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Tell your Prospects to “Jump into the pool”

Not the exact phrase, I mean. Or even an equivalent phrase that means the same but replaced with your products / services, say for ex: “Get on board, Sign up soon”. No. Instead, what I am asking you to do is this: When you align with your prospects and travel with them in their buyer’s journey, you should say and do things that eventually make them want to jump into the pool and they in fact end up jumping into the pool. It is nothing but developing the prospect / lead and using closing techniques to close. No point in repeating that the pool is in fact cool and not that deep and the water is crystal clear and the pool is clean etc. If he doesn’t know swimming, you can offer to teach him swimming if he gets into the pool. Is it a Deal ?

The sale is normally a done deal before even the sales person walks into the prospect’s office. Now, buyers are anywhere between 60% and 70% of their buying journey when they call you. They would like to hear from you that their decision [assume that he is already your customer] is in fact perfect and will go places. Prospects like to hear things that re-assures their own ideas.

If you don’t match the buyer in his journey in terms of speed, accuracy and the exact stage in his buying decision process and instead if you follow your own sales process and force the prospect to sit through that process, you have lost the deal. Remember the prospect still needs your help to cross that line, though he has made up his mind. But that doesn’t mean you should restart the whole process from the beginning.

Buyers analyze deeply and evaluate options that are in front of them before getting to a conclusion. But they need someone to endorse that decision and tell them why such a product or service is the best he / she should buy, and how it is going to change their lives forever. He still expects you to say nice things about it. Of-course, with evidence. At that moment, your confidence matters. Details can come later. You may not have the contact no of your referral customer handy but that is fine. If you say confidently that such a customer is using your product / service and this is how they benefited, that is sufficient at that moment. The details can be presented to the prospect later in the form of a case study.

All things same, between two vendors, it would be the Sales person’s ability to close. Some of the phrases / questions you can / should use during this stage are:

  1. So, how soon are we starting off on this project ?
  2. Will it be a wire transfer or a credit card purchase ?
  3. What are some of the things you advise me to watch out for during the implementation / execution stage ?
  4. Who in your team is more dependable and who are the core team members that I will be working with ?
  5. What is important for you ?
  6. How can I make it a big success for you ?
  7. What will ensure our continued success ?
  8. Will you be looking at signing up AMC for 1 year or 2 years ?
  9. What are some of the things that I need to be aware of, while delivering the product / service ?
  10. What are the locations that may be difficult, in terms of adoption rates for our product / service ?
  11. Would you prefer that in matt finish or glossy finish ?
  12. I am sure this contract is in line with your expectations. Isn’t it just perfect ?
  13. Is there any question that I have yet to answer ?
  14. Is there something that still bothers you from signing up / placing the order ?
  15. The price is going up from next week. I am sure you would like to take advantage of the current price. Won’t you ?
  16. So, if I guarantee delivery within two weeks, do we have a deal here ?

Your prospects expect your help to close. There is something still in their minds that needs your assurance or re-assurance. They are reluctant to speak about those things openly but you can uncover those by asking smart questions and satisfying the prospects with your answer to those nagging little things. Give your prospects comfort, confidence, trust, safety, zero risk, long standing reputation, proof of your expertise, your willingness to walk that extra mile etc.

Happy selling. Enjoy every bit of it. The whole world runs because someone sold something to someone else somewhere. I know that’s you !!

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How to align with your prospects in their Buying decision process – Part II

It is not about you anymore. It is about them. The dialogue starts with them, their needs or problems, their Industry, the challenges in their industry, their competition, their achievements, awards, recognition, their goals etc. How you align with your prospects during their buying journey and how enjoyable you make it for them will determine your success. You exist for your customers and because of your customers.

Sales is getting complicated. Companies now have multi channel to sell their products or services. To name a few, you have field sales, inside sales, customer service, loyalty programs, corporate website, partners, resellers, social media channels etc. It is essential to speak with one voice and ensure that the prospect gets the same look and feel [in other words, same experience] whichever channel he chooses to get in touch with your company.

Listen

Listen to your prospects. When they talk they are giving you information about their thought process, their values, their expectations, their style of working, their experience, expertise, their problem statements, their idea of a solution etc. Unless, you are attentive and keenly listening to your prospects, you will miss many of these things.  And you may miss the information on how he expects you to sell.

