ALWAYS BE CLOSING. That’s a sales mantra most people are familiar with. But for the vast majority of channel pros who are technicians first and salespeople second, it may not be that easy.
Moreover, the mantra is overly simplistic. Before you can close a sale, there are some other things you should “always” be doing, such as preparing, listening, establishing trust, and creating processes. While it takes time to become a deal-making superstar, this article offers a crash course in some of the essential skills and techniques you need to turn sales calls with new customers into new contracts.
Always Be Preparing
Lack of preparation is a common mistake, according to Gary Beechum, president and CEO of SPC International Online Inc., an IT business improvement and training firm in the Los Angeles area. Before arriving for your call, he advises, research the company’s website to learn about the business. Scour LinkedIn and Facebook to find out the prospect’s background and interests. If you discover the prospect is a coach for his son’s Little League team, for example, that could be a conversation starter. “Warmup is a critical part to the sales process,” Beechum says.
Rather than meeting in a conference room, Beechum recommends the prospect’s office, where you are likely to find more intimate details about that person, such as an award he or she received or a sports team the prospect follows. “They are more likely to open up to you in their office,” he adds.
Another critical bit of advance legwork is defining exactly what you hope to learn and accomplish during the call, according to Ken Thoreson (pictured, below), president of Acumen Management Group Ltd., a sales management consultancy based in Vonore, Tenn. Thoreson advises his clients to go through a series of pre-call planning questions, such as:
- What is the objective of the call?
- What do you want as an outcome of this meeting?
- What are the personality styles of each participant?
- Does the customer face any regulatory issues?
- What are your prospect’s business challenges?
Then you can prepare discovery questions to ask the customer during the meeting. These can be as simple as: When would you like the system to be fully implemented? What do you believe will be the impact on your business by the implementation of x, y, or z? The answer might be better customer service, for example. “Now [you] can start to sell around those kinds of things,” Thoreson says.
Identifying a prospect’s pain points is also important, says Keith Lubner, managing partner at Channel Consulting Corp., a management consulting firm in Philadelphia. “Every company has business challenges. If [you] can find those out [you] can better align [your] products, solutions, and recommendations.” Otherwise, he says, “You’re just spraying against the wall and hoping something sticks.”
Further, Lubner says, merely fulfilling a technology request is a commodity transaction. In contrast, meeting a true business need will secure a longer-term relationship with that customer.
Finally, to make sure you have no snafus upon arrival, Thoreson recommends completing a checklist before the meeting covering essential steps like ensuring you have all the necessary brochures, data sheets, and demo software, and that any equipment needed for your presentation is working properly. (To access a free copy of Thoreson’s Pre-Call Planning Guide go here.)