Looking Back to Look Forward – Six Exercises to Help Develop Your 2015 Sales Plan

This is usually the time of year when I write a “Year End Sales Strategies” blog post outlining some of the things your sales team should be focused on to make sure you finish the year strong and bring all of the truly closable opportunities across the finish line.  Well, this year I don’t need to because Dave Kurlan’s post from Monday sums it up quite nicely.  I agree with Dave's main points:

  • If your sales team has not been following a solid sales process all year, a “big push” at the end of the year probably won’t have much impact and could very well alienate a high number of potential prospects.

  • Minimize the time and attention your sales team dedicates to dropping off gift baskets, bottles of wine, chocolates, nuts, and all the other gifts sales people like to dole out this time of year.  Yes, customer appreciation is important and while these gifts can have an impact, your sales people will spend all of their time glad handing with customers if you let them.  Have them do it, but with ruthless efficiency.

  • Focus on the truly closable opportunities in your pipeline.  That means opportunities where a strong case to make a change has been built, your sales people can articulate the impact using your product or service will have on the prospective customer (in terms of time, money, process improvement, strategic advantage, etc.) and can monetize that impact in clear terms, your sales people understand the budget, decision making process, decision criteria, timeline, competitive context, can meet all of the prospective customer’s requirements, and the prospective customer understands and has agreed to accept what your firm can’t do, and finally there’s a meeting scheduled for a final presentation, proposal review, etc.  If your sales people cannot answer with an emphatic yes to all of these criteria, it’s not a closable opportunity and will likely not happen in December.

  • Focus on booking appointments in January to get off to a strong start.  Not just “how-you-doing” appointments or professional visits.  Make sure your sales people are asking questions on their initial calls that identify a clear reason to meet.  Think quality of appointments not quantity of appointments.  Consider the 17 business days in December an opportunity to get a jump on 2015 rather than a frantic sprint to close a bunch of questionable opportunities that are not yet closable and you’ll be in a better position next quarter.

So, that’s a good game plan for your sales team to focus on as 2014 comes to a close.  What else?  In our consulting practice we encourage our clients to use this time of year as an opportunity for reflection and thoughtful planning. 
Here are six (6) exercises you can have your sales managers facilitate in your next sales meeting or in their one-on-one coaching sessions to help take a look back before looking forward.  All of the information should be available with minimal effort if you have a reasonably clean CRM system.  If not, reviewing your billing reports should help as well.

  • Top 5 Customers – Have each sales person identify their top five customers for the current year in their territory.  Also have them identify the top five customers from the prior year.  What changed?  Who fell off the list and why?  Who was added to the list and how did we win them? Are there any top five customers from the prior year that should be contacted?  Can they book an appointment to see them in January?

  • Top 5 Projects – Same thing as above, but instead of looking at total spend look at your biggest projects across all customers.  In many cases there will be overlap between the first two lists, but probably not 100%.  What were the situations for each of the top five projects?  How do they compare to the top five projects from the prior year?  Are there any learnings to apply to future prospecting efforts?  Can you target specific situations that could be similar?

  • Customer Sourcing – Have each sales person review their top X accounts (depending on your business, it could be their top 20, their top 50, or maybe their top 10).  Where did they come from?  How did they come into your world?  Make sure your sales managers ask tough questions and really press for details.  Typical sources will be client referrals, in-bound leads, trade show leads, prospecting, etc.  What can you learn from this exercise?  Are there any key referral sources or trade shows or other sources that should get more of your attention?  What patterns can you discern across territories or product lines?  Have your sales managers gather this data, discuss it with the sales team, and present it to the leadership team.

  • Top Referral Sources – By sales person or territory, who are the top referral sources?  What is the strategy for 2015 to keep them engaged and build a deeper relationship?

