Sales success is about more than what you say on the phone
When was the last time you lost a deal? Did you see it coming? Are you still trying to unpack how and why you lost it? It sucks when you lose a sale, particularly if it was a project that you were really in to. However, losing deals is all part and parcel of running a business and anyone who says they have a 100% close rate is lying. It’s almost impossible to win every deal, every time. Even large companies with big sales teams will lose deals. So what can you do to make yourself more successful.
Taking one step backwards for a moment, in order to be successful in sales and close more deals, you naturally need more leads. That comes down to your marketing, your branding and how well known you are, which is an entirely other conversation. So let’s assume you’ve got that sorted and you have a steady stream of leads coming through.
Depending on what you sell, how much it is and who you sell it to, will somewhat determine how your sales process works and how long it is. For some businesses a deal can be one and lost very quickly, for others it can take months for a deal to go through. However one big problem I’ve seen often is a basic lack of a sales process, or a complacency that if the client really wants to work with me, then they will. Sure, sometimes that might be the case, but often it isn’t.
I used to hate sales, I found it hard, I found it uncomfortable, I hated being asked questions and I didn’t like pushing people. Sales can be scary, sometimes people can be very difficult to handle, sometimes they’re unwilling to answer questions and sometimes all they care about is the price. Sometimes it’s much easier just to send out a quote via email and leave it to the fates to decide whether you’re successful or not. As tempting as this is, it just isn’t going to work.
The big shift for me in my relationship with sales is when I realised that sales is just about helping people. Sure you have your own agenda, you want to make more money, but ultimately your job is to help someone else find a solution that is right for them. When you sell a number of different products and services you try and pin certain things on the people you’re dealing with, which in some cases make work well, but other times you might be trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Take us for example, we sell a variety of different content marketing solutions: video production, animation, graphic design, photography, copywriting. All of these services could be really useful to any business we come across, but the key question is, is it the write solution for them right now.
Let’s say someone comes to us and are in the middle of creating a new website and they’re struggling with knowing what to say. Their web designer doesn’t do copywriting so they’ve reached out to another company to help them. Now I could start talking to them about video, after all videos work really well on websites and help keep people there for longer, however it doesn’t solve the problem they’re having right now. Right now their biggest challenge is knowing what to write on the website, in which case our copywriting services would be most suitable for them at this moment in time. It doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit from a video, or that they might never want one, it’s just that it isn’t important to them at the moment.
Now I don’t profess to be a world expert salesman, I lose deals, I make silly mistakes and I sometimes miss the point of what the client wants, but what I do know is that if you help someone solve the problem they have today, you have a much better chance of being around tomorrow to help them with their future problem.
However, as much as we all define sales as talking on phones calls and sending out quotes and proposals by email, there is so much more that you can do beyond what you say on the phone and in an email.
You’ve probably heard sales trainers and business coaches bang on about follow up and touch points, and putting jargon aside, what they’re basically saying is that it’s not enough to have one phone call and send one email, you have to be in contact with your prospect regularly and you’ve got to have things you send them for them to look at.
To me, how you follow up is the holy grail of sales. I’ve phoned some prospects over 10 times, I’ve sent them more than 15 emails and multiple texts and whatsapp messages and only then did I win the job. Now that sounds extreme, but sometimes that’s what it takes. It’s unlikely that you will close a deal on the first phone call, if you haven’t even sent through a quote or proposal yet then the first phone should all be about the customer: understanding who they are, what they do, what their challenge is, what they need help with. It’s about identifying possible solutions. Only when you have all that information can you even start to write a proposal.
It amazes me how many people write a proposal or send through a quote and leave it at that. They don’t ring the client again, they don’t send a follow up email, they don’t text them. They leave it entirely up to the prospect, to whom this project will only be part of the millions of other things they have going on. Most prospects speak to more than one business so you’re instantly in a competition and often the game isn’t won by the best company, it’s won by the company that articulated the right solution in the best way, the company that persisted through delays and through crises and being ignored time and time again.
Now I get that people don’t like to pester or appear too spammy or too eager, but really if you don’t want to appear spammy, then don’t spam. You can send a prospect several emails a week, just make sure you have a reason for that email. Maybe you found a new case study that might be useful to them, maybe a testimonial from a client, maybe some new data, maybe a blog post you’ve written, maybe you just wanted to let them know that you’re going to be out of the office tomorrow so won’t be able to respond until next week. There are so many reasons to follow up with people, all you need to do is get creative.
Speaking of creativity, when was the last time you looked at your proposals and quotation documents? What message do they send out? Many people will be shopping on price, or at least have some kind of idea of what they’d like to spend, but deals can be lost and won by the information that you did or didn’t provide, that were easy or difficult to find and digest. Don’t just write some figures down on a document, add in a logo and send it off. There are so many assets you can create to help you persuade someone to work with you.
For example, you might want to redesign your proposal document to bring it more on-brand, to make it more visually interesting, to allow you to add images and infographics and videos to make it more of an experience. Perhaps you’ve worked on a number of projects that would make great case studies, so you decide to film some interviews with your clients and create a selection of video case studies.
In my opinion you can’t provide too much information, sure some people might not read everything, but at least it’s there for them to make that choice. The more you communicate, the less questions prospects will have, and the less doubts they will have. You want them to be comparing their other proposals to you, with you being the pinnacle of what spectacular looks like. Imagine receiving one proposal that was little more than some pricing options, a logo and a couple of slightly out of focus photos of the team. Now compare that with a proposal that was structured like a mini book, with elegant design flairs, high resolution photos, infographics, links to videos, heading and subheadings. The price might be exactly the same and maybe the first company has more experience, but the second proposal is going to stand out more. Now combine that will multiple follow up phone calls, emails and text messages, and you can’t not win!
So what do I want you to take away from this article? The biggest thing I want you to think about is this, don’t leave a sale up to the prospect, don’t allow them to call the shots entirely. If you do nothing, then you can expect nothing. The more information you can provide them after that first conversation and the better that information is presented, the more likely it is that it will sink in. Make a point of staying in contact and find reasons and excuses to ring, email, text, whatsapp, write to, Facebook Message or DM the prospect. The more touch points you have, the more serious about winning the deal you look, the more likely you are to succeed. And who wouldn’t want a few more deals each month?