Chapter 15: A Sales Process For Salespeople Who Hate Sales Processes

How many sales seminars have you been to that involved a lengthy or complicated sales procedure? Or perhaps they had a canned presentation with a general methodology that worked in their industry back in the days when they were carrying a bag? Too many, I’m betting. You’ve seen all kinds, from spreadsheet-intensive flow charts that require you to fill in all the blanks with names and titles whether they are pertinent or not, all the way to complex wall size documents that could have been used as a planning guide for the invasion of Normandy.

The problem? One size does not fit all. In fact, one size does not even fit one.

The reason is that every industry is different, with a unique sales cycle complicated by a multitude of factors. If you consider the individual nature of your prospect and the other people who will be a part of the decision, add the complexities of your own company plus your own sales style, it is easy to see why these overly complicated “fill in the blank” template sales seminars rarely have any lasting impact on salespeople. While they may make sense on paper, they become more of a hindrance than a help after just the first few minutes of your sales call (“Slow down Mr. Customer, I’m still filling in the blanks”).

After slinging all these arrows at sales processes, am I really going to offer you my own sales flowchart procedure? Yes, but I promise it won’t hurt. Much. It doesn’t fit into a nice format having exactly 10 steps or have the first letter in each step spell out a word. It would be great if the sales process was that predictable and linear, but so far, I’ve never seen that happen. At Client Centric Sales, there are ultimately only five phases:

  1. Confirm the Business Case
  2. Confirm the Budget
  3. Confirm the Scorecard
  4. Confirm the ROI
  5. Maintain the Client

It would be great if the last one was “Confirm the Client” so I could call this my “5 C’s Sales Program,” but then I would be as guilty as anyone else who was putting out a mnemonically titled program. You could argue that “Qualify the Prospect” should be added in there somewhere. But as regular readers of Client Centric Sales know, qualifying is done continuously within each of these steps. We will cover the above in more detail in coming chapters, but for now let me explain each a bit so that they make a bit more sense as we move forward:

Confirm the Business Case – We need to mutually examine the problems to be solved, agree on terms, eliminate assumptions, and verify that a solution exists. We must also understand the impact that our solution will have on the business, both positive and negative.

Confirm the Budget – We need to verify that there is a budget approved for the amount that is required for our proposed solution. It is also important that we align ourselves with our prospect’s expectation of not only the financial side of the budget, but also the time and people who will be required from both sides.

Confirm the Scorecard – There are many parts to the scorecard. We need to not only confirm that the person we are talking with is a decision maker, but we also need to verify who, if any, the other decision makers are. At this point we should have mutually created a scorecard that will be used to clarify what problems the product or service will solve, how it will solve them, whom it will impact, and how the purchase decision will be made.

Confirm the ROI – Here we finalize the business case with data gathered by our prospect and by our company. This data will be used to confirm in great detail how our product or service meets or exceeds the solution required for the prospect. This step is often the creation of a formal proposal or presentation, and it will summarize the data gathered in the first three steps.

Maintain the Client – Whether you won the sale or not will affect your future relationship with the prospect. If you were awarded the sale, it is only the first half of the relationship. Over the next five years, a well-maintained client relationship can produce additional revenue equal or greater to the original sale. If you were not awarded the sale, that doesn’t mean your engagement with this prospect should end with a slammed door.

We have covered all of the above in Chapters 1-14. Next we will spend more time getting into the detail of each of these steps.

Will the Client Centric Sales method work for all sales situations? Obviously, the answer is no. The depth of engagement that I am asking from you is best served when dealing with large, complex, or highly technical sales. And if you take the lessons we will be discussing in coming chapters as a guide, and then add the particulars of your personality, your company, your prospect, and your industry, then you can use these five simple steps to develop your own unique sales process that fits you perfectly.

Chapter 6 – Partnering with your Prospect

In the last chapter we looked at the three most common ways to fail at sales.  Those three methodologies have been repeated and perfected through the years, and are very effective at making sure the client doesn’t get what he or she wants while turning you into ineffective salesperson.  As you have probably guessed, there is a better way.

Let’s work with a simple example.  Do you have a friend who is a gadget freak? Someone who drools over technical specs, compares all the different models, and camps out overnight at the Apple store every time a new product is released?  If you were in the market for a new cell phone, you might seek guidance from this person, discussing the pros and cons of different models and operating systems, all the while interacting as equals.  Perhaps at the end of your discussion, you might trust his judgement in this purchase more than you would your own.  This friend has little or nothing to gain in advising you, and you would probably take the advice given as trusted, impartial, and based on your true needs, resulting in your purchase of a perfect new cell phone.

It is this kind of dynamic that we are trying to create with a client-centric sale.

