“Always Be Closing” is a popular sales phrase that you have probably heard. It is often touted as the “ABC’s of Sales”. But this phrase is often misunderstood as being all about the spurring on and encouraging the salesperson to go in for the kill – the close – and then move on to the next one.
If you have learned anything from this series, I hope it is that sales is NOT about you, the salesperson, but it is all about THEM, the prospect.
That said, I do believe that you always need to be working towards the close. Let me explain what I mean.
Be clear about the process
Closing becomes easier if you have done your work all along the way. Signing the contract should be the culmination and confirmation of all the discussions you have had. The contract should hold no surprises and is just a formality. They should be ‘buying-in’ all along. The Close is just the logical next step in the Sales process.
Is it a fit?
Early on, you need to pre-qualify the prospect. Spending time and money with a prospect who cannot afford your product or services is time and money wasted. Discuss and get buy-in on the budget before investing time and resources.
Periodically use phrases like, ‘wouldn’t you agree?’ and ‘did I get that right?‘ to make sure you are on the same page and to anchor all of you in your new, advanced location as you move along in the sales process.
Are all the Decision Makers present?
Spending your time selling to someone who is not in a position to actually close the deal is a huge mistake. Make sure you understand, up front, who will be the one to authorize the sale and be sure that they are in on the discussions. Don’t waste your time with gatekeepers or anyone less than the decision maker(s).
Check for conflicts
Periodically ask to see what problems or obstacles your prospects may see with the proposed plan. It is important to identify and address these before moving forward.
Whenever a new decision maker enters the mix, check with them as well. Request and respect their point of view.
Knowledge = Power
You need to glean as much knowledge as you can from your prospect and the company. You need knowledge of their needs, their pain points, their past experience and most importantly, their expectations. Then you need to use that knowledge to craft your pitch and sell your solution.
We train our salespeople to incorporate ‘trial closes’ into their sales process. All along the way, they are making small ‘closes’ which make the final close much easier. Think of it as a way to ‘take the temperature’ of the room and confirm that you are on the right track.
‘What would you like to see happen next?’ OR ‘What should next steps look like?’
I like to use one of these phrases when I wrap up my presentations. It allows THEM to bring up and request that I send a contract. This way, rather than my pushing it on them, they have requested it. This is a subtle but important difference.
I send contracts the afternoon before our next meeting. This allows them enough time to review it, but it isn’t available for extensive examination. Then we go over it together, at the meeting, and get it signed.
Since you are aware of their needs and pain points, it makes it easy to show how your solution will address them. And your contract should be in alignment with their expectations since you will have clarified these previously. There really should not be any surprises at this point.
Yes, legal reviews can take time and slow down your close but if you have a well-designed solution that underscores and addresses their pain points, your prospect should be able to successfully shepherd the contract through the process.
This is just the beginning!
Try to identify and address any ‘buyer’s remorse’ before it has time to take root. The close is not the end but the beginning, of the relationship!
A real pro will mention, at the close, ‘Oh, and by the way – to prepare you – I will come to you in about 3 months to ask you for references. We are really looking forward to working with you and would love to work with more clients like you!’.
They may not remember you saying this, but it sets you up for a successful conversation when you make that request for references.
Do you and your team need help to successfully close more business? Give us a call at 908-879-2911 Or click here to use my Calendly link to arrange a time to speak.
Missed any previous posts in this Step by Step Guide to Sales Prospecting Success series?
Step 1 – The Cold Call
Step 2 – The First Meeting
Step 3 – Objections – Part 1
Step 3 – Objections – Part 2
This is Part 2 of our post on how to Overcome Objections when Sales Prospecting. (Click here to see Part 1)
Objections are often a Salesperson’s nightmare, keeping them up at night and making them reluctant to pick up the phone to make calls in the first place. Knowing you will face objections and having a plan and scripting to address and overcome them, is a sure way to reduce some of the frustration. Here are some techniques for re-directing discussions once objections have been raised.
