Why you should say no if you don’t match 100% of your prospect’s need

In the good old days, sales people were able to fill their portfolio with stock items and hit the road selling those, without much preferences if customers’ needs fit to that product. But now, customers are demanding 100% solution of their problems.

Some time ago, in a world of never ending market growth, goods had to be produced cheaper and cheaper, driving competition harder and harder. All eyes were focused on how to source and produce to the lowest cost as possible, not what customer really needed.

Customers thought they were needed the offered goods – and for sure, they couldn’t find anything else. And customers were right, not much were changing from year to year or even from decade to decade. Globalization – as we now it today – driven by the internet revolution hadn’t started yet. Companies were pretty happy to source their business with goods available.

Then something happened. A great paradigm shift, from producers’ point of view to customers’.

The introduction of internet started a customer education process. First at slow pace, but soon accelerating. Customers started to get informed using available information and with social media introduction, they were also able to discuss within their networks about their problems and needs, just to get as informed they could before they engaged with a salesman.

Today, this paradigm shift is fully completed. The customer has made himself comfortable in the driver’s seat and decisions are made fully informed. But they still need help to match products with their needs, in detail.

On the selling side, we meet with fully informed customers, so it shouldn’t be any problem – if you are informed at the same level about your products. In my blog post Why Expertise Outperforms Process , I explain why being an expert on your own products or services is mandatory these days.

But my point is, if the salesman’s offer don’t fit 100%, the customer don’t solve 100% of their problems. The result on your customer’s side is not reaching their fully potentials and goals, leading to decreased competiveness. On the selling side, you may lose the deal to a competitor meeting 100% of the needs. Or, have a lot more work to get it. Work including persuasion, product customizations, discussions, motivations an much more hassle to eventually end up with the signed contract.

My advice is simple. Only go for opportunities you know you will solve 100% of your customer’s needs.

puzzle

In an efficient sales process, the first stage – qualification – secures no deal is allowed to pass if not a couple of qualification questions are having positive answers. Common questions are such as if customer has budget, if you talk to the decision makers, if investment is intended in reasonable time frame, if competition is not too overwhelmingly and so on.

“If your product fit” sometimes is one of these questions, but not too often the most important and never the only one. Why? It should be.

Think about the “good old days” when everything you produced could be sold, no matter what. The salesman was king and customers were trusted him as The Voice from the world outside.

Those days could be revived once again, if your product is solving 100% of your customers’ needs and most of your time is spent on helping your customer understand and trust that.

Doing so before you qualify your opportunity in your sales process, will save tremendous amount of hassle and time. But to afford to spend all your time on fit matching, you need to say NO to opportunities that not have any potential to pass the “Fit Test”.

Good luck!

Stefan

 

 

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3 stories that reveal if your sales attitude is out of date

It’s not easy to cope with all dramatic changes now happening around how to sell. High performing sales reps do, but my following true stories tell many people within sales and SMB’s still have a long way to go before they would be able to compete in the future.

outofdate

Story #1

In my garden there was until recently a huge red leafed beech. It’s height was almost 60 feet and due to that we couldn’t leave it for another year. We had to take it down. In my former life I certainly was a monkey or such animal, so I went out climbing up to the top, taking down one branch at a time.

One day later I was satisfied with my work. However, the tree trunk was still left. I scanned the internet after firms that could help me taking the trunk down. I called a few local firms and selected one that already the coming Friday was able to finish the work. Being an experienced sales person, I appreciate if a buyer comes back to me, even if it’s just to tell me I lost the deal, so I went out texting those firms that lost my deal.

Here’s the text dialog with one of them:

Me: Sorry, but I have to tell I selected another firm for the job. Thanks for your time anyhow 🙂

The sales rep: Now you lost a lot of money! We’re always 30-40% below our competitors.

Me: (slightly sarcastic) Ooops, then it certainly was a lot of money, maybe several dollars? But you didn’t check all of my needs when you called – I wanted to get the job done already this week… By the way; care about what you’re texting – just a small tips.

The sales rep: I always stand up for what I write or say. I’ve been in business since the 90’s and last year we got 96% of all jobs in your town.

Me: (increasingly upset) Think about if I had another tree I needed to take down? Regarding your attitude, do you really think I would be contacting you again? Blaming a potential customer is not a good choice. I’ve been in sales for a long time and teach sales reps, it might be a good advice to join one of my sales training classes…?

The sales rep: You should consider a training class in Foresight to earn some money!

End of story.

Lesson learned. Always accept a lost deal with a smile and a “good luck”. Look at it as a new opportunity that starts. We all know prospecting takes time and even if you lost this deal, you got in touch and next time it’s a warm call.

