Monthly Archives: June 2015
5 Sales Forecasting Techniques to Improve
The key to improving the accuracy in sales forecasting rests with knowing what you need to measure to find out what you want to know. With today’s technology and the near ubiquity of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, it’s more important than ever to give forethought into how you construct your sales forecasts. Otherwise, the data that you get from your time and technology investment may not be what you need to make the right decisions or achieve a real difference in results.
Here are five things that matter most in sales forecasting:
Don’t bother with CRM if you don’t have a sales process. Without an effective sales process in place, how can you trust your CRM technology to provide relevant insights into where deals are stalled or progressing in your pipeline? How can you begin to measure verifiable outcomes and assess the performance (or coaching needs) of your sales force? How will you recognize leading indicators of customer engagement and gain greater confidence in forecasts? There’s an old saying: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. Without a sales process, the metrics you pull from your CRM will often be just numbers. Forecast with metrics that matter. Many sales forecasts are built on probability analysis using weighted metrics. The scenario might go something like this: My historical win rate for opportunities in Stage Two of » Continue Reading.
We Asked and You Answered! What is your biggest training challenge?
What better place to take the pulse of learning and development professionals than the ATD 2015 International Conference. We did just that, in Orlando in May, discovering some hot issues in that hot climate. Richardson randomly stopped conference participants to ask a single question: “What is the biggest training challenge you are currently facing?”
Among the leading training challenges uncovered were:
1) Training Reinforcement
2) Measurement/ROI of Training.
In my recap of the full survey which was published on the ATD Blog site, we identify 24 issues that are top of mind, along with insights into ways of dealing with the top five.
Learn more about Richardson’s Consultative Selling Sales Training Solutions.
2 Essential Elements for Building Client Relationships
It’s not rocket science. There is no app. No magic tricks are needed. When it comes to building client relationships, the most fundamental aspect is who you are.
Too many sales professionals confuse client relationships with Customer Relationship Management. The first is a human endeavor — person to person — while the second, known as CRM, is basically a software system that automates the collection of data related to customers and sales opportunities. Think of the two as cause and effect; you have to build a relationship with your clients in order to have data about it to organize and analyze.
Before you can add insights and value to the process of working together — and before you can even win the deal — you have to win over your client. Here are two essential elements that are foundational for making that connection and building client relationships.
1) Be authentic
When I began my career in selling, for Xerox, many years ago, I approached working with my clients as authentically as possible. What I mean by authenticity is being reliable, dependable, and genuine. If you are not “real” with your customers, and you don’t sincerely care about them, they get that message right away. You just can’t fake being authentic.
You relay your authenticity by talking with clients naturally, looking for common bonds and interests, and being friendly. Conversations should be, well, conversational » Continue Reading.
When it comes to effective selling practices, there’s often a difference between what’s commonly known and what’s commonly practiced. We know people make buying decisions based on a combination of emotion, logic, credibility, and both business and personal needs and wants. We know that client dialogues are crucial for uncovering needs, exploring solutions, establishing next steps, and building relationships.
3 Barriers to Better Client Dialogues
And yet, too many sales professionals falter in the interpersonal skills needed for open, effective, engaging client dialogues. Here are three barriers to look for so that you can adapt your approach.
Different communication styles You might be an extrovert, and your client an introvert. Financial folks want numbers; technology groups understand systems and software; HR departments focus on the people element. How do you communicate with these different styles and information needs? The answer is to match your client’s demeanor, while still being yourself.You have to remain authentic to who you are and accommodate your client’s way of approaching business. With technology groups, your presentation should be succinct, based on solid data, with some charts and graphics to convey your message. For financial folks, the focus should be numbers and the economic benefit of pursuing your recommendation. In conversations with HR departments, you might focus on how your solution will make employees more productive.Beyond just considering job function, you should also try to pick up on what motivates your clients. Are they looking for » Continue Reading.
What are Some of the Best Open-ended Questions for Winning Sales?
