So, your sales force is struggling and it seems like nothing is closing from the pipeline. Sound familiar? Or you may be hearing these reasons for slow sales:
“It’s the economy, no one is buying – or spending.”
“We are priced too high.”
“They went with a cheaper service.”
The general strategy I suggest is: stop selling and start building relationships. Companies buy from people they trust, especially in this economy.
Here is what I suggest to my clients to jump start sales in the next quarter and year.
- Look in the mirror. Is your service easy to sell, even for a plumber? (See my earlier blog on sales tips.)
- Recognize that sales and business are about the relationship, not the close.
- Develop a good marketing and sales plan, including strategies and tactics for the company and every sales rep based on the information below (building relationships).
- Focus on the plan as a manager or owner by paying attention to the progress and supporting the efforts; and meet with every sales person every week. If the meetings are not productive and seem to go over the same information each week, fire the sales rep, or give him/her a new position in customer service. (I don’t care how big the pipeline is.)
You need to understand the cycle of trust. It’s simple:
They don’t know you. They know you. They trust you. They buy from you.
Before you start building relationships it’s important you plan to build relationships with companies that will buy from you!
So you must – no questions asked, no excuses – develop a great target list of prospects. In my experience this is the number one mistake we all make with sales. We don’t know who is most likely to buy from us, and therefore we waste 70% of our time selling and marketing to companies who will never buy. Kind of dumb, huh? I speak to company owners who spend the majority of their “networking” energy at Chamber events. Are you kidding me? How many people at a Chamber event are your prospects? And most of them are there to sell to you, not buy from you. Let’s take an intelligent approach to prospecting. Build a great targeted list. If you don’t know how, please call me or watch for my upcoming blog on targeting your best prospects.
With this targeted list you can start building relationships.
Step One – They Don’t Know You
Is your sales force asking prospects to marry them on the first date? Your top prospect list does not know you.
I love those emails I get from businesses that ask me to call them for a free quote on insurance, or SEO, or (_________) <—- fill in the blank, when I have never heard of them or requested any information from them. It’s like walking up to someone you have never met at a social function, introducing yourself, and asking them to marry you. What are the chances? And if they say yes, do you really think you want to go through with it?
Selling is about trust-building over whatever time that takes. You need to take time and care to introduce your services to them. Decide on a contact methodology, because it’s going to take more than one attempt. You should use one or all of the following: a letter of introduction, an email, a phone call, a drop by, or an event invitation (webinar?).
After each communication, your sales rep needs to call or stop by. More than 70% of local companies buy from someone they have met in person!
Make sure your first communication contains a compelling reason for the prospect to read it. If it’s all about you, you had better have a huge budget because you will lose their interest fast! A “tips or information” piece is always good. Ask yourself: what would be helpful to this prospect? – and then write about that. Invite them to contact you of course. Not a writer? Use this company: www.localcontentnow.com.
Keep the communication flowing to every prospect no matter how long it takes to get their attention. The goal is to move them into step two.
Step Two – They Know You
Now they know about you, but they have no experience to build any trust on. It’s important that you continue to communicate and in those communications start building trust. Trust is built by doing what you said you were going to do, and using actual examples of success others have seen by utilizing your company. You need to continue to give good information that will help them during this get-to-know-you period.
Step Three – They Trust You!
They are confident you have a good service or product, and that you have been of benefit to them by supplying good information or even prospects to them. Now if you have picked the right prospect, they should be ready to buy.
Part of trust is that they are sharing information with you. If communication continues to be only from your company, trust is not built yet.
Step Four – They Buy or Refer You to a New Customer!
This happens after they trust you and when they have a need for your service or product, or know someone that does, and not until. Companies don’t buy when you want them to; they buy when they are ready. So continue to communicate so they have your information on the day they need to buy.
If this system looks different than your current “Make a Cold Call and Ask Them to Marry You” technique, you may see huge rewards in revamping the way you “sell” to a system based on building relationships and not trying to close before they trust you. I suggest your sales group tracks their pipeline in this way, with these categories:
Don’t Know Us
Know Us – They have acknowledged we exist and agree to further communication.
Trust Us – We have ongoing communication with them, and understand their buying needs.
They Will Buy – They have asked for a proposal or meeting. This is what I call a HOT prospect. (Note: a prospect that trusts you is not a HOT prospect yet.)
At the end of the day it’s all about the trust. In some cases you can accomplish all of the 4 stages in one sales call. For most companies it is a process of months.
Remember…. most of what you do today in your business will show results in a month or a quarter, not tomorrow.
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