When you listen, you listen and pay attention and not just pause and wait for an opportunity to make a pitch.

Why should you listen ?

  1. That is the only way to start aligning with your prospect, if you want the deal, that is
  2. To understand their needs or problems
  3. To get to know their expectations
  4. To understand their buying decision process
  5. To find out the stage the prospect is in, in their buying decision process
  6. To understand what is the perception he holds on your company or products or services
  7. To get to know their perspectives
  8. To know their priorities and urgency

Introspect

Instead of asking yourself – Why should this person buy this? Why should they buy from me? Why should they buy at a particular time? etc – ask yourself the following questions, if you are aligned with the prospect :

  1. Why this company / organization exists ? How is their current problem statement / need aligned to their “why” ? Simon Sinek in his book “Start with Why” says “It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters Why you do it.” If you take a re-look at the problem statement with this understanding, a new perspective may emerge out of it. You will then buy the idea of your prospect. Now you will start thinking like your prospect. Perfect alignment. Great start.
  2. How can I add value or help them so that I can join them in solving the problem together ? How can I make the prospect “want” to take me into confidence and consider me their trusted consultant ?
  3. How urgent is it for your prospect to get the problem solved to continue to inspire their customers and add value to them ?

Help

Your prospects are looking for your help in the following :

  1. How to do things in a much more easier, simpler way and save time and money
  2. How to get more business with less and less effort and also spending lesser and lesser
  3. How to get more done with less
  4. How to make it easy for your prospects to buy, implement and use your products or services

Provide Value

What is value? It is an individual perception and it denotes the greater importance or worthiness that something deserves.

  1. Show them increase in efficiency in shorter time frames
  2. Provide something that helps them do things in a more powerful manner
  3. Give them that which no one else is offering for the same cost or for a little more
  4. Provide them tools that will help them become a leader in their industry
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Buying Experience Index – BX Index – A Game Changer

I strongly feel that the Sales Performance of Sales people should be measured in terms of the Buying Experience of the Prospects measured through an Index. Let us call it Buying Experience Index [BX Index]. You are hearing this Term for the first time ever. I take pride in coining this term. I coined this term to enhance the buying experience of customers.

Sales people should not be measured in terms of the achievement of their sales quota. What happens when sales people are measured only in terms of their quota achievement ? They tend to focus only on bringing in more business and not focus on customer experience in their buying journey. They tend to strictly follow their own sales process without any concern or care for the buyers’ buying decision process or the importance of aligning with the prospects.

The Sales People mostly focus on low-hanging fruits and do not invest their time and effort towards business development such that it continues on a self-sustenance basis. In an ideal world, Sales/Orders should automatically start flowing in without any effort whatsoever. For that to happen, the Buying Experience of the prospects need to be taken care. Well that is a lot of effort in itself. But it is worth investing your money, time and energy in enhancing the Buying Experience of the buyers.

What should the Buying Experience Index capture ? How will it be measured ? How do you define such an index ? Let us try to define it first.

Prior to that, let us see What is Buying Experience ? The experience of a prospect or a buyer during his journey of the Buying Decision Process that starts with the Need Recognition and finally concludes with a purchase [or not].

Buying Experience Index [BX Index] : An Index where all companies will be benchmarked based on the Buying Experiences their customers and others are going through during their journey of Buying Decision Process.

What should the Buying Experience Index capture? A partial list.

  1. Did the vendor’s organization come up in the first page of organic search on major search engines ?
  2. How easy was it to visit their website and their pages / accounts on major social networking sites ?
  3. Was the information that you were looking for, made available on their website and was it easy to locate ?
  4. Was it easy to reach their sales reps ?
  5. Were you able to access case studies in your Industry ?
  6. Was a demo made available to you ?
  7. Did you get access to the fact sheet of the product or service that you were interested in ?
  8. Did you get the detailed pricing information with no hidden costs ?
  9. Did the Sales person listen to you and understand your needs ?
  10. Did he help you with whatever you wanted ?
  11. Was he able to provide you the value that you were looking for ?
  12. Was he courteous, responsible, professional, knowledgeable etc ?
  13. Were you able to get a feel of the product or service ?
  14. Did you get a trial edition of the product ?
  15. Were you able to use it to your satisfaction ?
  16. Were you able to access user guides and other documentation easily ?
  17. How easy was it to reach their customer service people when you had a problem ?
  18. Were you able to get customer references ?
  19. Did the sales person address your special concerns / needs ?
  20. Are you satisfied with your Buying Experience and how likely are you to refer your friends to this vendor ?

