of these steps should be measured in average days. If you examine the profiles of your best clients – they likely made a faster buying decision. 

A salesperson’s number one job is to speed up the sales cycle but they need help from you in understanding how to improve it. That starts with precisely tracking the length of their sales cycle.

6. Closing Performance against Monthly, Quarterly & Annual Goals:

These numbers shouldn’t be very difficult to measure. There’s only two questions that will arise if you aren’t on track to hit your annual numbers: (1) Does our sales force have the ability to close deals? (2) Are we making enough calls, setting enough meetings, and pitching enough deals this year? #1 is complex, but #2 is fairly simple to drill down. I would much rather be working on coaching good salespeople to become better closers as opposed to micromanaging them to make more calls and set more meetings!

7. The Number of Real Opportunities in the Pipeline:

There is a lot of qualitative measurement under this category. The length of your sales cycle, the profile of the prospect and the success of the individual sales rep should all factor into the likelihood of closing a single deal. Let’s go back to Blue Octopus’ 2012 numbers: we made 104 proposals and closed exactly 50 deals. If we deliver 30 proposals this quarter, next quarter I should be able to predict 15 closed deals. Throw in a little chaos, and I would predict the actual number to be 12-13 (ask me in 4 months!). Real close opportunities means applying a little bit of a fudge factor. Do I want to close 20 deals? Yes! Do I want to provide my investors with a safe number for our budgeting? Yes, please.

8. The Number of Deals Forecasted to Close:

Remember the comments above about being a better fortune teller? You are now equipped with a lot of data and should be able to break it down by quarter in your forecasts.

I’m not sure I really believe in an annual forecast (I prefer 6 month forecasts). Predicting numbers 12 months from now is like throwing darts. Annual forecasts usually do not take sales turnover, economy and chaos into account (and every business has swings in all three categories).

If you want to throw a dart at doubling your sales in 2014, you obviously need to improve the causes that will give you a shot at making that leap. Are you doubling the size of your sales team? Are you plugging in a huge, new marketing effort? Are second and third year sales reps expected to make big leaps in performance? All of these come into play and your darts are more accurate as you tie them into your historical and ongoing sales metrics.

If you’d like a broader perspective (beyond the numbers) on sales forecasting, check out a great Forbes article by Scott Edinger: http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottedinger/2013/06/03/four-principles-for-great-sales-forecasts/. He not only looks at the metrics, but also presses that customer behavior, sales strategy and continual improvement are key to hitting your marks.

If you’ve done a great job of measuring all of the data in #1 through #7 above, then you should be able to make three forecasts: (1) minimum expected sales (2) goal (3) and a stretch goal – ideally you can convince your management to do these in 6 month increments and twice a year. I believe in setting all three of these and rewarding the team as they climb the ladder of success. Good luck as you fine tune those sales forecasts!

Make every day count!

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/131nqty

Twitter: @drew_schmitz

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/

Screaming Sales and Marketing

6 Jun

stock-footage-scary-boss-a-businessman-with-megaphone-mexican-wrestling-mask-and-caution-and-danger-tapeMy apologies if my image is a little scary this week, but I couldn’t resist.

Business development – it’s all about screaming sales and marketing. At least after you master the leadership and operations components (see my May 15th blog posting). Wikipedia’s definition: “business development comprises a number of tasks and processes generally aiming at developing and implementing growth opportunities“.

You know how to lead a company and develop people. You have a good idea in your product or service. Now there is really only thing that can totally screw it up – sales and marketing!

So categorically, what is sales and marketing exactly? That’s what I’m here to help you breakdown.

Marketing:

  • “Traditional Marketing” – It’s the sales materials, billboards, radio, yellow pages, and more. It is important for all businesses, but getting really expensive for small companies.
    • Strategy: the classic four P’s: Price, product, promotion and placement!
    • Branding and communications
    • Supply chain management
  • Digital Media – SEO (search engine optimization), your web site, email campaigns, and oh, those 100 social media sites. This is affordable but confusing. Because of that confusion, too many business are falling behind.

Sales:

  • The top of the sales funnel – Assuming you know your target market – it’s cold calling, qualifying, and lead generation.
  • The middle of the funnel – Warm calling, lead follow-up, networking, and carrying your business card wherever you go.
  • The bottom of the funnel (it’s the best part!):
    • Meetings, proposals and demos. I’m a big believer in metrics. You should know what your percentages here so you can predict future sales.
    • Closing time. Some businesses do all of the above well, but don’t finish. We talk about closing all the time, but we still don’t work on it enough.

Overall, what is important in business development? Here are our Eight Octopus H’s or Oh8’s:

  1. Having a solid business plan (fixed and flexible)
  2. Hiring the right people
  3. Holding onto ALL your good employees
  4. Helping them succeed
  5. Harping on teamwork
  6. Hacking the problems (inside and out)
  7. Hyping your business process (written, posted, trained, measured and retrained)
  8. Heaping the rewards (rinse and repeat over and over and over again)

And what is this new version of sales & marketing in 2013? Over my next four blogs this summer, I will delve into digital media strategy and the three sales categories listed above. It’s time to perfect your sales and marketing process!

Make it a great day~ Drew Schmitz

@drew_schmitz

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/