Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Keeping energy levels on maximum, the most difficult challenge for any sales rep

Back to life fron your ashes, as the Fenix.
A few days ago I had the opportunity to read the results of a study regarding the behavior of sales representatives, results which were truly worth analyzing.

The numbers caught my attention. It turns out that, according to the studies cited in the article:
  • 45% of sales people give up on the opportunity after only one attempt to follow up with the prospective customer.
  • An average salesperson only makes 2 attempts to close the deal after initially reaching out for the prospect.
  • 80% of closed sales require an average of 5 follow-up calls after the initial meeting.
As I always do, you will find the link to the aforementioned post at the end of this entry. Just to mention, it is only available in Spanish. Sorry about that!

If you look at the numbers closely and put three of them together, you come to realize that more than half of sales people have already abandoned the sales process with a prospective customer well before reaching the five follow-up calls benchmark which the study indicates are required in 80% of successful sales.

It also indicates “it only takes 5 follow-up calls to close the deal” but when decision time has arrived more than half the vendors have already given up.

Why? Which can be the reason behind this high rate of abandonment?

The daily bread for most salespeople: Facing rejection.

One of the most difficult challenges of the sales profession is the continuous exposure we all have to being rejected by those customers who, by either one thing or the other, are not interested in the proposal we have for them, even after we have efficiently done our homework in qualifying our prospects as accurately as possible.

It has long been understood within the sales industry that a good sales representative can have an effective rate between 10% and 15%, even up to 20% in the most successful cases, but that only holds true in really exceptional cases.

That is, in the best case scenario, the most effective salespeople close only 2 or 3 out of 10 presentations they make to new businesses.

If we put the numbers upside down, 8 times out of 10 the representative will be confronted by rejection from its prospective client.

8 out of 10 times the representative will be confronted by rejection from its prospective client.

Just imagine yourself, 8 out of 10 times you have to deal with a negative response from the client and get back to the office with a declined proposal on your hands.

If we also take into account that, depending on the type of product and industry we are referring to, a sale can be closed within anywhere from just a few days to several weeks or even months, then you will easily see that, in addition to dealing with the rejection of non-interested customers, the salesperson must also maintain energies and motivation levels all the way to the top throughout the whole negotiation process, not only its own levels but also those of the prospective client.

And not every sales professional is prepared for such a task.

Being skilled enough to efficiently handle rejection is characteristic of all good salespeople.

On my opinion, between these two points I find the reasons why the less prepared sales people abandon the fight prematurely: handling rejection and lack of patience.

It is not easy to always keep energy levels to its fullest specially after you have been told “no” several times consecutively, just as it is really difficult to do the same after opportunities you were considering basically winners, signed and closed, for one reason or another, take the opposite direction and become “no-no’s”.

It is not easy either to keep all your coolness in those negotiations which can last weeks, months or even years

It is not easy either to keep all your coolness in those negotiations which can last weeks, months or even years, especially when you have a boss breathing on your neck, pushing you to meet your pre-determined sales goals every now and then.

However, there is a solution for everything!

And today I would like to share with you some tips that will allow you to better handle rejection as well as those long periods of time from the moment you start a sales process until that when you sign and close the deal.

Do not take it personal. When a customer rejects your proposal or product, it is not about you.

If you take as a rule of thumb some of the most commonly known statistics about effective salespeople, the first one we mentioned above was "an efficient sales rep may close between 10% and 20% of the sales presentations he makes", you must certainly understand and realize “rejection” is an inherent component of the sales business. 

It is always going to be there, whether you like it or not.

Not having this one thing clear is like a boxer thinking he's going to go to into fight and get out of it without receiving any damage, not even two good punches to the face. That is simply not going to happen: receiving damage is an inherent component of the job, as rejection is to sales.

And it’s precisely the reason why I always recommend my consulting clients to offer their sales teams a consistent, coherent and, above all, realistic sales training, as clear and honest as possible, because if they don’t do so it will only serve to create false expectations on their team and, as such, they will approach the market expecting to receive something completely different from what they are going to get, and frustration will build up immediately.

Unless you have done your job very badly, your customer’s rejection is never a personal thing.

