How To Sell by Word of Mouth

Hi there,

This post follows the one that I just posted some minutes back…https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/how-to-screw-up-a-referral-sale/

WHY?

Because in this post I am talking about asking your clients for referrals at the right time !!

But in this post I am also touching on aspects of a successful sales strategy that the intelligent sharp sales rep can deploy to maximize his outcome from his referrer..

Here’s how I believe that a successful sales rep could win by selling using WOM

Nothing sells better or faster than word-of-mouth.  Sales generated through referrals are larger than those resulting from other lead-generation activities.  Why?  Simple.  By making the referral, the “referrer” is eliminating uncertainties like “can this rep be trusted?” and “is this rep worth my time?”  The sales process builds momentum more quickly, resulting in an easier, faster close.

There are three rules to developing sales opportunities through word of mouth:

  • Rule #1.  Ask for a Referral at the Right Time. Reps typically ask new customers for referrals when the first sale is closed, as in: “do you know of anyone else who needs our product?”  That’s dumb.  Why should an existing customer – who has already stuck his or her neck out by buy from you – stick it out further by risking their own business contacts?  The time to a referral from a customer is AFTER your product has produced a measurable benefit for that customer’s firm.
  • Rule #2. Ask Your Source to Take Action. If all you get is some contact information, you’re just setting up a cold call.  Instead, ask your current (happy) customer to call or e-mail the contact.  That way the current customer is essentially “endorsing” you, which will jump start your sales process.  IMPORTANT: Ask your current customer to give you a heads-up when they’ve sent the email or made the call.  Without this confirmation, you won’t know the best time to call the contact, which is within a day (preferably less than an hour) after the referral has taken place.
  • Rule #3. Keep Your Source in the Loop. Your existing customer is likely to have ongoing commuication with the prospect, and can help you move the sale forward simply by remaining involved as a interested spectator.  So follow up!  Contact the referrer within a day after the promise to send the email.  Express gratitude and (if necessary) gently remind the customer of his or her commitment.  After you meet with the new contact, send another e-mail with a thank-you and a status report. (E.g. “You were right; Fred’s firm does have a need.”)  Finally, if the referral actually results in a sale, be sure to send another thank-you.

If you found this blog useful, please visit me on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com and follow me !!

Feel free to write in to me at ashish.tandon@gmail.com

How To Screw Up a Referral Sale !

Hi followers!

Thanks for all your comments, suggestions and critique ! These help me with my writing and the topics that seem to be in vogue and demand…

Referrals as we all in Sales know is a great way to get a foot in the door and eliminate the first 3 -4 steps of a prospective sale.

BUT as young sales reps we have certainly done our fair bit of screwing up a referral sale and this piece is an attempt to help the newbies in their sale careers!!

I have identified 4 instances of how we can potentially screw up a referral sale and used these descriptions to teach young budding sales stars to be mindful of this intricate process..

  1. You provided a detailed quote without a quid pro quo. If you’re going to do any significant work for a client, you must be “paid” by some concession to you that leads towards closing the deal. You should have demanded to present to personally to the CEO — or something else that might have given you an inside track.
  2. You didn’t differentiate your firm or your offering. While you may consider yourself to be a “boutique” firm, you obviously didn’t convince the prospect of that, because you ended up in a discussion of price. If you actually were a boutique firm, you’d be charging the highest price, and the customer would be happy to pay it.
  3. You bid on a deal without local resources. Since web development tends to be something of a commodity product, one of the few differentiators available to a provider is the quality of the sales rep. You needed a warm, personable body working the customer personally, in order to stand a chance of competing.
  4. You didn’t take the hint that you lost the deal. If the prospect is consistently blowing you off, they aren’t going to buy. Period. You’re just fooling yourself if you think that you’re still going to get the deal.  Any resources that you expend pursuing this deal further is wasted.  It’s over; deal with it.

To read more blogs from my pen, please visit my blog on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

and follow me!!

How to Read a Customer’s Mind !

Hi guys,

Trust that this blog finds you all well at work and play….

The subject of this one came up today as I was talking to one of my smartest sales reps. She was talking to me about one particular prospect who responded exactly as would be expected of someone who would be keen to place his order ..BUT at the last moment , would apparently back down and the “deal” would go bust !!

