This past month I met with a business owner client of mine who told me that his ratio for closing sales leads is less than 10%.
Now, to put this issue into context, this owner has invested thousands building a new kitchen showroom/design studio with beautiful, up-to date design and product displays, and hired a designer and product selection coordinator. After nearly two years his ROI on the kitchen showroom/design studio is practically zero, and it’s not because this company doesn’t have enough sales leads coming in. In fact, the frequency of new leads has been on the rise.
The real problem is due to the lack of a disciplined selling process and selling skills.
This is not an isolated case or an uncommon problem. Most business owners I meet with have similar selling challenges that frustrate them and either cost them a lot in lost sales on the front end or lost profits on the backend. Chances are whether the owner or a sales team is doing the selling in your company, the percentage of leads making the entire trip through your sales loop all the way to contract likely could be a lot higher too.
To find out if that’s true and what you can do to improve, here are three simple steps that when committed to and practiced could send your sales numbers through the roof along with your bottom line profits:
1. Better Not Bigger
The first step to growing a business is not getting bigger, it’s getting better. And the first step to getting better is accepting reality and the need to change. If you’ve never considered the fact that you and your staff can become much better at selling then I challenge you to first begin thinking like a professional, sophisticated salesperson.
Professionalism is the desire to always be acquiring new skills that produce better results. Sophistication is the discipline to do away with low-level thinking about ourselves and our clients. When combined, these two traits translate to a major paradigm shift and a bold new direction towards filling your pipeline with more and more profitable sales.
Get focused and decide to get better! No business can escape mediocrity until an owner has stopped assuming the sales department (even when it’s just the owner doing the selling) is doing its best and blaming the buying public for not cooperating.
2. Concentrate On Your Sales Cycle
The second step is to think of the sales cycle, from lead to close, as a process in which each step along the way is designed to move the prospect one step closer to a contract or formal agreement. I urge all of my clients to document the process, step-by-step, and train it.Even if you happen to be the main and/or only salesperson at this time, clarifying the process ensures that you and your people are acquiring the necessary skills to see it through to successful outcomes and staying focused on the client rather than yourself.
A documented and trained process forces us to think intentionally every step of the way. It’s amazing how much this changes our conversations. Instead of feeling frustrated and defeated when a prospect says they want to go home and “think about it” we now transition into autopilot and use great selling language like “Is there anything else you would like to add? Am I missing anything? Are there any additional issues or problems that need to be addressed? Thanks, I think we have some great solutions for you!”
More importantly, a system provides checkpoints along the way where we will be forced to stop and return to a previous step when certain objectives are not met, rather than rushing ahead and missing a step that’s critical to reaching a close.
A good example of this is the tendency to omit a thorough diagnosis before talking about solutions. Most sales are won or lost in the diagnosis phase, yet most salespeople are too busy talking and thinking about themselves and their own goals rather than those of the client.
Slow down and ask great questions like “Can you please explain what it is you want to accomplish with your project? Are there any other specific details I’m missing that are important to you? How long have you been thinking about this purchase? What would you think if we tried ______?”
3. Ask for the Sale
The third step is to learn how to gently and effectively ask for the sale. Statistics show that more than 90% of salespeople (and I use the term lightly here) do not ask for the sale. It’s been my experience that most, if not all, of those 90% don’t have open and transparent discussions about cost early in the process either. What’s wrong with that picture?
Isn’t it true when someone has come to your company inquiring about doing business that it will require a meeting of the minds over such important issues as product, service, and cost? So why do we dance around these issues like they’re some kind of mystery and leave ourselves wide open to disappointment and frustration? It makes no sense!
Positioning the cost of your product or service up front is a salesperson’s responsibility and should be one of the first steps in your selling system, right after diagnosis. Swallow hard and start talking about cost early in the game. It’s only fair to you and your prospect that you don’t waste each other’s precious time and energy pursuing something that doesn’t exist.
All it takes is a simple bracketing process that provides two or three price ranges specific to the diagnosis you’ve now learned how to do so well. “Our experience with the type of project you’ve described is that costs will generally range between $________ and $_______ for (option A) and between $______ and $_______ for (option B). Which of those works best for you at this point?”
Finally, being a professional requires that you boldly ask for the sale – every time! Let’s face it, when you’ve strategically led a prospect through your selling process the only logical conclusion is closed business. And if you’ve done a great diagnosis, gotten a green light on the prospect’s budget up front, and then provided a great solution within the confines of that budget, chances are your prospect is more than ready to become a client.
So ask them already! All it takes is simple language like “I believe we know enough to move forward with the solution we’ve proposed. If everything is satisfactory why not go ahead and get the paperwork signed up right now and get this project moving forward?”
Most of our real challenges as business owners come from mistaken assumptions.
Assuming that people will stand in line at our doorstep to do business with us is one of the biggest. Assumptions are dangerous! I’ve blindsided myself often with false assumptions when facing the cold hard facts would have saved me a lot of grief.
What is your reality? Are you and/or your staff great salespeople? Are you capturing the business you want and need? Or are you frustrated because you have a great product or service that no one seems to want?
Now may be the time face reality, get focused and make a decision to get better.