Friday, July 17, 2009

How I Increase My Sales Appointments

It's grateful if you can successfully make a sales appointment with your prospect, though it doesn't guarantee that you'll get the deal. However, it can increase the opportunity to win the deal as you have the chance to talk face-to-face with your prospect.

But making sales appointments is not easy. Many salespeople depend on cold calls, but we know that it usually ends with rejections. Prospects have all the information they need, thanks to the advance of internet and search engines. If interested, all they ask for is price list, not the sales meetings.

I also experience the same until I recently found a simple technique that increases the frequency of my sales appointments.
All that I need to do is to ask twice for the appointments.

About few months ago, I cold called a woman who was going to open a new restaurant. As you may expect, she told me to send the brochures first. I simply agreed her request (I knew if I tried to handle that objection, she would give me more objections). But before I ended the phone conversation, I asked her once more for appointment: "Well, if you are unavailable on Tuesday, what if we meet on Wednesday?"

To my surprise, she agreed. More good news is she finally bought from me.

Was it just my lucky day? I tried the same technique the other days and most of the prospects agreed to meet. This is very simple yet effective. I don't say that this technique always works, but most of the times it works (according to my own experiences).

The same rule also applies when a prospect calls in or sends an email asking for price list. It amazes me that many salespeople merely send the price list and do nothing more about it. Whenever a prospect asks my price list, I always suggest him to set an appointment so the both sides can meet face-to-face to discuss the solution deeper.

In short, just try a little bit harder. Ask twice if necessary.

Try it yourself and I'm eagerly waiting for your responses.

How to Double the Effectivieness of Your Words in Selling

As a salesperson, perhasps you have mostly been taught to sell the benefits of your product. That's a good advice, but good is not enough. I have a little tip that can increase the effectiveness of mentioning the benefits of your product.

The technique is to mention the PAIN after the benefits.

Many salespeople only sell the benefits without leaving something at the end. The usual pattern is like this:

Feature --> Benefit

For me, this is less effective. This technique cannot drive much your prospect's emotion.

Try to change the pattern into this:

Feature --> Benefit --> PAIN

Pain means the consequences or loss that your prospects will experience if they don't buy your product. This technique is especially true if you meet prospects who have less interest or lack of awareness of their problems.

Let's take some examples:

Sell benefit only:

"Using this accounting software will make your work 30% faster compared to your manual system"

Sell with PAIN:

"Using this accounting software will make your work 30% faster compared to your manual system. If you don't use this accounting software, then you will continue experiencing the complicated accounting calculation, not to mention the human-errors that take hours to fix them."

If you were the prospect, which approach that drives you more to purchase the software?

My experiences tell me that the second approach is more powerful. At my early times selling the restaurant software, I used to tell my prospects this way:

"Mr. Prospect, this software provides you with sales report that you can access at anytime, so you can always get the information you need only with single click."

Usually, the respond was lukewarm. Then I decided to change my approach to sell the pain like this:

"Mr. Prospect, this software helps you create the sales reports automatically that you can access at anytime you wish. If you don't implement this software, I'm afraid you'll have to make the sales reports manually that take a lot of your time, not to mention the human-errors..."

This approach results in more-excited prospects. They want to know more about my solution. They are engaged. They feel the pain, and the pain drives their emotion to buy your product.

You will sell more if you know how to "scare" your prospects. Try it yourself.

Friday, July 3, 2009

I Use These Prospecting Tips and My Sales Doubled!

In my previous post, I've mentioned that prospecting is very important in sales and it's the first sales skill you have to master. Now, I'm going to share some tips of how to execute high-result prospecting.

1. Target only to qualified prospects.
Many salespeople try to sell to everyone or every company. It's a great sin in sales. As the result, you may expect a lot of rejections, sales slump, frustration, difficult appointments, and so on.

If you want to sell more with less depression, rejection, and frustration, you should focus only on your qualified prospects. A professional salesperson selling luxurious cars won't waste their time persuading the factory workers to buy the cars. They target only to the executives with six-digit income.

In my early career selling restaurant software, I approached all restaurants I could find on the streets, at malls or some commercial estates. I repeatedly heard the words of rejections as most of them had already implemented the software from another vendor. One day, I met a restaurant manager who advised me to focus only on opening-soon restaurants to sell my software. Since then, I'd increased my sales significantly.

2. Make a profile or criteria of your qualified prospects.
Do you make a list of criteria of your qualified prospects? This is very useful to help you determine whether a prospect is qualified or not.

What are the criteria of qualified prospects? It depends on the products you sell, the price, the segmentation, your competitors, your company, and other related factors. In my case (selling restaurant software), the profile of my qualified prospects is like this:

- Opening soon restaurants --> they surely need software to manage the operational
- Mid-size restaurants or above --> small restaurants have more resistance to use software
- The owner is IT-minded --> some restaurant owners refuse to use software because they think it's difficult to operate.