There is no magic wand to reveal the five best open-ended questions to ask for all sales situations. That’s the bad news. The good news is, there are several ingredients that will make asking five great questions easier. Here is the recipe for success:
Remember the old joke, “Where does an 800-lb. gorilla sit? Anywhere it wants to.” Don’t be that gorilla, starting the questioning dialogue with the questions YOU want answered. Start the sales dialogue by asking about the client’s short-term objectives and needs. This approach allows clients to take the conversation where they want, so they can share what is top-of-mind for them, what keeps them up at night, and what is most important to them in the near future. Even though you control the conversation by the questions that you ask, let the clients control which areas they want to direct the conversation.
Here are some sample questions to consider and adapt, as appropriate:
“In speaking with your senior account manager, he mentioned three key drivers: X, Y, and Z. What specifically are your key objectives related to these drivers?” (This question leverages your preparation so that the question doesn’t feel too basic or unprepared.) “What are you trying to accomplish in the next six months?” “What is most important to you in your business right now?” “What has prompted the shift in strategy » Continue Reading.
Probing questions are at the heart of an effective, consultative selling approach
Being able to win opportunities is what separates a great sales professional from a good one — those who excel, understand the structure of sales meetings, and stay in control. Great sales professionals know where they are going with their questioning strategy and what they want to accomplish at every point in the dialogue. They hone their focus on probing, learning, and fully comprehending the client’s needs before ever talking about their own product. In my last blog post, I focused on tips that will help with open-ended questions, today, I will look at probing questions.
Probing questions are at the heart of an effective, consultative selling approach — one that is all about the client, not how much the sales professional knows or the great products to be offered.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
― Theodore Roosevelt
At the start of a client relationship, you should show interest in the other person’s world, which may include work and family responsibilities, hobbies, sports, or career development. Let the client take the lead, and then use probing questions to explore what the client has just said and to demonstrate your level of interest and caring.
Probing questions are a great way to demonstrate to your clients that you are listening and picking up on key “neon words” » Continue Reading.
Open-ended Sales Questions Allow Sales Professionals to Learn More than Just the Obvious
When you ask yes-or-no questions during sales calls, you get yes-or-no answers, which either confirm or deny whatever you had posited. When you become more strategic about asking questions, you can often discover important, underlying, and previously unknown issues that matter to the success of prospects and clients.
There’s a skill to asking the right questions at the right time. At Richardson, we include Questioning as one of our Six Critical Skills for sales, and we define it as the ability to explore needs and create dialogue. Open-ended questions allow sales professionals to learn more than just the obvious, observable things. As a result, sales professionals are better able to be more consultative and position the best products and services to meet client needs, while demonstrating understanding and caring in helping clients achieve their goals and objectives.
These five tips will help you get beyond the usual questioning strategy to discover what’s really on the minds of your clients:
It’s OK to leave your agenda behind. In fact, we encourage it. Going into meetings without preconceived ideas frees you to focus on what is important to clients. You can more easily step into their world, identify their needs and objectives, understand their worries and challenges, and align your offerings with their strategies. Don’t focus most of your sales dialogue on open-ended questions related to your » Continue Reading.
Better Sales Negotiations Go Step by Step
Sales negotiations don’t have to be stressful, contentious affairs. Yes, there’s a lot riding on the outcome of a sales negotiation. Just think of it as one more chance to uncover opportunities to provide value to the customer.
The secret to successful sales negotiations is all based on knowing what the customer is trying to accomplish, converting demands into needs, and then demonstrating and justifying your value.
Richardson teaches the following sales negotiation framework to help sales professionals to structure their dialogue with customers:
Preparation for the Negotiation — It all begins by planning the strategy and tactics, including bottom-line terms, to achieve the maximum outcome that meets the needs of both parties. Opening the Negotiation — The sales professional should set the stage and lay out terms at the outset. Counter-opening — This step draws out the customer’s opening terms and demands in order to maintain control and avoid negotiating elements in a piece-meal fashion. Converting Demands to Needs — The customer’s real requirements may not surface without probing more deeply to convert demands to needs and gaining insight into their true agenda. Value Justification and Concessions — At this point, sales professionals need to protect essential terms by trading expendables, positioning value to persuade the customer that it is worthwhile to make concessions, and trading concessions to achieve essentials. Closing the Negotiation — The last step is to maintain the momentum » Continue Reading.