In the real world of sales, this isn’t always easy.  Most prospects have been trained over the years to expect salespeople telling them what they need (usually based on selling what they have) without really understanding their business.  As the saying goes, “If all you sell are hammers, after a while everything starts to look like a nail.”  If not that, prospects are used to telling salespeople what they want, eschewing any kind of value-add dialog from the salesperson that might benefit the prospect’s company.  If it is a large, complex, or technical sale, it is very likely that there will be a great deal of guessing by both the salesperson and the prospect.  These dysfunctional selling practices were covered in greater detail in Chapter 5.

A better way is to focus on a collaborative and consultative sale, acting as if you were not on commission, but instead were hired to help your client complete a successful project. Just as a hired consultant would do research with the client in able to unearth useful data, you will need to do the same with your prospect. During this question asking process, it is very likely that your client will not have all of the answers you require to create an optimum solution.  This is good news, not bad.  I have learned over the years that in the end, the salesman with the best answers does not win the sale.  My experience has shown the opposite:  the salesman with the best questions wins.

It is here that Client-Centric Sales takes a sharp turn away from the well known traditional consultative sales techniques that have been taught for decades.  At first, things might appear very similar to what you are used to.  But as we get deeper into the salesperson-prospect relationship, you will see that success comes from asking questions that your contact won’t be able to answer.  This opens up the opportunity for both you and your prospect to engage others within the organization.  Besides creating a greater sense of corporate buy-in, you may learn, for example, that you have been talking to the wrong person, that the project doesn’t have firm funding, that the European division wants the same solution, or that the president has squashed the project several times in the past. The right questions will help you continually qualify your prospect.

Client-Centric Sales is based on this methodology.  The chapters that follow will help you learn how to ask tough questions, obtain relevant data, meet key people within the organization, verify funding, cooperatively build a business case, jointly present it, and reach a definitive decision.

So roll up your sleeves.  We’re about to get our hands dirty.

Chapter 4: How Does Your Client Measure Success?

If you were to ask your prospect, “How will you know if this project is successful?” I’m betting that they wouldn’t know how to answer you. A study on IT system implementations showed that 37% of them failed. That means only 67% of IT projects succeeded, which in any school would be rated a “D.” Why did they fail? The study cites that the requirements for the project were unclear, resources were lacking, schedules were unrealistic, planning data was insufficient, and risks were not identified.

Does this sound like any of your past projects?

Whether you are in the IT industry or the TP industry, there are lessons to be learned here. The most important lesson is that it was, at best, only after the project was completed that thought was given to how success would be measured. As customers are (thankfully) getting smarter, more and more are learning to define the scorecard in advance to measure the success of the project.

The greatest opportunity with your prospect is to help them develop the scorecard that will be used to determine what success looks like.

What kind of measurements will your clients be using? Return-On-Investment (ROI) is a common business measurement yardstick. It is certainly one that is dear to the CFO‘s, CEO’s, and Board of Director’s hearts. If you can show your prospect that your product or service can reduce costs, increase revenue or margins, increase productivity, increase quality, or increase customer satisfaction, then you have a good chance of moving your proposal up through the organization. If you can help your contact at that company matter to the C-Suite, and help him or her enable the company to survive tough times and even grow, then that contact will start to treat you like a trusted advisor who is out to help the organization.

After you have proven yourself to be an expert and have identified the key people you need to meet and work with (Becoming An Expert In Order To Qualify Successfully, Chapter 3), you are ready to start writing the score card that will be used by your client (and hopefully forced upon your competitor). The sum of that scorecard needs to be firmly anchored in the Client Centric Sales model of win-win; it is imperative that you work together to create and supply the optimum solution to the company’s most important problems.

Win-Win is easier said than done. The most difficult part of this is that the contacts you have at your prospect’s organization will most likely not have a full understanding on how the project affects the business drivers of their company. They may have secured budget money, and may even have a specification written. The project may have been funded to solve “Problem X” which is funded for “Y dollars” for a period of “Z months,” but has a business case been developed that would enable your contact to justify the project? Are you in a position to help your prospect show the C-Suite how the proposed project is a win for them?

You probably have a good understanding of your prospect’s industry, and an even better understanding of the challenges your prospect’s company faces. You will need to identify how your product or service can address at least one of those challenges, and you will need to help your client develop the scorecard that will be used to both establish the success of the project and can be used to make sure that your competitors are being measured to the same standard.

Problems?

Many, and half of them are caused by ourselves.  We don’t listen, we make assumptions, we think of solutions that we have already sold instead of working to understand every aspect of our prospect’s business, and we assume that we are talking to the right people within that organization. But it is not all our own fault. It doesn’t help that our prospects don’t really know what they need, can’t find a way of accurately describing the problem, keep key information to themselves, won’t let us near the right people, are unrealistic about expectations, and are more concerned with company politics than end-results.

This is why you need to help write the scorecard for your project. Granted, it is not easy, and it takes a lot of time. The good news is that each step you take will help you to continually educate and qualify your prospect. In coming chapters, we will examine a simple methodology that you can use to create a concise, measurable, and justifiable scorecard that you and your prospect create together that will help put you in the driver’s seat.

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