• THE BUDGET STEP: SO HARD FOR SO MANY

    The 4th step in the Sandler sales process is Budget, having a direct, honest conversation about what that individual/company would be willing and able to invest in addressing their issues.  Written down on paper it sounds like a straight-forward conversation but we all know that in reality it’s far from that simple.   So often people either avoid this step completely or do it in a token way that neither helps them nor the prospect.

    Why do we struggle so much with talking about money?  One word, headtrash. Transactional analysis teaches us that we all grow up hearing messages from our parents that we adopt (often inappropriately) as our own and some of those messages can include ‘Its rude to talk about money’ ‘Don’t talk about money in front of other people’ ‘Don’t ask questions about money’. Those of us (myself included) who grew up with these types of messages have to overcome that scripting to have effective budget conversations.  And remember your prospect may well have the same hang-ups, which can end up with everyone trying to avoid the topic or at least skipping over it as quickly as possible.

    So why does this matter? Well, if we accept that selling should be about both parties having very honest, direct conversations so they can both work out if it makes sense to work together, knowing the budget is fundamental to that.  For so many of my clients the solutions they could provide to a client can be tailored according to budget so not having this conversation is equivalent to having a stab in the dark that ‘this is what they can afford’.  Based on what?  What cars they drive?  How smart their offices are?  Or the prospect ends up getting a massive shock when they open your quote/proposal which either means the end of your opportunity (after you have invested a lot of time and effort) or you end up on the back foot having to justify your prices.

    The alternative is to bite the bullet, plant your feet, ask the budget questions and not movie on until you have the answer. Not accepting phrases like ‘no we don’t have a budget for this, you tell me how much it should cost’ or ‘money’s no object’.  Making the end goal of the budget discussion a figure that you can both work within.  Or if the budget isn’t enough agreeing how to move forwards, if at all.

    The push-back I get from some people is that their prospects won’t give them an honest answer.    If that happens regularly to you then I would suggest that there are more fundamental challenges in your sales approach than just talking about budget.

    One of the differences between being average or really good at selling often comes down to a few seconds at a time, being brave and asking those difficult questions, planting your feet and not moving on until you have got the information that you need.  If you are uncomfortable talking about money then this may be the part of the sales process that takes the most guts. So next time you are in a selling situation set yourself a goal of having an effective budget discussion and don’t allow yourself or your prospect to duck out of it.  Trust me, once you’ve done it you can walk that little bit taller and next time it will be a little bit easier.

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson is Director of Sandler Training based in Cambridge, working with fast-growing companies who are ambitious about taking their business to the next level. Tel: 01223 882581 Mobile: 07739 344 751

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  • Stop Selling Features & Benefits

    Traditionalists have been preaching ‘feature & benefit’ selling for ages with a documented track record for results. . . “Hmm, don’t you love that new car smell?” After all it’s an easy way to sell (ex: stick to the script). Customers hang on to every word until, with mounting anticipation; you do the ‘trial close’.

    One problem with ‘feature & benefit’ selling is, while it may convince prospects to buy, it can also motivate them to shop the competition and take the knowledge you have just given them. We call this free consulting. ‘Feature & benefit’ selling only aims for the target, never the bulls eye.

    If features and benefits don’t convince people to buy, what does? Emotions. Technically there are five, that when aroused, may lead the prospect to a buying decision:

    • Pain in the present
    • Pain in the future
    • Pleasure in the present
    • Pleasure in the future
    • Interest/Curiosity

    Traditional sales people will pursue the last three using ‘feature & benefit selling’ to appeal to the prospect’s intelligence in an attempt to stimulate a connection about what their product and service can do.

    While decisions tend to be justified intellectually, they are made emotionally. “What’s in it for me” is the basic question for prospects.

    When you sell, pursue only PAIN. It requires you to understand more than the simple surface needs. You need to dig deeper to have a complete understanding of the client’s buying motivation.

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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  • Is “selling” now an offensive term?

    I’ve just attended the launch of a brand new networking group targeting SMEs. The “Director Business XYZ” (salesperson) made their introduction stressing that both this and future events will definitely feature “no selling” but plenty of “networking” either side of educational presentations. In fact the host was “selling” the benefits of future attendance but without soiling the atmosphere with the “S” word.

    It struck me, if admitting sales intent was akin to harbouring an unhealthy interest in grazing animals or claiming experiences of experimentation by aliens in a spacecraft, why was anyone actually there?

    If I want to socialise then bars & friends seem to have that sorted, if I want entertainment then the Arts probably have those bases covered and if I want feeding then Nando’s offers up something more satisfying than the (‘tho rather excellent it must be said’) 10p coin sized individual button mushroom & melted stilton bites.