  • Top Compelling Reasons – When looking at top customers or projects, have your sales managers facilitate a discussion with their sales team around why the customers chose to work with your company.  What problems did they have that compelled them to go with you?  What impact has your solution had on their business?  Again, look for trends and patterns from this past year to see if your sales team should shift their focus slightly during sales calls next year.

  • Lessons Learned – What experiments did your sales team run this year?  Which of them worked better than expected?  Which were colossal failures?  What should you build on next year?  What should you try next year?

2015 Sales PlanThe goal of these exercises is to help make sure your sales leaders and their sale people are asking the right questions, learning something from the answers, and making the adjustments needed to drive incremental improvements year after year.  As the year comes to a close and your sales team focuses on closing the closable opportunities and booking themselves solid in January, investing a little time for reflection and strategic thinking about what to do differently next year will pay big dividends. 

Need help?  Contact us and we can help you walk through our territory planning worksheet.  This worksheet serves as a guide to facilitate the type of discussion I outline above.  What will happen to your revenue next year if your sales organization can find one or two nuggets to build on as they start the new year?  What could happen to your revenue if you ignore these exercises and just keep repeating the same year, year after year?

Coaching Rhythm and Texting While Driving

My last post talked about the challenges of teaching my middle daughter, who recently got her learners permit, to drive safely.  We compared teaching safe driving to the importance of consistent sales coaching and the types of conversations that should happen with regularity and consistency between your sales leaders and sales team.  For this post I want to continue in the theme of safe driving and sales coaching.  My oldest daughter has been driving for a few years now and we recently had a conversation about texting while driving.  The data is overwhelming.  Here’s an infographic I found on this topic:

Texting and Driving

When you think about how little time it takes to travel the length of a football field while looking at your phone – and all the bad things that can happen while you’re distracted – it’s hardly surprising that so many accidents happen as a result of texting and driving.

So what is the connection to sales coaching?  In our sales consulting practice we recommend sales leaders establish a regular rhythm of coaching conversations with everyone on their team.  Ideally these should happen weekly and biweekly at an absolute minimum.  I can already hear sales managers groaning as they read that last sentence and thinking “when am I supposed to fit that into my already full schedule?”  Well, think of scheduling regular, structured, formal weekly coaching sessions with everyone on the sales team as the same as looking forward and paying close attention while driving down the highway.

Would you like your team to avoid big, spectacular sales crashes?  Ask your sales leaders to look forward on a regular basis.  Challenge them to ask questions on a regular basis.  Ask them to observe (and share) patterns and trends in the market on a regular basis.  Ask them to observe (and share) patterns, trends, bad habits, and self-limiting beliefs from your sales team on a regular basis.  Challenge them to engage in role play on a regular basis (most sales managers will resist this at first because most are really bad at it).  In short, make sure your sales leaders coach your sales people on a regular basis so they can stay ahead of all the subtle nuances and changes in your sales pipeline, allowing them to make minor smooth corrections rather than sudden shifts and dramatic changes.

As CEO what can you do?  How often are you coaching your sales leaders?  When you talk with them, are you simply going through a tactical review of the pipeline?  Are you asking the right questions?  Are you leveraging the market feedback your sales team can provide in real time?  Do you see patterns in where your sales leaders are focused?  Are they focused on the right things?  The right activities?  The right people on their team?  What would happen to your sales culture if you lead by example and coached your sales leaders as you expect them to coach your sales people?

Not sure where to start?  We can help.  We start by helping you understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of your sales leaders.  How do they measure up in terms of their coaching skill set?  How about the skills required to create a culture of accountability?  Motivating the team?  Attracting and retaining A-player sales talent (A-players won’t work for B-managers)?  Growing the team?  How about your sales people?  Are they capable of growth?  How much?  Where do they need help?  What self-limiting beliefs get in their way?  Are they coachable?  If you invested in their professional development would it be worth it?  How long would it take you to realize a return on your training investment? 