- Say something they DON’T expect
Frequently, when on a call or in a meeting with a Prospect, we can find ourselves going into ‘sales’ mode. And Prospects, in response, will go into ‘defense’ mode. You are using all the stereotypical ‘sales’ techniques and they are responding in kind. But that gets you nowhere.
If you find yourself in this type of situation, I suggest saying something they do not expect. Rather than doing and saying what is EXPECTED – a classic hard sell – we can approach it differently in order to get a different, more positive, response. We show our people how to ‘sell’ differently – in our case, through conversation and building relationships – and Prospects respond differently, by trusting us and doing business with us.
When someone says, ‘we’re good’, they often think that will get them off the hook. With most salespeople, that means the conversation is over. You can change the outcome by continuing to talk with them, asking them ‘gee, what are you doing right?’. By continuing to be curious, you are no longer pushing a ‘sales call’ but you shift it to ‘having a conversation’.
The goal is to keep Prospects talking about their problems. You do this through questioning and listening. When a Prospect starts speaking, you begin ACTIVE listening.
Follow up with questions and make statements such as:
“Wow, I can’t believe it’s been going on that long”
“Wow, that must be frustrating! Tell me more.”
Sometimes you may need to play ‘Dummy’ to keep the conversation going, saying something like:
“Gee, you know, I’m really not sure I am getting it, can you please explain that again?”
Stay curious. Include statements and questions which will elicit conversation. LISTEN to their answers.
Sometimes, Prospects will say, ‘We don’t need help, everything is great!’. I suggest asking more questions or making more statements and possibly calling their bluff. You can say something like:
“Wow! So, you and your sales team will hit your quota, even despite the pandemic? How have you managed to do that?”
This will allow you to continue the conversation and to learn more. If they ARE in fact in great shape, you may not be able to help but might learn some insights about how the organization works. If they are NOT doing as well as they originally said, it is an opportunity to add value and to continue the conversation.
No matter what, be POLITE! We are trying to create relationships here, not burn any bridges.
I train our salespeople to address objections and stalls three times. After that, if the Prospect is still not on board, I suggest you ask for the referral and move on.
Yes, hearing obstacles may feel like a kick to the stomach but by expecting them, have SCRIPTED responses (which you have memorized) and being prepared, you can take much of the sting out of them.
Stay unemotional – this is NOT a verdict on your self-worth or a personal failure. It is a ‘no’. And this is a business where you will hear a LOT of no’s. Move on, your next call is waiting to be made – Keep Dialing and get to that ‘YES’!
If you or your sales team need help with scripting or preparing to address obstacles, give us a call TODAY at 908-879-2911- we provide the words, encouragement and support you need to face obstacles like a PRO!
This is the third post in our Step-by-Step Guide to Sales Prospecting Success. In the first post, we covered the Cold Call. That call culminated in setting an appointment for a ‘First Meeting’ which was step two. Here, in step three, we will show you how to overcome the objections you are likely to face when working with Prospects. Since this is such an important topic and so key to a Salesperson’s success, we have broken this into multiple parts. Here is Part 1.
Objections are often a Salesperson’s nightmare – they keep them up at night and make them reluctant to pick up the phone to make calls in the first place. Knowing you will face them and having a plan and scripting to address and overcome them, is a sure way to reduce some of the frustration.
- Objections at the BEGINNING of the relationship
If you are frequently encountering objections right at the beginning of the relationship with a Prospect, it may be that you are coming on too strong. You may be sounding pushy or ‘salesy’ and making the prospect uncomfortable. If they are feeling that they are being ‘sold too’ or not listened to, it is likely that they will balk and throw up more obstacles.
As we mentioned in Step One: The Cold Call, the Cold Call is NOT a sales call. It is a time to listen and learn. Eliminate objections by making it about THEM, not you or your services.
Price will almost ALWAYS be a point of contention. No one wants to feel like they are paying more than necessary or that they aren’t getting the best deal possible. Focus on the value you and your services ADD and what they will LOSE by NOT investing in them rather than spending time talking about the specific dollars and cents.
A typical stall is when a Prospect says, ‘send me an email’. Or when they say, ‘We tried this in the past and it didn’t work’. Sometimes this type of response comes as, ‘We are good‘ or ‘We are happy with what we have’.
