ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

How to Find and Cultivate Prospects That Fit Your Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jun 03, 2019

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 our salespeople spin their wheels and end up stuck in the same place, week after week, month after month, or year after year.

pexels-photo-845451

The problem? We’re not sure who 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 looking for, or attracting, customers from this group.

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Identify What a Zebra Isn't:

Of equal importance is to know, and clearly articulate, 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 quantity 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 get in front of them and build relationships.

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.

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Topics: Questions for Prospects, qualifying prospects, sales prospects, consultative selling, how to prospect

Stop Accepting "Think It Over (TIO)"

Posted by Walt Gerano on Wed, Jan 30, 2019

stop in the name of love

Facing stalls and objections throughout the sales process is a common occurrence for many salespeople. What we find is that, often, it is due to ineffective qualifying and not asking for the prospects commitment to take action prior to presenting a solution.

In this blog, we will cover the 10 common symptoms that suggest you may accept put-offs from prospects and how that is affecting the strength and quality of your sales pipeline.

While we are hoping to hear yes after our presentation, sometimes we hear a no. But how many times are you hearing “think it over”?

Think about the last 10 sales opportunities you had in your pipeline where you didn’t get a yes.  How many of them are still in the pipeline because you are “hoping” for a yes while they “think it over” and get back to you?  Now ask yourself what percentage of the time when you allow “TIO” do you get the business? My guess is that if you are like the rest of us, the number is pretty small. So let’s stop kidding ourselves about the strength of our pipeline and quit accepting “think it over” as an answer.

Since we agree that “TIO” is not the most effective strategy for closing more business, let’s look at some of the symptoms.  You may not identify with all of these but it only takes one to derail your sales effectiveness.

  1. Do you keep going on appointments with prospects that don’t fit your ideal profile?
  2. Are you answering more questions than you are asking?
  3. Are you completing a pre-call plan for every sales call with questions you will ask and curve balls you expect?
  4. Do you rely on cold calls instead of introductions and referrals?
  5. Do you think “running faster” is a strategy?
  6. Are you too trusting of prospects and what they say?
  7. Are doing most of the talking on your sales calls?
  8. Are you talking too much about products and not enough about problems?
  9. Do you go on any appointment because you don’t have enough in your pipeline?
  10. Are you asking for the prospect’s commitment to a “Yes” or “No” answer before you come back, present your solution and answer all of their questions?

Eliminating “TIO” is easier that you think.  First let’s agree that it’s OUR fault.  If you have a sales process that allows for “think it over” you are going to get “think it over.”  If you don’t have an effective sales process, well then get one and follow it every time!

Stop fooling around with prospects that want to “think it over” and go sell something!

Topics: qualifying prospects, increase pipeline, Qualifying skills, Closing skills, salespeople

Bringing Clarity to Ambiguous Conversations

Posted by Jack Kasel on Wed, Jan 23, 2019

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In selling, properly qualifying a prospective buyer is crucial in order to move an opportunity through the pipeline and ultimately close in your favor. Highly effective salespeople do this through the art of asking great sales questions and not fearing the outcome if they challenge a prospect’s statement, or question, in order to gain clarity.  

In this blog, we cover the 3 things to remember about all prospects and how to fully understand and qualify their motivation to make a change.

 

Seek to understand, rather than being understood is a very loose paraphrase of what Steven Covey said in his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. I think that statement is especially true for sales professionals. When we coach our client’s we try to get them to understand and remember these three tips when in conversation with prospects and client’s:

  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.

Your job is to fully understand, 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, it became clear that 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. There are many ways a sale can be killed. Too many times sales are killed by Assume-icide. We assume we know what they want.  However, we never truly understand the real problem or challenge.

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.  Listen for them!  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. 

Topics: qualifying prospects, Qualifying skills, sales management, consultative selling, sales advice, salespeople

Go for the “No” Early in the Sales Process

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, May 11, 2018

One of the keys for more effective selling is going for the ‘no’ early in the sales process. I learned this concept years ago especially when I was vulnerable to ‘think it overs’ (TIO). I would get ‘think it overs’ at several stages in the sales process and maybe you get them as well:

  • On the initial phone call when you’re trying to get an appointment – “Let me think it over, give me a call next week.
  • At the end of your initial meeting – “This sounds really good and something I should consider. Let me think it over and I’ll get back to you in the next couple of days.”
  • When you finish your presentation and you ask for the sale. “You made a very compelling presentation and we are impressed with your depth of knowledge and your very creative solutions to our problems. Let us meet as a group and go over this one more time and crunch some numbers.  Let’s plan on talking next week.

Sound familiar?

stop in the name of love

Of course it does and these ‘think it overs’ are what is keeping you from being more effective in your sales process. That’s nice to know or consider but the question becomes, “What do I do about it?” (click here to listen to a 3-minute audio clip on eliminating TIO)

As I learned early on is to get ‘no’ as soon as you can. What is important to understand about getting ‘think it overs’ is the mindset of your potential buyer. Your potential buyer will tell you that they need to think it over because:

  • They really don’t intend on making any changes but you impressed them with some information that they want to take to their current provider and see if they can do what you can do.
  • They have a need for approval and instead of telling you they are not interested they want to let you down easy. Telling you they want to think it over gives you hope and get’s them off of the hook until the next time you talk.

To fix the problem, eliminate ‘think it over’ as an option. Let your prospect know that when you finish the next meeting, next conversation, the final presentation, they will have everything they need to make a decision. You can tell them that you will be prepared to answer all of their questions and when you are finished, they will be in a position to make a decision- yes or no. Then simply ask what objections they have to that process.

This one key will help you close more business, more quickly at higher margins.

For more tips on how to uncover a prospects real reason for wanting to 'TIO' watch our Sales Guy Unplugged video on the "Question Behind the Question".

Topics: qualifying prospects, dealing with objections

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    Anthony Cole Training Group has been working with financial firms for close to 30 years helping them become more effective in their markets and closing their sales opportunity gap.  ACTG has mastered the art of using science-based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss our weekly sales management blog insights from our team of expert contributors.

     

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