We can help you understand these and many other important questions with our Sales Effectiveness & Improvement Analysis.  We’ll be glad to send you a sample and discuss whether or not this would be a good next step for growing your revenue.  Or you could just keep your eyes down and hope you don’t crash.  It’s up to you.

For more information on how we can help Optimize Your Sales Team - click Here.

 

When Sales People Give Up Too Early or Celebrate Too Soon

The beauty of having an effective sales process is that it creates a level of consistency and discipline often lacking in sales organizations.  It also provides a coaching framework so your sales managers can help reinforce that consistency and discipline.

What would happen if your sales people applied the same rigor and consistency to every deal

Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. When there is not a clear sales process in place, or sales people do not stick to it throughout the process, prospects fall through the cracks. Two common ways that we see this occurring is when sales people either give up too early or celebrate too soon. While these may seem like opposite issues, they are actually two sides of the same coin.

Giving Up Too Early

Giving UpWe have observed a phenomenon in some of our coaching calls recently: Sales people who give up too early.  Selling is hard.  There are lots of ways to screw it up.  Even when you do everything right, you still might not win the business.  So why do we regularly see sales people take their eye off the ball in the late stages of the sales process? 

In some cases sales people take a pessimistic view and just assume that they’ve lost a deal when they really have not. They give up early, simply go through the motions, and fail to stay on top of the opportunity, shifting their focus to other stuff. Sometimes these deals they had written off come through and they are “shocked” to get the business.

By not closely monitoring and reviewing your sales team’s pipeline during weekly meetings, they are no longer held accountable for taking each step of the sales path and can give up too early in the sales process.  As you and your sales team become more efficient at following a well laid out sales process, their attention to detail and following through will become a natural habit.  Take the time to have these coaching meetings, and ask them to lay out each step they have taken.  Quite often you will see that there are several more opportunities for follow up, which may in fact save the deal.

Celebrating Too Soon

Sometimes, the problem is just the opposite.  What happens when your sales people are celebrating too early?

In some cases it’s a matter of sales people getting complacent.  Everything seems to be on track and they assume everything will just flow according to plan and then are surprised when they get the news that the prospective client has changed plans, eliminated the budget, or chosen a different supplier.  The reality is, you cannot take anything for granted.  You need to follow the process and stay on top of it all the way through the close – and frankly beyond the close and through client on-boarding and ramp up.

I was reminded of an infamous play from Superbowl XXVII. Take 15 seconds to watch the video below. The ironic thing is that everyone else can see what is happening except for Leon Lett, the guy with the ball. This is why coaching is so critical, bringing in some outside perspective and tangible accountability.

The best time to really hold these teams accountable is during your weekly sales team meetings.  Ask them to start ranking each prospect on how close they are to closing.  We often find in our Must Win Deal workshops that sales people are ranking these prospects at 75-85% closed, when in fact they haven’t done a good portion of the needed qualifying.  Take the time to ask some of these questions at your next sales meeting:

  • Do you know their budget and timeline?
  • Are you actually talking to the decision maker?
  • Are they already working with another vendor?  If yes, how loyal are they to this vendor?
  • Do we meet 100% of their needs?

Many of your sales team will have never even thought of these questions, and this is not even scratching the surface of what needs to be answered to ensure your prospects are 100% qualified.

Take some time this week in your sales meeting to ask your sales team about each step they have taken with a few prospects in their timeline. Are they following every step of the sales process, or are they skipping a few?  Is there a consistent sales process, or does each sales person have a different process in mind?  Are they, in fact, giving up too soon on great opportunities or celebrating too soon on luke warm leads?

Ask Questions to Ensure Your Sales Team is Slowing Down

Blog Questions

Last week we took a look at how you and your sales teams can improve on their effective listening skills, and in return increase their sales.  Many clients that we see at Intelligent Conversations rush straight to the proposal phase, without taking the time to discover enough compelling reasons to create urgency for the deal.  When this happens the client is rushed along, and may not have the ability to build a strong internal case needed for approval and funding. 

