Like a hurdles race, there are many steps to take to make a sale. But when it comes down to it there are really three major hurdles to cross.
Most athletes who line up at the start of the hurdles races at the Olympics will finish. There are medals for the first three over the line, and pride in ‘being there’ for the other competitors. In sales this is equivalent to making it to a short-list of three potential suppliers.
However, many other athletes won’t have jumped previous ‘hurdles’, by failing to get through the qualification races. In the same way, many vendors will either not have been considered or found, or they will have been eliminated by the buyer as they whittled down contenders to reach a short-list.
To make a sale, especially a major deal, a ‘considered purchase’ deal in a Business to Business market, involves successfully jumping a number of hurdles. Many of these can be viewed as qualification races.
Successful sales strategy can hinge around two factors:
- keeping the number of hurdles to a minimum and
- increase the likelihood of jumping each of them successfully.
There are three hurdles in particular I’d like to highlight, and suggest ways to improve your chances of success at each stage.
1. Get the ATTENTION of potential prospects
In a crowded market, where people suffer from information overload, where there are existing loyalties, gatekeepers and filters, the first challenge is to get attention.
There are many ways to grab attention, and some will suit you better and work better with your target audience. You might choose the rational, logical route, of researching your buyer so that you can make a very personal, specific and precise approach. You may choose to do something ‘irrational’ or shocking, and being different is a powerful way to get attention.
Can you think of ideas and approaches that are consistent with your value proposition that will make you stand-out?
If you hit on a great idea you may find people share your message with people they know, in private via word of mouth or email, or in public through social media. Creative agencies and viral campaigns come to mind here.
Without attention it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to move to the next stage. (I’m hoping I’ve still got your attention.)
2. Get TIME with your potential customers
People are busy, and important people (decision-makers) are even busier than busy.
The second hurdle is to convince people to allocate time to engage with your message. This might mean reading your email, watching a video, attending a webinar, taking a phone call, having a meeting with you and many other activities that take time.
Gaining permission to contact them is one thing. Gaining their commitment to spend quality time considering what you have to say, and the implications, is quite another. They may also be distracted and be ‘somewhere else’ physically, mentally, emotionally, and effectively tuned out. Even if they appear to be giving you their time you still need to keep their attention.
How can you get their time?
At the core is answering the ‘What’s in it for me?’ WIIFM? question.
This might be showing that spending time ‘with’ you will save them more time elsewhere.
A very good way to get time on a repeat basis is through an educational message, where they will learn something to their advantage. Educating, coaching, supporting are all very good methods of maintaining access to decision-makers.
Take care of your own time
On the flip side, you need to be mindful that you are spending your time with the right people.
Or more specifically, the right amount of time with the right people. Part of the value of gathering information about your prospect is so that you can qualify whether you can help them while also making a profit.
One acid test of this is whether your prospect is prepared to undertake tasks and spend time doing things that you ask or suggest they do. Will they give you specific internal data, introduce you to other decision-makers, give you feedback on key meetings, and become an advocate for your proposed solution internally?
Before jumping the next hurdle, ask yourself, ‘Is this a serious prospect?’.
Three qualification methods you could apply are:
- MAN – Money, Authority, Need,
- BANT – Budget, Authority, Need, Timescale,
- SCOTSMAN – Solution, Competition, Originality, Timescale, Size, Money, Authority, Need.
If any of these elements are absent or score low then it’s a warning sign that you may need to work harder to bridge a gap or you may just be wasting your time as there is not a real and genuine opportunity with this person or organisation at this time.
Maintaining regular contact
Lead nurture using email marketing is a time-effective way to maintain background contact over the extended period of a longer sales cycle. Using an email platform such as InTouchCRM can help you maintain contact through stages 1 and 2 above, and identify who to put a phone call through to (stages 2 and 3 above), when they open and click on a link.
3. Get MONEY from your new customer
The third hurdle is to reach agreement about specifically what value you will deliver and what you will do in return for their money.
Negotiating the sale is a topic for another day, but if you’ve done a good job using your time and theirs wisely both parties should be in a good position to reach agreement.
Assuming you keep your side of the agreement they should pay you the money in agreement with the terms.
Improve Sales Performance to Make a Sale more often
Take a moment or two to look at your lead generation, sales pipeline and deals in progress to see how you can sharpen up in each area.
- Is your message getting attention?
- Are you getting quality time with the right people?
- Are you both reaching the negotiation table with a clear understanding of what you each want and can offer in exchange?
If you’d like to talk through any of the strategies here and discuss techniques or tactics please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.