Four key moments that determine your sales success
There are some aspects of selling that most sales people feel comfortable - even if they have varying levels of ability and success in these areas. Building rapport, dealing with customers they know well and talking about their products and solutions are good examples.
The problem with these aspects of sales is that they don't make as much difference to sales success. Why?
- In part, because lots of sales people excel in these areas and being good at them doesn't give you any substantial 'edge'
- Mainly because being good at these things doesn't cover for weaknesses in other, more critical areas
These more critical areas are the ones that take sales people out of their comfort zones, the ones where everything is on the line and all the risks are taken. These are the moments when a sales career has it's most extreme highs - and it's most uncomfortable lows!
It is in four specific critical sales moments that your success as a sales person is defined. If you are willing to both build your skills and confront these moments often, you will have great sales success. If you avoid these moments and fail to challenge yourself to grow your skills, my bet is you will end up in a different career in the not too distant future.
So what are these moments and why do they define sales success?
They are defining because they:
- Uncover what is really happening in the customers mind
- Ensure you know whether the customer is still 'with you'
- Reveal either agreement or objections (there is a big difference between creating objections and revealing them. Revealing an objection simply means that an objection that was in the customer's mind is now known by the sales person)
- Give you opportunity to deal with issues before moving on
- Close the sale
As we said earlier, many sales people avoid these moments which means you can differentiate yourself by working on them.
The four key moments for sales success are:
- Finding new business: are you actively looking for new business or just relying on the people who walk in the door or ring your phone? If you aren't actively looking for new customers, you are in service not sales. You may also find our blog posts on how much new business you need and whether new business is about growth or survival useful. You could also download our free customer prospecting calculator.
- Probing: do you ask the questions that other sales people don’t or do you accept the same superficial and surface level responses that most customers provide? Its not that customers are being secretive, its just that they need someone confident enough to really engage with them before they are prepared to fully open up about their needs.
- Managing objections: how do you see objections – are they are a roadblock or just another piece of information that tells you something about the customer? Do you hear an objection and flee, do you hear it and argue or do you hear it and understand that you have just received a vital piece of information about the customers’ needs and state of mind?
- Gaining agreement: do you consistently look for customer agreement throughout the sales process or do you leave everything to ride on one precarious moment at the end of the interaction? Do you present your products and wait for them to buy or do you confidently ask for the business?
Your answers to the questions on each of these four moments will determine whether you succeed in sales, how satisfying you find your sales career and how rewarding it is financially.
So why do so many sales people avoid these key sales success moments?
Firstly, there are so many unethical approaches out there – so many corny closes, so many objectionable objection handling techniques and so many sleazy strategies to manipulate the customer. If these were the tools I had available to me, I wouldn’t use them either. At The Real Learning Experience we have an absolute guiding principle in anything we teach about sales: it must be ethical and it must be customer centric. We strongly recommend that every sales person should completely avoid tricks, manipulations and pressure tactics.
Secondly, each of these key sales success moments takes the sales person out of their comfort zone because, when they go there, they are no longer ‘safe’. Each moment involves the unknown, the possibility of rejection and the fear of failure – what if the customer doesn’t like me asking that question, what if they say no, what if they respond rudely or abruptly, what if I found out that a ‘maybe’ is actually a ‘no’? Let’s not make any mistake – all of these things could happen. But isn’t the alternative worse? How does the alternative play out? Look at the following scenarios in which each of the 4 key moments are avoided:
- You don’t actively look for new business, you find see customers you thought about calling are now buying from the competitor, your client base shrinks through natural attrition and your results taper.
- You don’t ask probing questions and only find out when you are trying to close that there is an objection you didn’t know about (way too late to deal with it properly). Possibly you make a sale but miss the broader opportunities and the customer sees you as ‘another provider’ rather than a valued partner.
- You don’t get into a dialogue with customers when they object and walk away instead. When your manager asks how the sales call went you explain they were just tyre kickers but a few weeks later they own a competitor’s product or service.
- You spend hours working with the client to find them, build rapport, understand their needs and present your products and solutions and then walk away without asking them if you could do business together. They sound positive, creating false hope for you but then they procrastinate, other things come up, etc. Three months later you have followed up five times without making any progress and now they are avoiding your calls.
The reality is that you can deal proactively with each of these situations or you can avoid them. There are two big differences between these approaches:
- Difference one makes being proactive uncomfortable: by asking the questions that need to be asked, you risk suffering negative consequences (they say 'No') now and personally rather than remotely and at some unknown later date (they string you along for months and then send an email telling you that they desperately want to do business with you but .......)
- Difference two makes proactivity essential: dealing with these four moments opens up the possibility of both positive and negative outcomes. Avoiding them has only one possible outcome – negative.
If you took up a career in sales because you wanted a safe job, you have made a strategic error – sales by definition means getting out there and making it happen. As in most things, there is a risk reward relationship – sales is less safe but the rewards are potentially higher – unless you hide from the key moments.
While prospecting, probing, managing objections and asking for the business look like the riskier parts of a sales career, the biggest risk is actually not doing them.
If you need some help on the first of these key sales success moments, have a look at our blogs on prospecting for new customers - and you could also download our free calculator to help you identify how much prospecting you should be doing