As a CEO or Sales Manager one of the main things you can do is sit down with your team and ask them to review their pipeline with you.  To do this, there are some key questions you can ask to identify if these opportunities are really as strong as they believe.  

What sort of questions should I ask my sales team?

Ask questions to poke, probe and challenge whether they can defend their probability of closing prediction.

Here are a few questions to help you get started, please feel free to add your own questions that fit your industry or business.

  • Tell me about the business problem our proposal will solve for this prospect:
    • How long has it been an issue for this company? When did they first notice it?
    • What have they done to try to address it?  How has that worked?
    • How much did that cost them?
  • What happens if they don’t address this issue?
    • How will it impact them financially?  Lost sales?  Increased cost?  Missed opportunities? Upset customers?  Damage to their reputation?  Key employees leaving?
    • What will the impact be on their operations if this isn’t fixed?  How does this slow down their workflow? Does it require people to do things they shouldn’t need to do? What would those people being doing if they were not working on this issue? Does it impact quality? Are their regulatory issues?
  • Who are all the people at the prospect that care about this issue?
    • Tell me about the roles and responsibilities for everyone you’ve met with for this opportunity.
    • Who could lose their job if this doesn’t get fixed?
    • Are you talking to the right people or are you calling where you’re comfortable? 
  • When you agreed to prepare a proposal for them, what timeframe did they give you for their decision process? 
    • Did you set up a meeting to review the proposal or did you just send it over?
    • What are the next steps?
    • Who else are they considering?  How do we stack up against this competitor?

Keep asking them questions.

Many of the sales people who have attended our Must Win Deal workshops can’t handle this rapid questioning.  They quickly realize that they went through the discovery stage of the sales process way too fast.  They didn’t ask enough or the right questions.  They didn’t explore all the issues.  They didn’t quantify all of the compelling reasons to change.  They didn’t meet with all the key stakeholders.  They missed a lot of critical information.

Have your sales people slow down during the early and mid-stage sales meetings. Ensure that your sales team is having meetings, and take the opportunity to probe them and coach them around this issue. Have them ask more and better questions.  Have them invest more time in the conversations at these earlier stages, and you will see a tremendous improvement in the quality of the late stage opportunities in your sales pipeline.

If you’re interested in learning how our half-day Must Win Deal workshop can sharpen your sales funnel, please contact us to learn more and find out if it’s right for your situation.

Building a Profitable Sales Process – Client Onboarding

Customer, Client, Start Up, On-Boarding, onboarding, after the sale, new customer start up, building a profitable sales process, close more business, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Baseline Selling, Milwaukee, Consultant, Sales Expert, Objective Management Group, Partner, Wisconsin Sales, selling, sales management, CEO Sales BlogIn our previous article in this series on Building a Profitable Sales Process, we discussed the importance of asking for the business.

Using a simple, three-question close that should seem like a natural part of the conversation (if you’ve had the right kind of conversation up until that point).

Need help with the right conversations?
 
To review, the questions are: 

  • Based on our discussions, do you feel we understand your situation and what you need?
  • Do you feel we have the expertise to help you?
  • Would you like our help?

If everything goes according to plan you should get a yes, yes, and yes. If you get a no along the way that probably means you skipped a step in the process and you need to go back to discover either what you missed or what has changed on their side.
 
For this article let’s assume everything goes as it should and they say, “Yes, we’d like your help.” Congratulations, you got the sale! Now what?


The next steps in the salesproces
ask mike a questionYou need to immediately pivot and say “Great, here’s what we need to do next.” And then set a series of covenants to set expectations for the next steps. Your next steps will depend on what it is you’re selling, but generally speaking you probably need things such as:

  • A signed purchase agreement
  • A purchase order
  • A check or credit card
  • Agreement on next steps
    • Set date for project kickoff meeting
    • Get technical drawings or specifications
    • Set up introductory meeting with key people on each side
    • Order materials
    • Establish or reconfirm timelines
    • And whatever else might be necessary for your situation

The same principles that keep the sales conversation on track – building and maintaining a strong relationship, crisp clear communications regarding next steps, and strong covenants about what the next steps should be – will keep your customer onboarding on track as well.

