Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Why Prospects are Like Fruit

Tags: Pipeline management, sales prospecting, closing sales

Years ago, while attending the Objective Management Group International Sales Conference, Dave Kurlan, president of OMG, talked about how to effectively manage opportunities through the pipeline.  He made the analogy that prospects are like fruit and vegetables in the produce section of your local grocery – they are all perishable.

“In The End, We’re All Just Fruit” – Watch the video!

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That phrase has stuck with me all these years, and we continue to reference it when we are presenting our Effective Sales System (this article has 2600 views – it’s worth reading) workshops and when we are working with our new clients for hirebettersalespeople.com. 

NOT EVERYONE HAS THE SAME "SHELF LIFE"

Prospects:  They have a shelf life just like fruit: some of them a little longer than others.  Bananas – not so long, apples and mandarins a little longer, potatoes – not forever, but if they start to sprout, you can at least plant them in the ground and get more potatoes.  The bottom line is that none of them last forever.  You need to either eat them or find a way to preserve them for later.

As you go about looking at the shelves (prospecting in the market) for the produce you need for tonight’s meal or for meals over the next couple of days, you need to be somewhat selective so that the food you select today is fresh enough for cooking and or consuming over a short period of time.  I can buy a bag of potatoes and probably use them in two weeks.  Buy a bunch of bananas and we’ll need to eat them soon or else next week we will have to turn them into banana bread.

WHEN IT'S TIME, IT'S TIME

The same holds true for prospects relative to their buy cycle.  They are not in that cycle forever. Depending on what services you sell, they could be off the shelf in a week.  They may be in the looking, considering, “thinking about” cycle for a while, but once they decide to buy – it’s time to buy!

Years ago, I was in the market for a new vehicle.  The Chevy Avalanche had been out for a couple of years and I knew, when the day came, that was going to be my purchase. There is a Chevy dealership just down the road from my house in Montgomery, Ohio where I had purchased vehicles in the past from the manager Bill Wentzel.  When the day came – my lease was expiring – I went to Bill, told him I had a check in my pocket and would like to test drive the red Avalanche. I asked him if he would get me a salesperson who wouldn’t get in the way and just let me buy.

Two hours later – that’s because the paper work takes that long- I drove off of the lot in my new shiny red Avalanche.

***Note to bankers, advisors and insurance sales people***  
Your prospects are ALWAYS in the market.  EVERYONE you sell to is using, consuming and/or shopping for the services you offer.  Your timing has to be good, but it doesn’t have to be great. What has to be GREAT is your constant contact with them so that, when they are ready, you are top of mind.

 

DON'T LET PROSPECTS PERISH

Here is my real point.  When going out into the market, you can find yourself wasting your time with produce/prospects that aren’t quite ready or are already past their prime time for consumption:

  • Potatoes too green
  • Bananas too green
  • Tomatoes too yellow
  • Peaches too mushy
  • Stickers on meat packages that say “reduced”
  • Just renewed my insurance
  • Our lease expires in 11 months
  • We have to wait until this election is over

If you want to close more business, more quickly at higher margins, then find the highly perishable prospects – work with them on solving their problem. Present a solution to them and get them off of the shelf.  Do not neglect the potatoes, bananas, tomatoes or green beans; continue to check on them, plant them in your database (your CRM) and, when the time comes to make potato salad, they will be ready.

Additional Resources:

How Effective is Your Sales Process?

Do You Need Better “Shoppers” (sales people) Who Won’t Perish? Sales Mistake Calculator

How to Determine a Qualified Prospect – Post-Call Checklist/Scorecard

Questions to Ask to Gain Clarity

Tags: closing sales, asking sales questions, solving sales problems

A guest post by Jack Kasel, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group

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In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey has a quote… “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.”  I think that statement is especially true for sales professionals.

When we coach our clients, we try to get them to understand and remember these three tips when in conversation with their prospects and clients:

  1. The statement they make isn’t the actual statement.
  2. The question they ask isn’t the true question.
  3. The problem they have isn’t the actual problem.

So, as your prospects talk about their main concerns, your job is to determine the following: Is this a symptom or a problem?  Problems get solved, symptoms are tolerated.  I was working with a prospect and he kept saying he needed to fix his cash flow problem.  The more we talked, the more it became clear that cash flow wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was he missed out on an opportunity to purchase one of his competitors.  The symptom was cash flow, the problem was missing opportunities to acquire market share.  We focused on fixing his true problem.

One of the ways, and really the only way, to bring clarity to the conversation is by asking or saying the following when we hear prospects make statements or ask questions:

  • Tell me more about that . . .
  • What happens if that problem isn’t fixed?
  • When you say (insert statement here), I’m not sure I know what you mean.
  • Many people ask me that question for a variety of reasons; I would like to hear yours.

We also need to listen to emotionally charged words such as . . .

  • Need to fix…
  • I’m going to…
  • We simply can’t tolerate…
  • Others include: worried, upset, mad, frustrated

These are emotionally driven words and emotion drives sales.  Facts and figures justify sales, but emotion drives it.  If we don’t fully understand the reason for the statement, the purpose of the question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities.  I hope this audio clip has brought some clarity to your sales process.   

Now...someone needs what you do, go find them!

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Overcoming The Money Problem in Sales

Tags: sales prospecting, closing sales

A guest blog by Walt Gerano, Sales Development Expert

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You must be PREPARED.

  • Have specific questions to respond to the price issue
  • Help them discover that low price may not mean lowest cost
  • Find prospects that place value on something besides just price
  • Look at why others are doing business with you
  • Keep a full pipeline

“Show me the money.” 

It’s a critical part of every effective sales process, and yet, sometimes that very discussion causes us to get “off track” and lose focus on the objective of the call.