That is why, if you are already on sales or want to get involved with it, you need to understand rejection will always be there. The important thing to keep on top of your head is that prospects are not rejecting you: their rejection is towards the proposal you have put together, the product you are offering or even the company itself, perhaps even for reasons completely beyond your reach and control.

Rejection is nothing more than the customer telling you "you know what? There is something about this whole thing you’ve told me that does not fit me and it prevents me from making a positive decision"

And from this point on, I want to make the following recommendation.

When a client rejects your proposal, is giving you an opportunity to improve and make it better.

And this may sound a little like "offering the other cheek" and it is seriously like that. If a customer rejects your proposal, your product or your own company, there is a whole lesson to be learned between the lines, and you better go for it.

It does not mean that the customer is giving you a second chance, it may not be the case.

What is clear is that if you take your time to calmly analyze the reasoning behind your prospect’s rejection and you take a closer look to those reasons, deeply, in detail, you will gather extremely relevant information which will allow you to make all necessary changes to improve your offer, either for this one (if the opportunity remains open after the initial rejection) or for all your future business prospects.

If you cannot implement the changes by yourself, then you’ll have information to share with your managers so they can take the responsibility to consider it and make all required changes, if at all possible and desired.

In any case, if you do not take rejection as something personal and then analyze it objectively, you can discover very interesting things that usually do not come to the surface when the customer has bought your product without hesitation.

To the active listener, when a prospect rejects a proposal, it opens up an invaluable learning opportunity.

By listening carefully you will be able to realize if your proposal is simply not competitive, if there are new competitors you have not yet learned about, it might be also your customer’s needs have evolved along the road and your product has become obsolete for them.

In short, if you really want to learn how to improve, a prospect’s rejection is an excellent opportunity to learn.

You must be aware, as well as your bosses, of your product’s sales cycle.

At all times, you must be clear how long is the average time it might take your customers to make a purchase decision, also referred to as “your product’s sale cycle”. 

It makes no sense to expect to close a sale in just a few days, when the product's natural sales cycle requires weeks or months.

Nor is it sensible that, at your supervisors’ and managers’ levels, they do pretend to force salespeople to close sales in shorter timeframes, when neither the market nor the product will give room for it. It simply does not make sense.

Above all, sales goals have to be realistic and achievable. And sales managers and supervisor must be realistic too.

There are products that can be sold on a single visit or contact, for which it is normal from the bosses to demand short-term sales goals, but there are other segments that involve long negotiation processes, for which it is a completely different set of rules.

You can not expect for pears to fall from an elm tree. Pretending to sell a lot just because you want so, it is unreal and childish.

And in many cases that's just what happens: supervisors and managers aim to use short-term sales goals as a mechanism to force their salespeople to perform better, not taking into account the product does not have a short sales cycle.

What happens in those cases? It is usually when you get to see those reps who aggressively go for the kill, non-stop until closing the sale, not even caring a little about the damage they can inflict to the relationships with their business prospects with whom, in other conditions and without the added pressure, they could have reached positive agreements for both sides.

I remember working for a company where the sales manager asked us, textually, "do not leave your customer’s office until you close the sale” that is to say, once we had the opportunity to enter the client's office and sit with the decision maker, we would not be leaving until we had closed the sale, no matter what.

Worth it? For short-term goals, it might work. But for the development of long lasting and nutritious relationships, this kind of sales strategies is highly damaging, since its intention is not to develop relationships, but close sales transactions and nothing more.

Your big sale can be just behind the next door you open, or on the next phone call you make.

And this point is really in honor of the sales spirit itself. If you've been a salesperson for some time already, you’re probably familiar with it: "Never give up. Your big sale is right behind the next door you open."

Because if there is something that characterizes every trained and experienced salesperson, is their ability to stand up when everything around them seems to be crumbling.

When I was a teenager and used to play baseball, I remember that whenever I was in a bad hitting slump, I confidently reminded myself "this will not last forever. My big turn at bat is coming right up"and indeed so it happened several times.

"There is no evil that lasts a hundred years," a saying goes. Or maybe this other one that says “There’s a rainbow always after the rain.

And if you do not want to take the “spiritual” one, just think about the following one then: Salespeople do not make money from customers who say "no". Never.

