From lead generation, you move to selling. The sales process culminates in a transaction where the customer purchases your product. When the transaction is complete the sales cycle is finished.
As part of the selling process, you’re going to focus your need discovery process on needs related to your product or service. Read the prospect’s website and the company’s promotional material. Learn about the prospect’s industry and its trends.
Questions are asked to find out necessary information about the company, the ownership structure and other vital facts that affect your sale. The questions are asked in a polite and professional manner. In qualifying a prospect, you are determining a specific need for your product. Remember in prequalifying the prospect you determined a generic need. A specific need is based on the interest in purchasing your product from your company with you as the facilitator.
Most questions require a follow-up question. This is especially true during the early stages of the discovery process, when prospects tend to be brief. Therefore, it is important to follow up. It not only indicates that you are paying attention but encourages your prospects to be more open also.
Determine the Buying Center
Whose needs are you discovering anyway? It’s the Buying Center. The Buying Center is a group of individuals within the buyer’s company who affect the purchase decision. The Participants of the Buying Center determine their level of participation by considering how worthwhile they believe the project is. The measure of “worthwhile” stems from many sources but will most certainly involve your prospecting and presentation skills. Sometimes, individuals or entities will sacrifice a great deal for the process if they believe it is worthwhile to do so. Participants are the most important resource –without them, nothing happens.
Users initiate the request for a product. They also may define or identify the specifications that the new product or service must meet.
Any person whose evaluation of the product will be used by the ultimate decision maker or someone in the chain of command to pass on approval is an influencer.
These individuals have been vested with the formal authority to make purchases for the organization.
- Decision makers
These individuals make the purchase decision.
A gatekeeper serves to protect a decision-maker or others in an organization from being harassed by unwanted communication with persons who wish to sway the decision-makers, influencers, buyers, or users.
Presentations have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Introduce yourself, your company, your product or service and the reason you are presenting today. The body contains your features, benefits, and advantages. Conclude your presentation with a strong summary and recommendations for the next step.
- Present a Feature
A feature is a function or attribute of the product. There are dozens of attractive features of your product in general. It is important to be able to fully describe the features of your product or services, so your customers understand precisely what you are offering. For each product/service you sell, you need to describe every feature.
- Present a Benefit
The benefit is how a feature enhances the lives of the prospect . . . what it does for them personally. It helps them picture themselves utilizing your product. Benefits are based on the result of having used the product. For each feature of your product or service, ask yourself, “What does the customer really GET from using this feature”?
- Discuss the Advantages
You will need to have strong competitive advantages in each of the benefits. Why should the prospect buy from you instead of your competitor? Discuss your features and benefits and provide the advantages.
- Obtain Feedback
Once you’ve presented a feature and zeroed in on the benefits it provides, you must obtain feedback from the prospect. Feedback confirms that they understand and recognize the value of what you have just told them.
The proposal is an important part of qualifying the customer. The proposal is a verbal or written presentation of company, product, price, terms, and conditions. It’s a solution strategy intended to deliver to the prospect a product or service to meet his or her needs. It should be a win/win situation for both parties. Each party needs to feel satisfied that a good deal was struck.
Proposals usually include:
- Why the solution is needed
- A description of the solution
- The price to purchase the solution
- A description of terms and conditions for the sale
- Available purchasing methods
- A description of the delivery process
- A description of returns, guarantees, and warranties after the sale
An objection is anything the customer says or brings up that could prevent a smooth closing. Objections should be expected as a part of virtually every successful sales presentation. Objections are normal and necessary. They are a sign of interest.
Rather than fearing objections, the sale professional learns to anticipate and, in many cases, look forward to them. You should think of objections as feedback that helps you determine your prospect’s thinking and adjust your presentation to their specific concerns and needs.
Objections are often a vague expression of a vague concern. As you begin seeking a buying decision, your prospects tension level will generally be at an all-time high. They will say things that they don’t necessarily mean. What they’re saying in many cases is: “Convince me I’m not about to make a mistake!”
Inexperienced salespeople are sometimes thrown off by objections. Some become defensive; others fumble for answers and lose their composure. To develop the right attitude toward objections:
Closing the Sale
Closing the sale means obtaining a buying decision from the prospect to purchase the product and completing the transaction process.
- Identify Buying Signals
Prospects will rarely turn to you and say: “I want to buy.” Instead, they will indicate their interest in a number of subtle ways. It is important that you learn to read and be alert for these buying signals during your sales presentation.
- Discuss the Transaction and Product Delivery
While it may sound obvious, providing clear and concise steps to complete a transaction and delivering the product are essential in closing a transaction. Sales people often become so used to the process they don’t realize the customer doesn’t know the steps. When you work with a prospect be sure you have presented the steps of a transaction and product delivery. Don’t leave any doubt or confusion in the mind of the prospect about what needs to happen to finish your business.
- Closing Offer
A Closing offer is an incentive offered to the prospect that tied to the purchase of the product. To stimulate market activity, create product offers that have a stated participation guideline with a clear beginning and an end. This will help to move people through the stages of change and reduce contemplation. You cannot close a transaction without an imposed limit. If you, as the selling organization, do not have an imposed limit the customer does. Someone is setting a boundary to complete a transaction. Why not set it yourself?
- Close the sale
Ask for the business. Say, “Do you want to buy my product?” When you receive a “yes” answer you can complete the sale. Complete your transaction process in full. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Walk the prospect through the closing process covering all the necessary ground. Don’t give the prospect an opportunity to be concerned at this point. Be your most professional now.
The company’s growth over its first few years was respectable. As a software company getting companies to use the software after its purchased is important. The owner of the company said the sales team was doing a good job and sales reports reflected its effort. The company had a high implementation rate of its software. However, the company was struggling with up and down revenues. Consistent sales were needed.
After careful analysis a constraint in the sales process was identified. The company’s lead generation efforts were producing enough sales cycles. The problem was deeper in the sales process. A significant number of sales cycles were reaching the qualified stage and then stagnating. Warm prospects weren’t moving to hot prospects consistently enough. It was causing sales revenue to porpoise up and down.
The company’s software required a lot of change on the part of the users. Users had to learn new processes and procedures to implement the new software. Because of the change, prospects were balking on the sale when it came time to negotiate. Sales people were being stymied after the product demo.
The buying center was the source of the constraint. The internal champion for the project on the customer’s side wasn’t in a position of control or wasn’t fully championing the new software. The users and influencers weren’t being communicated with. If the buyers and decision makers didn’t get on board on their own the sale wouldn’t happen.
Sales people were trained to identify champions early in the sales process. They talked with the champions openly about the change needed to make the software implementation successful. They didn’t hide from the change they embraced it. Better training material was developed. More hands-on training helped the buying center for customers get on board with the new software.
The company’s revenues continued to grow but more consistently. The ups and downs leveled out and cash flow became manageable.