I’d say with my hand on my heart that pretty much anyone I’ve ever met who works in sales has had that moment when a deal just doesn’t want to close. Obviously you don’t want the customer to know that you are desperate, but sometimes it’s really tough to hide that complete and utter frustration you’re feeling inside.
So what can we do in sales to minimise the risk of the long and drawn out sales process that leaves us tearing our hair out in anger?
- Ask the Right Questions From the Very Beginning
It’s amazing how sloppy some sales people can be when it comes to qualifying the customer with the right opening questions. The main reason for such poor quality questioning comes down to the same old error of insufficient planning that I often complain about. It’s impossible to improvise when it comes to questioning, without at least forgetting some part of the jigsaw along the way. Even a sales person with experience still needs a guideline of standard questions to be used with new prospects.
- Don’t Just Paint the Pretty Picture
Sales people are not all liars and cheats in the way some people would like to think of them. I know some people have had a bad experience with a sales person that they often find hard to forget. I’ve been there too, but despite this, I still think that the majority of professional sales people are pretty honest people. We are really no different from anyone else and have to live with our conscience at the end of each working day. Nobody is perfect however and if there is one tiny blemish on the soul of many sales people, it would probably be that ability to accidentally forget to mention the less wonderful aspects of a product or a service. The problem with this approach is that sooner or later the ugly beast will raise its head and show the sales person to be a bit on the sneaky side.
So you’re probably asking yourself, “How does this affect the actual length of the sales process?” Well, it certainly does because the best way to avoid such issues arising is to leave no stone unturned, right from the outset. Be absolutely open with the customer and they will appreciate and trust you more for it. Okay it may cost you the odd sale but I find that a lot of those clients who drop out at the early stages would more than likely have dropped out anyway.
- Guide the Customer at Every Stage
Great sales people are always in touch with their customer’s needs and expectations throughout the selling process, as they are acutely aware that this significantly reduces the risk of losing them along the way. It’s also really important to provide all the available resources and expertise to help the customer understand the benefits and to associate excellent value with the offering. The customer will need educating throughout the process to keep them from faltering and potentially changing their mind
- Trial Close When the Opportunity Arises
I don’t advise anyone to trial close a customer until they feel confident that he or she has fully understood what they are being offered. The prospect needs to be given time to ask questions and to dispel any doubts they may have about buying. It’s good to be cautious when it comes to closing but on the other end of the spectrum there are also a certain amount of sales people who just don’t know when to ask for the sale. Most customers will at the very least drop some hints when they are interested in purchasing, but the majority will not make it obvious. We first of all must ask ourselves the simple question as to why the prospect behaves this way. Well, I feel it’s for two reasons:
- The fear of being ripped off
- The fear of making the wrong decision and looking stupid
- Always Align Yourself To The Customer’s Needs
Sales people sometimes get carried away with all the lovely features and benefits of their product or service forgetting that the customer is only interested in the outcome or the result. If you stick to the relevant questions and answers throughout the sales process, things will happen quicker. One simple example could be a printer you are selling to a small marketing company. They are looking for something that will be very durable because they want to print large quantities of brochures. If you as the sales person start talking about the wireless bluetooth printing capabilities and the memory card support etc, you are talking about features and not results. Instead if you show them case studies of how the printer had surpassed the million copy mark without needing maintenance and you show them the photo of the big smiling customer who experienced this, you are aligned to the customer’s needs.