How will the Buying Experience Index [BX Index] be measured ?

It will be measured using latest technologies and a survey of customers in various industry segments.

How will Buying Experience Index [BX Index] help you ?

  1. It will help you exceed your buyers’ expectations
  2. You will be setting a new trend in your Industry
  3. Prospects will flock to you since they are buying an experience and not a product or service
  4. You will have shorter sales cycles
  5. Less customer churns
  6. More customer referrals
  7. More deals
  8. More brand equity
  9. You will be perceived as a leader in your industry
  10. You will get to understand your competitors better, get to know the various options that your prospects have and most importantly you will get to know why your customers bought from you and why some prospects didn’t buy from you and how to address them quickly

More on BX Index soon. Watch this space.

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How to align with your prospects in their Buying decision process – first in the series

It is all about Aligning with your Prospects in their Buying decision process. It takes intelligence, maturity and experience not to be pushy or salesy during the sales process. Instead, understanding your Prospects’ Buying decision process in detail and aligning with them in their process will help you land the deal. The power has shifted to the buyers now. And most of the time, your prospects may know more than what you know. It is good to have that assumption. That assumption will only make you handle the prospects with utmost respect and not underestimate their intelligence. Prospects will like that attitude.

Buying Decision Process consists of various stages and these stages were first introduced by Engel, Blackwell and Kollat in 1968 and popularly called as EBK model. The stages are:

  1. Problem/Need recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Purchase decision
  5. Post-purchase behavior

These stages are not in any order and you cannot expect your Prospects to follow it strictly in the above order. They may have their own order and may or may not go through each of these buying stages. However, Problem/Need recognition is the first step without which no purchase can take place.

Prospects may want to start the dialogue with the Price. You may not like this and you may actually want to show the prospects the value they are buying instead of looking at it from a purely transactional perspective. But prospects who are very knowledgeable and are serious about your product or service and have spent considerable amount of time researching about your product or service would want to discuss Price in the first call. How you handle that will decide the final outcome.

You may promise, your prospects, to answer that question on pricing during the course of that call itself but tell them that you would like to get their permission to explain your product/service first. They will most likely agree to this. This is an opportunity for you to show the value the prospect is buying.

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it. Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”
― Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

If you can inspire your prospect with the WHY of your Company / Product / Service, your deal is done. People definitely like to be part of something worthwhile and want to pitch in and participate.

While aligning with your prospects on their buying decision process, the following are some of the things to avoid during the first call:

  1. Asking questions related to the people responsible for the purchase
  2. Asking for the timeline
  3. Asking who is the budget holder
  4. Asking about their organizational goals or what they are trying to achieve or why they are buying this product or service
  5. Avoid being pushy [does it mean that can I be pushy during the second call ? No. Never.]
  6. Making a pitch
  7. Avoid being aggressive, persuasive, judgemental, persistent, know-it-all etc.
  8. Don’t talk about your customer references from the same industry [not during the first call]

Instead you should do the following, during the first call:

  1. Listen
  2. Provide value to the buyer [we discussed this above]
  3. Be helpful
  4. Completely align with the prospect – discuss Price, if they want you to
  5. Explain your Product / Service
  6. Allow them to buy, Give them time, Be patient
  7. Offer help only when asked
  8. Look at it from their perspective
  9. Undertake research about your prospects prior to the call
  10. Show genuine interest in their products/services

Let us take this discussion forward and see how to align with prospects and create a win-win relationship with them.

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What Questions to ask your Prospects ?

Here are some questions for you to ask your prospects early on in the Sales process [but not during the first call]. The answers can help you qualify the prospect. This is not in any order. You should pick and choose to suit your sales situation. You are the best judge of your situation. Sales people are the entrepreneurs in an organization and are capable of making quick decisions.

No one has any time to waste. And that includes You. Your time is important as much as the prospects’ time. If there is no product match or service match there is simply no point in wasting everybody’s time. You can say there is no match and move on. Clients will respect you for that. There are hundreds of other customers wanting exactly the product or service that you are offering and are searching for you. Go, find them.

