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Sales Strategy & Management

Making Sales Presentations

You have the appointment but will your presentation ruin it all?

Entrepreneur

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Your cold calls and follow-up efforts have paid off, and you have made an appointment to visit a prospect in person and make a sales presentation.

How can you make sure it’s a success? Four elements determine whether or not a sale will be made:

  1. Rapport: putting yourself on the same side of the fence as the prospect
  2. Need: determining what factors will motivate the prospect to listen with the intent to purchase
  3. Importance: the weight the prospect assigns to a product, feature, benefit, price or time frame
  4. Confidence: your ability to project credibility, to remove doubt, and to gain the prospect’s belief that the risk of purchase will be less than the reward of ownership

Here is a closer look at the steps you can take to make your sales presentation a success.

Before the Presentation

Know your customer’s business.
Potential clients expect you to know their business, customers and competition as well as you know your own product or service. Study your customer’s industry. Know its problems and trends. Find out who the company’s biggest competitors are. Some research tools include the company’s annual report, brochures, catalogues, and newsletters; trade publications; chamber of commerce directories; and the internet.

Write out your sales presentation.
Making a sales presentation isn’t something you do on the fly. Always use a written presentation. The basic structure of any sales presentation includes five key points: Build rapport with your prospect, introduce the business topic, ask questions to better understand your prospect’s needs, summarise your key selling points, and close the sale. Think about the three major selling points of your product or service. Develop leading questions to probe your customer’s reactions and needs.

Make sure you are talking to the right person.
This seems elementary, but many salespeople neglect to do it. Then, at the last minute, the buyer wriggles off the hook by saying he or she needs a boss’s, spouse’s or partner’s approval. When you are setting the appointment, always ask “Are you the one I should be talking to, or are there others who will be making the buying decision?”

In the Customer’s Office

Build rapport.
Before you start discussing business, build rapport with your prospect. To accomplish this, do some homework. Find out if you have a colleague in common. Has the prospect’s company been in the news lately? Is he or she interested in sports? Get a little insight into the company and the individual so you can make the rapport genuine.

Ask questions.
Don’t jump into a canned sales spiel. The most effective way to sell is to ask the prospect questions and see where he or she leads you. (Of course, your questions are carefully structured to elicit the prospect’s needs – ones that your product just happens to be able to fill.)

Ask questions that require more than a yes or no response, and that deal with more than just costs, price, procedures and the technical aspects of the prospect’s business. Most important, ask questions that will reveal the prospect’s motivation to purchase, his or her problems and needs, and the prospect’s decision-making processes.

Don’t be afraid to ask a client why he or she feels a certain way. That’s how you’ll get to understand your customers.

Take notes.
Don’t rely on your memory to remind you of what’s important to your prospect. Ask upfront if it’s all right for you to take notes during your sales presentation. (Prospects will be flattered.) Write down key points you can refer to later during your presentation.

Be sure to write down objections. This shows your prospect you are truly listening to what he or she is saying. In this way, you can specifically answer objections by showing how the customer will benefit from your product or service. It could be, for instance, by saving money, raising productivity, increasing employee motivation, or increasing his or her company’s name recognition.

Learn to listen. Salespeople who do all the talking during a presentation not only bore the prospect, but also generally lose the sale. A good rule of thumb is to listen 70% of the time and talk 30% of the time. Don’t interrupt. It’s tempting to step in and tell the prospect something you think is vitally important. Before you speak, ask yourself if what you’re about to say is really necessary.

When you do speak, focus on asking questions. Pretend you are Barbara Walters interviewing a movie star: Ask questions; then shut up. You can improve your listening skills by taking notes and observing your prospect’s body language, not jumping to conclusions.

Answer objections with “feel,” “felt” and “found.”
Don’t argue when a prospect says “I’m not interested,” “I just bought one,” or “I don’t have time right now.” Simply say “I understand how you feel. A lot of my present customers felt the same way. But when they found out how much time they saved by using our product, they were amazed.”

Then ask for an appointment. Prospects like to hear about other people who have been in a similar situation.

Probe deeper.
If a prospect tells you “We’re looking for cost savings and efficiency,” will you immediately tell him how your product meets his need for cost savings and efficiency? A really smart salesperson won’t – he or she will ask more questions and probe deeper:

“I understand why that is important. Can you give me a specific example?” Asking for more information – and listening to the answers – enables you to better position your product and show you understand the client’s needs.

Find the “hot button.”
A customer may have a long list of needs, but there is usually one “hot button” that will get the person to buy. The key to the hot button is that it is an emotional, not practical, need – a need for recognition, love or reinforcement.

Suppose you are selling health-club memberships. For a prospect who is planning a trip to Hawaii in two months, the hot button is likely to be losing a few pounds and looking good in a bikini. For a prospect who just found out he has high blood pressure, the hot button could be the health benefits of exercise. For a busy young mother, the hot button may be the chance to get away from the kids for a few hours a week and reduce stress.

Eliminate objections.
When a prospect raises an objection, don’t immediately jump in with a response. Instead, show empathy by saying “Let’s explore your concerns.” Ask for more details about the objection. You need to isolate the true objection so you can handle it. Here are some ways to do that:

Offer a choice.
“Is it the delivery time or the financing you are concerned about?”