When you hear something like this, I suggest leaning INTO it. Say something like, ‘Gee, how did you get so lucky?’ or ‘Wow, I don’t usually hear that – what are you doing right?’. This is NOT what they are used to hearing from a salesperson and underscores that you want to have a CONVERSATION. You want to LISTEN to what they are saying and doing. The information you gain from these conversations will help you better tailor your responses and offerings.
- Happy with the status quo
A frequent obstacle is when a Prospect says, ‘I am happy with my current provider’. I will be honest with you, when someone has a provider that they are happy with and have been with for over 15 years, it IS hard to capture that business but there are a few tactics to try.
Ask, ‘when was the last time you had a third party review your policy or services?’ or ‘would you be open to seeing what options a new vendor can offer?’. The goal is to keep the conversation going so you can uncover more info and identify the Prospect’s pain points.
In our post, ‘The Truth Will Set You Free’, we talked about how you want to be honest with Prospects and you want them to be honest with you as well. If it sounds like they are blowing you off, ask, ‘often, when someone says this to me, it is just to get me off the phone. If that is the case here, it’s OK to let me know. I don’t want to waste your time nor mine. I would rather you be honest with me.’
And if it really is the end of the call, remember to ask for the referral. Even if they haven’t done work with you, they may know someone who could use your services, so be sure to ask!
- Setting an appointment just to get you off the phone
Sometimes, in our excitement to set an appointment, we can get too pushy. And that can lead to people setting appointments they have no intention of attending, just to get you off the phone.
Be cognizant of this and don’t push for an appointment if it is not qualified and agreed to.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this post when we show you some techniques for re-directing conversations that are not going as planned.
And if you or your sales team need help with scripting or preparing to address obstacles, give us a call at 908-879-2911 – we can give you the words, encouragement and support you need to face obstacles like a PRO!
In our last post in our guide to Sales Prospecting Success, we outlined the first step which is making a Cold Call. That step culminates in setting an appointment for a ‘First Meeting’. In this post, we will walk you through the steps of that First Meeting call with the goal of setting the next appointment and working towards closing a sale.
During the Cold Call, there was NO selling involved. Your goal was to determine if, at the time of the call, you were speaking with the decision makers and to see if there was a need for your product or services. You were actively listening to their problem(s), evaluating their sense of urgency to fix those problems and you scheduled an appointment for the First Meeting. CONGRATULATIONS!
Now, we will guide you, step by step, through that First Meeting.
We suggest that the First Meeting take place over the phone and that it lasts approximately 30 minutes. On this call you will more closely explore the issues they are struggling with, position yourself as an expert in resolving their challenges and determine whether or not it is worth pursuing them as prospects. Remember it’s about THEM not YOU. You have begun to earn trust, don’t blow it now by going into ‘sell’ mode.
Before the call
One day before the call, you or someone on your team should confirm with the prospect that they are still planning to attend the meeting. Re-schedule if necessary.
Prep for the call
As we mentioned in Step One, be prepared for the call by having some info about the company, the prospect, any relevant data and case studies. Review their completed questionnaire and decide which questions you will ask.
Phone only vs Zoom vs In Person?
We suggest a ‘phone only’ format for first meetings. This allows you to have your cheat sheet and any additional notes and stats available on your computer while on the call. But this is only a suggestion. Let the client’s needs and preferences drive the choice and be prepared either way!
Open the call with a reiteration of the agenda. Make sure that this is still a good time to talk and that they have the time needed.
One of 3 outcomes
Explain to them that most follow-up calls like this have one of 3 outcomes:
- They realize it is not a good fit.
“If, after listening to what I have to share, you feel like this isn’t right for you, PLEASE let me know! I respect your time and would prefer to know this sooner than later.”
- You realize it isn’t a good fit.
“And I will do the same. I don’t want to waste your time or mine.”
- We both agree to proceed.
“And after our conversation today, we may realize that this could be the right solution and then we can take the next steps!”