So I dug up my best from the last 20 years of sales and marketing experience and came up with this..hope it helps you guys as well…so here goes

A seasoned sales professional categorizes customers into four basic styles of behavior, based upon their tolerance to risk (recognition vs. security) and attitude towards work (goal-oriented vs. process-oriented). These four basic styles are:

  1. DOER (results oriented, needs recognition). Tends to make decisions quickly, prefers brief presentations, and resents time-wasters.
  2. TALKER (process oriented, needs recognition). Desires social approval and thus will avoid making a decision until everyone is happy.
  3. CONTROLLER (results oriented, needs security). Highly logical and analytical, and will generally look for what’s wrong with any situation.
  4. SUPPORTER (process oriented, needs security). Seldom looks at the bottom line but instead is more concerned with getting a job done.

According to my experience, customers have a primary and secondary style of behavior. For example, a CEO might be a Doer when dealing with underlings but a Talker when dealing with fellow CEOs. Similarly, a bank manager might be a Controller when it comes to writing loans, but a Supporter when it comes to working with top management.

In order to “read the customer’s mind”, you watch and listen carefully for clues about styles of behavior when interacting with a customer contact.

A Doer, for example, will often wear flashy or distinctive clothing and is likely to communicate in short bursts. Similarly, a Supporter will tend to dress conservatively and use catchphrases like “the way things are done here” and “the powers that be.”

Once you’ve determined the customer’s primary style of behavior, it becomes easier to predict how they’ll react to various situations that might come up in the sale cycle.  For example, a Controller will probably surface objections quickly and frequently.

That information allows you to adapt your sales approach. For example, when selling to a Doer, speak quickly and get right to the point. By contrast, when selling to a Supporter take the time to explain, in detail, how what you’re selling fits into the status-quo.  With a controller, you play devil’s advocate and let him argue against you, thereby selling himself on your product.

If you’re going to use Willingham’s conceptual model effectively, it helps if you’re aware of your own natural style. If you have a technical background and tend to naturally fall into the Controller style, you’ll need to take on more of an air of authority (become a “doer”) when calling on a CEO, for instance.

Top sales professionals can not only intuitively sense the customer’s style of behavior, but find the corresponding style in his or her own character that best matches the situation.

Obviously this is not a panacea for all sales strategists and it is an acquired skill that becomes a part of your persona as you mature by listening and learning throughout your career!!

To read more blogs about various aspects of sales that I have covered in earlier posts, please visit https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

Better Questions = Faster Selling

Hi readers,

This blog is a natural fit after my blog on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/the-10-best-questions-to-warm-up-a-cold-prospect/

After you have suitably warmed a suspect to a prospect, what sort of smart questions do you need to ask such that your sales cycle is reduced and you are able to close a deal at the earliest, at the same time, creating client delight.

I figured that an appropriate example would be just the right thing to explain a suitable line of action that could get you your desired result.

Questions serve three functions in a sales conversation. First, they elicit more information about the prospect, thereby allowing you to learn more about how (and if) you can help. Second, they move the conversation forward, so that you can continue to ask more questions, and learn even more. Third, they help build rapport with the prospect so that you can more easily move the entire sale forward.

With that in mind, the absolute worst kind of questions to ask are those that have a one word , monosyllabic answer. Example:

Sales Rep: What CRM vendor are you currently using?

Prospect: Oracle.

While the above question does elicit information, it does not move the conversation forward. Making the question open-ended does both. Example:

Sales Rep: What was your decision-making process when you selected a CRM vendor?

Prospect: We put together a cross-functional team which looked at different vendors. We decided that Oracle would be the best choice for us.

Sales Rep: What were the most important criteria for the decision-making?

While the above question both elicits information and keeps the conversation moving forward, it would be even more effective if it also helped build rapport with the prospect. The easiest way to do this is to assume that the prospect has something uniquely interesting to say. Example:

Sales Rep: The economy is tough but I’ve read that your company plans to use sales technology to help weather the tough times. How did your team come up with that plan?

Prospect: Well, we’ve been through some similar situations in the past and, when we got early warning that sales might drop…

In the above question, the prospect has essentially been given the permission to brag about his firm and his participation in helping his firm be successful. Since people like talking about themselves and their achievements, the prospect will probably warm to the subject, and the entire conversation will be more productive. And that, in turn, will make the sales cycle faster.