In general, a qualified prospect must fulfill at least these three criteria: need, urgency, and capability to buy. If one of them doesn't exist, it's likely the prospect will not buy.

You can start making your own profile and use it to help you decide if a prospect is qualified. This can save a lot of your sales efforts and time. Ask yourself what kind of prospects in your business field that can be classified as your qualified prospects.

3. Find the clues of "I-Want-to-Buy-Now" prospects
Prospects needing the type of product you sell is the no. 1 prospect you have to pursue. They need your product, they're ready to spend their money, and they need it NOW. The question is how to find such prospects.

Many times, there are clues of prospects-in-need if you are aware and alert. For example, if you sell CCTV camera, the clues of your qualified prospects are the offices or houses that are recently broken in. You can find the clues from newspaper, internet, business journal, daily conversation with people around you, current issues, etc.

While ago, I read a sales article of a sales consultant who uses newspaper as her source of finding new qualified prospects. News like company mergers, sales drop, product launching, are good "clues" for her to sell her service.

Opportunity might appear anywhere unexpectedly; we just need to open our eyes.

No. 1 Sales Skill to Learn

What skill is that? It' s skill of prospecting.

What is prospecting? Simply translated, it's a method or a process of finding your potential buyers. These potential buyers are usually called as "prospects" or "leads".

Many times, I've seen so many salespeople who are weak or poor in prospecting skill. They often underestimate prospecting. They think it is less important than other sales skills like handling objections, making appointments, closing sales, etc.

I know this because that is the way I used to be when I was new in sales. I much more preferred learning skills like how to make appointments, close the sales, conduct powerful presentations, to prospecting effectively. Although I learnt a lot of those skills, I unsuccessfully made impressive sales results. I eventually realized my mistake and started to pay more attention to my prospecting technique. That was how I increased my sales since then.

I'm not saying that the other sales skills are not important. I'm saying that among all sales skills, prospecting is the one that you should put at the first priority. You must learn this first before you learn the rest of other sales techniques.

It's like building a house. It's important to learn how to build the roof, how to put the doors and windows, how to install the piping system, etc. But first of all, you must learn how to make a strong foundation to support the house. Without it, there's no use how great you've mastered the knowledge of roofing or piping system if you do not have the knowledge of building foundations.

To end this post, I'd like to leave some comments for your contemplation:

"When you've mastered skills of prospecting, the rest of your sales process would be much easier.
If you haven't, the rest of your sales process would be much more difficult."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Two Great Mistakes in Selling

These mistakes are very common and committed by many salespeople. If you want to be successful in your sales career, pay attention carefully to whether you do these mistakes or not. What are these most two sinful mistakes?

1. Trying to sell to everyone or every company.

This is the most terrible way to sell. In the past time, we had mostly been taught that everyone or every company was a prospect and had a possibility to buy. If you try to sell to everyone or every company, you'll surely have a bad experience in sales. This way of selling is just very ineffective and it makes you frustrated.

You'll face a lot of objections, rejections, unfriendly responses from your prospects, and the worst is that it wastes a lot of your time, energy, and even sometimes your money. It's like trying to catch the fish in any given pond or river you can find.

Instead of selling to everyone, focus your sales effort only on your qualified prospects. Profile your prospects and focus on them. Choose the right pond in which a lot of fish gather. Selling this way saves a lot of your time and energy, yet at the same time increases your efficiency and sales results.

Ok, now you'd probably say like this: "I sell office equipments. Doesn't it mean that every company needs my products?". Yes, it's correct that every company needs office equipments. But still, you should not try to sell to every company.

Perhaps the office equipments you sell are the premium ones, then you should not try to sell to small companies. Or you can profile your qualified prospects from their territory. You can even profile them based on competition existence by targeting only those companies who have not been very familiar with your top competitors.

2. Selling before collecting information.

How many times do you receive phone calls from someone trying to sell something to you, and you feel that this person just utterly wastes your busy time?

Recently, a marketing staff from a certain English course company called me. She tried to persuade me to enroll the course. I told her that the course is too far from my home and I had no time to go to the course. After all, I don't have any urgent need to sign in to any English course.

This is a very classic example of how a salesperson often forgets (or ignores?) to get the information as much as he needs to help him sell. Had the woman from that English course gathered some information about me, she would have saved a lot of her time and avoided a frustration due to my rejection.

The reason why you should acquire as much information as possible is to quickly determine whether your prospects suit the criteria of your qualified prospects. If they don't, then you can leave them immediately and move on to the next prospects. It saves a lot of your precious time, doesn't it?

Are You Sure You Want to Build Rapport with Your Prospect?

I once heard a story of a newbie salesperson trying to establish rapport to his busy prospect. It was the first time this sales rep met his prospect. Since he had already been taught before that building rapport was important in sales, he intended to apply it to that new prospect.