Let them know that whatever the outcome, you want to keep communication open and don’t want to waste anyone’s time. This will set you apart from all the salespeople they have probably dealt with in the past and set the stage for a more open and honest conversation.
Get them to confirm that they are OK with the agenda and what you have proposed so far. These mini ‘buy-in’ steps help you know that you are on track, not wasting your time and will make a final close easier.
Summarize what you heard on the initial Cold Call conversation and what you learned from questionnaire. This demonstrates that you have been listening, continues to earn you trust and allows you them to confirm you are on the right track.
Ask and then LISTEN
Ask probing questions to uncover the root of their pain. Ask about previous solutions and their outcome. Learn about what they have tried and what has worked, or not worked, for them. Essentially, you are trying to see what motivated them to have this conversation with you.
Find out how long the problem has been going on. Ask how it has impacted their business. How has it impacted them personally? Ask, “how much money you are leaving on the table by not fixing this?”
At this point you need to determine if this is a viable client. Do they believe in what you do? Is the timing right? Do they fit your YAVIS? (click here to learn more about this concept Qualities to Look for When Building Your Ideal Client Base and Sales Team)
Setting up the SECOND, meeting
If there is mutual interest in taking next steps, ask them, “What would you like to have happen next?”. This ‘NEXT STEPS’ question is one we use to close ALL business conversations as it brings the prospect into the decision.
The ‘Next Steps’ question should become a staple question in every sales call. An interested buyer will agree to a date and time for a SECOND meeting.
We recommend holding that next meeting live or via Zoom or another web-based video software. This helps you to continue to build the relations and adds ‘the human touch’. Determine who the other decision makers are and request they join in that call/meeting.
So, using a dating analogy, you have made it through the first date. You are not married yet but there is a second date lined up.
In our next posts, we will address the NEXT steps in the Sale Prospecting process, the second and third meetings, overcoming objections, closing the sale and more.
If you and your team need help with any of these steps, give us a call – we can train your people, role play and monitor their calls to bring them up to speed, to set more qualified appointments and close more sales!
The process of Cold Calling is fraught with fear and frankly, a bit of misinformation. In this post we will talk about what a Cold Call should and should not include and the steps you need to take to get the best outcome.
Cold Calling is the process of reaching out, via the phone, to a prospect – someone who has been identified as someone who may need your product or services.
A Cold Call is NOT a SALES CALL but a CONVERSATION.
The GOAL of the call is to see if the person is, in fact, a good prospect, if they have a problem you can solve and to set an appointment with a decision maker for a future call. Today we will outline Step 1: The Cold Call
By methodically following these steps, you will learn how to make Cold Calls that result in qualified appointments.
First, identify who you will call
A good call list is key to effective calling. Calling any and every business in the phone book WILL be a waste of time. The same is true for calling from an old or outdated list. Make sure you are calling from a clean list of good prospects. Spending time on curating and cleaning your list will lead to better results!
Memorize and internalize your script
Your job will be easier if your script is memorized and its delivery becomes second nature. This way, you will sound more natural and be able to focus on LISTENING and pivoting as needed instead of reading and sounding like a robot. Memorizing the script will allow you to OWN it – to make it your own and to deliver it naturally.
A script will also keep you on track, helping you get to NO more quickly and on to your next call without wasting time.
For more on Scripts and making them work for you, please download our e-book, “Ditch the Script”.
What you do NOT need to do
You DO NOT need to do too much research on the prospects before you call. Make sure you have their name, the company name and some basic info about the company but this will be a CONVERSATION, not a sales call so the prep is minimal. There will be time to do research if and when you have set an appointment.
Pick up the phone
The goal here is to have a 4 – 9-minute CONVERSATION with the prospect. During the call, you don’t want to sound like every other sales caller.
What NOT to say
Opening with “Hi my name is Nancy Calabrese and I work for One of a Kind Sales. How are you?” is a BAD IDEA!
Upon hearing an opening like that, the prospect’s natural reaction is likely to be, “Oh NO! It’s another sales call” and they will probably want to get you off the phone!
