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4 Questions to Ask Your Prospects and Gain Clarity

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Jun 17, 2021

If we don’t fully understand the reason for a prospect's statement, the purpose of their question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities.

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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. 

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Questions for Prospects, closing more sales, Qualifying skills, increase sales

Finding and Cultivating the Right Prospects for Your Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jun 10, 2021

Knowing how and where to reach our target persona will positively impact our ability to hunt, qualify, and discover potential new business.

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Today, our customers are bombarded with sales, marketing, and advertising pitches from companies all hoping to win their business. They’re overwhelmed, or, in most cases, they simply tune us out. So, we try to reach as many potential customers as we can, but we spin our wheels and end up stuck in the same place, week after week, month after month, or year after year.

The problem? We’re not sure whom we’re trying to reach. Many of our potential customers view their time as their greatest, most valuable asset, and so should we. We can protect that asset by having a clear understanding of who our target customer is.

Identify What a Zebra is

In order to hone that understanding, we have to begin with first identifying our “Zebra,” or our ideal prospect persona.

We can do that in three easy steps:

1. Begin by segmenting our business’s book into thirds. For most companies, that top third brings in 90% of the company’s revenue. They are generally the best clients.
2. Look for common traits and demographics in that top third. Ask questions like:

·      What do these customers have in common?

·      What industry are they in?

·      Who is our main point of contact?

·      How do we contact them?

·      What is the size of their organization?

Having the answers to questions like these helps identify other potential customers in the market.

3. Once we know what traits we’re looking for in that top third, we should commit 2/3 of our time to look for or attract customers from this group.

Identify What a Zebra Isn't

Of equal importance is to know what isn’t a Zebra for us. If we know who doesn’t fit our ideal customer persona, we’ll bring clarity to our network and prospecting efforts, and again, continue to value time as our greatest asset. Here’s why it’s important to know what a Zebra isn’t:

1. We eliminate ambiguity. Introductions have been proven to be the No. 1 way that top producers grow their business. But if we aren’t specific about who we serve best, it’s hard to get those introductions. We need to be specific and clear about what type of zebra we serve best.

2. We reduce frustration with our Centers of Influence (COI). We want to capitalize on our COI’s relationships, but if we’re not crystal clear with who we’re looking for, our COI may make an introduction to someone we can’t help. When working with our COI, it’s helpful to articulate the type of business or individual we’re looking for, along with what we’re not looking for and why.

3. We reduce our opportunity cost. Our opportunity cost is what we’re not working on that might have been more viable for our organization. If we’re calling on Company ABC, we’re not working on Company XYZ. Are we losing out on better business, because we’re not calling on the right prospects?

If we know what we don’t want and the reasons why, it might reduce the number of opportunities in our pipeline, but the quality will increase dramatically. 

Cultivating Zebras

Once we’ve determined which customers are and aren’t Zebras, we need to understand the best ways to get in front of them and build relationships. You start by doing some research. Should we call or email them? What is their preferred social media platform – LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter?

Knowing how and where to reach our target persona will positively impact our ability to hunt, qualify, and discover potential new business. Undoubtedly, our most effective approach is to utilize the relationships we have with our top third by asking them to introduce us to others they know, who will most likely fall into that ideal customer profile.

It takes work to find these prospects and then contact them, but it’s well worth the effort. Our chances of success are now much higher because we know we’re reaching the right audience, the Zebras, who become our best clients. 

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Prospecting, qualifying prospects, hunting for sales prospects

Creating a Habit for Sales Success: Time Blocking

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Jun 03, 2021

Do you block off time in your calendar specifically to perform the sales activities required to be successful? If not, why?

In this blog, we discuss the importance of creating systems and habits and how implementing them into your everyday life will help you obtain greater success.

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The Greek Philosopher, Aristotle, said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I don’t remember reading any accounts of Aristotle conducting sales training, but I believe he would have been pretty good at it.

I have a statement and a question, that tie into Aristotle’s quote on habits:

  • The systems you have in place are perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting.
  • Do you own, and do you like, the outcome you produced?

Habits + systems = outcomes.  I think I can get agreement that, if both habits and systems are excellent and well-thought-out, the outcome will be what it needs to be.  The problem is, if either habits or systems are bad, the outcome will never be what it could be.  Here’s the good news: you are in control of both the habits you create and the systems you follow.

Let’s take a look at habits.  There are many you can create.  One of the best habits you can develop is setting aside an appointment, each week, to meet with your most important customer.  That most important customer is you and the habit you must form is to never, under any circumstances, break that appointment.  During that appointment with yourself, you plan and set goals for your week, read things to improve your skills and craft, or just spend time organizing yourself.  You will be shocked at how much better you can be by investing 30 minutes each week.

What systems do you have in place that will help you succeed? What are the key factors you need to achieve to succeed in sales?  Are they introductions?  Cold Calls?  Appointments? Presentations, etc.?  What’s your conversion ratio?  How many calls turn into appointments?  How many appointments turn into presentations?  Have a system, measure the activity, find the gaps, do the things necessary to fix them.

