Archive for February 2008

Your Sales Ingredients to Success

February 11, 2008

In sales, there are many approaches to 4 specific processes each with their own special ingredients that you will need to cook up a great recipe for your sales career. Having read many sales books from many professionals, there are 4 common themes and some very critical parts to those themes that create a successful sales career which I have personally used and trained others on using to their success. These 4 processes, in order: Finding the Prospect; Presenting the Solution; Negotiating the Details; and Making the Close.

Be Careful About the Process!

One of the challenges in looking at a process like this is to believe that these areas are finite, or in other words, you have to accomplish one before you get to the other. While a part of this train of thought rings true (in part because you can’t sell something to someone you haven’t met yet), the reality is these processes compliment each other and one without the other is a recipe for disaster. But like a good recipe, the order of the ingredients does not always matter, yet having all of the ingredients there is critical. Have you ever eaten a batch of cookies without the salt? More on salt later…

So this first article is going to focus on the Prospecting piece, and then future articles will cover the other 3 categories in a recipe for a sales process that will help you get the deal done without “overcooking”.

Finding the Prospect

Let’s get started with the first step in the process, which is finding someone to sell your product or service to in the first place. So here are the ingredients for this part of the sales recipe:

  • Cold Calling – Ah yes, the one thing that most sales gurus will tell you is the worst ingredient in the recipe. But I will tell you right now, that cold calling is like the salt in your recipe. While most recipes only require a very small amount that almost seems insignificant when compared to all other ingredients, it is a critical part of the recipe. In fact, the truly successful sales professionals will tell you that cold calling is the one thing that keeps them at the top of their game. It is a chance to practice new ideas, products, etc. Cold calling was the very thing that helped me practice on what to say and how to say it before speaking to some of those prospects where it really made a difference in my career. If you can’t cold call, you can’t sell. Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that cold calling is the best way to source for referrals; I am just saying that it is one of those arrows in the quiver that should be sharpened and prepared to go when needed because you never know when you will need to be ready to shoot.
  • Scripts – Most sales people work from a script. Not because they do not know what they are talking about. On the contrary, they know very well the subject matter, the product, what they are going to say, etc. But the script allows you to have a specific guideline. In fact, if you have a script but haven’t been using it, I dare you to go back to it and see if it makes a difference in a week. Having a script is like lifting weights, running, biking, etc in preparation for a big tournament. You have always heard the cliché that preparation is the key to everything. Well your script is that preparation.
  • Preparation Before the Call – This is probably one of the most overlooked parts of the process at this stage, but is one of the most essential skills in finding the prospects and is closely related to scripts. You need to invest your time in learning about the prospect or the company that you are trying to reach. The more you do this, the more prepared you will feel when you call. This also builds confidence and knowledge in how to approach this person or company for the first time. Plus this will lead to more active referrals as you research and try to find out more about the organization, opening more doors than you may be able to keep up with. And even more important than that, one of the most common mistakes sales people make is talking to the wrong person. I have had many calls in my career of sales people that are so excited to get me on the phone that they frantically try to set me up for another appointment to speak to me in more detail without even verifying if I am the decision maker. You need to ask up front. In other words, are they the ones that sign the check? If not, then you have not prepared enough yet. Ask them several times if they are the decision maker with different questions just to be sure.
  • Breaking the Ice – Again, the gurus will tell you that the best way to start any conversation is to ask “How are you?” or something along those lines. I call this smoke (which is a very fancy term for something that clouds what it is you are trying to see) or in this case, clouding the purpose of the conversation. Bill Brooks in his book Sales Techniques calls it unsolicited small talk. The Brooks Group has done studies as well that have shown that the majority of decision makers in the sales process are completely turned off by this, and they do not start any conversation off well at all. This is due to the fact that you are not building any credibility by asking such questions, and can be seen as unprofessional. Instead, get straight to the point. If you have a script, this will already be listed out as your statement of intent. The purpose of the call is to discuss the ways in which you could be of service, so why not get right into it? Small talk can come a little later, especially if initiated by the other person on the line. Then welcome it, but keep your goal in mind; the purpose of the call.

In Conclusion for Now

So now that you have done your research, you have prepared to make the calls, and have now started finding prospects, it is time to move on to the next step. Next we will get into Presenting the Solution and the common problems most sales people run into and what you should consider when presenting to your prospects.

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