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10 Ways to Shorten Sales Cycles

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  1. Get Better Prospects: Analyze your past wins to isolate the characteristics present in short sales cycles. Then find new prospects who have many of these same characteristics.
  2. Improve Your Selling Process:  Better qualify each prospect to ensure she has a compelling need and that your firm is a good fit
  3. Ask Better Questions: Uncovering decision makers, buying processes and potential obstacles early on will often result in shorter sales cycles.
  4. Pre-plan Each Sales Call: Pre-planned calls often lead to more prospect commitments and higher closing rates.
  5. Focus on Value: Present a value proposition that shows the prospect that waiting or delaying a decision can cost them a lot of money
  6. Sell High: Create a selling process and value proposition that creates decision-maker access.  Selling to decision makers generally yields quicker sales and lower price sensitivity!
  7. Be Strategic: Creating an account capture plan that helps clients achieve their strategic goals is a proven method for shortening sales cycles.
  8. Enlist Inside Help: Getting a “champion” within the prospect firm will maximize your sales effectiveness while shortening decision time frames.
  9. Focus on the Business Case: Prospects who can easily cost-justify your solution buy more quickly than those who can’t.
  10. Magnify Urgency: Tap into and strengthen the prospect’s sense of urgency in order to make the purchase a priority.

 
Indeed, compressed sales cycles free up selling time and allow reps to handle more opportunities and boost their results. Since extended sales cycles lead to lower closing rates and wasted time, salespeople and managers alike should aggressively implement a selling process proven to shorten them!

 
 

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Closing Sales – Classical Approaches Fail

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 closing sales formula

 

During dinner, the phone rings and it’s a call from someone soliciting donations for the Fraternal Order of Police. The next day, a high school student, working on closing sales for a magazine contest, rings your doorbell.  And then at work, a salesperson tries the “alternate choice” close on you (“would you like to order this using a company check or a credit card?”). Feeling pushed and annoyed, you bark, “I didn’t even say I’ll order that sir. I think our meeting is over!”

Yes, we live in a world of salesperson-initiated interruptions. When on top of an interruption we feel pushed by salespeople intent on closing sales, we naturally resist.

Since consumers and businesses typically have lots of vendors to choose from, they are becoming less tolerant of pushy salespeople. Increasingly, people are buying from polite, respectful sales professionals rather than the aggressive fast talkers intent on closing sales. As it is said, “people want to buy, but no one wants to be sold!”

 

Sales Closing Techniques Negatively Correlated to Results

In an exhaustive research study undertaken by a team of industrial psychologists, there was a negative correlation between salespeople who were focused on closing sales and the number of customers who were actually closed! Salespeople found to be highly concerned with “getting the sale” actually performed worse than those highly concerned with “solving customer problems.” In the study, the group of strong “closers” got more objections than the “soft” closers. This high number of objections was correlated to inferior sales closing rates.

In some industries, like auto and insurance sales, the focus on closing sales has historically been high. But even in these industries, different approaches and newer techniques are being used in closing sales.    Without a doubt, prospects know when they’re being “closed” and may feel manipulated or resentful.  Hence, a new breed of sales closing techniques, which we term as “soft closes,”is gaining traction and yielding superior results.

As a sales training organization, we often get requests for training on closing sales. However, many of the companies that want this type of training are under the impression that stronger closing behaviors will increase sales. While “asking for the order” is always important, assertive closing behaviors are simply a turn off for many. The use of well-known sales closing techniques, like the alternate-choice close, the assumed close and the 3-Yes close, are examples are assertive techniques that lowered overall success rates. It is for this very reason that salespeople need to learn newer, more effective techniques for closing sales and generating repeat business.

Clearly, customers want to buy, not be “sold.” The top 10% of all salespeople spend a disproportionate amount of sales time at the beginning of the sales process developing trust and determining needs, motivation and benefits. With this approach, they save time in the sales closing process and achieve great sales results.

American companies, who during the last decade spent about 1.5% of their total payroll on employee training, are implementing ambitious programs aimed at improving how their salespeople approach, present to and close new customers. And rather than hire the sales “closer,” many firms now seek a balance of sales and personal qualities that will enamor customers and boost profits.

