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Don't Dream It's Over: 1 of the Biggest Sales Challenges

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Oct 07, 2021

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is “how do I/we increase sales” or “how do I become more successful in sales?” It starts with recognizing when your pursuit of a prospect is over.

In this blog, the two fundamental truths of more effective selling.

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If you are a consistent reader of this blog (and why wouldn’t you be), you know by now that I have an affinity for music. You also know that my favorite decade of my life was the 80’s. And when those two things intersect, watch out!

Considered by some to be a one-hit-wonder, the Australian band Crowded House got to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 when they released “Don’t Dream It’s Over” in 1986.  

“Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over.”

So, let’s apply that majestic ballad to salespeople and the one thing above all things that they struggle with the most. That’s right, recognizing that their pursuit of a prospect is over (even when the prospect hasn’t told them in those exact words). Many salespeople can’t even begin to think that it’s over. Most don’t want to entertain the possibility. 

So, the question before us today is simple – why? I mean, it’s not like it has not happened to them before.

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is “how do I/we increase sales” or we are asked, “how do I become more successful in sales?” And the best answer I have is that you get better when you recognize two fundamental truths:

  1. You are going to lose more often than you win.
  2. When you are going to lose, you want to lose early.

Have you ever stopped to consider what your “pull-through rate” looks like? We use that term to explain a simple algebra equation:

Number of new clients / Number of initial sales conversations = pull-through rate 

If you have 100 initial sales conversations (or go on 100 prospect calls) in a year, and you wind up with 15 new clients, then your pull-through percentage is 15/100 or 15%. So, if that is your pull-through rate, don’t you think you should go on your calls with a bias for disqualification? Statistically, there is a far greater chance of you not doing business with a prospect than there is a chance that you will do business with them.

Stop dreaming and start asking questions. Ask questions that allow you to confirm that your prospect has a problem they have to fix and that now is the time to fix it. Operate with a bias for disqualification so you are not so surprised when the conclusion is that now is the time for you to move on. No is ok provided you hear it at the right time in your sales process.

Sweet dreams.

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Topics: Questions for Prospects, qualifying sales prospects, sales challenges

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. 

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

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.

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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

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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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