Building a Profitable Sales Process - Asking for the Business
Continuing our series on Building a Profitable Sales Process, this post will address step 9 - asking for the business.
If you survey your sales team or ask a potential sales candidate during a job interview to describe their closing methodology you will hear all sorts of interesting ideas.
They'll describe the "closing tricks" they've learned....they'll outline the "killer questions" they read about in a sales book somewhere....they'll name specific tactics they've learned from some sales trainer - techniques with clever names like "The Columbo Close" or "The Ben Franklin" or "The Puppy Dog Close" or "The Thermometer Close" that always work in role play but never quite work right in sales conversations in the real world.
The question you may be asking right now is "If it's really that easy, why are my sales people struggling to close business?"
In our experience, usually when a sales person struggles at the close it's because of one of three reasons:
Let me tell you a little secret about closing more business. If your sales people are having the right type of conversation through the sales process, asking for the business should be the logical next step in the discussion. And it should seem natural to both your sales person and the prospective buyer. All the tricks, tactics and techniques in the world cannot substitute for an intelligent conversation where both parties ask questions, explore all the issues, and reach the same conclusion to move forward. Asking for the business shouldn't be a big deal, it's should be the obvious next step in a good sales conversation.
Here are three common mistakes we see sales people make when trying to ask for the business and bring the sales conversation to a successful close:
1. They ask too early
Some sales people rush to the close and ask for the business before they've earned the right.
- if they have not asked enough questions to really understand the issues and the full impact of those issues...
- if they have not built rapport and earned the trust and respect of the prospective buyer....
- if they have been "mechanical" in their sales conversation (just going through a list of questions instead of having a genuine, authentic conversation)....
- if they are going through the motions or trying to manipulate the conversation....
- if your sales people are doing any of these things the close will blow up 9 out of 10 times (the tenth exception being a relative or friend).
2. They ask too late
When it's time to close you have to close. If you have sales people who wait too long and miss the opportunity to ask for the business it's too late. By the time they realize they should ask for the busienss, the buyer has moved on (to another problem or to another provider). And often the prospect is irritated and will avoid your sales person at all cost (no matter how long they chase them).
3. They get in their own way
Even when everything lines up and it makes perfect sense to ask for the business, some of your sales people will struggle because they get in their own way. Maybe they have difficulty talking about money and asking about budget.
Maybe they fear being rejected and would rather just have a conversation without every brining up the next step. Whatever the reason knowing what gets in their way (on an individual, salesperson-by-salesperson basis) is critical to fixing this issue. If your sales managers don't know what issues may get in the way, how can they coach and develop their team?
Sales Effectiveness & Improvement Analysis
How long is your sales cycle? Could it be shorter? What would your business look like if it were? Are your sales managers capable of coaching your team to set strong agreements at the beginning and end of each sales meeting they go to?