Conversational Sales is not a new concept, however it is one that few are employing effectively. Customers come to business seeking information and ideas, not just for someone to recite a product spec sheet to them. Conversational sales is all about education. The most important part to remember is that you are not only educating your customers, you must also educate yourself.
Educating your customers
Many sales calls start with discovery questions asked by the sales rep, following shortly thereafter with the rep talking about how great their product or service is to meet the customer’s needs. However, if all you know is some basic information from your questionnaire, are you really aware of their needs and what will make an impact on their lives or businesses?
Answer: No. Your potential customers know this too. In Linda Richardson’s Book, Changing the Sales Conversation, she states “Today clients will respond to straight discovery questions and product talk with impatience.” They don’t want to feel like another number being given a script. Engaging in a back and forth dialogue will help you start to build the know, like and trust that is so crucially important in the sales process. Consider switching up your script, instead of discovery, like the one above, try “Thank you for that basic information, Mr. Jones, we offer a variety of services, can you tell me a bit about how you are currently using “X”.” Now, allow Mr. Jones to speak, and actually listen to the conversation. TAKE NOTES. This is key, as you will want to recite some of what Mr. Jones said back to him when it’s your turn to speak again.
Continue the conversation in this back and forth format until you have all the information you need and can make a truly information recommendation on which product or service will be best based upon the client’s needs, and not just your opinion of why your offering is superior.
Ms. Richardson goes on to say, “Clients want to be educated but not about products. They want new perspectives and ideas.” As you engage in the conversation with your prospective clients, enlightening them to something they were previously unaware of will open up entirely new doors. If you do not engage in a dialogue and find out what they already know, you aren’t bringing any value to the conversation.
In the busy world of sales, we don’t always take the time to research prospective customers before engaging in a conversation with them. The old school way of sales thinking is that this was a nice thing to do, but not really necessary if you just didn’t have time. That is not the case in today’s market. You must be informed on your potential client before you engage in a sales conversation with them.
People want to be heard, and know that you are listening to them. This helps to build trust in the relationship that is not only important in the initial sales conversation, but later down the road when they are customers as well. If you have done your research, you can ask informed questions that will help guide the conversation in the right direction.
Move away from the monologue sales pitches and engage your potential customers in a meaningful conversation that you will both benefit from.
Let’s start with three simple questions: 1) Do you have a sales process? 2) Is it written down? 3) Have you made a change to it in the last 6-12 months?
If you answered no to any of these questions, definitely keep reading. Even if you answered yes to all three, I am confident you will learn something from this post that will improve upon your current sales process.
What is a Sales Process?
A sales process is the repeatable set of steps your sales team will take to move a prospect through various stages from initial contact to closing. While there isn’t one sales process that works for every business, there is a formula that everyone can follow.
Step 1: Know Your Lead Source
Do you feel like you have enough leads? Do you know where most of them come from? Do you know where the best come from? Many businesses are focusing on getting “more” leads, forgetting that quality leads will get them more business than quantity. Really evaluate these three questions above, write down your responses and determine how you should move forward.
For example, does your Facebook lead generation bring in 5-10 leads a day however your sales people are only closing 1 in 100 of those? Meanwhile, your LinkedIn leads generation is bringing 1-3 a day and your salespeople are closing 2-4 a month. I like the odds from the LinkedIn conversion rate a lot better.
Now, depending on your business and what you are selling, your convertible leads may be higher from Facebook, Instagram or your website than LinkedIn. The purpose of this example is not to sell you on LinkedIn lead generation, but rather to give you an example of how you should be evaluating conversion rates from your various lead sources.
If you cannot answer these lead source questions, put a process in place to track this information.
Step 2: Track Your Leads
Here’s where the heart of the Sales Process comes in. A good framework for a repeatable sales process involves Sales Stages. This helps you track clearly where your leads in their buying process which will help your salespeople to overcome objections more easily (more on this shortly).
Know that you know your various leads sources, you know how they are entering your process and you can decide what happens next. Depending on the lead source, the first action or two in your sales process may vary, but don’t worry, they’ll all sync back up again quickly. Once your lead comes in to you, add it to your tracking system. A customer relationship management (CRM) tool simplifies tracking leads through the sales process. Having your leads automatically input into your CRM not only streamlines the process and saves you time, but it also works to ensure that no leads are lost due to inefficiencies. Once in the CRM, you can easily drag and drop to move your prospects through each stage. An example of potential sales stages may look like this:
Prospecting → Contacted → Qualified → Educated → Visited → Quoted → Sold / Lost
While a linear sales process would certainly be ideal, that is not the reality of it. So instead, most sales processes look more like flow charts, with branches going on in various directions. Many of those branches are due to buyer objections that come up at various parts in the process. This is where you can start to see real value from a sales process, especially when working with a more junior salesperson.