 
Setting Up Operational Success
One of the biggest friction points we see in every company we work with is between sales and operations. In fact, we had a CEO tell us “I know your program is working because Joe is complaining a lot.” Joe was the Vice President of Operations and while a high level of frustration in that position often correlates with strong sales results, we don’t want it to impact our newly acquired customer. Your sales people can help themselves tremendously by setting the right expectations – both internally with their partners in operations and also externally with the customer. The most common complaint we hear from operations managers is:

“Our sales people will promise anything to get the order, even if they have no clue what they’re committing us to do!”

 
So how can your sales people minimize this operational friction? 

  • Communicate early and often. 
  • Get input from operations before making a commitment to the prospective customer.
  • Qualify the prospective customer by making sure they agree to accept what you can and cannot do.  Nothing frustrates a customer like getting the order with an expectation that they’ll receive their product in two weeks only to find out there’s a six-week backlog.
  • Stick together.  Don’t throw operations under the bus or blame your company if circumstances change and the timeline is extended.  If you’ve built the right relationship and have earned trust from your customer, they will understand your situation and appreciate your direct communications.
  • If there’s bad news, share it right away.  Delay is the deadliest form of denial.  Hoping it will somehow come together at the last minute isn’t a good strategy.
  • Communicate early and often (yes, we listed it twice).

 
Remember to Say Thank You
 
A quick call from someone higher up in the organization (could be your VP of Sales, could be the President of the Division, or it could be the owner or CEO) to let the new customer know  you appreciate their business and giving them permission to call you if they need anything will go a long way toward supporting your sales people and setting them up for future success.  Customers (new and old) want to feel appreciated and a simple thank you note or brief phone call can make a big impression.

What would happen if you put some focus on client onboarding in your organization? Do you see the typical friction points between sales and operations? If so, what can you do to smooth it out and improve communications? What would happen if you were more purposeful about saying "thank you" to your new customers? Would implementing this type of system improve your company's performance? Would you like some help?

Contact Mike Carroll when you would like to discuss the salesprocess, operational success or operational friction.
 

Contact Mike Carroll  

  
 
 
  

Customer 2.0 - Death of Your Sales Team?

Customer 2.0, sales people, order taker, selling, informed buyer, Intelligent Conversations, business consulting milwaukee, Mike Carroll, President, CEO Sales BlogWhen Dave Kurlan spoke to a group of Milwaukee CEO's a few weeks ago, one of the key points many executives walked away with was how sales has changed in recent years.  One of the changes Dave highlighted is what many marketing pundits call "Customer 2.0."  This concept acknowledges how the buying process has been changed by the increased level of data on the Internet, along with social media tools that fuel conversations among customers and businesses.  Using these social media tools makes it is easier for your potential customers to get information about your company, your brand, your products or services, and your prices.  Does anyone walk into a car dealership without knowing the invoice price the dealer paid the factory? 

So what does this mean for your sales team?  Well, if an informed customer calls and is ready to buy, many "sales people" think all they have to do is get out of the way and take the money.

Here are a couple problems with that:

  1. First, the prospective customer might not be as informed as they think they are because many mistake data for knowledge.  Have they asked the right questions?  Have they considered all of their alternatives?  What impact will the factors they have not considered have on their experience and ultimate satisfaction with your company or product?
  2. Second, your sales person isn't really selling in this scenario, they're just taking the order.  That's a clerk's job and yet many "sales people" don't realize it.  How many clerks do you have on your sales team?

What should happen?

