• Slash the Sales Cycle!

    Are you:

    • Fed up chasing prospects, clients even?
    • Frustrated that your people tell you “It’s in the pipeline” and then that pipeline gets longer and longer?
    • Furious that deals slip from one period to the next?
    • Annoyed by the number of proposals it needs to get one decent client?
    • Worried that the longer it takes for the client to make a decision the more likely it is they won’t do business, and yet often there is too much invested to let go?

    Why do we business people allow the sales cycle to take so long? It is, after all, usually our fault whenever these challenges arise.

    If the client or prospect is taking too long to make a decision, then either they do not have the decision-making power we thought or they are holding us off to compare with alternatives (including doing nothing) or they were never really interested in the first place. If we allow that to happen then we must, at least, have the courtesy of helping them make a decision by offering to close their file.

    If we are not in direct control of the timings but we are dependent on people that we have hired to make it happen and the timing gets longer and longer, then either they have not been in control of the sale or they are not being honest. That lack of honesty could be as much about fooling themselves as it is about wanting to duck the difficult truth that the deal was not a good enough match to start with when they first reported it to us.

    Perhaps we encourage ourselves and our people to throw lots of quotes and proposals at the problem of long sales cycles. “Quote and hope” as we cynically call it. If we do enough presentations, somebody must surely sign up at some time, if only by accident. A formula, however, for huge amounts of wasted resources and time.

    When a deal is taking longer and longer to close and the prospective client wants more and more detail and tweaks, (the deal stopped being good for us some time ago) we cannot afford to back out, so we have to keep going just to recoup our losses. Much better to have worked out very early that there was not a profitable enough match. But that means being open to leaving the potential deal at any stage. Hard to do, particularly when the numbers look nice. But experience tells us those numbers can look a whole lot different once the juice has been extracted by the potential client.

    Some sales cycles, however, are just going to be long. So long as we know precisely where we are, what needs to happen next and then next, we have all the right decision makers all going the right way, we can weave our path through to a successful conclusion. For that, we need strategies, tools and techniques for complex selling or “enterprise selling”.  At Sandler, we have 13 tools to guide through 6 stages of a complex sale. They make sure we stay on track and invest the right amount of resources and credence, keeping the sales cycle as short as it can possibly be.

    So the sales cycle length is often largely down to us. Not the potential client. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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    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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  • 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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  • 5 steps to start 2015 with good business relationships

    So it’s the start of a new year. You took time to look back and reflect. Maybe you have your plans for the year, your daily, weekly and monthly action plans, your goals and your vision board to spur you on to greater success. So here’s are the hard questions. Did you ask your clients? Do you know what your clients really think of your services & products? What changes they’d like? And have you evaluated them?

    I know this is simple, common sense. But how many of us really do this type of account management behaviour regularly and routinely to protect our business? It’s devastating to lose a client when you could have retained them and annoying to lose out on selling additional goods and services just because they didn’t know you offered them. So call your best clients to set up Client Review Meetings in the next 4 weeks.

    Here are the 5 steps to holding effective RECON Client Review Meetings:

    • R = Remember
      Revisit and relive the original reasons, issues, problems or objectives that led your client to buy your products and services.
    • E = Evaluate
      Evaluate your relationship. What’s worked? What hasn’t? What do you need to do differently? Grade yours and the client’s performances in the partnership.
    • C = Changes
      What’s changed? What’s changed in their business? And in yours? Any other changes that will improve performance?
    • O= Opportunities
      Where are the opportunities for the client? For your business? Any you can pursue together? Any other issues, problems or objectives the client currently has that you can address?
    • N = Next Steps
      What happens next? Make a clear, specific, certain up front contract so that you both know what will always happen next by when. Contract with your client for the next call or meeting, for the next piece of work, for the next phase of a project, for the next RECON review and for referrals & introductions within and outside their organisation.

    Maybe ask your client to note down their thoughts in advance of the meeting. It won’t matter if your client doesn’t follow through on their prep as the RECON meeting be very productive and effective because you have a clear agenda and have set the expectations for the discussion.

    By you being proactive, they’ll share bad news and maybe bring small issues to the table before they become critical. Because you are being proactive in your efforts to make changes and improve performance, even if they perceive the value of working with you has not lived up to expectations, they’ll continue buying from you. If you are not proactive with this kind of activity, your best clients are your competition’s best prospects. You will also reduce the risk of your clients buying goods and services from someone else because they didn’t know you offered them.

    So call your best clients this week. Thank them for their business – and get that review date in the diary for your RECON meeting. That way you’ll start 2015 with a strong platform in place to grow your business with them this year.

    Ermine Amies

    Ermine Amies

    Ermine Amies runs Sandler Training in East Anglia with monthly Master Classes in Norwich

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  • What do you want for tomorrow?

    Many business owners and CEOs are so immersed in today’s business challenges that they struggle to plan for tomorrow.  Their time is focused on resolving problems, fulfilling orders and keeping clients, often working long hours for little reward.  As a business owner myself, I know that running a company can feel like being on a perpetual hamster-wheel.  You’re running faster and faster but not necessarily moving the business forwards.

    As we approach the end of 2014, business owners and CEOs need to be thinking about tomorrow.  Have you worked out your company’s business goals for 2015?

    Many businesses – even successful ones, struggle to define where they want the company to be in one, three and five years’ time.  Yet it is essential that short and longer term strategic objectives are mapped out in order to drive the business forwards.

    If one of next year’s strategic objectives is to create business growth, you need to define where that growth will come from.  Is the focus centered on growing existing customers or winning new ones?  If it’s about growing existing customers, how will you grow those customers over the coming 12 months?

    Businesses can be overly reliant on one or two key clients, but their products may have application in other target companies – or even industries.  If your plan is about winning new clients, who are your target customers and how will you get in front of them? Do you have the skills and ability to show them a compelling argument for using your company?

    Answering these questions will help to provide a strategic plan for your business.  Seeing the ‘big picture’ helps you to understand and set out what the team needs to be doing on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. It keeps you ‘on-track’ with your goals and provides a sense of achievement as you move forward.

    Finally, consider how you plan to improve your work/life balance in 2015. The most effective business owners and CEOs set both business and personal goals to ensure they achieve balance across the different areas of their life.

    Before the end of December, block out time to set your business and personal goals and spend time with your board ensuring that your strategy for growth is well-defined.  Then put your efforts into the right places so that you don’t spend next year running hard but ending up feeling disappointed.

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie is a critically-acclaimed coach and facilitator who excels at identifying core sales and management challenges and implementing transformative growth strategies. Before setting up Sandler Training in 2007 in the South West, Andy spent six years as a strategy consultant for Accenture, selling and delivering high profile consulting projects to blue chip companies. He then worked in direct sales – in London and Sydney, managing business development teams across a wide range of industry sectors.

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