Now, the questions:

  1. What inspired you to initiate a dialogue with me / us ?
  2. What is the problem statement ?
  3. How are you solving this problem [XYZ] today ?
  4. How much money is set aside for this project ?
  5. When is the latest you want to have this project initiated ?
  6. Are you working on any deadlines to complete the project ?
  7. How important is this project to your top management ?
  8. How is this project helping you in achieving your Organizational goals ?
  9. What are some of the ground shaking things that are happening in your Industry ?
  10. What does your client look for in you ?
  11. Are you currently driving this project full time ?
  12. Who else besides you has a stake in this project ?
  13. And how do we get them also involved ?
  14. What is the biggest obstacle, you currently foresee, for this project to kick-off ?
  15. What skills are you looking at, in a partner working on <XYZ> ?
  16. What metrics are important to you ?
  17. What targets have you set for yourself, in terms of <ABC> for the year YYYY ?
  18. What are some of the most important non-negotiable criteria to choose a vendor for this project ?
  19. What are your thoughts on our Organization and/or our product <xxx> or service <yyy> ?
  20. Can you help me champion this project within your Organization ?

Prospects will start looking at you with utmost respect and they would love to work with you and will definitely call you whenever they think they can engage you and your organization, in the future. You will always have a special place in their minds than your competition. You will be regarded as someone who is very knowledgeable in your field.

Undertake your research on your Prospects’ Organization and the Contact Person before the first meeting and go with an open mind. Always think how you can help your prospect in any given situation.

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Which of these Sales methodologies do you use ?

What are Sales Methodologies ?

Sales Methodologies are nothing but Strategies used in a Sales Process. We will come to the Sales Methodologies in a bit. Let us first look at the Sales Process.

Sales Process is a series of steps right from the lead stage to the closing stage. It contains steps from lead stage to various sales stages till closure including but not limited to Prospecting, Validating, Needs assessment, Budgeting, Mapping Customers Org Structure, Identifying Decision Makers / Budget holders / Influencers, Demonstrating, Proposing, PoC [Proof of Concept], Closing, Following-up.

But across the Sales Process, you need to use a Methodology – or in other words – methods / rules to run your Sales Process smoothly till closure. What should be your outlook through out your Sales process ? How you will sell your Products / Services ? That is captured by the Sales Methodology.

There may be many Sales Methodologies. The popular ones are:

  1. SPIN Selling : Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-Payoff, popularly known as SPIN. This was coined and popularized by Neil Rackham.
    • Situation: Questions to ask to understand the customer’s current situation.
    • Problem: To ask the prospect: What is your problem statement ? What are you trying to solve ?
    • Implication: What will happen if you don’t solve the problem ? What implications will it have on your organization ? On your financial results ?
    • Need-Pay off: What if the problem is solved ? What is the pay-off you get by solving this problem ?
  2. SNAP Selling : Keep it Simple, be iNvaluable, always Align, raise Priorities or SNAP. This was conceptualized and promoted by Jill Konrath in her book SNAP selling.
    • keep it Simple: Prospects are busy and are hard-pressed for time. Hence savvy sellers keep it Simple and make it easy for the Prospects to move forward.
    • be iNvaluable: Prospects now want to work only with Sellers who are knowledgeable. So you can now stand out from the crowd and make a difference. To differentiate yourself and win over frazzled prospects, collaborate with them as if they were already customers.
    • always Align: If you are aligned with the prospects’ goals, objectives and mental make up, then selling is easier. In fact, you don’t sell; you actually help the prospect reach her goals and objectives in the most effective manner.
    • raise Priorities: Your prospects need some outside validation on what you say you can do. Provide them that in the form of conversations with your existing clients, video testimonials etc.
  3. Conceptual Selling : You don’t proceed with a pitch of your product or service. Instead you ask questions to uncover the prospects concept of your product or service. This methodology stresses on Listening. And you focus on Getting Information, Giving Information and Getting Commitment. You ask smart questions to do these three things. And it should be a win-win transaction else you should walk away from the deal.
  4. Consultative Selling : Customers’ needs or pain points forms the focal point of the sale. Your product or service does not. You ask open ended questions and listen. In the process, you learn what is the pain point or needs of the customer and you propose a solution to address that pain point. Sometimes it is also called as Solution Selling.