I started my career in sales: sold my abilities to cut grass when I was a kid, then waited tables in a restaurant, and after my time in the Navy I was in straight-commission sales in the computer and telecom industries, and so on. Over the years, I have hired salespeople, built and managed sales teams, and then managed the VP’s of Sales who managed the teams.
The #1 Problem I’ve seen in sales organizations? They lose sight of the basics.
They forget the Seven Basic Steps of the Sales Cycle.
- Needs Assessment
- Overcoming Objections
- Closing the Deal
- Follow up
Let’s look at them one-by-one, and then I will point out where I’ve seen people go wrong in each spot.
Cold calling. Introducing yourself to strangers. Knocking on doors. Looking for business opportunities. This is usually the one that scares the heck out of people the first time they try it. It gets easier with time – becomes second nature. It gets comfortable.
People forget how to cold call or don’t think they have to do it anymore. It’s beneath them. They’re too busy. Wrong! If you don’t do it a little bit each day or week, you’ll soon run out of clients and that’s ALL you will be doing.
Asking questions, trying to decide if this person has a need, realized or unrealized, for your product or service. Finding out if they have the means to purchase your product. Finding out if the timing is right for them. Seeing if you think they’re convincible.
People don’t ask probing questions because it makes them or the prospect feel uncomfortable. They end up wasting their time with someone who isn’t going to buy.
Common Mistake #2:
Over time, many of your customers will become your friends. Remember, when you’re cold-calling and qualifying, don’t go looking for friends – go looking for customers. This is your #1 priority. Sure, rapport-development is important in any good sales situation, but don’t go overboard. Are they going to buy from you? Figure it out quickly so you don’t waste their time or yours!
Asking questions about your prospect’s desires and needs. Asking about what they have now, what they like about it, and what they don’t. Listening carefully for ways to align these wants and needs with your product’s features and benefits.
Salespeople launching into presentations too soon, not asking enough questions, or the right questions, to truly find out what the prospect is looking for. They present too soon.
After listening to, and truly hearing what your prospect wants and needs, you’ve matched up those attributes of your product for maximum impact, and minimized the shortcomings or irrelevant features your product has. You focus on the benefits the customer will receive when they buy and get them to visualize a better, happier life or job with your solution.
Immediately move into features, product statistics, company reputation, and make the presentation all about you, your company, and your product without translating all these things into how it will positively affect the customer once they have chosen your solution.
Common Mistake #2:
Once you have successfully addressed the prospect’s wants and needs with your product’s benefits, you keep on talking features, keep on talking benefits they don’t need, and pretty soon, you’ve talked right “past the sale”. Don’t do this.
Listening intently to the customer’s objection or challenge with your solution, answering any clarifying questions, pointing out mistaken or misunderstood features or benefits, or reducing the objection in importance in the mind of the customer. You dig deeper to find out why the prospect doesn’t want to buy or is holding back. This is another opportunity to re-qualify the prospect and to ask for the order.
Taking the first objection as a “no” and giving up on the sale. Maybe the prospect isn’t comfortable with you yet and they want to see how you react. They might need to feel like they’re in control and slow things down a notch or two. Or perhaps they just haven’t made it “over the hump” to sign the order and they need just a little more reassurance.
Common Mistake #2:
“Talking past the sale.” You’ve answered the objection satisfactorily, but you didn’t ask for the order. In fact you dig deeper with them and more objections come up. Now you have a bigger battle on your hands. Keep it simple. Overcome the objection if you can, ask for the order or signature, and then BE QUIET.
Closing the Deal
Asking for the order. Asking for the signature, the authorization, the contract and a deposit….or however you do it in your industry. This can be done in so many ways, but so many salespeople are nervous about this, so they do it in a canned, unnatural way. It doesn’t have to be like that. Keep it light, be inclusive (“I’m happy we can get started”), keep them envisioning the solution, be happy for them (“Oh, man, I’m so excited for you!”), and so on. Yes it takes guts to ask the question. Yes it takes nerves to wait through the silence. As Nike says, “Just Do It”!
NOT asking for the order because you’re scared or nervous, or don’t want to put the person on the spot, or you don’t want to seem pushy, or you don’t want them to not like you, or you don’t want to be too “sales-ey”. Excuses, excuses. It’s not about you! Don’t be selfish! This is your job. You’ve spent this much time with them, done your work well. They, and you, deserve this. Close the deal.
Congratulations! You’ve closed the sale! Now go and do your paperwork thoroughly and correctly the first time so others in your organization know what needs to be done. Make sure you deliver exceptional customer service and that you meet or exceed all your commitments. This new customer is more important than any more new ones at this moment, so deliver! Then check back in after a period of time. Then ask for referrals.
Moving on too quickly to look for more customers and not making sure this one is completely satisfied to the best of your ability. Pay attention and deliver excellence here.
Common Mistake #2:
Word-of-mouth is the best possible advertising. Look at how social media does this so well in our world today. Ask for referrals. “Would you be kind enough to introduce me to just two people who you think could use my product?” Don’t forget! This makes returning to prospecting that much easier!
I don’t care how long you’ve been in sales, if you’re not reminding yourself of these 7 Basic Sales Steps, and executing on them on a regular basis, and constantly trying to improve your skills, you will not enjoy the success you could. Yes, there are many books, articles, and blogs to read about selling, but they will all fit into these basic categories.
Remind yourself now and then. Don’t get too fancy, or tricky, or sophisticated, or self-absorbed, or busy. Stick to these basics. You can’t go wrong.
I welcome your comments and feedback!
Make it a great day! –Rick