  1. When an informed prospect calls ready to buy, the first thing your sales person should do is acknowledge their hard work and research and then start asking questions.  It might sound something like "Great, I can see you've done a lot of research on this....can I ask you a few questions just to make sure this is best solution for you?"
  2. Sales people who can slow down the informed (or sometimes misinformed) prospect long enough to engage them in an intelligent conversation and ask questions about what they really need, how they're going to use it, what they want to accomplish, etc. will be much more successful in the long run because the people buying your product or service will be more satisfied.  And believe me, the long-term value of helping a potential customer make the right decision - even when that decision means they're not buying your product or service today - is worth far more than the short-term value of that one transaction.

Just because a buyer has "qualified" themselves by doing some research and asking their friends and followers for input doesn't mean they're truly ready to buy or even that they should buy.  Make sure your sales people continue to follow your sales process (you do have a sales process map, don't you?) by asking questions and helping the customer discover whether or not your solution is the best option for their situation. 

Customer 2.0 will only mean the death of your sales team if you let it.  Raise your expectations by making sure your sales team can consistently demonstrate their expertise by asking questions and helping customers walk away with the right answer.

Sales Advice From Mr. Spock - Use Emotion Not Logic

"Seems logical to me captain" - Mr. SpockSales people who use logic to convince their prospects make selling a lot harder than it needs to be.  Mr. Spock might have struggled to make quota had he gone into sales rather than joining Starfleet because he would have been challenged to access emotions to move the sales conversation forward.  So unless your sales territory includes a lot of Vulcan clients and prospects, stop using logic and start using emotion.  You'll sell more.
  • Buyers generally make their decisions at an emotional level and then use logic to rationalize and justify their choice.
  • People buy from people they like and people who make them feel comfortable.
  • When you start spewing facts and figures, most buyers will tune you out and stop listening.  Some will just get annoyed.
  • If you can connect your product or service to your buyer's situtation at an emotional level (think pain, fear or pleasure) your conversation will get a lot easier.
  • When your questions and statements lead toward features and benefits, buyers will see you as just another sales person trying to make a sale.
  • When your questions and statements lead toward emotions and feelings, buyers will see you as a helpful problem solver.
How to Help Prospects Discover Their Emotions

To illustrate the point let's use an example where you find out your prospect is still considering your product or service but is leaning toward a competitor.  At this point in the process many salespeople would start to make their case by highlighting the features and benefits that make their product or service better.  It might sound something like:

"I understand, XYZ Corp. has many strong features.  One thing you may want to keep in mind is that our service also provides Benefit A, Feature B, and Benefit C.  They don't have these things." 

And when you start to list these items a couple things happen:
  1. First, you may be insulting your prospect.  You can say it as kindly as you like, but in many cases what your prospct hears is "You're stupid, how could you even consider a service that doesn't have A, B and C?"
  2. Second, the prospect's sales defense shield will go up because they'll see you as a sales person trying to make a sale.  This makes them stop listening to you and starting planning how they're going to escape from the conversation.
Even when you know you're right and that features A, B, and C make your product or service a MUCH better choice (seems logical to me captain), you will have more sales success if you ask questions that help the prospective customer discover these things on their own.  It might sound like this:

"That's great, XYZ Corp. really offers a nice service.  I know many people who have been happy using them.  Can I ask you a question?  When they told you they don't offer Benefit A, what did you say?  When you asked them about Feature B, how did they respond?  How did you feel when they told you their service doesn't include Benefit C?"

Asking these types of questions:
  • When they told you.....
  • When you asked them about....
  • How did you feel when they told you....
  • When you explained that feature C was important to you....
....will help your prospects discover the advantages of working with you on their own.  And when you help them reach these conclusions on their own - rather than having a sales person tell them the logical facts - they will be more comfortable with you and will perceive you as being helpful not pushy.

Sales Systems and Super Bowl Champions

describe the imageWhat a great Super Bowl game last night!  As a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan it was especially sweet. 
 