We make money only from clients who say "yes" to what we offer and sign the contract. Is that simple. That is why, although we are rejected hundreds of times, we know statistics do not lie and that out of every 10 presentations we make, we can close one, two or maybe three sales. And that is motivation enough to keep the ball rolling.

Why then get stuck with customers who tell you “No” instead of turning the page over and moving forward?

One of the best pieces of advice I can offer you is that, once a customer has told you “I do not want to do business with you”, take into consideration everything you can learn from the situation, try one last time with the same customer (if the do allow you to do so obviously) and, if it does not work, turn the page over and move forward.

It is not worth at all to let one prospect’s rejection to become an obstacle that prevents you from achieving the goals you want. In addition, there will always be customers who say “No”. It's a natural part of the business.

No one has a product that is so wonderful that everyone will always buy it. Most people would love to but just doesn’t happen.

By now you will realize that, with time and practice, you will learn how to handle your prospects’ rejection much more effectively, you will not take it as a personal thing, you will learn the most you can learn from the rejection and will move forward, always confident behind the next door you open, you will find that great sale you have been looking for and that you deserve so much.

Related post you migh want to take a look at:

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Things that you can do to sell like a professional salesperson.

Selling is one of the few areas in which it is extremely necessary to always try to do things in the most efficient way possible, especially because there is a period of time, the famous "Sales Cycle", whose use is vital for the achievement of the best possible results.

What is the "Sales Cycle" and why is it so important?

The "Sales Cycle" is the period of time (sorry about being redundant here) between the moment a sales rep begins to work with a particular prospect until they come to an agreement and sign the deal.

Depending on the type of product we are referring to, this "Sales Cycle" may be longer or shorter. There are products and services that you can sell in a single visit, one day; there are others which require weeks and even up to several months.

It all depends on the type of product you are selling.

Understanding that time is precious and a completely non-renewable resource, we know that every minute that goes by can not be recovered, so every minute of your “Sales Cycle” which is not used on the proper way, becomes a minute lost and will be reflected directly in the profits and losses of your business.

The "Sales Cycle" is worth gold because it directly influences your bottom line.

It is for this direct connection with your business’ bottom line that properly managing the "Sales Cycle" is really SO (with capital and underlining) important!

However, as with all things in life, if we follow a series of guidelines, we can make better use of our “Sales Cycle” time by looking at how professional salespeople do.

What are the guidelines they use to use their "Sales Cycle" time efficiently and effectively?

Concentrate most of your time on serving customers who can actually buy from you.

As I wrote above, in sales, time really turns into gold and every minute you invest in a customer that does not represent a clear business opportunity for you, it is a minute you could be investing in another one which could truly buy.

In the same way that in HHRR is often said "contract slowly and fire quickly," when we refer to sales the same thing also happens: you must study the market very calmly to be able to choose business prospects with good potential and then, once the sales process is underway, you should quickly discard those who do not have a palpable interest in doing business with you.

We could summarize everything in this short sentence:

"Slowly and calmly select the best prospects, and quickly discard those who do not represent a real opportunity"

That is, take the time you need to select the best prospects for your product and then, once you’ve already initiated conversations with them, quickly discard those in which your assumptions turned out to be incorrect.

Beyond the sale itself, concentrate on developing good and fruitful relationships.

Closing the sale is a natural process and occurs as a result of a job well done. If, as a salesperson, you strive to develop relationships of trust and mutual benefit with your customers, you will be able to sell more easily and build permanent sources of business opportunities.

Keep in mind that the sale closes when the customer feels confident that your proposal is the one that truly meets their needs, that you - as a professional - will not leave them hanging behind after closing the deal and that they will be able to count on you in any situation that is required and if any problem arises.

Developing this trust and cultivating it is the best way to guarantee a client for a long time.

Ask the questions that are needed to know your client in depth, listen carefully to what they have to say, and you will surely find in their answers information enough to make your selling job better.

The moment your client feels that you are really interested in knowing their real situation and looking for the best way to help them solve their real problem, then you can say you’ve earned their trust.

And that is critical to the development of a long-term relationship.

Clearly identify what your customer needs.