Personally , an eclectic mix of open ended and close ended questions worked best for me during my roles as a solutions sales specialist.

Based on the vertical that you are engaged in and the product or service that you sell, ideally a set of 10 , a mix of open ended as well as close ended questions work best to help you close your sale with your client, and leaving the client feeling that in you he has a friend and consultant for life!!

Happy selling!!

Steps to qualify your sales leads

Hi readers,

The process of sales involves turning “suspects” ( maybe he could be my client), to prospects ( aha!….I think he would buy from me if I could convince him)…to eventually , clients (YES! he bought from me …wooohoooo!!!)

BUT…in order to actually maximize your productivity, the star sales man has to learn the art of pre-qualifying the list of “prospects” as actual, warm, or hot leads…and thats an eclectic mix of art and science.

I have elucidated some steps that I think assist the sales rep to pre-qualify a prospect and to close the sale…

STEP 1. Define your target industries. Based upon your experience (and that of your colleagues) figure out which industries have both the greatest need for your offering as well as the money to purchase your offering. Limit your target to one or two industries at most. Now go through the generic list and scratch out everyone who isn’t in one of those target industries.

STEP 2. Define your target job titles. Within each industry there are “natural” buyers who either purchase offerings similar to yours or greatly influence such purchases. Based on your experience (and that of your colleagues) figure out the two or three specific titles that this natural buyer usually has within your target industry. Now go through the edited list from Step 1 and scratch out every remaining prospect that doesn’t have one of those two or three job titles.

STEP 3: Craft a targeted message. Based upon what you know about that natural buyer in your target industries, create a compelling message. You want a message that identifies the problem that keeps the prospect awake at night and which your offering helps to solve. The most effective messages have a high emotional content. For example- if you are selling  a video software service to a client using SMS to broadcast his marketing message, instead of saying that you are the best thing that happened after you-tube you may want to consider…” Would you consider a video software, that could compress a personal video message of upto a minute to a size that could be sent across to all your friends and business associates as a film clip, either through the SMS service or as an email?”

STEP 4: Reality-check the list and the message. At random, call four or five of the prospects on your edited list. Do not attempt to make a sale at this time. Explain that you’re trying to understand how to sell into the prospect’s industry. Ask them to confirm that the targeted individuals inside the targeted industries are actually the people you should be calling and that the message will prove effective. If there’s a disconnect, re-examine your assumptions and return to Step 1.

STEP 5: Help Marketing create better lists in the future. Make your cold calls. If you find (as you probably will) that pre-qualifying your cold calls results in a higher number of average sales per call, save yourself some time and trouble in the future. Ask Marketing to purchase or generate prospect lists that fit the demographic of your proven target. Warning: when the marketing group sees what you’ve done, they’ll probably want you to come work for them!

Happy qualifying and closing!!!

How to Conquer Fear of Cold Calling

Hi readers,

Apologies for the sabbatical. Been travelling all over the place to deliver to folks who have retained my services as a consultant.

Well…. recently traveled to a client in Mumbai and he asked me to do a workshop for him for his sales team. As is my practice, I began with personal interviews with the sales team members and realized by the end of the day that the highest common factor ( remember our 2nd grade math!) that impedes their performance was FEAR OF COLD CALLING!

That set me thinking and I began to analyze first the reasons for this underlying fear…and my assessment revealed the following

  • Fear #1: Fear of Sounding Stupid. You’re afraid that once you have a target in your sights , and you are able to muster enough courage to just walk up to his door without an appointment,you will stumble and be turned away from his door by his secretary.  This is not a fear of “rejection”; this fear comes from not having mastered the skill of converting a conversation into an appointment over a telephone call.
  • Fear #2: Fear of Wasted Effort. You’re afraid that you’re not “working” the target correctly; that you are in a random pursuit.  A call here, a call there; leave this voicemail; craft an email, etc., etc. . You’re flailing and you fear your results will correspondingly flail and your efforts will be ineffective.
  • Fear #3: Fear of Lousy Process. You have the same hesitation and take the same deep breath you would take before starting to put clothes on the drying line in fierce a wind storm. Experience says that, even if you’re successful in getting the appointment, there is no efficient way to develop and close the deal.

