Selling Should Be A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Story?

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February 10, 2014
Selling Should Be A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Story?


This week’s blog is coming to you from ‘Windy’ Wellington. I am in town running some Account Planning workshops for IBM NZ.

Do you remember the books that would allow you or your children to choose their own ending to the story? They were called… “Choose Your Own Adventure”. That is exactly what sales should be. I hear, so many times, sellers say, “well, its just up to the customer now – I have no power” . If that were true, then I believe that they are probably not utilising the sales cycle well enough. There should never be a surprise when selling to a customer, you should choose the ending.

andrew treharne

If you, or your sellers, are using this excuse, or using any of the following:

· The market is suffering and therefore my customer won’t buy,
· I have done what I can, now its up to the customer,
· I am not sure when it will close as it needs to go up to other people,
· I was blindsided by the competition.

Then in most cases, it is due to a lack of understanding how to work the sales cycle, and ensuring the sales cycle is working for you.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some (and I mean SOME) legitimate times when, for example, you do get blindsided by some creative offer from a competitor – but that is not the norm… and not what we are talking about today.

Sales has changed dramatically in the past 3 years, today a sales person needs to be able to differentiate both themselves and their company, by making themselves ‘the-added-value’ in the selling relationship.

Make no mistake, the success of the sales function can often be THE deciding factor in whether a business succeeds or fails. In order to empower your sales team, you need to implement a process that is easy to follow and provides a roadmap for a sale. By empowering your sales team you are providing them with the ability to manage their sales far more effectively.

The Definition of a Sales Cycle (as prescribed by the Business Dictionary is: “The course of time between the initial contact being made with a customer, the identification of services or goods to be procured, the acceptance of the intended purchase, and the transaction that completes the sale.”

We can break that quote down to:
· Identifying an Opportunity
· Qualifying the Opportunity
· Refining the Opportunity
· Proposing the Solution
· Negotiating the Deal
· Closing the Deal

It’s a very simple process, once an opportunity has been identified, it must be qualified. No sales person wants to spend time with people that are not interested in purchasing from them, it does not make good business sense. There is no harm in continuing to qualify the opportunity as you move through the sales cycle. Refining the needs of your potential client allows you to offer the right solution at the right price; a simple question such as “Can you be more specific about?” can give you a tonne of information. A really simple way of qualifying an opportunity is using a model called BANT – this will ensure you ask questions around:

B – Budget (Is the project budgeted for?)
A – Authority (Who is the key decision maker?)
N – Need (Is there a genuine need?)
T – Timeframe (What is driving the decision timeframe?)

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you are likely to lose the deal.

Too many people try to get there too soon. Wait, gain as much information as is needed and enjoy the process. This is where the sales person can shine. If the right questions have been asked they can present a full proposal that shows a complete understanding of the customers needs.

Again if the right questions are asked, the negotiation phase may not even need to take place. If the project is budgeted for or there is a strong financial case, then it is more likely to proceed.

Now for the CLOSE. I have put this in capital letters, as some “sellers” seem to think this is hard. It shouldn’t be. If you have done all the groundwork through the sales cycle, then you will have known when the time is right and have earned the right to ask for the order. It should never be a surprise to you or the customer.

Too many companies think they have formal sales processes in place. Unfortunately, when you look closely at those processes they are often just a list of milestones.

A true Sales Cycle helps to avoid wasted time and money.

I would love to know your thoughts about the sales cycle, and how do you use it?


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