Category Archives: Consultative Selling
Sales professionals have to nail their sales pitch all the time: over the phone, in person, with prospects, with established customers; a sales pitch can take place in any phase of the sales process.
But when a sales pitch involves large, complex sales, often with long selling cycles, or finals presentation as part of RFP processes, it pays to get them right. This is the time to demonstrate how thoroughly you’ve done your homework, how closely you’ve listened to the customer, what thought leadership and knowledge you possess in the customer’s industry, and how well your solution accomplishes its goals.
It is easily said, but it can be hard to convey when standing in front of the customer. What is needed is a plan that sets the stage for an effective sales dialogue at this important point in the selling process.
Making the Right Sales Pitch
(1) Tell their story: The pitch should be a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. It should help your customer visualize the current situation and the desired end state. Think about an appropriate visual to capture your customer’s interest and make the scenario relevant for him/her.
(2) Summarize your understanding: Review what you know about the customer: what he/she is looking to accomplish, the priorities of his/her stakeholders, challenges facing the industry, and whether or not he/she is differentiated in the market. Then, check to validate » Continue Reading.
The prospecting process starts with turning suspects into prospects, then continues with preparation. Let’s say you’ve identified Ms. Johnson as the person you want to contact because she works for X Company, which is in your targeted industry, and there are disruptive technologies having a negative impact on X’s go-to-market strategy. Ms. Johnson is new to her role as senior vice president, and you have a great story to tell about how you can help get X back on track. Before you pick up the phone and call Ms. Johnson (and all those other prospects you’ve been researching), you need a prospecting plan.
3 Elements of a Good Prospecting Plan
1) Make it SMART.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Just as with setting SMART goals, a SMART plan brings structure and accountability to prospecting.
For example, you might develop a monthly prospecting plan in which certain outcomes are identified: “I want to schedule meetings every month with ten qualified prospects.” The exact number could be five meetings or 100 meetings, depending on your organization. The point is to be SMART in defining your plan, and over time, refine the plan so it reflects what works and continues to challenge you. If you establish a target of ten prospect meetings each month and continue to get 15, then your target is too low. If you only average three prospect meetings per month, your target is not » Continue Reading.
Your success in prospecting is closely linked to your level of preparation. It’s not that prospects will always know when you are not prepared, but they will always know — and appreciate — when you are. Preparation can make all the difference between “No, thanks,” and “Let’s talk next Tuesday.” Not only do you differentiate yourself when you prepare for prospecting, but preparation can increase your confidence level, hone your message, and provide a roadmap for the conversation.
At Richardson, we consider preparation so important that we’ve created a Preparation Model that can be applied from prospecting through sales calls and customer meetings. The model is based on three components of preparation: strategic, customer, and technical.
Strategic Prospecting Preparation
Consider the prospect’s sales cycle and where it currently stands. Identify your strategic objective for the call or meeting, and visualize how the call will proceed. Think about how you will open and what questions you will ask. Anticipate responses and objections. Have what I like to call a concrete hypothesis — an idea or solution — to engage the prospect and continue the conversation.
Customer Prospecting Preparation
What is the prospect organization trying to achieve? Has it communicated details of its strategic plan in its annual reports or on its website? What is the decision-making process within the company? The goal in answering these questions is to get a better understanding of the prospect and its plans for the future so you can » Continue Reading.
Years ago, I was talking with someone about useful sales prospecting tips, and he made a point to learn how to differentiate between suspects and prospects.
A suspect is anyone you’re not currently doing business with that you (A) believe has a need for what you offer, or (B) believe you should be doing business with. Hypothetically, every company in the industries you sell to is a suspect. A prospect, on the other hand, is someone who has been qualified to an initial degree. Further, there are small “p” prospects — those that meet your criteria but you haven’t yet talked with — and capital “P” Prospects, which are those that you’ve started the conversation with and are moving closer to an opportunity. Turning Suspects into Sales Prospects
Moving a suspect to the prospect category depends on your qualifying criteria. The approach I use has three “buckets” and questions that need to be answered within each one.
Consider the industries that are most likely to buy from your organization. It could be that there are three or five target industries that are prime candidates, or you could have a broad industry portfolio. The next step is to ask yourself:
“What industry changes are going on that might be disruptive and create problems for organizations within these target industries?”