Step 3: Find Leaks and Fix Them
Leaks in your Sales Process are the points where a lead drops off and either makes a firm decision not to buy or simply stops responding to your salesperson. Think about two or three of the most common objections that you receive. One objections that we hear in almost any business is around price. There are a lot of sales strategies to overcome pricing objections, but often it involves a bit of a dance between buyer and salesperson. Perhaps even ends in a salesperson over-promising what the operations side of the business can actually deliver upon.
Rather than having to respond to objections after they occur, what if you could head them off. If you know exactly where in your sales process common objections occur, then you can put a step into your sales process that heads off those objections before they even arise.
Step 4: Re-evaluate and refine your sales process as you go
A sales process is an ever changing thing. I’ve run into companies that say “we had a sales coach come in several years ago and put a great process into place for us.” First of all, Kudos for taking the steps to bring in an expert to help you with building your process, which can get a little complex. However, have there been any changes to your business? Has your marketing strategy changed in the last few years? (I hope so, given that there have been amazing advancements in digital marketing). Do you offer any new products or services? Even if neither of those have changed, your buyers and their communication preferences certainly have. Your should be regularly assessing your sales process. Perhaps a new objection came up that you haven’t heard before; write it down and how you overcame that objection, consider building that into your sales process at the educational stage, providing a new resource to your buyers to help them understand your offering better.
Step 5: Sales is not Marketing, Marketing is not Sales, but they do need to work together.
A solid sales process utilizes the marketing branch of the company. When a prospect stops responding to calls or emails, or when they tell us they aren’t interested, commonly the sales process ends right there. How many times do your sales people reach out to each prospect before stopping? 80% of sales people only contact a prospect 1-2 times, however it typically takes 8-12 touches to convert a prospect.
When you receive a no, add that person to your drip marketing campaign (make sure to give them an option to unsubscribe, but understand that often a “no” is just a “not right now.” If they’ve stopped responding to calls and emails, add them to a drip marketing campaign. Just because they don’t have time to answer your calls right now, doesn’t mean they won’t need/want what you are selling in the future. Did they buy from you? Add them to your marketing campaigns. Previous buyers make great repeat customers. They already know and love your products. If you rely solely on salespeople who are chasing the next new lead, your prior customers may go unattended. Leverage your marketing team here, and if you don’t have one, leverage your CRM which can make marketing to them easy.
Follow these 5 steps to build your proven and repeatable sales process. Make sure to include your sales team as they will have valuable insights to provide. If you need help with this, let us know, this is exactly what we do!
There are a lot of ways you can manage your leads. CRMs are the best and most effective way to do so. If you use them properly.
What is a CRM?
Simply put, a CRM – Customer Relationship Management – tool allows you to track and follow-up with your leads and customers in a more efficient way. Perhaps you are currently using a spreadsheet or pen and paper. Is your office wall covered in post-it notes with your most promising leads and priority tasks? Don’t get me wrong, I love post-its, my wall is covered in them, but these are my long-term goals, dream projects, etc. My priority items, are all digitally stored, so that I can get pings, dings, emails, alerts and whatever other automated reminders I need to keep me on task. This is the way I operate my daily activities AND my leads.
Why do I need one?
Maybe you just have a handful, so few that you remember every conversation in perfect detail. What happens when 10 become 20, or 200, or 2000? You need a system in place that works just as efficiently for a few leads as it does for thousands. Why? Because your business is going to grow. That’s what you want isn’t it? So be prepared for that growth.
What to do with your leads once you have them
Most people follow-up with a lead 1-2 times. Studies show that it takes between 5 and 12 contacts with a person before they buy from you. A CRM will help you make all those touch points in a variety of ways. 1) Notifying you, at intervals you set, based upon your sales process, when your next action is due. 2) Sending automated emails based upon where a prospect is in your sales process. 3) Providing date-based alerts – birthdays, anniversaries, expiration dates, service due, etc. Reminders and follow-up will become second nature. Let your CRM be your automated assistant.
Additionally, with a CRM you can segment out your leads based upon purchase history, interest type and virtually any other category you can come up with for your business. If you offer multiple products or business lines, this is a must when you are trying to effectively market to your audience.
What features should I look for/avoid?
When determining the best CRM for your business, you should consider factors such as, what features you need, how many leads do you have and how much does it cost. One of the key pieces necessary to understanding this, is know your sales process and finding a tool that aligns with that process. I included more tips on selecting the best CRM for your business in a previous post.
When is the right time to get a CRM?
Now! And yes, I can say it this assertively, NOW is the right time. If you are reading this post, or asking this question, then now is the right time for you to get a CRM. This doesn’t mean run right out and get the first one you find, however. Do your research and pick the right CRM.
Mark Hunter, author of High-Profit Prospecting and High-Profit Selling was quoted saying: “It’s not about having the right opportunities. It’s about handling the opportunities right.” You can purchase an incredible lead list, or spend a ton of money on marketing, but if you aren’t managing those leads daily through a CRM, you are wasting your time and money.
So, once you have the best CRM for your business, make sure you are fully utilizing it! Even the most expensive CRM does you no good if you don’t use it. Every. Single. Day.