Get to the heart of the matter.
“When you say you want to think about it, what specifically did you want to think about?”

Work toward a solution.
Every sale should be a win-win deal, so you may need to compromise to close the deal: “I’ll waive the delivery charge if you agree to the purchase.” As you get more experience making sales calls, you’ll become familiar with different objections. Maintain a list of common objections and ways you have successfully dealt with them.

Close the sale.
There is no magic to closing the sale. If you have followed all the previous steps, all you should have to do is ask for the customer’s order. However, some salespeople make the mistake of simply not asking for the final decision. It’s as if they forget what their goal is.

For some, “closing” sounds too negative. If you’re one of them, try changing your thinking to something more positive, such as “deciding.” As you talk with the customer, build in the close by having fun with it. Say something like “So how many do you want? We have it in a rainbow of colours; do you want them all?” Make sure to ask them several times in a fun, nonthreatening way; you’re leading them to make the decision.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Sales Strategy & Management

Get Those Quotas Moving (Upward!) In 2018! 5 Things Your Salespeople Can Do

Fewer than half of salespeople make quota, on average. Here are some best practices for to help them hit their targets in the new year.

John Holland

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Whether they had a tremendous 2017 or a difficult one, sellers likely hit the re-set button with the start of this new year. And that button push probably was accompanied by more aggressive quotas for those sellers to achieve in 2018.

So, what should sellers do to gear up for the coming year? As 2018 gets under way, here are five things I can share to help sellers get off to a good start.

1. Avoid stale quotes and proposals

Unlike fine red wine, proposals that have been in the sales pipeline more than 45 days old aren’t getting better. Many of them, in fact, are likely to have “no decision” outcomes.

So, if you’re the seller, what’s going on? There may be instances where your prospects have chosen a competitor and not given you the bad news. My suggestion is to send a snail mail letter, “return receipt requested,” to the highest level you’ve called on within the account. State in the letter how long the proposal has been outstanding, noting that you haven’t been updated on its status and that you intend to withdraw if you don’t hear anything back.

Related: 3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

The hope is that your letter will cause the buyer to contact you and say there is still interest. If that’s the case, you can ask to revisit the opportunity (help facilitate a cost vs. benefit analysis) and see if a revised recommendation can be made.

If your letter doesn’t elicit a response, you can safely remove it from your forecast. While that’s not the desired outcome, you’ll have the benefit of a more realistic view of the size and health of your pipeline.

2. Create add-on opportunities

Sellers often believe that if customers have additional needs, they’ll proactively reach out. Certainly, close rates will be higher when there is an existing relationship vs. when sellers are closing new accounts. That’s why sellers should take a look at each client and try to determine potential business needs that might be addressed through the use of their company’s offerings; they should then proactively contact the key players who might be interested.

The key to initiating add-on opportunities is taking executives from latent to active need for a company’s desired business outcomes.

3. Be realistic with nurtured leads

If the cost of your offerings exceeds $50,000, you may want to take a hard look at the entry level that nurtured leads provide. My view is that many of those leads get sellers in touch with people that are doing product evaluations. So, those people may not be working with budgets and have not identified potential areas of value/payback that can be realised through the use of your offerings.

Ask yourself if the contact you’ve been given is a potential champion who can provide you access to the key players you must call on to sell, fund and implement the offering being considered. If not, I suggest you treat the contact as a coach that may be willing to get you an introduction to a higher level that may then serve as your champion. My thought is to gain access to people who will see value in your offerings.

Related: How South Africa’s Small Businesses Plan To Invest Their Money In 2018

4. Ask for referrals

Satisfied customers can be under-used assets, especially if sellers can help them quantify results.

My preference is that sellers break down benefits and values specific to titles and outcomes that have been achieved using those sellers’ offerings.

Once quantified, sellers can ask if their customers know of any other individuals or companies they could be referred to.

5. Plan a sales cycle ahead

When I was in engineering school, I was a “just-in-time” learner in that I studiously avoided professors who assigned homework and also approached midterm and final exams with some last-minute cramming.

Some sellers follow my academic model – and that’s not smart: In terms of their year quota, many sellers who are not YTD against their numbers believe they can close enough business in the last quarter to make up for their previous gaps. But this is a very stressful strategy, and there will be times when sellers run out of runway.

An alternative I’d suggest is for sellers to break their quota into monthly increments and multiply that number by the months in an average sales cycle. They can then estimate their close rates and set pipeline thresholds they should try to exceed.

Once they’re at the stage of interviewing committee members, sellers can then negotiate their activities and time frames via a written document with buyers (I call this pipeline “E”). Here’s an example of how to project ahead:

  • A seller has a $2.4 million quota ($200,000/month).
  • Her average sales cycle is four months and her close rate is 50 percent.
  • Therefore, her “E” target is to close $800,000 or more every four-month period.
  • At any time, if she is YTD or better, her E target will be $1.6 million in her pipeline.
  • In a given month, any shortfall from YTD must be doubled and added to that $1.6 million; business development efforts must be ramped up.