When this rep entered the room of his prospect, he noticed that there was a frame of fishing award or championship certificate, or sort of that, hanging on the wall. After taking a seat, the sales rep then opened the sales meeting with comment like this:

"Oh, what a great award you have! Can you tell me how you finally won that award?"

I know, this sales rep was actually attempting to create what we all call as ice-breaker. He expected to get a warm response by talking about his prospect's interest. Instead, this was the response he got:

"Forget about that damn award! Let's get down to the business."

Many salespeople have been taught that they should do a little light conversation about their prospects' interest to build rapport or ice-breaker. It's believed that it will make your prospects more relaxed and warmer. I also did this method in my sales, but I found it didn't really help my sales.

Put your feet on your prospects' shoes. They all are busy people. They have no time to waste to talk about their hobbies and personal interests. After all, they frequently meet insincere salespeople talking about their interests and hobbies. Now you come in to their office to talk about the same thing of which they know it's just your strategy to get a deal from them.

Again, sell like a professional. Come to them with your solutions, not your insincere care about their interests. Start your sales meeting with problem-oriented questions, not with stupid chat about fishing, baseball, or irrelevant question like "how did you start this awesome enterprise?". Make your sales meetings straightforward, relevant, and professional.

Instead of establishing that shallow rapport, there are more valuable things you can develop to create a deeper relationship to your prospects. These things are what I frequently try to show to my prospects. What are they?

They are trust, relevant solutions, and good service. I never use rapport to make my sales easier. In fact, it just makes my sales more difficult. Instead, I always build trust, relevant solutions, and good service. When you show these three qualities in your sales process, your prospects will respect you more than they do to those sales reps with shallow rapport. They will think that you are not just another salesperson trying to waste their time. In fact, they will start building rapport with you, not the other way around.

In fact, in B2B sales, that's what a rapport means: trust, relevant solutions, and good service.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I'm New in Sales, Where Should I Start From?

If this is your first day as a salesperson who has to sell to companies, you'd probably have no idea about what you should do. Due to it, most salespeople spend their time in the office doing email blast. It's quite easy and comfortable to do, but danger awaits you if that's what you always do.

A friend of mine works in an IT provider. He's new and has just started his job. He's responsible for getting more clients. In short, his job descriptions are much the same as a salesperson. At the first day of his job, he didn't know what to do or where to start from. As the result, he just sent a lot of formatted sales emails to any address he could find in Yellow Pages or internet.

This is what most rookie salespeople do. I also did.

Before you start selling, there are three important things you need to learn first. Here they are:

Product Knowledge
Have a good product knowledge before you go out to sell. Trying to sell before having information about your product knowledge is like going to the battlefield with all the great weapons but you don't know how to use them.

Company Knowledge
You need to know, for example, what procedural actions you have to take if a prospect agrees to buy, which sales form to be signed in when a sale is made, whom you should contact in your office for the shipping, what the terms of payment are, etc. Every company has different policies and procedures in this matter, so you better ask your manager about them.

Competitor Knowledge
The legendary Chinese war general, Sun Tzu, would agree with me. We have always been taught about how great OUR product is, but rarely about our competitors. It makes us falsely believe that the product we sell is the greatest product in the market. Having confidence that your product is a great product isn't wrong, but never assume that it's the greatest one and no competitors could match the greatness of your product.

Discover why some companies buy from your competitors, what the weaknesses and strengths of your product compared to theirs, how their sales force sell it, and so on. You could search it from internet, newspapers, or (this is the most valuable source) directly from your prospects.

If you are new, spend most of your time in the office learning those there important subjects. You don't have to master them all in every detail; it's too much wasting time. Just learn what you need to know sufficiently and necessarily.

I'm not saying that email blast is ineffective or shouldn't be done. In fact, this friend of mine got a lot of positive responses from the emails he sent. The problem was he just couldn't answer excellently what his prospects asked because he hadn't mastered well these three basics.

Remember, in B2B selling, the questions your prospect would mostly ask about are around these three topics. If you cannot answer them convincingly, even for some simple questions that you're supposed to be able to answer, it will quickly turn off the prospect's interest and ruin your credibility.

Do your homework.

Welcome to B2B Sales Blog

Dear salespeople,

Thank you for visiting my B2B sales blog.

In this blog, I'd like to share my knowledge and experiences in B2B selling. I believe that by sharing my sales knowledge, I also sharpen mine as well at the same time. I cannot claim myself as a sales expert, but the techniques I'm about to share here come from real sales world based on my own experiences.

I'll try to update it regularly with valuable contents about sales strategy, prospecting, making sales calls, closing, etc. The world nowadays is changing very fast and we need the latest sales techniques to stay ahead of competition. What works effectively today may not work well tomorrow.

I live in Jakarta, Indonesia, a non-English country. I'm afraid my English confuses you a little bit, as I don't really master this language. However, I'll do my best to give my best English writing.

Enjoy the reading and sell more!