Effective Strategies for Closing Sales

Are you looking for ways to enhance your sales closing rate and solidify long-term relationships? If so, here are three concepts to incorporate into your sales process:

  • Urgency Detection & Financial Justification: Understand, at the beginning of the sales cycle, how not making or delaying a decision to buy will ultimapushy sales closingtely cost the customer money. For example, a proposed computer system lease that would save a firm $35,000 per month in expenses yet cost only $20,000 per month would produce a $15,000 monthly benefit. So, the cost to the prospect of delaying a purchase decision is about $750 per business day. Remember, if there is no urgency present, you don’t have a qualified prospect. And if there are no compelling financial benefits, you won’t have a very motivated prospect. Without urgency and benefits, attempts at closing sales will often fail.
  • Stakeholder Assessment and Contact: Find out who personally loses if a buying decision is delayed or canceled, and make sure you’re in contact with that person. For example, since a VP of Finance’s bonus may be based on net profit, he or she may personally lose bonus dollars when a buying decision is delayed.  Motivated buyers with skin in the game make closing sales relatively easy!
  • Objection Prevention: Objections, particularly when they occur late in the selling process, serve to delay the sale and lower sales closing rates. Successful salespeople have well-rehearsed responses to the top 20 objections they receive. Moreover, seasoned sales pros boost their sales closing rates by actively anticipating objections and then using specific techniques to prevent them from occurring.
Yes, closing sales can be difficult, especially during the Great Recession. Although we can’t control macro economic factors, we do have control over our sales approaches and sales closing techniques.  Clearly, the days of using classical and “pushy” techniques for closing sales are coming to an end as a new era of customer-sensitive questioning, relationship building and cooperative selling is taking root.  So, if you’re a salesperson who is highly focused on closing sales or using well-known sales closing techniques, BEWARE! 
For more information on our new “soft close” techniques, please contact us.

 

All Rights Reserved.  The Sales Alliance Inc.  San Diego, CA

 

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Discounting Sales: Don’t !!!

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 Sales discounts and negotiation

 

Customers are trained to asked for sales discounts and negotiate.  Why?  Because salespeople often oblige and fail to realize that the customer already perceives a benefit and wants to maximize value by getting these benefits at a lower price.  And salespeople, hearing repeated price objections, begin to themselves believe that their products and services are not worth the asking price. When we lack 100% confidence and conviction in the value of our solutions, it shows—and the end result is that customers succeed in negotiating sales discounts.  So, what can we do?

 

  1. Quantify the benefits of your product or service to the customer and show the financial savings!  Develop an ROI (Return-On-Investment) worksheet.
  2. Reference other customers who realized savings quickly.  Clip relevant articles that support the benefits and payback of your product or service.
  3. Avoid on-the-spot sales discounts as lowering prices can deflates the customer’s perception of the value you offer.
  4. If you do need to provide sales discounts, don’t do it without asking for something in return (e.g. a commit for certain quantities or shorter payment periods).  And if you need to give something to secure the order, consider including additional products or services in order to minimize the financial impact on your firm (e.g. you provide the customer with a $250 service that may only cost your firm $100 to provide).
  5. If you have the ability to make concessions, don’t let the customer know, or you’ll invite additional negotiations.
  6. If the customer does ask for sales discounts or concessions, determine his or her motivation prior to responding.  In many instances, granting sales discounts or concessions will not resolve the issue and will hurt your chances for the sale.

 

 

Possible Customer Motivations for Requesting Sales Discounts

  • The customer is not sold and does not believe in the value of your proposal
  • S/he is comparing “apples to oranges” and doesn’t understand why your product costs more
  • The customer is sold but does not see how the benefits she’ll get justifies the price
  • S/he is sold and as a good businessperson is simply trying to see if s/he can get a better price
  • S/he is sold but wants a “personal win” (e.g. a “good deal” in order to look good to the boss)

 

Remember, while it is common for customers to ask for sales discounts and concessions, the best and most skilled salespeople are adept at securing orders by stressing value rather than reducing cost.

  
All Rights Reserved.  The Sales Alliance Inc.  San Diego, California.

