If the shoe doesn't fit, should you still wear it?
If the shoe doesn't fit, should you still wear it?
"What does your company do?"
That can be a hard question to answer, because the question itself is vague.
Too many companies spend too many resources trying to keep customers that they should never have sold to in the first place. Many of those companies would be better-off shifting resources from trying to retain customers that are a poor fit, and use those resources to more carefully target and acquire customers that are a better fit for their offering. These ideal customers value the offering more, and are therefore less likely to leave in the first place.
But sales reps can be quick to ignore the ideal customer profile and sell to any prospect with an ability and willingness to pay. An why shouldn't they? A sale is a sale, a dollar is a dollar, and a commission is a commission, even if a sales rep sells a round hole to a square peg.
But here's the problem: It takes time, money and effort to adjust a round hole to accomodate a square peg. But if you only sell to round pegs, there's no need to adjust the hole, and those resources are freed-up for more productive and profitable purposes - like sales and marketing intiatives to attract more round pegs).
So how to solve the problem?
Re-focus your sales qualification from "Can we sell our product to this customer?" to "Should we sell our product to this customer?" The traditional qualification process answers these four questions:
Adding a fifth criterion - Fit - will change the focus enough to assure that you're selling to the right customer:
5. Fit: Does the prospect match the criteria we've defined for our ideal customer?
By properly selecting each customer, you'll have happier customers and more advocates. You'll also spend less on implementation, customer support and customer retention. And that means more resources for attracting more of the right customers.
Why should you waste the effort driving square pegs into round holes, when a round peg is a better fit for your offering, and for your bottom line?
Have you ever been to a party full of strangers? Was it easier to have an enaging conversation with some people, and more awkward with others? Who asked you more questions? The easier people or the awkward people? Asking questions - good, thought-provoking questions - trigger deeper, engaging conversations, even with total strangers.
What works at a cocktail party also works in building customer relationships:
Asking people questions about them makes them more willing to spend time with you.
Asking people challenging questions causes them to think more deeply. When people think more deeply, they become mentally stronger.
Asking questions leads to answers which lead to new ideas.
Asking questions leads to discussion which leads to new knowledge.
Be the person that builds better relationships, spends time wisely, causes people to think deeply, come up with new ideas, and creates knowledge.
Be the person that asks good questions.
The stories, humor and wisdom that they shared was remarkable, and as I looked back on it, I realized that the best part of the wisdom is is that it can be applied to many areas of our personal and professional lives.
There are two pieces that stood out, because I've heard them frequently throughout my professional selling career, and yet, like many others, don't heed them as often as we hear them. So let's look at them individually:
Madelein Albright was referring to the diplomatic exchanges she's had over the years, with foreign dignitaries, and adversaries. The point was that your message is not likely to be heard by your audience, until you've invested time in listening to them.
Don't try to sell your product until you have a solid understanding of your prospect's situation. And you won't have that understanding unless you listen; ask, then listen. Then ask again, ask more questions, and listen to the answers until it's clear to both of you, that you understand the prospect.
This will give you two advantages:
Your prospects will never hear you, until after you've listened to them.
Mark Shields was describing an interview he once had with a rather abrasive politician who'll go unnamed. The politician asked Shields, "Why is it that some many people immediately dislike me, when they meet me?"
Shields was quick to reply, "Because it saves them a lot of time."
The sales lesson here is to learn how to quickly qualify your prospects. When your time is your primary stock in trade, there's nothing worse than wasting it trying to sell to someone that's not qualified to buy from you.
Ask the right questions of the right people early in the process, to determine if you should spend more time with them. If you determine that the prospect isn't qualified, cut your losses, and move on. But unlike an abrasive politician, you don't have to dislike the prospect. Keep the relationship positive, because (unlike the personality of an abrasive politician!), a prospect's situation may change!
How well do you ask questions, and listen to your prospect, before telling them about your offering?
How well do you qualify your prospect early in the process, to determine if you should spend more time selling to them?
I've always felt that the best way to sell is to be human.
Be open, be honest, and be a fellow human to your prospect - don't be a sales person.
Seth Godin said it best in this blog post last week. Read it, and digest it. It'll be the best two minutes of sales training that you'll receive this week.
I love Thin Mints.
What's your favorite?
Sales professionals are taught to ask their customers for referrals. Some do it well, some do it poorly, and some don't do it at all.
I recently bought some term insurance from someone who's been in the business for over 30 years. (I should point out that a good friend referred the agent to me.) After we finalized the details of the policy, he did what I expected him to do - he asked me for the names of other people to whom I could refer him for business. But how he did it made all the difference.
My agent followed a smart, effective three-step process that can be used by any sales professional in virtually any industry:
Step 1: Connect with your Prospect on LinkedIn early in the Sales Process.
The insurance agent requested to connect with me on LinkedIn early in the sales process; specifically, he requested the connection immediately after our first phone conversation. I accepted. This connection made my Contacts visible to him, and gave him plenty of time to complete the next step.
Step 2: Pre-select the Referrals.
The agent took the time to review my Contacts, and carefully select those in a certain geographic area (his sales territory) who would likely have a need for the insurance products he offered (executives and business owners).
Step 3: Be Specific with your Request.
A Best Practice in asking for referrals is to be specific: Instead of simply asking your customer, "Can you think of anyone else that might benefit from my offering?" sales reps are told to ask, for example, "What other (technology executives) or (business owners) do you know, who may benefit?"
The theory is that if you can help your customer to focus their thinking, you'll be more likely to get a referral. My agent took this a step further; he used our LinkedIn connection to identify specific prospects by name, and presented me with his carefully pre-defined list of names. This served two advantages:
Asking your customer for referrals is a great way to fill your sales pipeline with qualified prospects. Following a process that capitalizes on your access to information, pre-qualifies likely buyers, and focuses your customers' thinking will increase your chances of getting more high-quality referrals from your customers.
Do you make it easy for your customers to give you referrals?
Do you use a smart, repeatable process?
Sure, the campaign may appear a little "tounge-in-cheek," but it beautifully exemplifies how emotions and logic can combine to pursuade a buyer. In fact, it can lead us to ask ourselves some important questions, to evaluate and improve our selling results:
Do you incorporate both the emotional appeal, and the logical support, in your sales and marketing messaging?
Do you know what the emotional factors are, that drive your customers to buy your products?
How can you appeal to those factors in your selling and marketing messages?
What logical components can you use, to justify the emotional decision?
Are there ways that you can combine the logic wtih the emotion, as Gillette has done, for a more compelling message?