“Be Prepared.” That’s the Boy Scout motto, and I’ve spoken about it before. So many sales are lost not because the customer doesn’t want to buy, but because the salesperson isn’t prepared to sell. Every salesperson thinks that they’re prepared to sell – but few actually walk through the steps and define what it takes to make a sale happen.
What is your sales process? By “sales process,” I mean, “what are the steps involved in making a sale? Walk it through, start to finish, with the objective of understanding the “catch points,” and seeing what you can do to eliminate them. You also need to understand the customer’s interest curve, which we’ll address first.
Think of the customer’s interest as a bell curve. On the left (the beginning) of the curve, your customer’s interest is typically low. Then, as you move forward discovering needs and showing how your product or service can address those needs and generate a positive result, your customer’s interest increases until it hits the peak of the bell curve. That moment in time when the customer’s interest is highest is, as we know, the best moment to complete a sale. But how do we know? Actually, it’s easy – the customer usually asks a question.
“So, how much does that cost?”
When your customer asks for a price, they are usually at the peak of their interest curve. Every word you use, every day that goes by, before you answer that question only moves the customer back down the bell curve. This is one of the places that good sales go to die. It’s not the only one, though. There are other places and other ways that we hurt our sales potential through not being prepared to make a sale happen. Here are five moments where salespeople get in their own way:
Not having good questions: Sales is, as we’ve said many times, an activity of questioning and intellectual curiosity. You need to want to know about your customer’s needs, defined result, and defined ‘win’ from the sales call. It’s not enough to have a list of questions in front of you – you have to be prepared to create good questions on the fly.
Being your own worst objector: Salespeople are guilty of this one all the time. You’ve probably done it, too – gone into a sales call thinking, “No way they’ll buy today,” or something like it. This becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t think your customer will buy, they won’t. This manifests itself in a number of different ways, including being your own worst price objector, thinking negatively about your ability to carry out the sale, etc. This results in the salesperson artificially slow-playing the sale while your competitor walks right past you.
Not taking sales tools into the call: There’s really no excuse for this one. All the time, I see salespeople who are scared to death to take sales tools into a sales call – including necessary sell sheets, brochures, even contracts and order forms. The explanation I hear most commonly is, “I didn’t want to intimidate the customer.” Really? Your customer knows why you’re there – even if YOU don’t. Don’t be that person. When you go into a sales call, be prepared to make that sale happen.
Being unprepared to price: Look, I know that not every one of you can be fully prepared to price every piece of business. Some needs are complicated. Some are complex projects. Some require quotes from manufacturers. And, if your situation is truly one of those situations, you are excused from this comment. That said, too many of you are not excused – you have the tools, price sheets, etc. available to you to quote price, and yet when the customer asks “how much” you immediately retreat to the Bat Cave to develop the magic proposal. Why? If you have the tools, quote the price – because if you don’t quote price, you can’t close! Which leads us to…
Being unwilling to seek commitment: Notice that I didn’t say, “Being unwilling to close the sale.” Not every appointment can end with a closed sale – but every appointment should end with a commitment for a next step. If you can close (i.e. you have identified needs, presented, proposed), then by all means – ask the closing question. If you do really have to continue the sales process to another appointment, then set the next appointment right then and there. If you don’t, you have no one to blame but yourself for the customer losing interest.
Don’t get me wrong. Many, if not most, sales won’t be closed in one call. However, by being prepared, you can shorten the sales cycle without annoying your customer.