Entrepreneurs and sales professionals often think that in order to close more sales faster, you need to focus on refining the sales process. Today’s customer, however, is wary of “being sold.” A better way to improve sales is to spend more time viewing the buying process from your customer’s perspective.
In Slow Down, Sell Faster!, sales expert Kevin Davis explained that the largest single mistake sales professionals make is trying to close the sale too early. They arrive at the end of their “pitch” just as the customer is barely beginning to recognize they have a genuine need! These salespeople mistakenly interpret this as disinterest and give up just as the prospective customer begins their problems and possible solutions. Obviously not good to give up as soon as you’ve activated their awareness of a need.
If you want to compete with big companies for customers, here are six essential tips from Kevin you should internalize before your first sales call:
- Understand how your customers buy. “What are the steps in your customer’s buying process?” When the product is simple, and there is no competition, buyers can make a quick decision. But these days, that is rarely the case. Thus most customers need to do some research and learn more first. You need to think about a purchase from the customer’s viewpoint, and be there for her.
- Define the steps of your sales process in customer terms. Understanding buying is where selling should start. Get very clear and specific about the steps customers take as they move through their buying process. Replace your “sales process” labels with “customer actions,” which then become the objectives for you when you call or meet with customers.
- Manage the pipeline based on where customers are in their buying process. What should matter to you is not where you are in YOUR sales process, but where the customer is in THEIR buying process. Ask yourself: “What actions has the customer taken thus far?” And, “What action should they take next, and by when?” The answers to these questions provide you with a better understanding of the true status of the sales opportunity.
- Map out who will be involved in the buying decision, and what step they are at in the buying process. If the buying decision is complex, you need to determine what factors are working for you in the sale, what factors are working against you, and what you can do to put yourself in a better position to win. Don’t get ahead of your customer.
- Focus on the most influential decision makers. Often the real purchase decision is not made by the person you are interacting with. Find the C-level executives behind the scenes, or the key influencers, or the personal connections that can override simple price and benefit arguments.
- Provide coaching early in the sales process; avoid last minute interventions. We’ve all heard the complaint about the sales manager “riding in on a white horse” to save the day and close a deal on behalf of the salesperson. The end result of this white-horse ride is often three-fold: white knuckles for the salesperson, a bigger discount for the customer, and lower profit for the company! What kind of win is that?
Speed is important in getting to multiple decision makers quickly, identifying what is important to each player, and knowing where each player is in the buying process. After that, it’s time to slow down and stay in sync with each customer’s buying process. People hate feeling rushed, and you don’t want the buyer to resent your efforts.
Customer focus has nothing to do with your selling or service process, whether the customers are individual consumers, or large corporate buyers negotiating a complex transaction. The key is to put yourself in their shoes, and lead them through their own process. Customers want to buy from leaders, not pushers. What a novel way to exceed your customer’s expectations!