Are you in a sales slump?
Fri, 08/10/2012 - 14:43 — Joe Clark
I recently took my three kids and a few of their friends to Sea World of Texas. While preparing to ride the Great White and the Steel Eel, I saw in my kids’ faces a sense of excitement of what was about to occur. I also knew they were up to the challenge, even though they were feeling a bit of fear preparing for what was about to come.
Selling in sports can expose similar thoughts and emotions. Sometimes it seems to take forever to climb to the top of that roller coaster, full of anticipation that the ride will soon provide. Then you arrive at the crest and the free-fall thrill of the ride begins and ends so quickly. You feel the rush of excitement while also beginning the next incline to gain customer approval in your next sale. The climb on your sales journey normally encompasses a great deal of research, questioning, fact finding, listening, presenting and appropriate follow-up prior to closing the sale, all part of the overall sales process.
In the sports industry, there are certain times of the year when your sales process may feel like that free fall on the roller coaster (fast and exciting) as team performance, a strong marketing campaign and/or demand for your product can all serve as motivators for your prospects. And then there are other times, when team performance may struggle, you face strong competition in your market or the season comes to an end. The sales process suddenly takes a turn and slows down to a crawl, bringing on frustration and a feeling you may never get back to the top of the ride.
No matter what you are selling, every sale has a similar approach. By having a strong and consistent sales process and plan you will not only build an pipeline of prospects but also have the greatest chance for success in the world of sales. However, if you are weak in one of the areas below or, worse yet, avoid these areas, you may survive as a salesperson but won’t thrive in your sales career or reach your maximum potential.
Just like players who hit a slump, the best place for salespeople to go when things are slow is back to the fundamentals.
Prospecting and Lead Generation – is defined simply as the hunt for new customers. It is important to distinguish between a lead, a prospect and a qualified prospect. Often sales people treat all leads the same and therefore miss out on the real sales opportunity. One of the best ways to identify your next sale is to understand who your existing customers are and then go out and hunt for others with similar profiles. Most companies have a scoring model that will profile your prospects and it is important for sales reps to embrace the information and fully understand it when formulating their sales approach with prospects.
Key Question: What do your current customers look like?
Setting Appointments – There are numerous ways to set an appointment with your prospect: cold calling over phone, email, in person call, etc. However, the most important thing is to be sure to ask for the appointment. Too often this step is skipped and sales reps will go right into product presentation in their initial contact and end up losing out on a sales opportunity without ever meeting the prospect. Your approach to setting your appointment should be to build a relationship and gather intelligence. Having a good approach will identify you as an obliging salesperson with something of value to offer.
Key Question: Are you asking for the appointment before you attempt to sell?
Needs Assessment/Qualifying your prospect – Establishing a relationship enables you to understanding the prospect’s needs, leading to a successful presentation. Effective questioning and listening skills are imperative to achieving success. By asking effective open ended questions you will:
1. determine what will best suit the prospect’s needs,
2. build confidence and trust, and
3. help the prospect discover previously areas of unfulfilled needs.
In this step you are not only selling your product, but you are selling yourself as someone who has their best interests at heart. That is one of the main reasons why customers purchase.
Key Question: Are you asking open-ended questions?
Presentation of Product – Assuming you (a) effectively qualified your prospect, (b) identified ability and willingness to purchase your product and (c) listened carefully to your prospect’s feedback, you are now ready to provide a strong recommendation. This recommendation should benefit your prospect, not just you as the salesperson. Attentive listening during the needs assessment phase will allow you to be able to have an interactive presentation that will hit home with your prospect. Adaptive selling is the number one predictor of successful salespeople.
Key Question: Is your presentation interactive?
Answering Obstacles/Closing the Sale – Often prospects do not want to tell you the true barrier to buying.
It is your job to address concerns throughout the sales process and avoid some of the standard answers sales reps receive such as:
• “Let me discuss with my wife.”
• “It’s too expensive.”
• “Can you send me some information?”
• “I need to think about it.”
Most of these responses could be avoided if effective questions were asked earlier in the sales process.
Ask questions to uncover who else is involved in the decision and budget limitations. Insure your prospect has clarity by restating some of your prospect’s answers to your questions. Indeed there are numerous ways to close a sale after the discovery phase, but addressing the prospect’s concerns is imperative. There is one piece of truth when it comes to closing, if you don’t ask you won’t get. The prospect will not ask you, so be sure you ask for their business.
Key Question: Are you uncovering the true obstacle and addressing their concerns?
Follow-up – Essential to every sales call is what action will be taken each time there is a contact. Without clarity regarding next steps at the end of each contact, it’s unlikely the customer will call you back. You have built a relationship. Following up is how it will continue to grow. You will grow not only your business with your new customer, but will also earn referrals from this customer.
Key Question: Do you have clarity on the next steps with the contact?
Conclusion In summary, sustaining your sales career is enhanced significantly when you have a process you follow every day with every prospect. The same feeling of excitement while riding a roller coaster will come to you more frequently in your sales career by having a solid plan and sales process and following it on each call.