Post this assessment, my question was- now we know the fears, so now what?

So I came up with a simple 3 point program to help address the fears mentioned and identified above – and these tips are

  • Step #1: Develop Your Skills. Either through available training or available written material work to improve the ability to control the flow of the conversation, to handle pushback’s and to secure an agreement to meet.  You must learn how to deftly and professionally handle the predictable negative responses to a request for an appointment and still secure an appointment.  As a result, you’ll feel the confidence that comes from being able to control the conversation.

Step #2: Adopt a Sales Methodology. Find (or create) a written methodology that sets in place the specific pursuit of any group of suspects, including how many times to call, the frequency of those calls and the messaging used in voicemails, emails, and/or videos. Developing the “Best Practice” model will eliminate the feeling of flailing or being caught up in a random pursuit going nowhere

Step #3: Measure and Adapt. Either manually or with available technology develop a way to execute your best practice and training in a way that enables you to track the pursuit of targets very precisely and in the most efficient way. By tracking activity you will gain control and give purpose to your telephone activity. You can begin to determine how many initial appointments you need to make quota, how many conversations you need to get those appointments, how many calls you need to make that conversation goal.

P.S- Marketing has a crucial role to play in ensuring their sales team members are empowered through various devices ( training, sales playbooks, technology, tools etc) and have the confidence to go out there and get their business and makes their quotas!!

Hope this helps my brothers in the sales teams across the world!!

Top 10 Mistakes Sales Reps Make- the cardinal sins of Sales Pros

Hi readers,

This blog is positioned as a follow up to my earlier blog on the top 10 reasons why sales reps fail…It is for you to comment if this apt as a logical next document on the same theme- reasons for failures in sales reps.

Sales mistakes may be inevitable but they’re not unavoidable.  (I too can cite innumerable examples where I failed BUT disciplined myself to etch that memory , permanently in my system, to ensure that I NEVER EVER REPEATED THAT MISTAKE)

To eliminate them, and sell at the highest level possible, you must:

  • Identify the mistakes you’re making.
  • Understand why you’re making them.
  • Visualize the consequence of repeating them.
  • Know how to avoid them in the future.

Mistake #10: Neglecting to develop sales skills. 

Mistake #9: Forgetting to prime your pipeline. 

Mistake #8: Failing to qualify prospects. 

Mistake #7: Delaying follow-up on prospects.

Mistake #6: Proposing a generic solution.

Mistake #5: Trying to negotiate too soon.

Mistake #4: Delaying too long to close the deal.

Mistake #3: Continuing to sell after closing. 

Mistake #2: Forgetting the post-sale follow-up.

Mistake #1: Failing to build long-term relationships.

Folks these are self explanatory…your comments are very welcome, and If you have additional inputs , please by all means write back.

Happy selling!!

Why Hasn’t That Deal Closed Yet?

Hi readers,

The subject of this blog used to hound me in the early years of my career with J&J. I was a rookie, just our of college, and with a team of sales star performers…they were my benchmark, their sales quota targets, stuff of legend, almost mythical, SO I had a very hard act to emulate!!

I did not quite understand why the gestation period for the sale- from first contact to closing takes THIS LONG!!! and it frustrated me no end, until it opened up my analytical faculties and I started to understand the patterns in all the randomness that constricted me…

I crunched the cases and came up with 4 clear reasons that answer the key question here- why hasnt the deal closed yet???