Finally, let’s look at outcomes.  Do you own the outcome you’ve created?  Another way to look at it is this: when something doesn’t happen the way you wanted or needed it to, do you look out the window for the reason or do you look in the mirror for the reason?

So, there you go.  A simple formula . . . Habits (good or bad) + Systems (good or bad) = Outcome . . .  If you own the outcome and don’t like it, fix the things on the left side of the equal sign.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

5 Habits for Greater Sales Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, May 27, 2021
Keeping your good habits “habitual” is dependent upon your level of commitment to your goals. If you are truly committed and willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for the long-term good, then good habits stick.

But how do you correct your behavior and become more habitual? Here are our 5 steps to creating better sales habits.

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I’m an educator by degree. During my undergraduate work at UConn, my fellow future teachers and I were taught that behaviors and habits are a result of combinations of rewards and consequences. If you wanted your student to develop certain habits or skills, part of the development, in addition to the teaching and coaching, was rewarding success and disciplining failure. Sometimes the disciplined approach was punitive; other times it was a matter of repeating the behavior, skill, or activity until they (the person being taught) got it right. Once they got it right, they were rewarded.

Given all of this background, here are my thoughts for today about habits.

  • Good habits are called good habits because they contribute to the successful completion of the goals and objectives you say you are committed to.
  • Bad habits are “bad” because, instead of taking you towards your objectives, they take you away. They keep you from accomplishing what you said was important to you.
  • Keeping your good habits “habitual” is dependent upon your level of commitment to your goals. If you are truly committed and willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for the long-term good, then good habits stick.
  • If you find that you cannot consistently execute your good habits, it is probably due to your lack of commitment to the things you say are important to you.
  • “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” - Vince Lombardi
  • Often the things/habits you need to be doing aren’t urgent: exercising, eating well, taking baby aspirin, getting enough sleep, prospecting, blogging, etc.
  • Habits become urgent when something else urgent happens: heart attack, bodily injury, stroke, diabetes, organ failure, put on performance improvement program because of lack of production, lack of website activity.
  • Your habits are expressive of your commitments.

How do you correct your behavior and become more habitual? Here are my 5 Steps to Better Habits:

  1. Identify goals and objectives that are non-negotiable
  2. Have a plan to achieve those goals. Make sure the plan is detailed.
  3. Have a system to track your progress, execution of the necessary habits, activities required to achieve your goals.
  4. Inspect what you expect.
  5. Have an accountability partner that loves you and cares enough about you to hold your feet to the fire.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Prospecting, sales succes, Sales Activities, sales commitment

8 Steps to Effectively Close More Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, May 21, 2021

We recorded a video on Laying the Foundations for the 8 Steps to More Effective Closing to close more business more quickly with higher margins. And we talked about the foundation. 

Today we are going to get into the actual 8 Steps of Becoming an Extraordinary Closer.

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I can tell you that the best deals I have ever put together and closed were deals where someone almost literally asked me, “Tony, how much do we write the check for?” There was never a formal presentation. There might have been a bit of pitch or a discussion around our capabilities, but they just closed and never asked for anything formal. Understand, though, that those are the outliers. 

But once you lay the foundation, the other types of sales require these 8 Steps:

1) Be prepared – And I don’t mean go through the technical aspects of the sale to make sure you have the right coverage, the correct provisions, and those sort of things. But I want you to be prepared to be DAZZLING. That’s an entirely different level of preparation.

2) Review - When you are at the meeting, the first thing you do is review. Review everything as to what brought you to this point. In other words, you go back to the as-we-agreed-to email. Make sure nothing has changed.

3) 3-Page Presentation - This might startle you and knock you off your chair, but your presentation should be a 3-page presentation, and that’s only IF you have a cover page/slide. The second page should list the problems or benefits they want to take care of, and the third page is all about the solutions. That’s it! Now you might have a box on the side with all the back-end stuff you’ll go through, but they don’t get that. All they get are those three pages.

4) Ask Where To Start - Within your presentation, they’ll see a list of problems they said they want to get solved. You ask them where THEY want to start. That’s a HUGE difference because you don’t know. Maybe they might be thinking about item #5, and you want to start at the top. You’ve lost them already.

5) Discuss Your Solution - Go through the solution to that problem.

6) Get a Score - When you’re finished with the solution to the problem, you have to get a score as to where they are. So you ask them, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how do you feel about that solution? If you get a 7, or better, you’re in pretty good shape. Anything less than 7, you’ve got trouble. And when you get anything less than 10, you’ve got to ask the questions, “What did I miss? What questions haven’t you asked me yet that you need the answers to so that you feel comfortable with a 10?”

7) Address all Solutions - Go to the next solution until you are finished with all of them.

8) Find Out What’s Next - When you’re finished, this isn’t a big dramatic part to try and close the business. You can do one of two things. You can ask, “What would you like to do now?” OR... Ask these three questions: 1) Do you feel like I understand the problems of your business? 2) Do you feel I can help you with the problems of your business? And 3) Would you like my help? Not complicated but very effective.

Aside from the foundation and these 8 Steps, the most important key to becoming a more effective closer is to be willing to hear a “no.”

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: closing more sales, Sales Presentation, increase sales

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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