Do you think the Green Bay Packers won the NFL Super Bowl yesterday by chance?  Or do you think there was a little bit of planning, strategy and the consistent execution of a proven system involved in helping the Green Bay Packers overcome tremendous adversity and a tough competitor to win it all?

With key players going down - not just during the big game last night, but really all year - the importance of having a strong system in place could not be more clear.  Charles Woodson goes down with a broken collar bone?  No problem, just use Jarrett Bush to blitz from the slot.  Dropped passes?  No problem, just keep running the plays you know should work and focus on the execution next time (thank you Jordy Nelson!).

The Green Bay Packers beat a quality Pittsburgh Steelers team to win the NFL championship last night because they had a strong system in place that allowed them to continue to function even through adversity.  So what does that have to do with sales?  Everything!

How strong is your sales system?  Have you studied your prospects and competition enough to be able to anticipate their likely moves?  Do you know where you need to focus your initial efforts and what to do when the conversation breaks down?  Do you have a logical progression from A to B, then B to C, then C to Close?

Or do you just wing it and hope for the best?  Sometimes that works - Green Bay had another quarterback famous for his ability to improvise and still succeed.  But as Aaron Rodgers proved last night - focus, preparation, discipline and following a proven system works great too.  And which is more repeatable?  We'll find out over the next few seasons, but I like the odds of continued Packer success with the system Ted Thompsen and Mike McCarthy have put in place. 

As our clients have heard me say over and over again, great systems beat great intentions every time.  Is it time to take a closer look at your sales system so you can have the same odds of repeatable success?

How Can You Get Customers To Not Focus On Price?

When a customer is just focused on price, what is one strategy you can do to get them to move off price?

Terry Slattery of Slattery Sales Group (www.SlatterySales.com)

Howard Popliger of Epic Development & Evaluations (www.epicdevelopment.ca)

Gretchen Gordan of Braveheart Sales Performance (www.braveheartsales.com)

Adam Boyd of Market Sense (http://www.ms.sandler.com)

Year End Closing Tactics

First, all of these suggestions assume you have a "closable" opportunity. That means you've established trust and rapport, you've explored all of the issues and have identified six to eight (6-8) compelling reasons for the prospect to take action, you understand the consequences (from the prospect's point of view and in their words) of NOT taking action, you have qualified the opportunity (that means you understand their budget, their timeline, their decision making process, who your competition is, etc.), and they have agreed to make a decision. If you cannot say yes to all of these conditions, you do not have a closable opportunity and these tactics will not work.

 

1. Tap unused budgets - if you are selling to larger organizations, chances are pretty good that they have budgets they have not used in 2009. For example, did they cut back on the number of trade shows they attended? Are there unspent marketing dollars available? Do they have money set aside for new office furniture they never purchased? Be creative and explore all potential funding sources that may be available. In larger organizations, their budgets are typically "use it or lose it" and can often be used to start a project.

2. Start now, bill in 2010 - if they have not budgeted for your product or service in 2009, you can get them committed by starting in December with the understanding that you will not bill them until January. Why not position it as a "head start" and get their commitment before the end of the year?

3. Bill now, start in 2010 - maybe they have unused budgets, but they don't have the other resources available to get started (people on their team, etc.). Can you get the signature now, invoice it and then start it in January?

4. Be persistent - make extra calls, ask follow up questions, keep the conversation going, and focus like a laser on your closable opportunities. The sales person who can push through the initial resistance they encounter by asking for their commitment and finding creative ways for them to get started, will usually get the order. Don't give up.

5. Last tip - DON'T discount. Carefully monitor the temptation your sales people will face to offer last-minute discounts to close the deal and get it on the books this year. It sends the wrong message to your clients and will reduce the lifetime value of these customers.

Follow this advice and you can still close some opportunities this year. And staying in front of your closable opportunities can only help you. Even if they don't buy in December, you'll enter the new year with a stronger pipeline. Good luck and good selling!