“How are you?” is simply disingenuous. Don’t ask.
What to say
What you SHOULD do is to determine if they are the right person for the call and ask permission to give you 30 seconds for the reason for the call.
THEN introduce your company, explain what you do and share what “issues” business executives are experiencing. Ask if they are experiencing any of these issues… and be quiet. Let them respond.
Uncover their pain points
Once they share what their issues are, we need to get to the root of their problems. Keep them speaking about THEIR problems. Uncover their pain and the loss(es) to the company and their bottom line. People buy based on emotion – try to connect on a level where they can feel comfortable disclosing their feelings.
Shut up and LISTEN
Ask probing questions and then really LISTEN for the answers. Ask follow-up questions to dig deeper. Remember to EMPATHIZE. This is a conversation, not a sales call.
Evaluate if this is worth pursuing
By this point in the conversation, you should have a good idea of whether or not your product or services can help this person. If you can, move to set an appointment.
Set the appointment
Rather than try to answer all their questions now or start trying to actually SELL them on this call, explain that you don’t have the time to go into it now and set an appointment to discuss this further. Ask if there is anyone else who should be on that call and coordinate as needed to get this on the calendar.
We recommend setting the appointment for no more than a week or two out from the first contact and to plan for a 30-minute first time call. We find that is a good amount of time to learn more about their issues outline the process and to determine if we can move towards closing a sale.
In 30 minutes, you have a deeper discussion of their issues to determine if they are worth moving to the next step. You can then set yet another appointment to move forward.
If they won’t commit to even 30 minutes, they are probably NOT a real prospect and you may want to cut your losses. The same is true if they want to set up the first time call for a month out. Yes, you can call them back in a month to check in but that is NOT an “appointment”. See below for digging deeper to determine which path to take.
Do they foresee any conflicts?
Ask if there are any obstacles they foresee that may prevent them from making the call. See how you can accommodate those concerns (maybe re-schedule now rather than have a conflict then) or invite someone who needs to be involved in the process. Addressing these concerns now will help ensure that the second meeting actually takes place.
Review the agenda
Before ending the Cold Call, set and review the agenda for the next call so you are both on the same page as to what will be covered and let them know that you will be sending a questionnaire. These mini ‘buy-in’ steps will help you move closer to the final closing of the sale, building trust and solidifying your relationship with them.
Send the questionnaire
Our procedure involves sending prospects a questionnaire to collect some additional information about their problems. It also is a signal to us that they WILL be involved, it gets some skin into the game and helps prepare you for the meeting.
They may NOT be ‘appointment worthy’
NOT all Cold Calls will lead to an appointment. Your job is to determine who is worth continuing to speak with AND to weed out those who are not. It is NOT a failure on your part to end a call without an appointment if they were not, in fact, ‘appointment worthy’.
Some prospects are not worth setting an appointment with, either because they don’t have a problem you can solve or they are happy with their current provider. If this is the case, exit, but be sure to ask for a referral!
Ask for a referral
Just because they didn’t do business with you doesn’t mean that they don’t know someone who might need your help. Studies show that 20% of prospects are naturally helpful and WILL offer referrals. Another 20% are just NOT going to do it. But the vast majority, that other 60%, MIGHT so definitely ASK!
Prep for the first–time call
Remember when I said you did NOT need to do any research before the Cold Call? That was because we didn’t know if there would even BE a meeting. Now that we do have an appointment set, take some time to learn a bit about the company, review the questionnaire responses, pull a few case studies that might be relevant but don’t overdo it as you will continue probing in the first–time appointment as well.
Prepare to make a strong impression with data or stats, without bowling them over with a hard sell.
Don’t schedule your appointments too tightly – leave a gap in between to allow for additional time with a prospect if needed and to take care of your other tasks. And build in time to PREP for the calls as noted above.
Cold Calling is a VITAL part of any businesses’ growth strategy. It need not be something to fear! If you hate Cold Calling, give us a call at 908-879-2911 – we LOVE Cold Calling and can do it for YOU!
And keep an eye out for our next post which will be a step by step guide to the first-time appointment.