 

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You Get What You Negotiate

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sales negotiation skills techniques

 

It has been said, “if you don’t ask for it, you’ll never get it.”  Indeed, one hallmark of a sales pro is business and sales negotiation skills. But besides skills, effective sales negotiations are dependent on personal values, beliefs and attitudes.  To boost your personal success, put into action the following sales negotiations tips:

 

Sales Negotiation Skills and Tips

  1. ASSESS NEEDS THOROUGHLY:  The best way to negotiate sales is to completely understand what your client or prospect is seeking and why.  The more needs and issues you can identify, the more ways you have to structure an arrangement that works for both sides.
  2. QUANTIFY BENEFITS:  Understanding the financial and intangible benefits that the client will likely realize after purchasing your product or service helps deflect price and value objections during the negotiation stage of the sale and helps reduce the need to discount.
  3. MAINTAIN CONTROL:  The one most in control has the ability to negotiate the best deal.  Examples of maintaining control include: setting meeting agendas, initiating a negotiation call (when the other side may not have the luxury of as much time as you) and setting other types of limits.
  4. BEWARE OF DIVULGING TOO MUCH:  Letting the other party know more than they need to can give them the upper hand.  Examples include: that you need one more sale this month to make quota, that your product pricing is expected to be reduced in the future and that you have granted more favorable terms to other clients.
  5. HAVE A WALK-AWAY:  Pre-determine the point at which the deal makes no sense (e.g. anything below a certain price level, any terms beyond net 90) and walk away from the sale when that point is reached.  Knowing in advance when to walk away can both help you avoid unprofitable sales and spur the client into agreeing to the minimum terms you need.
  6. CREATE A BACK UP PLAN:  Should the negotiation fail, have a back up plan (e.g. an alternate product to propose or a trial program).  Many failing business deals have been revived due to well-conceived back up plans.
  7. FOCUS ON A WIN-WIN:  Since most salespeople are looking to enhance relationships to solidify future business, it is imperative that clients see value and fairness during the sales negotiations.

 

Without a doubt, learning how others successfully conduct sales negotiations is key to improving your sales results and personal earnings.  Remember, “You get what you negotiate!”

 

All Rights Reserved.  The Sales Alliance Inc.  San Diego, CA

 

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Avoiding Stalls and Delayed Closes

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Sales Closing Requires Pain
Having analyzed successful sales practices at more than 250 firms over the last 20 years, we’ve seen one key practice that differentiates average sales performers from great ones–their ability to uncover and then magnify prospect/client pain (needs) to avoid sales stalls and motivate action. Indeed, any decent salesperson can sell within the customer’s time frame, educate them about their products and answer questions.  But great sales performers accelerate their prospect’s buying process by resisting the temptation to talk about their products or services until they are convinced the prospect has a pressing need for them and has a clear picture of both the financial payoffs and intangible benefits.

 

Sales Stalls and Client Pain

In one study, prospective customers met with three salespeople selling similar products.  The majority bought from the salesperson who waited the longest to discuss his or her product and who explained how specific product features addressed major sources of client pain.  Judging by the tendency salespeople have to quickly engage in product conversations, many must believe the opposite–that customers buy more often from sellers who appear anxious to talk about their product and to close a “deal.”  This notion is rarely true and often leads to sales stalls.  In short, people generally feel most comfortable and trusting of those who have listened to them and understand their needs prior to recommending products and services. An anxiousness to “get the sale” may give the appearance that the salesperson or vendor may be hard up for sales or is trying to achieve their own goals without placing a high priority on satisfying each and every important customer need.

 

Sales stalls occur, in part, due to people resisting change and avoiding negative consequences.  Great salespeople help clients reduce pain and become excited by change.  But this strategy is not possible when clients don’t perceive they have significant needs, and sales stalls are likely to occur.  Evidence of sales stalls includes clients saying “let me think about it” or not returning calls after seeing product information or demonstrations.  Fearing that the product or service may cost them rather than save them money, sales stalls occur and customers behave cautiously and negotiate more.  So, what’s the bottom line?  In sales, like in any exercise or sport, NO PAIN = NO GAIN !!!

 

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