Good Conversation Stimulates Like Black Coffee

When was the last time you were really engaged in a conversation that was stimulating?  One thing is for sure; you were engaged in the conversation because the conversation was about something you were interested in.

Let’s face it there is nothing more boring than to be talking about something you feel is a waste of time.  With that in mind, how do you think your prospects feel when you are talking about something that is not of interest to them?

Conversations with prospects have to be crafted, planned, and well thought out to be stimulating.  One of the biggest challenges is to match the right conversation with the right person.

What I mean by that is a conversation with a CEO is going to be different than a conversation with a CFO, which is different than a conversation with a manager.  The reason these conversations are different is because the needs and interests of these people are different.

A one size fits all conversation about the value you bring to prospective clients will not work.   If you don’t tailor your conversation based on the needs and concerns (interests) of the person you are talking to, you won’t get very far.

For example, according to The Conference Board CEO Challenge 2010 Survey, the number one challenge CEOs say they are facing is excellence in execution followed closely by consistent execution of strategy by top management.  If you tailor your conversations to center around these points, you will be an instant hit.

It’s pretty easy to do.  You just simply state how your product or service will help with excellence in execution.   If you provide employee benefits you could discuss how execution is vital and what you and your firm are doing to address that.

Similarly, a recent study by IBM of over 1,900 CFOs and other senior financial executives revealed the top three priorities for CFOs are: reducing the cost base, making faster, more accurate decisions and providing more transparency to external stakeholders.

When you put yourself in the other person’s world and talk about things that are of interest to them you will increase receptivity to your message.  Your conversations will be engaging and you will develop relatedness at all levels in the prospect organization.

The best way to have stimulating conversations is to plan.  If you know you are going to be meeting with the CEO develop a few conversation topics of interest.  If you are going to a networking event and CFOs will be there, plan your conversations.

Taking a little time to plan and construct a conversation that is meaningful for your audience can pay huge dividends in the long run.  Always make your conversation stimulating.

Happy Selling

Have You Been Losing Sales to Hidden Competitors?

What happened?  You just knew you had a sale and then your prospect did something completely different than what you thought they were going to do!

What happened was you lost out to the competition.  The word competition can conjure up many things in your mind.  You may think about the many competitors that offer similar products or services that you do.  You may think about the advantages or disadvantages your product or service has in relation to your competitors.  Most of the time though, when you think about competition you think about competition as being another company, product, or service.

What you may not have taken into consideration is there are competitive forces that you need to contend with in sales then just “traditional” competition.  I often refer to these non-traditional competitive forces as hidden competitors.

There are two distinct hidden competitors that we are going to discuss.  The first is a mindset and the second is a buying influencer.

The “We’ve always done it this way competitor”

If the solution you are bringing to your prospects represents a fundamental change in the way they have previously done things this is a major competitor.

Consider if your prospect has been using your competitor’s brand for some time, the decision to move from the competitor’s brand to your brand may not be based solely on the value you bring versus the competitor.

In fact, your prospect may be sold on the fact that your product is actually better than what they are currently using.

However, part of the decision making process will revolve around the ease of transition from one company to the other company.

When you think of what is involved in changing companies there is a lot to change.   There are new accounts to set up from an admin basis.  There are new procedures and processes that may be different for your company versus brand X.  There are the new relationships that have to be formed.

As you can see with the amount of change that has to be made, part of the value you bring is eroded by the “cost” of changing.

What you have to do as the sales person is show how the transition will be minimal and easy.

The “outside looking in competitor”

In most business to business sales situations that involve a significant investment for products or services there will be many buying influencers in the decision making process.

Buying influencers are those people that have input into the decision making process.

Most of the buying influencers will be inside the company.  However, you may encounter a buying influencer that is outside the company.

Buying influencers that are outside the company could include attorneys, CPAs, consultants, and partners not actually working in the business.

The outsiders looking in play a role in the decision even though the product or service may not directly impact them.

Most of the times these outside buying influencers can’t give the decision to buy, but they can say don’t buy.

It is imperative that you know all of the buying influencers that will be playing a role in the decision making process.  You can’t be afraid to ask who will be involved in making the decision and confirm that you know and are aware of everyone that could remotely influence the decision.

With the outsiders looking in competitor you have to make sure you address their needs and concerns.  If necessary you may need to meet with them to understand what they want to accomplish and how your product or service would satisfy their needs.

In conclusion, competition can have many faces.  Don’t be short sighted and think that your only competition are the companies you compete against.  Competition includes all of the alternatives and obstacles that stand in the way of you making the sale.

Happy Selling

How To Execute The Discovery Phase of The Sales Process Effectively Part II

In Part I of How To Execute The Discovery Phase Of The Sales Process, I talked about the importance of asking questions, the type of questions to use, and when to use them.  Now I’m going to go a little deeper into some specific questions you need to ask in the discovery phase.

The whole point of using a sales process is to get the business.  All of the pieces of the sales process have a purpose and fit together.  If you leave out or skip a part of the sales process you dramatically decrease your chances of closing the deal.

For example, a lot of sales people want to know the best way to close a sale.  The truth is: closing a sale should be a natural outcome of the sales process.  However, everything else has to be done correctly before the closing phase of the sales process.

The discovery phase allows you to get the information you need to address the needs and concerns of your prospect.  Then you can prepare a customized solution for your prospect that will differentiate you from the competition.  This increases your probability of getting the business.

In the discovery phase you are gathering as much information as you can about your prospect.  The more you know the better position you are in.  You don’t want to just get random information; you want to know their pain and challenges.  You want to know things that can give you insight into how they will choose which way to go.

There are four main questions you want to ask as part of your discovery process.  These are not the only questions you need to ask, but they are necessary questions for each sales campaign.

The Four Questions are:

1. What criteria will you use to make your decision?

The answer to this question allows you to address the issues that are important to them when you make your proposal.  You will want to customize your proposal to include your prospects decision making criteria.

2. What is your time frame for having a solution in place?

Understanding the time frame before presenting your proposal will almost always eliminate the stall objection.  Also, if the time frame for implementation is too far out you may want to wait before proceeding with the sales process.

3. Who will be involved in the decision making process?

You have to know all of the people that will be involved in the process. You want to make sure you address each of the needs of everyone that will play a role in the decision.

4. What is your budget?

Understanding your prospect’s budget allows you to determine the proper solution.  In some cases it tells you even if you have a valid prospect.  You have to build rapport, creditability, and trust to get the answer to this question.

As I mentioned, the four questions are just a part of the many questions you will ask during the discovery phase.  Remember that the discovery phase is where you should be investing the majority of your time in the sales process.  If you do great job of discovery, your prospect will know that you understand what they need.   You will have more confidence in your solution because you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is the best solution.

Happy Selling