When the Sale is Critical, What if…?

This week, our focus has been centered on increasing sales in franchise organizations at all levels. We’ve discussed sales prospecting, presentations and sales questions in a B2B situation. Today, in our last segment, we’ll discuss the key sale that possibly goes wrong. From a business owner’s perspective and in light of today’s economic environment, the possibility of being in this position is quite real. This applies to all types of sales!

When the Sale is Critical, What if…?

fail444456You’re close to finalizing a major deal with a prospective client that will result in a large payout and repeat business for years to come. The time you’ve spent nurturing this prospect will finally payoff. Some of your current clients have been disappointed by the lack of attention you’ve shown them over the past year but you know you can make it up to them after you close this deal. Besides, this new client will generate a significant increase in revenue and profits that everybody knows is vital to the company’s future success.

But wait. You’ve learned in the 11th hour, the prospective client is changing directions and is exploring options with your competitor. As it turns out, the change in direction is being blamed on something you did or said that they weren’t exactly happy with. You find this out from a former employee, now employed with your competitor. He goes on to tell you the prospect would rather do business with your company but only if you weren’t involved.

You think about the potential loss of immediate and future business. What about the revenue and profits the company desperately needs? How will you be viewed by your employees (and partners) if the prospect signs with your competitor when you’ve invested so much time and resources? What happens if key employees find out the prospect could have been saved if you stepped aside? What is it that you did or said that caused the change in direction? Does it really matter now?

Forget the “this wouldn’t happen to me” response. Put aside the “it couldn’t happen like this” statement. Look beyond the “he should have seen it coming” exclamation. Let’s assume it happened exactly as it was described above – What would you do?

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B2B Sales: Questions Are Your Greatest Tools

In continuing with our focus on increasing sales in franchise organizations at all levels, we will build upon the last two days’ articles about sales prospecting and presentations, and today discuss sales questions specific to a B2B situation, but can be easily revised for any sales situation.

sales questionsB2B Sales: Questions Are Your Greatest Tool

Prepare, in advance, the questions you’ll ask when you actually get face to face with your prospect. Of course, every selling situation is unique and every selling situation requires some variation, but certain basic questions that come up in every interview can be planned in advance.

By carefully planning them, you can make sure you cover all of your bases and that your wording is precise. There is one caution – be careful not to phrase them so they sound canned.

Ask As Many Open-Ended Questions As Possible

Closed questions that call for a “yes” or “no” answer tend to discourage people from talking, to give only limited information, and they tend to set a negative tone. During the Probe (the questioning) step of most selling systems, ask primarily open-ended questions that require prospects to tell you how they feel, what they want, or what they think. There is room for “yes” or “no” questions, but be careful not to use too many or to use them incorrectly.

Ask Needs-Based Questions

In the Probe step you want to do more than get your prospect to talk; you want to find out what he or she needs. Therefore, frame questions that will give you insights into how prospects perceive their needs.

Ask Questions That Help You Identify Problems That Need To Be Solved

Usually there’s one overriding problem that needs to be resolved in the prospect’s mind – a situation you can understand by asking the right questions. Plus, with proper pre-call planning and strong internal advocacy, you should already know what those problems are.

Ask Questions That Help You Pinpoint The Dominant Buying Motivations

Buying motivations and needs are not always the same. Buying motivations have to do with desires, feelings, tastes and so on.

Avoid Offensive Questions or Asking Questions In An Insensitive Way

Certain types of questions can offend prospects and cause them to back away from you. Here are some examples of pitfalls to avoid:

Don’t use leading or “set up” questions such as “You do want to make a profit, don’t you?” What’s the prospect going to say…”No, I don’t?!”
Probe, don’t pry. Nosy questions can be a real turnoff.

Be careful about phrasing. For example, instead of asking “How much can you afford to spend?” you could phrase it a little more positively: “How much had you planned to invest?”

Ask Questions That Are Easy To Answer

Questions that require knowledge the prospect doesn’t have can often make him or her feel stupid. For example, asking most consumers, “What’s the maximum wattage per channel on your amplifier?” might get you a dumb look for an answer. The smarter you make your prospects feel, the smarter they’ll think you are and the more they’ll like you.

Use Questions To Guide The Interview & Keep The Tone Positive

Some people love to ramble on and on, but by skillfully using questions you can keep the interview focused and moving in the right direction. Also, ask questions to which people can easily respond in a positive manner. Studies have shown that most people much prefer to agree than to assert themselves and disagree. In other words…make it easy to say “yes.”

Ask – and Then Listen

The prospect can’t talk while you’re talking. Besides, you can’t learn while you’re talking. Don’t just get quiet and think up something to say next. Instead, listen to every word that prospect says and analyze the words, tones and the gestures. Remember, you can talk people into buying, but you can also listen them into it.

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Average vs Professional Presentations

In continuing with our focus on increasing sales in franchise organizations at all levels, we will build upon yesterday’s article about sales prospecting and today, discuss sales presentations. Remember, the points we’re making are from one of our recent B2B training sessions. But the fundamentals remain the same and are applicable for any type of sales.

Average vs Professional Presentations

Research indicates that most salespeople put 80-90% of their time into presenting and demonstrating and leave only 10-20% of their time for other things. Professional salespeople, however, spend only 40% of their time presenting or demonstrating; not more than 10% prospecting; and about 50% of their time qualifying and planning.

Let’s look at these figures one more time. The professionals spend half as much time demonstrating or presenting as the average salesperson does, yet we find that he or she still manages to turn in at least twice the volume. And this is a conservative figure. Actually, the professional brings in between four and ten times as much business as the average salesperson will. It’s not uncommon for a single salesperson to outsell the entire bottom half of the sales force, and keep on doing it month after month, year after year.

sales presentation cartoonSo what is it that the true professional does to stand above the rest? By far the greatest difference lies in his or her attention to and ability at planning sales, at selecting and qualifying the right people to sell to, at overcoming objections and closing, and at deserving and obtaining referrals.

So as important as presenting and demonstrating is, if you do it with the wrong people because you didn’t qualify properly, it’s all for nothing. If you’re working with the right people, but you let their objections beat you because you haven’t prepared properly, it’s all for nothing. And if you have no capability in closing, you’re working for nothing. If you can’t close, many sales you could and should make will go to the next competitor who comes along because you built the structure for the sale but couldn’t close the door before he or she got there. You have to be a strong presenter or demonstrator to sell strongly. You also have to qualify strongly, handle objections strongly and close strongly.

There are three things you should cover in your presentation:

1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them. This is your introduction.
2. Tell them what you’re there to tell them. This is your presentation.
3. Tell them what you just told them. This is your summary.

That’s the outline of all successful speeches, presentations and demonstrations. In other words, we use repetition. We don’t say exactly the same thing three times, of course, As outlined above, we begin by introducing our new ideas, then we cover our points in depth and relate them to our future clients’ interests and needs and finally, we draw conclusions from our points and indicate the direction that things should take.

Repetition is the mother of learning, yet average salespeople don’t like repetition. For one thing, they have used their material so many times that it’s stale to them. All too often, average salespeople have gone worse than stale on their presentations and feel it would be better off buried. The professional, on the other hand, never tires of phrases that work, ploys that sell, and ideas that make sense to his or her buyers.

There is no doubt about it, one of the keys to the professional’s greater skill at presenting or demonstrating lies in his or her ability and willingness to use repetition effectively to reinforce every point. He or she doesn’t mind repeating the sales point because he or she knows it leads to repeated sales to the same type of clientele.

So think in terms of tell, tell, tell and remember: Repetition is the seed of selling.

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