so here goes…

  • Reason #1: Unfamiliarity. It generally takes more than one (and often several) meetings before a customer will feel comfortable working with a sales professional and the professional’s firm. Fix: Get in front of the customer!  If you can’t afford to travel to see everyone you need to see, try using web conferencing or other online tools. Now my experience tells me that this issue pans out different in different business cultures- in high context cultures like India, getting familiar will be a major issue and will test you limits of patience, especially if you are aggressive and come from a low context business culture!! Hence relative to say the US business eco-system, if a similar initiative were to be done in India, the time taken to close that business in India would be far higher and as global sales managers, one should be mindful of that.
  • Reason #2: Bureaucracy. Many organizations have a complex decision-making process that involves more than one buyer. Often even the CEO wants consensus with other executives before a major purchase. Fix: Interview your customer contacts to discover that actual decision-making process.  Then devise a plan to influence the process. Again , this difference is found between high context and low context cultures. Bureaucracy exists in all organizations, in all enterprises- they simply vary in degree. In high context cultures, the degree of bureaucracy would be far higher than what you may encounter in a low context culture like the US. So consider yourself lucky that you operate in the US, because if you were to sell in India, you would have grayed overnight!!
  • Reason #3: Competition. It might first be necessary to unseat a competitor before the sales takes place. That can take time, especially if the competitor is internal to the customer, as when you’re selling outsourcing. Fix: Discover the competitive landscape and who has the inside track.  Build a campaign that specifically addresses the competitor’s weaknesses. Competition is a reality in all business eco-systems. The only exceptions would be some emerging economies, where business systems are still nascent,  evolving, and every one is watching the other to make the first move into that market- the one with the first mover into that market will be able to leverage the first mover advantage over a long time horizon!!
  • Reason #4: Priorities. As important as the sale is to you, it may not be all that important to the customer. People can only focus on a few things at once and your offering may not yet be at the top of the stack. Fix: Revisit your customer contacts and build a stronger financial case.  Get the customer to agree on how much it will cost them if they don’t buy now. This come from simple judgement maturity which is an acquired skills. Its a combination of learning to pick obvious, verbal cues during the course of your engagement with the client, as well as non verbal cues. These cues, along with a 360 degree assessment of the client’s business eco-system, will provide you with a realistic assessment of your sales cycle and where you stand at a particular point in time.

 

Are You a Closer? ….some key questions for introspection

Hi readers,

I was often asked by my sales team members – when did you know that you were adept at closing?

I pondered on this question that often stumped me and left me sort of tongue tied for the right words….and then after applying some analysis (that key skill that I apply when targeting a client) I came up with the following

  • #1: How would I rate myself as a closer?  In fact, you probably know, in your gut, whether you’re good a closing business.  A little self-honesty goes a long way when it comes to self-assessment.
  • #2: Am I cultivating the right attitude to close business on a daily basis?  Closing business is about laying the groundwork from the get-go.  If you’re not getting ready to close, you’re not a closer.
  • #3: Am I dependent upon high pressure sales techniques?  If you’re using trick closes and high pressure to try to get business, you’re not a closer, you’re a peddler.  Different thing entirely.
  • # 4: Have I ever delayed closing because I wanted to enjoy the fantasy of getting the business?  This is probably the most common debilitating behavior in sales.  If you’re doing it, stop.  Right now.
  • #5: What would it be worth to me if I could easily and simply close more business?  If you can still  visualize making more money and creating more success, you’re probably not at your peak.  Not yet.

7 Ways to Make Cold Calling Easy

Hi guys,

As a follow up to my earlier post ” 7 steps to a perfect cold call”, I thought it prudent to share this bit of wisdom with sales reps and sales pros.

7 ways to make cold calling easy is to help ease the jitters of early life sales reps and those who want to quickly earn their pips as sales stars in their teams.

Here are 7 steps that you can take — to turn cold calling from a dreary hassle into an engine of sales success:

  1. Get a better list.  Tell your marketing group to winnow out your list of leads to those who are most likely to buy.  If they won’t do it, do it yourself.
  2. Get some referrals.  The absolute best lists of suspects are ALWAYS referrals from existing customers, because they’ve already vouched for you.
  3. Get some feedback.  If you’re not sure what you’re doing wrong, get a colleague or your sales manager to listen in on a few calls. They will be able to hear, better than you, what you’re doing wrong.
  4. Improve your attitude.  Your sales effectiveness is dependent upon whether you sound like somebody who can add value.
  5. Don’t call on Mondays.  Mondays are awful days to cold call because suspects are catching up on what happened over the weekend.  Find the time of the week that works best for you and your leads.
  6. Experiment with scripts.  Different approaches will get different results, so don’t be afraid to play around a bit.  Do a mental debriefing after each call to decide what you could do better next call.
  7. Track your close rate.  It seems obvious but unless you’re measuring your performance, you won’t know whether cold calling is getting easier.   Keep a record of what works best for you.