Story #2

This story is recently shared from my brother. He had some problems with his chainsaw (I know; you may think we are all in forestry…) and went to a retail store to get it fixed. He asked for service and the sales rep took the chainsaw into his repair shop. The brand was one of those they were selling in the store and the sales rep promised to fix it. But this was what happened next:

The sales rep: OK, I know what’s wrong, we’ll fix it. By the way, where did you buy it?

My brother: (little embarrased) On the Internet…

The sales rep: ON THE INTERNET????? Just go away and take your worthless chainsaw with you! People buying things ON THE INTERNET are not welcome in my store!!!

Lesson learned. Not adjusting your attitude and business to modern buying processes where customers using the internet and social media to educate themselves, buy things and compare, are just out of date. It’s a major threat for SMB’s but not aligning to reality is only stupid. Such aligning might be: “Great, we have a special offer for those buying on the internet, it’s a service agreement for only 99 dollars per year and I can make this included as the first repair. Would you like to fill in this form, please?”

Story #3

This story is a short one, also shared from my brother. His mower was not starting, so he called a local shop to get it fixed. However, the shop was closing at 4 PM and he knew he was a little late calling 4.05 PM:

The sales rep: (first thing saying) Do you know what time it is???

My brother: Well yes, I actually do, but I took a chance and called anyhow; and lucky me, you answered.

The sales rep: We’re closing at 4.00 PM, you cannot call later. Come back tomorrow! Then he hung up.

Lesson learned. Nothing is closed anymore. Business is always open, 24/7. Opening hours are restricting in itself, but here’s the worst thing about the short conversation above: The sales rep was actually picking up the phone. It’s not just missing the call if he didn’t answer, he also damaged his brand and that may be unrepairable.

Recognize any of these stories by your own? Do you have any more examples of out of date sales attitudes? Please tell in the comment line below! Maybe we all as high performing sales reps would get a big laugh at least 🙂

 

Strategy is like climbing a mountain!

I read a blog in Harvard Business Review by Roger Martin about strategy or rather about companies that did not have a strategy and it still has me a bit upset. Perhaps it’s about the grey in life, now that I appreciate the grey I can also appreciate well written strategy. My first conclusion from the article was that these CEO’s have not yet reached a point in their lives that the grey matters; they lack experience to do so. Age does have its advantages.

To have a strategy or not is like a company having leadership vs a company beeing managed. Success comes from leadership…

My second conclusion was that there is a need for clairification, so I’ll try to do this. My mind works in pictures and to explain how I see strategy I will try and paint you one. A vision that comes to my mind is one I learned when planning projects, with a twist.

Mountain

It’s like climbing a mountain, but it’s a race. You need to start by taking a long hard look at the mountain, you assess the competence of your team and your competition and you need to decide how you want to tackle the mountain. Do I go up the right flank to 1500m and then move to the middle, take the glacier up to the next level and go back over to the right to make a tough climb to reach the top, or do I choose the left flank taking a long detour though deep snow with constant risk of avalanches? There are risks to consider in both cases, one may require more resources and equipment but the other requires new resources and uncertain outcomes.

The decision is taken and the teams sent off. Managers STAY ON THE GROUND at base camp, observing the movement and progress of the teams and the competitors. From this vantage point they can make small decisions to support and encourage the route chosen, or there may be cause to change the course completely due to unexpected development on the planned route.  The plan keeps the teams focused, targeted and unified.

The teams each have a specific task, scouting ahead, hauling material making food, upholding communication, medical care and so on. Each team could also have strategies how they want to tackle their tasks based on the chosen route. Once the teams start climbing they will face challenges that they could not see from afar. These problems/potentials could be if the team should take a 20 m climb up a ridge or if they should take a 30m climb up a wall of ice. These are tactics that are used to best suit your team and the situation at hand. Each individual also faces their own challenges and needs to make constant decisions where to place their fingers, if they should place spikes and holders to help their team members or move quickly to get out of the cold and so on. The teams’ survival will depend on all these factors, but if you weigh them in the most crucial decision was the strategic one from the start.

I can understand that some companies are climbing mountains with low visibility and that this makes it difficult to predict what route to choose, never the less, the team that should climb the mountain stands a better chance to reach the top if one common rout is defined, no matter what, compared to letting each team scurry all over the mountain. The choice of route will depend on your teams’ skills and how they can adapt and they also need to be aware of the circumstances around the choice of strategy. In this case a higher level of adaptability is required and management might require more detailed reports of what lies ahead of the teams for them to be able to support from base camp.

I have also mentioned vision in my earlier posts. The vision is more in the area of “Adrenaline is life”. This answers why we do what we do. You cannot achieve the vision, but you should be able to connect with it in everything you do.

Then there is goal, what are we doing to reach our vision: “Climbing mountains provides us with thrills and challenges”.

Finally we have objectives, what are we currently doing to reach our goal: “We will climb Mont Blanc within a year”.

Vision, goal and objective are what put us in front of the current mountain…