The other day I was in a sales meeting with a prospect that represented a very big sales opportunity. Everything had gone perfect that day. The chemistry was good, our offering matched their needs and best of all, the prospect wanted to buy now. I must admit that my business, like many of yours, has been a little slow this year and I really felt like I needed this sale. Everything about this sales opportunity seemed to click. I was excited. Then it all seemed to go wrong.
The prospect voiced two normal objections in a really forceful manner. I have heard these objections before and they weren’t something I couldn’t handle. However, I found myself stumbling to find the right word.
As I listened to myself I could hear fear, what’s worse, the prospect could hear the fear too.
The nervousness of my voice emboldened him to take a firmer and unreasonable position. His demand was a deal breaker. My great sales opportunity was starting to get sideways. My smooth, calm manner of handling objections was coming across as forced and insincere. The prospect could tell something was wrong and started to reconsider. What happened?
I was rusty.
You know what being rusty is. It’s being out of the groove. When you are in a groove you feel like you can say and do anything and all the sales are going to fall your way. There are no nerves, no anxiousness, and no stress-just effortless performance. And prospects respond to your confidence.
I notice that I can only get and stay in the groove when I am really busy. The level of work has to be at a pace where I don’t have too much time to think. I know what needs to be done and I just do it. Most salespeople operate in this fashion.
The busier it is, the better they are. Which brings me to the point of this article. What do you do when you realize that you’re rusty? How do you stem the tide and turn your sales ship around? Especially if you are not that busy.
What to do when you are Rusty
First, you have to get organized. When I think back about my prospect’s objection, it could have easily been overcome if I would have had my paperwork better organized. The objection was about a term on our contract. If I would have had the contract with me, we could have reviewed the language together and I could have calmly encouraged the prospect to talk about it.
I could have repeated their objection to them, and after they knew I listened, we could have talked about what I understood the contract language to mean and how it did not have the negative connotation that the prospect assumed.
Instead, I just nervously blurted out that it wasn’t a problem, to which my prospect assured me it was. We began to disagree. The prospect did not feel heard and felt my response was just a knee jerk attempt to dismiss his concerns so I could get a sale. If I would have been better organized my outcome would have been better.
Second, you need to categorize all your sales by stages in the buying process. Here at Breakfront we use best practice kitchen sales process called the 4M Sales Process®, but you can use any method. The principle you need to embrace is that prospects buy when they are ready to buy, however they buy quicker when you provide them with the right information and encouragement to move forward towards a decision. The sales person’s focus is limited to getting the prospect to the next sales step in the buying process.
Many “rusty” salespeople will try to ask a prospect to buy before they are ready. This scares prospects away. By categorizing each of your prospects into a stage, it becomes easy to know where to lead the prospect. Then it is easy to know when you be showing them product, designs, or asking for a check.
If you think of the sales process as a production line that turns prospects into customers you can always plan the objectives of each sales call and move the prospect slowly and surely to a sale. The main benefit of a sales process is that it helps you communicate better with your boss.
In tough times giving your boss a clear idea of your potential sales production is crucial. In challenging times, no one likes a surprise. You will be a star if you are the rep that can quickly and clearly update your manger on all your prospects and what needs to happen to turn them into customers.
Managers know business is tough and they really don’t want to give you a hard time about your sales production; however, they do need a clear idea of what sales revenue may be coming in. Selling by stages also puts you in a position to involve your manager with your prospects more.
Why you should include the manager
When a manager is involved in your sales two things happen. One, the prospect is more likely to buy. Why? Is it because your sales manager is a better salesperson than you? No! It’s because people like to do business with people who are in a position of authority. Why?
Because if there is any problem to be avoided or special treatment to be had, the manager is more likely to be able to bestow it on the prospect than the salesperson. So people feel much more comfortable buying from the manager.
Which brings us to the second reason to involve your manager more. If a sale is lost, you didn’t lose the sale, your manager and you lost the sale. Which means that is if there is any problem to be avoided or special treatment to be bestowed on the prospect to win the sale your manager will do it.
If you, as the salesperson, provide such incentives it’s “giving away the farm”. But if your manager does it, it’s just prudent use of incentives to take the prospect off the market. So there you have it, a nice, easy three step method for getting back in the groove.
First get organized. Make sure that you have all the sales tools and materials you need for each sales meeting you have. Second, break you sales effort into distinct steps with an objective for each stage. Keep your goals focused on moving prospects forward in the buying process, not making a sale. And finally, get your boss involved in your sales. Follow these simple steps and the next thing you know you’ll be back in the groove.