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Breaking Down Your Sales Process

Seven steps for your sales team that should lead to more closed deals.

In The Introvert’s Edge: How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone by Matthew Pollard and Derek Lewis, the gist is very simple: If you can break down your interactions with prospects into bite-sized pieces and then execute those activities the same way each time, you’ll create an amazing flow of data that can then be tweaked to optimize close rates; all while creating a killer template around which you can train the sales team.

Sales Compensation Plan
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Pollard recommends using stories instead of memorized lines to avoid sounding robotic. A great sales interaction is listening 80% of the time and talking 20% of the time. That’s right, to get better at sales, we probably need to do less vs. more. He also recommends breaking down each sales appointment into 7 “chapters” as follows:

1. Establishing Trust and Building Rapport

People love to talk about themselves. A little digging on LinkedIn or just looking around someone’s home or office will reveal a treasure trove of conversation starters. No matter what their interests are, seeking to find common ground with a shared interest or passion is a surefire way to kick off a relationship. Make it all about them. Example: “I see you’ve got a University of Georgia helmet on your shelf, are you an alum?”

2. Introducing and Creating an Agenda

Ask your prospect how much time they have and reconfirm that this is still a good window for a meeting. Go over what you plan to talk about and then ask if they have anything to add. Ask them for permission to continue the meeting.

3. Ask Probing Questions

Ask your prospect why they decided to connect with you and what their goals are with the project. Keep asking questions until you find pain or friction. It’s no use presenting a solution to a prospect who doesn’t need it. This stage is critical because it demonstrates your ability to listen, synthesize, and pivot if need be. Example: “What made you decide to call us?” or “I see we’re talking about an upgrade, what’s driving you nuts about the current solution?”

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4. The Presentation

This portion should be a variant of your standard company services offering tailored specifically for the pain points uncovered during your probing questions section. Try to connect everything you’re saying back to something the prospect revealed to you like this example: “I know you have teenagers with homework and gaming needs, that’s why we’re going to engineer a solid wired and wireless network for you.”

5. Sharing Stories That Demonstrate Success

As you’re reviewing solutions, pepper in examples of other clients who you helped overcome the same challenges. This demonstrates that the prospect won’t be a guinea pig and can also deliver social proof, an incredibly powerful marketing tool where other clients rave about your company and how you saved the day vs. you talking about how great the company is.

6. A Trial Close

Use concrete examples of other projects you’ve done within a similar budget range. Example: “We helped another country club with this same challenge, and they budgeted $50,000 for the project. It turned out great. Does that sound similar to what you’re trying to accomplish?”

By using examples of actual work performed for others, you can gauge a prospect’s reaction safely without sticker-shocking them. Keep trial closing until you feel like they’re comfortable with a budget range.

7. Closing the Sale

In custom installation, there are often two types of transactions within each potential sale. The first is a small commitment of dollars called a “design retainer,” which is then used to engineer the proposal and subsequently present it to the prospect. This ushers in the second sale, which is the project itself. By this time, there’s hopefully no surprise over budget and the prospect has built trust with you. Encourage your prospect to have their engineered system bid by several of your competitors (while offering to rebate back the design retainer if they hire you to do the work). This usually has a boomerang effect where the prospect will essentially close themselves and ask you to get started with the work.

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Don’t move to close before you have permission. Until you’ve completed all the steps in your sales process, you haven’t earned the right to ask for the sale. Once you have earned it, however, make sure to ask. If you don’t ask, you don’t get it.

Ask your prospects permission to record your sales appointments and review them with your manager. Try to make a small change for the next meeting and measure its success or failure. As you continue to meet, record, and review, you’ll start to dial in on what’s working and what isn’t. Once you get your sales process nailed, you can share it with the rest of your team and, better yet, start hiring less-experienced candidates from outside the industry because you now have a secret weapon that most of your competitors don’t possess; a rinse-and-repeat machine that enables you to qualify and close more deals than ever before.