Selling is NOT a game of chance! Yet, how often do sales people come down to the close and aren’t prepared for the answer they receive, “sorry, we gave the business to your competition”. How does that happen? Was it because you left too much to chance? Things left to chance rarely happen. To close a sale, you have to provide a solution that solves a need – so think about it – what problem are you solving?
It’s often said that knowledge is power – what should you know about your prospects that would have better prepared you for the outcome just described. It usually signifies a lack of preparation and knowing everything you need to know about your prospect. Let’s explore the reasons underlying this problem.
The first symptom is, “I don’t know where I stand” with the customer. This may be due to poor preparation in understanding your customer’s situation. Do you truly understand your customer’s objectives? Have you asked the critical questions that will uncover what your customer is trying to achieve? Do you understand what obstacles your customer is facing? Do you understand the magnitude of your customer’s situation and how it’s impacting their business? Does your customer feel a sense of urgency? OR, have you missed an opportunity to point it out? If you don’t understand your customer, you have no way to know where you stand! Use the Four Personality Styles to identify the right approach to understanding their business.
The second symptom is you aren’t sure “who is my competition?” In this day and age competition is fiercer than we’ve ever seen. Why? Because there’s more supply than demand with an incumbent competitor in almost every account you call on. It can be relatively easy to differentiate yourself from your competitors. But, if you’re competing with your prospect – that’s a much more difficult and delicate situation. Customer’s are more knowledgeable than ever before and many times will decide to tackle the project on their own. As the expert, you need to demonstrate the value you can deliver that they can’t. Yes, maybe they can ‘get it done’ but will it deliver the results they need.
Another reality is that there can be internal competition for the budget dollars – which project is more important, and where will the dollars be allocated. Again, as the salesperson, you must be the one to point out just how important THIS project is. You must help your customer sell it to the internal decision makers. Again it comes back to helping the customer understand all the parameters and benefits derived from successfully implementing the right solution.
The third symptom is when you have an anemic pipeline. It’s amazing how your behavior towards your customers and prospects is directly proportional to the depth of your pipeline. When you have multiple opportunities in the pipeline, your confidence increases, and so does your feeling of success which is reflected in your approach and the way you look. When your pipeline is anemic you come across desperate and fall back into asking questions like, what will it take to earn your business! Anemic pipelines need analysis: are you unsure of your ideal customer for your solution? Are your marketing efforts tired, ineffective or poorly executed? Or, are you missing a good lead generation strategy? Ask these powerful questions, and you’ll understand the steps you need to take so that customers appreciate the value that you provide.
As a Sales Professional, you need to better understand your role in a business opportunity by 1 – asking the right questions to uncover the critical information and 2 – developing a solution that the customer wants to own. You want them to see your solution above all possible competitors. Being disciplined in your method and approach will lead to a more robust pipeline putting you in a favorable position. The bottom line is: the customer awards business the old fashion way- seeing the value in you the sales person and the solution you’ve presented that meets their needs better than everyone else.
So, selling isn’t a game of chance, it’s about preparation, knowledge and understanding what problems you solve. Without addressing these issues, you might as well buy a lottery ticket – you’ll probably get better odds than trying to close a sale with a prospect you’re not prepared for.