Being aware of YTD performance to date and projecting the sales cycle that’s ahead on a monthly basis can reduce stress levels during Q4.

And reducing stress is good, right? I hope these tips can help make your 2018 a great, and de-stressed, year.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Sales Strategy & Management

(Podcast) Are All Prices Negotiable?

Person, socialisation, product, place – what are the key differentiating factors between those who negotiate price and those who don’t? And who determines the value of a product?

Nicholas Haralambous

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What is up for negotiation? When should you be negotiating prices, and when should you be open to negotiating prices with your customers?

Person, socialisation, product, place – what are the key differentiating factors between those who negotiate price and those who don’t? And who determines the value of a product?

Listening time: 8 minutes

Related: (Podcast) Phone Calls Often Solve Email Problems

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Sales Strategy & Management

Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

The Leadership skill of Influencing people increasingly trumps “hard selling techniques” as people enjoy the feeling that they are forced into buying a certain product less and less.

Dirk Coetsee

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“Once upon a time only certain people were in sales. Every day, these folks sold stuff, the rest of us did stuff, and everyone was happy. One day, the world began to change. More of us started working for ourselves- and because we were entrepreneurs, suddenly we became salespeople, too. At the same time, large operations discovered that segmenting job functions did not work very well during volatile business conditions-and because of that, they began demanding elastic skills that stretched across boundaries and included a sales component.” – Daniel Pink

The transformation of sales persons to Sales Leaders is not only the essence of this article but increasingly becoming a necessity, considering the skills demand required to convince people to buy your product or service within an modern environment wherein the consumer is spoilt for choice.

Related: 3 Strategies For Closing Sales Without Picking Up The Phone

In general staples in the make up of old school sales training was and in some cases still is: Product knowledge, fielding sales calls in a friendly way yet creating urgency, learning the ability to overcome client objections and of course do not forget the all-important methods of upselling.

All those elements of selling are still important in general yet “soft skills” such as active listening, handling conflict, and above all removing the emphasis from selling a product or service to selling an enhanced lifestyle or life experience has become the new frontier for the sales game.

The Leadership skill of Influencing people increasingly trumps “hard selling techniques” as people enjoy the feeling that they are forced into buying a certain product less and less. The “parrot method” of drilling sales scripts into the salesforce of the company is slowly but surely becoming obsolete as people want to feel that they are being cared about and considered within the sales process as individuals. “Caring for the other person is the only leverage in any conversation”, Gary Vaynerchuk says.

The above theory calls for a balance between Sales Leaders whom inspires their sales teams to create a personal, professional, and vibrant environment for their customers wherein which they are highly motivated to buy, and Sales managers whom monitor the key sales metrics and checks that sales procedures are being followed. In the modern world both Sales Leadership and management are needed at each end of the balancing scale.

Still, to this day an unfortunate large proportion of sales people are like lambs put to the slaughter, within some situations, as the only weapon taught to them is product knowledge and wearing a smile and then suddenly a very unhappy customer unleashes their anger upon them, and now the poor sales person has no knowledge in terms of how to deal with conflict, generally speaking. How to cope with and overcome conflict and other negotiation skills has become paramount in sustaining very good client relations.

Ethical Leadership is also strongly put forward as a necessary component of any sales training or course through this article. Sales techniques filtered through the companies Vision, mission statement and value system to test its validity and alignment to the companies’ culture can be increasingly effective as opposed to simply applying generic methods of selling which is not always aligned to the company ethos. A high level of ethics amongst Sales Leaders can ensure that after sales promises are kept and that the product sold is in effect as good as propagated by the sales person.

Related: The 5 Best Actions You Can Take To Improve Sales Calls

When a servant leadership culture is prevalent within your company it goes a long way to ensure that your sales people create a caring and positive experience complimented by an enhanced after sales service. Servant Leadership within a sales context is to put the customers’ and teams’ purpose above the individual team members purpose and that by itself is a potential multiplier of sales performance.

A highly important factor within the context of sales performance is the sales Leaders’ ability to formulate the right questions to be asked of the client in order to create a very pleasant experience. Statements in general can be quite dangerous as it is normally viewed as final and very hard to take back once communicated. Questions on the other hand requires an answer and when posed in a caring way can quickly establish rapport with a client.

Subtle nuances picked up by the Sales Leader through asking the right questions can greatly assist in creating positive client engagement. A practical example would be to refrain from the very obvious question of:  how are you? People are so used to being asked this question that they are not likely to give you a very open and honest answer and will be likely to provide you with very generic answers such as, “Fine thank you, “Well thanks and you”, and so forth.

By very simply changing the question to: “How are you feeling today? “, the very perceptive Sales Leader can relatively easily pick up on the client’s emotional state and adjust the conversation from there in order to create rapport.

In Summary, this writing actually asks one question to all CEOs’ and/or boards that must take their companies forward towards a desired future state: Do you want sales people and managers whom are likely to maintain the status quo, or do you seek Sales Leaders whom will challenge the status quo and will always be willing to ask more of themselves in terms of increased skill levels and performance?

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