Kevin Hallenbeck: Close sales early and use a selling system
To wing it is just not an option in business. Those who work at a sales job without a system are bound for disappointing results or a new line of work.
Unfortunately, many people in sales try to improvise in their own way to try and make it work.
Part of the reason for this is that the higher education system has largely neglected to offer formal sales curricula. There are too few newly educated recruits to meet the constant demand in the market for good salespeople.
The result is you have lots of folks who go into sales with no formal training or preparation. As a result, most fall into the same old patterns of wasting time chasing prospects with little or no intention of buying.
A selling system will provide the framework for how anyone involved in the new business development process can efficiently use his time, effectively uncover real opportunities and open new accounts.
Mastery of a selling system will help you to close the deal conceptually before you even need to make a presentation.
Some may argue that sticking to a system makes a salesperson too rigid and manipulative, turning prospects off. There is no manipulation taking place in using a good selling system, and it actually lets a salesperson be in control while the prospect feels more at ease.
So, to that argument, on the contrary! A good selling system saves both buyer and seller a lot of valuable time and establishes fit or no fit fast. Let’s look into how and why it works.
Whether conscious or not, prospects will use their own system that’s defensive in nature because of the stereotypes of salespeople.
Most prospects, lacking complete trust in the salesperson, will try to use their system to mislead the salesperson into giving free consulting.
They will acquire valuable information that could be used to negotiate with a competitor. The default system many untrained salespeople fall into will accommodate the prospect’s wishes, make the salesperson work twice as hard and may actually reduce the chances of making a sale.
This traditional selling system most people use gives the prospect control at every step in the process.
It should look familiar:
1. Qualify the prospect — do a needs analysis.
2. Explain features and benefits of the product/service (often includes free consulting).
3. Provide a quote/proposal (free consulting).
4. Trial close (feels like pressure).
5. Overcome stalls and objections (more free consulting).
6. Close (or no sale).
Can you see how in each of the above steps the prospect really calls all of the shots while the salesperson works diligently just to remain in the game?
A selling system establishes a level zone where buyer and seller feel less pressure and may quickly discover there’s a good reason to move forward together. Or, they may mutually and respectfully conclude it’s best to seek other opportunities. Even without a sale, a connection has been established that could be valuable in the future.
In sales, a system can be defined as the process by which you consistently achieve a desired outcome or set of outcomes without wasting resources, time and energy. A really good selling system is replicable; it can be applied to every unique selling situation. Four positive results of a systematic sales process are:
Get a yes.
Get a no. This is positive when you save time and learn a lesson!
Get a referral.
Get a clear, well-understood future.
Perhaps the best thing about using a proven selling system is that it eliminates “think-it-overs” and allows both seller and buyer to quickly move toward what’s best for both of them, whether it results in an immediate sale or not.
Let’s consider how one proven system works so well to serve both buyer and seller. A simple overview of the Sandler Selling System will offer readers a powerful new approach to selling that takes the profession to a higher level. It breaks down into seven steps:
1. Bonding and rapport — establishes relationship, common ground and mutual trust.
2. Up-front contract — sets ground rules, establishes a level playing field and defines possible outcomes.
3. Identify reasons for doing business (pain) — asking excellent questions to discover the real buying motives.
4. Uncover the budget — the amount of time, money and resources the prospect is truly willing to invest.
5. Decision-making process — understand the “who, why, when where, what and how” of the decision to buy. Here you can close the deal conceptually before making a presentation.
6. Presentation — fulfillment of the decision criteria, not a “dog and pony show.” Customizes a solution that uniquely meets the prospect’s needs.
7. Post-sell steps — prevent buyer’s remorse, reinforce value and ask for referrals.
Can you begin to see how using a selling system determines a mutually clear path? The seller maintains at least equal footing with the buyer at all times. The truly great salespeople follow a system. They apply situational awareness, prevent problems, increase success rates and eliminate “think-it-over” responses.
Organizations that are systematic have more predictable and measurable results from their teams. A good selling system is the road map with appropriate guardrails to keep both the salesperson and prospect on track to doing business or determining a clear future.
Kevin Hallenbeck is the principal of Sandler Training in Manchester (bestsalespeople.com). He has worked with thousands of salespeople and their organizations to increase sales effectiveness. He can be reached at 232-1520.