This disruptive force — whether it is technology, economy, globalization, etc. — might cause your suspects to » Continue Reading.
I often talk about today’s multi-generational sales organizations and the challenges presented by millennial learners. I ask clients:
“What will it take to engage your learners?”
From London to New York to San Francisco, the answers are surprisingly similar, and whether I’m talking with sales leaders or corporate learning leaders, there is broad consensus about what is required:
To engage today’s learners, training has to be flexible, personalized, bite-sized, relevant, provide meaningful data, and be accessible on demand across a wide range of platforms and devices.
As I discussed in the first post in this series, The Future of Sales Training: Innovation for a Salesforce in Transition, there are more millennials in the U.S. workforce than any other generation. They have a very different relationship with information and technology than previous generations, and they want relevant content delivered to them in ways they recognize and can access easily and quickly.
New Learners Expect Higher Levels of Quality
The answer to accelerating learning across generations is to meet learner’s expectations when it comes to the types and quality of content in training programs. Younger learners have higher expectations about the quality of video content, course materials, and the online learning experience – the same stale training materials won’t cut it for the new generation.
Meeting the expectations of these new learners doesn’t mean throwing away all past » Continue Reading.
Sales account management tools like relationship maps, CRM solutions, and social networking sites are a great way to support your account management strategy. Selecting and using the right tools is an important part of successfully implementing an account management plan in your organization.
The three major components of account management are:
The creation of a plan The tools to support the plan Execution
In my previous post, I addressed developing a sales account management plan; now I’ll focus on sales account management tools.
Sales Account Management Tools Relationship Maps
A major element of account management is focusing on relationships — building them, maintaining them, and growing them.
Are you contacting the right people?
Do you know all the stakeholders in the buying process?
How would you know?
This is where relationship maps become useful tools.
Much like an organizational chart, a relationship map provides a visual reference of the people within the customer organization and who reports to whom. The more detail you add, the more helpful the map. Some people color-code names on their maps, identifying decision makers, influencers, and gatekeepers. Others also identify allies, coaches, detractors, supporters of competitors, and even neutral stakeholders.
The value of a relationship map is that it shows you where you are potentially vulnerable in a customer’s organization. Consider this point of view: “My contacts are mostly at the director level, and maybe I get to see a vice president » Continue Reading.
As the “quiet Beatle” George Harrison sang, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” But if you have a destination, you need to plan your route. The same is true with sales account management. To keep your book of business growing smoothly while you focus on all of your other sales activities, you need to invest the time to plan properly.
I think about account management often because the subject comes up with every group of sales professionals in every training class, no matter what company they’re from. It was a big part of my 20-year sales career, and it should be part of every seller’s world. The reason it doesn’t get a lot of attention is because most companies are focused on driving new revenue and bringing new customers through the door.
Know What Business You’re Losing
What account management does is work to make sure the new customers coming in the front door are not slipping away out the back door. It is both an art and a science, as sales professionals strive to keep their existing accounts and ideally, grow them, while also adding new accounts. What I ask sales professionals is this:
“Do you know what the retention rate is in your territory?”
Too many give me deer-in-the-headlights looks as they confess:
“No, my company doesn’t share that information with me.”
To this, I reply:
“You should always know what » Continue Reading.
In case you missed it, last year marked a significant turn in the workforce. That was when millennials—those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s—became the largest segment of employees in the nation. This boom in the millennial generation in the workplace has a significant impact on organizations, both from a management perspective and a training perspective. That’s because millennials, as a whole, have quite different ideas about the meaning and purpose of work, work-life balance, and the integration of technology than previous generations.
Training the Millennial Generation in the Workplace
Millennials approach learning and training in different ways, and that has implications not only for continuing development, but on-boarding as well. Many millennials entering the workforce tend to be well educated, but not always in business-relevant ways. When they first came out of school, the job market was slow, and so many went back to school. Now they may have one or more degrees, but they don’t necessarily know how to apply their knowledge in a business environment. Or, what they learned is school is not applicable to the field where they’re now pursuing a career.
How to Engage ‘New Learners’
The question facing sales organizations today is: “How do you train and engage these ‘new learners,’” as we call them. Millennials grew up hardwired to technology, conducting most of their social life online, and multitasking along the way. They prefer collaboration and team-oriented projects.
They learn best » Continue Reading.