Welcome to this week’s Sales Brew about “The Money Problem” - overcoming the reluctance to ask the tough questions.

While I won’t argue that price is part of the decision making process, what do you do when the prospect tells you it is the driving factor?  This can be challenging, but you can use this information to your advantage to make critical decisions. Once you understand the motivation of the buyer, you can and should decide early in the sales process if it makes sense for you to work on an opportunity or not.

Realize that there can be times where making a price-based sale could be bad for your business. So, let’s talk about the problems of selling on price.

  1. You sacrifice margin, which means making more sales to achieve your revenue goal.
  2. It’s a short-term versus a long-term strategy to building your business.
  3. You trade “building the kind of business you want” for revenue today.
  4. You will constantly be “defending” the sale over the next 12 months from the “price attackers.”
  5. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Win on price, lose on price

So, what should you do when you find out that it’s a price-driven decision? Well, you need to recognize the following:

  1. First, it’s part of the official buyer’s manual. Buyers have been conditioned to believe that there is always a lower price and a salesperson desperate enough to go there.
  2. Sometimes they buy on price because that is how THEY personally make buying decisions.
  3. When the prospect tells you up front that this is a price-based decision, you need to ask what else besides price is driving this decision and, if the answer is “nothing”, be prepared to move on.

 

So, what can you do to overcome the money problem?  Answer:  You must be prepared.

  • Make sure, in your pre-call preparation, you have specific questions to respond to the price issue, i.e. questions that look for things that are important to them other than price.
  • Ask questions to help them discover that low price may not mean lowest cost. Price is what you pay for something; cost is what you end up paying or losing out on because of that decision.
  • If you are committed to achieving your goals, then you must find prospects that place value on something besides just price.
  • In order to do that, you must look at why others are doing business with you.
  • Keep a full pipeline. The lack of an abundant pipeline puts pressure on us to work on low probability opportunities.

 

Don’t let your business be driven by price shoppers.  Get out there and prospect everyday.

March Madness Thursday and Selling

Tags: Selling, sales prospecting, closing sales, march madness

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This might be the biggest stretch ever in the history of my blog. How can I possibly tie the NCAA Basketball Tournament (also known as March Madness) to selling? Honestly, I’m not sure…so I will be making this up as I go. Let me begin by setting the stage for selling and how I see it is similar to the event of March Madness.

  • Prospecting > games that are played by all Division I teams throughout the year.
  • Qualifying > Selection Sunday – based on performance of the teams, 68 teams qualify to make the tournament.
  • Assessing the Opportunity to win > selecting your teams from the ‘brackets’ that you think have the best chance to win OR the teams you want to win OR the teams you think will be the upset and give you a chance to win the office pool.
  • Presenting > The Madness begins on Monday night in the play in gams and then on Thursday the real fun begins with a full slate of 16 games where the participating teams play their hearts out and let the ball bounce where it may
  • Closing > In some cases, the game is over before it begins – Villanova. In other games there are more questions that need to be answered (overtime) before a victor is declared – Ohio State and Cincinnati! (Both WINNERS). In some cases an unexpected outcome – an upset – a 13 seed beating a 4 seed and the favored winners Iowa State and Baylor are going home.
  • Get a decision > The loser goes home, the winner savors the victory before facing the next big challenge – Cincy vs. UK and OSU vs Arizona. Xavier is still in the hunt, but they play the upset winner - 14 seed Georgia State.

And as Paul Harvey used to say, “And now… the rest of the story.”

Think about some of the outcomes of the presentations you’ve made where you were the top seed, you were the one in the game with all the right things in place to help you win the business. You have the talent, you have the bench strength, you have had great coaching, you’ve prepared, you have presented to the prospect what you said you would but then… in the final seconds… someone throws up a “buzzer beater” and there goes your sale. What happened?

  • The prospect let the incumbent come in and they matched my price.
  • I couldn’t get underwriting to change a covenant.
  • They took it to the decision maker and that person didn’t want to change
  • They said it was too expensive
  • They are thinking it over
  • Etc. etc. etc.

And just like in the ball game, it’s easy to point to the last play in the game that seals the upset – RJ Hunter’s 3 pointer with less than 2 seconds left to win the game for Georgia State – (You have to watch the video!!!).

But, when the coaches that lose review the game video with their team, they point out to their team that there were several opportunities during the game that, if the team had performed better/differently, the outcome would not have come down to the last shot.

The same is true in selling. It hardly ever comes down to the last shot when determining if you will win or lose the game:

  • Matching price – you should have uncovered earlier who was going to win a price tie.
  • Changing covenants – you should know beforehand the exact specs you need to get the deal done and, if you cannot meet those specs, you don’t present.
  • Decision making – you should know the decision making process before presenting.
  • They said it was too expensive – Why didn’t you know the budget before you presented?
  • Think it overs – you must eliminate this as an option when discussing the decision making process.
  • Etc. – uncover in advance what can go wrong and deal with those things prior to attempting to present and close.

As the sales manager/sales executive, it is your responsibility to:

  • Put the best possible team on the court.
  • Make sure you have provided your team the resources they need to win.
  • Prepare them with a solid strategy to win.
  • Practice what you expect them to perform.
  • Debrief after they perform so you can help them change behaviors and improve skill

Once you do your job, and you do your best to make sure they are doing their job then get them on the court and see where the ball bounces.

Additional Resources:

Sales Management Environment – Duilding the structure to improve your chances for winning.

Sales Talent Acquisition Routine – Hire Better Sales People - get the right people to come to your team to play and WIN against the opponents in your market.

Goal Setting and Business Plan Development – Build a foundation so that your team has the required internal motivation to win in all market conditions.