    I appreciate many networking groups are not designed to attract Feature & Benefit laden pitches, a revelation born in the ’70’s. So “No Product Feature Presentations” I can understand on some occasions.

    But don’t we PAY £’s to meet as many people as we can, to lead us to others for whom it makes sense to see if there’s a fit between our products/services and their business goals. In my case, I quickly discover that there’s a distinct absence of an orderly queue forming after I burst into a room, therefore I have to do something about it and start selling. I’m not embarrassed about it as that’s what everyone else should be doing too. It’s OK. Really.

    Outwardly saying you’re not selling, giving it another name like, let me think, Networking? Then talking about themselves, their products and volunteering unsolicited advice to someone who is too polite to shut you up, isn’t that just really bad, untrained selling?

    Selling is about things such as communicating, listening, being adult, understanding & relationships. Now I could happily go along with that over a button mushroom.

    If selling is important to your survival but you don’t know what to do or the whole thing makes you so uncomfortable you hate it, invest in someone who can teach you. If I want to go Sky Diving, I don’t watch a video, look out of the window and witness someone else do it then have a go myself, do I?  What if they are rubbish at it? So why risk my own & family’s wellbeing by doing the same with my business as the odds of success are similar?

    It’s also OK not to be comfortable being seen in the role of “salesperson”, let’s face it there are PLENTY of examples many people would like to shy away from. One of the best salespeople I ever met was a solicitor. Never in a million years would she have stated she was in sales, but that’s exactly what she was. She was brilliant too. Every person in a business or practice who speaks on an organisation’s behalf is in sales. Full Stop.

    I cringe at unprofessional selling, even when they pretend it’s something else by giving it another name. Done well though, you can have a great deal, and your business or home-life could be enriched.

    To be good at sales, you really should be able to get along with people as generally we all buy from people we like, who seem to understand us, when it makes sense. But if you feel that’s not you or you are unsure about being :-

    • Comfortable knowing that not every prospect qualifies to be your client
    • Clear about the results you need, then getting out there and making conversations happen
    • Sure what to say and how to say it

    ………….. perhaps its time to seek solicited advice before buying that jumpsuit on eBay…..

    My name is Chris Davies and I’m in the selling business, just like you.

    Chris Davies

    Chris Davies

    Chris Davies has spent over 35 years in both sales and leadership environments with companies such as Sony, Toshiba, IBM and others. Observing first-hand the declining effects of traditional, much copied selling methodologies. Typically, Chris works with business leaders, partners and top producers who are ready to work smarter and commit their time, money and energy to attract new clients, sell more products or services and generate more profits with integrity. Tel: 01525 280777 Mobile: 07891 055925

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  • Why accurate sales forecasting is so difficult

    Two Sales Directors were talking to each other. “How’s it going?” asks the first. “Great” responds the second. “We are having a fantastic week. The trade show was a big success. We got loads of positive feedback on our new product. We have been nominated for an industry award. Our new website is getting double the traffic, and we have hired a super guy from one of our competitors”

    “Same here” says the first, “we didn’t sell anything either!”

    Imagine you asked your Production Director whether the company was going to achieve it’s production targets and she replied “Well, I have a pretty good feeling that we might” or the quality director said “things are looking pretty good so far, but this quality thing ……it’s really just a numbers game”

    So, why do we take this sort of response from our Sales Department?

    Typically, it’s for one of three reasons.

    1. It’s conceptual. We don’t believe that the job of the sales department is to focus on building systems and processes that give a reliable, predictable, boring outcome. Instead, we get sucked into conversations about the outcomes themselves, about “exciting opportunities”, and “hopefully this deal will close before the end of the month”.
    1. It’s technical. We fail to take the time to build an ideal “sales template” and break the sales process down into discrete events. Or we break it down into discrete events but we fail to develop the appropriate skillset to ensure that a binary decision is made at the end of every event. Is this opportunity staying in my pipeline and moving to the next stage in the process, or are they disqualified? Instead, we get emotionally attached to every opportunity treating each differently.
    1. It’s personal. We hire the wrong people for Sales roles! Sure they have great CV’s. And of course they interview well. They can even sell! But will they?  Will they build a reliable, repeatable sales process that will get consistent results over time? We fail to ask the right interview questions like “ What’s your process for ensuring accuracy of your sales forecasting? “What are the criteria you use for keeping an opportunity in your pipeline?” “Describe your current sales process”.

    Sales need not be different to manufacturing.  Build a process, commit to the actions, fine-tune, and you can forecast the outcome.

    Nigel Dunand

    Nigel Dunand

    Nigel Dunand runs Sandler Training in the Midlands based at the Innovation Centre in Longbridge.

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