Today’s post is by Scott Benedetti, VP of sales at The Pedowitz Group.
I rarely hear of salespeople being taught to think and act as if they are running their own business. They are not taught to be responsible for understanding and managing the “cost of sales” and to consider each transactional step in the selling process an equitable exchange of value in the progression toward a purchase decision.
From a pure selling process standpoint, salespeople complete an initial qualification call and speed off to supply answers to every idea or question the prospect brought up. They consume their own time and valuable company resources to perform the actions that answer prospect questions – thinking those responses alone will convince the prospect to buy.
They seldom do.
The buying process is not linear – and it makes frequent stops along the way based upon the buyer’s needs, not the salesperson’s quota requirements that quarter. To move the prospect along in the process might require the sales rep to send a brochure, schedule a demo or additional discovery with sales engineering or executive resources, or book travel for onsite visits.
If a sales rep believes he has qualified a lead, which he may in fact have, then he feels compelled to start spending time and money to answer the buyer’s questions. In today’s B2B committee-oriented buying world, the rep may be doing these activities for many influencers in the buying process. That’s a lot of time and resources being invested and probably wasted.
Usually these actions result in some delivery of a proposal or pricing and, sadly – more often than not – prospects go quiet. With an opportunity forecasted, the salesperson has no additional bullets to “sell with” and is relegated to call after call asking, “Ready to buy yet?”
Don’t Get Used
I speak from experience as I was fortunate, early in my sales career, to learn a lesson from having made the mistake of chasing a big deal, delivering on-site experts, providing multiple demonstrations, and coordinating our company experts’ responses to multiple technical inquiries. All my efforts resulted in an extremely high cost of sales and no deal. Of course, the deal was forecast and – as you might suspect – I pushed it out for several months only to learn, some months later, that the prospect had decided to do the project internally. Saying I was despondent would be putting it mildly.
Shortly after that opportunity died, a particularly astute manager taught me one of the most valuable qualification mnemonics I’ve learned: I.P.A. (Issues, Process, Answer). For every step in the selling process you need to understand the issues, then consider the subsequent steps in the buyer’s process BEFORE providing the answers (resources, demos, etc.).
It’s simple, he said: “These folks used you as their research gopher. Once you made the qualification assumption, you continued to provide a free education. You need to look at the mechanics of the sales and buying process and – at each significant milestone – make a business decision to go forward or not based on the exchange of value. To do that you should consider whether the process makes sense and moves you toward closing business before giving away the answers.”
Sell Like You Own the Business
Think like a business person: protect your time, resources, and selling spend. You only have so many bullets (answers) to leverage as a means of influencing the selling process. First confirm the issues and analyze the buyer process steps while withholding those answers. This will create the best opportunity to negotiate or influence the process steps into a fair and mutually beneficial exchange of value – and, ultimately, a purchase decision.