Friday, July 23, 2010

Don't Do This

from the RainToday.com folks & Jill Konrath:

Whatever You Do, Don't Do This during a Sales Meeting

Jill Konrath, Selling to Big CompaniesBy Jill Konrath, Contributing Editor

After months of trying, you land an appointment with a major account that uses your competitor's services. It wouldn't be unusual if you now feel an overpowering urge to cram as much as possible into this one meeting. You need to tell them about your firm's new directions, latest technologies, unique services, competitive advantages, and more. So much to cover, and so little time!

Whoa! Slow down. Prospects who receive massive information dumps unconsciously erect barriers to slow or even derail your sales efforts. How? They tell you everything is fine, even if they're dissatisfied with their current vendor. They rule out doing business with you if your service lacks a minor feature. Your pricing is never good enough. Or they simply thank you for the update and promise to contact you when the need arises.

Sound familiar? It's the result of trying to convert long-standing relationships in one sales call. Prospects distrust motives when they perceive a lack of concern for their needs. And that's exactly what happens when you spend most of your time doing all the talking.

Slower Strategies for Faster Results

Top sellers realize that replacing an incumbent is a slow, deliberate process. They understand it takes time to demonstrate value and develop strong relationships. Knowing this, they put together a one-step-at-a-time account-entry strategy that advances the sales process much faster than if they tried to do everything in a single call. The steps:

  1. Do your homework—Learn as much as you can before your meeting. Review your prospect's annual report and website. Look for gaps between where he is and where he wants to be. Identify his primary initiatives. Figure out how your product helps him achieve his objectives or ties in with his critical business drivers. For example, if “Earning Customer Loyalty” is mentioned repeatedly, determine how you can contribute.
  2. Think and talk results—Your service is a tool, nothing more. People buy it because of what it does for them; make sure you know what that is. Talk about the business results clients achieve when using your service. Explain how he can reduce time to market, increase operational efficiency, or reduce costs.
  3. Establish a logical next step—Before your meeting, determine how you want it to end. A successful advance might be an information-gathering meeting, an analysis of current work flow, or a presentation. Most sales to large accounts require multiple calls, so build this into your planning right from the beginning.
  4. Plan your questions—Questions are key to your success. They demonstrate interest and concern. Prospects feel you are more knowledgeable when you ask good questions. Questions provide valuable insights into client needs and the decision-making process. They are the basis for developing a strong relationship. Plan at least 10 questions ahead of time.

The sales process can't be short-circuited. If you go too fast, problems are guaranteed to arise. And your opportunity will evaporate into thin air.

The Big Meeting

At last it's time for the big meeting. Get down to business fairly quickly, minimizing chit chat. Start by stating your purpose. It's enough to simply say, "I'm here today to understand your organization better and see where we can improve your business results." Next share a short story about how your company helped another client and the specific results they attained. Talk results, not products!

Explain your process in working with accounts. Tell your prospect it's essential to fully understand his objectives, needs, issues, and challenges in order to determine the value you can provide.

Transition to questions and spend the bulk of your time investigating. Ask about the current situation: "Tell me about your workflow." Find out about any problems, challenges, or difficulties he has. Explore his answers by asking about the ramifications of these problems and the value of eliminating them.

Even though he asks, don't be tempted to talk about services. If you get caught in this trap, your chances of sales success decrease significantly. Graciously explain that a discussion about specific services is premature until you understand their needs better and then get back to asking questions. Before you leave, share a few key benefits and suggest the logical next step.

This is what the top sellers do. They don't rush the sale, and as a result they get the order. And they get them quicker. Follow their example, and you'll soon be enjoying the same success.


Jill Konrath is a Contributing Editor for RainToday.com and is a recognized expert in complex sales strategies and creating business value for B2B sales organizations. She's the author of Selling to Big Companies, a Fortune "must read." Her new book, SNAP Selling, focuses on fresh sales strategies that actually work when selling to crazy-busy prospects. For more information, download two chapters of SNAP Selling and start using these four sales-accelerating tools. Email Jill at jill@sellingtobigcompanies.com.

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4 comments:

Barbara Weaver Smith said...

Jill, this is such good advice and so true. When I was consulting for nonprofit clients I often accompanied them to meetings with foundation executives. If the meeting did not go well, the final response from the exec was a big smile, handshake, and "Keep us informed." Of course that is code for "no." People do not have to tell you no even if that's what they mean--you are right on about how to interpret and how to avoid these mistakes. Thanks!

DaddyO said...

It's counter-intuitive...just like a golf swing. The harder you try to hit the ball, the worse the result. When we slow down the swing the ball goes straighter and further.

ScLoHo (Scott Howard) said...

Thanks for your comments.

It's the non-verbal communication that gives away our real motives, fears and character, that people pick up on subconsciously that can lose sales opportunities even if we speak the "right" words.

This is why so many salespeople who are struggling stay in a slump. By changing our attitude we set the stage for success by portraying confidence and trust.

Tewks said...

Jill,

Sound advice. Certainly resonates with earlier failures in my career. It's amazing how powerful patience and clarity can be in creating and advancing relationships.

- Tewks
www.themarketingmojo.com