It happens frequently, because of the desire to close the sale and bring the business home, that you may fall into the temptation of talking more than it is required, focusing your presentation on product features and forget about listening carefully to your client to clearly understand what they need.

And, if you can not understand the real needs of your customer, how can you be sure that your product is what fits?

Let's suppose a simple situation, you sell a computerized platform for business administration. You meet with a client whose main problem is that, in the way he is managing his business now, he has no idea how much money is to be collected, who his main debtors are and he feels distressed because, even though they have a very interesting turnover, he does not see the money coming in.

Do you think it's really worth explaining him how your product will allow them to keep all accounting entries up to date, in a simple and efficient way, with a very user friendly interface?

Of course it will not! What will catch their attention the most will be explaining them how simply requesting a report of outstanding accounts receivable they will have in their hands an accurate and up-to-date listing of all the money that is due to be collected, which companies are owing money, when are invoices going to be past due and which are already past due. That is the right answer to their need!

Do you notice how clearly identifying the customer's need in this case, allowed you to choose that attribute of your product that was aimed directly at it?

Make your sales presentation in a convincing way, without unnecessary pressures.

Depending on the type of product you are selling and the volume of the sale itself, there are times when pressing the customer to make a decision immediately becomes counterproductive.

I know in many books and sales conferences it is recommended to create the sense of urgency, explaining your customer that it is a time limited offer, the last unit of product you have in inventory and other arguments whose objective is to push for an immediate decision.

Pushing your customer to make an immediate decision can be counterproductive depending on the type of product you are selling.

However you have to know very well if those kinds of pushing arguments are right for your product and the way your customer makes the purchase decision. Usually, if your sales cycle is a long one, it will do no good to push your customer for an immediate decision as there is no possible way he can simply skip their purchase decision making protocol.

You might also think for a moment that the perfect sale happens when the customer makes the decision to do business with you, so, from a professional point of view, I think it is best to give your customer all the information and explanations  that are necessary to make a favorable decision for your company and your proposal, keeping in mind the purchase decision is to be taken by the client without any unnecessary pressure on your side.

If the customer notices you’re so desperate to close the sale, he will feel uncomfortable. Who would not feel this way?

Respond effectively to all doubts and concerns your prospect presents to you.

A professional salesperson is not afraid of questions that the customer can ask. Quite the contrary: understands these questions show the customer is interested in the product being offered and simply wants to be clear on all the information he’s receiving and ask those much needed questions to better understand what it is all about, and be sure he would be making the right decision.

Be worried when you are with a prospect who does not ask questions or have doubts. Such prospect is not interested in what you offer.

Answering these questions and doubts effectively is the standard rule for any professional seller. It is the only way in which the ground will be smoothed for the customer to make a purchase decision.

And once you have completed the round of questions and answers, always ask your client if everything is clear, if there is any more issues to be checked, if there is something still pending.

If all is well, if everything is in order, then you can calmly move to the next stage of the sale: how much will it cost?

If everything went well, ask the client to make a decision.

Finally, to top it all off and if everything has gone well, ask your client to make a decision.

If there is no doubt, if the price is right, if your product meets the main need of your client (the famous "pain point"), then what problem could there be for the customer to make a decision?

If the customer is really interested in what you offer and doesn’t have any doubts, why not ask him to make a decision?

And in the event that it was a decision that could not be taken at that precise moment, what problem would the prospect have in telling you when you could expect to receive an answer from them?

Remember that we are talking about a professionally made sale, in which the client is participating in an active and serious way. Obviously, if you have reached this point with a poor quality prospect, all the work could go down the drain.

But if you did your homework as you were supposed to and followed the recommendations I give you here, you should really have no problem getting a positive response from your prospect.

As you can see now, it is not as complicated to sell as the true professionals do.

Like everything else in this life, it is simply a matter of adding to your daily sales routine a series of steps that will allow you to make better use of your "Sales Cycle" time.

Picture credit: Peshkova / See portfolio

You might want to read the following posts:
How can you professionalize your sales team? Why do you need to do it?
Things I've Learned Throughout My Career As A Professional Sales Representative Which Can Be Very Useful To You.
4 attitudes you can learn from a professional sales representative.