Yesterday, I closed a couple of speaking gigs. As I thought about what happened, it dawned on me-it's a process. It's a process that involves both an art and a science. Like following the instructions while assembling a child's toy, we need to go step by step, one thing at a time. When we do, it IS "Child's Play." It's fun! The art consists of high-level people skills. The science is the numbers-activity, activity, activity.
- Make a decision to be Other-Centered and keep the focus on the other person at all times. Think of Jay Leno, Charlie Rose, and Jimmy Fallon. What those three have in common is their focus is always and ever on the guest. It's all about others. Simple, but not easy. Ego and fear get in the way.
- Ask great Open-Ended questions. Rudyard Kipling wrote, "There are six honest serving men, they taught me all I knew; Their names are What, Where, How, When, When, and Who." Here are three of my favorite questions: "How did you get started in your business?" "What keeps you up at night?" "What are you most proud of?"
- Apply Active Listening Skills when asking questions. Listen, pause, question, and paraphrase. Really listen, as opposed to waiting to talk! Put your ego and needs on hold. Hang on to their every word. Listen like your life depends upon it because, in a way, it does.
- Demonstrate Empathy. Understand their feelings and frustrations. Show you really care about their issues and challenges. Walk a mile in their shoes.
- Follow up with a thoughtful gift that is relevant to their struggles (an article, e-book, quote, idea). I read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal most days. When I see an article that reminds me of a client's struggle, I send the electronic version and a note: "Saw this and thought of you..."
- Always think about The Advance, that is, the next step in the sales cycle: Marketing > Prospecting > Qualifying > Presentation > Close > Follow up > Referral. Ask for the next step in the process. That might include a postcard, a thank-you note, teleconference, face-to-face meeting, or a Skype session.
- Once you understand their challenges, the value of the solution, a summary of what was discussed and determined, the client receives an agreement with a choice of "yeses." Give them options. I like to offer three. Then ask, "Which would you prefer?" In the eleventh hour, I like to ask, "So would a credit card be good or would you prefer to overnight a check to secure the dates?"
- Follow up and be assertive. Unassertive salespeople have skinny kids! Ask for the sale. In an e-mail, I often ask, "So what is the next step for us?"
is simply the numbers.
In 1990, this country had just slipped into a recession. No one told me. That was a good thing. During my first year in sales I had a 25-percent close ratio (10 proposals = 2.5 closed deals). I began by cold calling. I walked into 75 buildings to secure 50 names. That led to 40 telephone appointments. That led to 20 face-to-face qualifiers. Out of those meetings came 10 proposals. My "conversion rate" was 75/2.5 with the average sale being $4,000. In other words, I achieved $10,000 a month in sales by walking into 75 buildings.
What is your conversion rate? What is your close ratio?
The next year I read one sales book a week. My close ratio jumped to 50 percent! I absorbed sales audio programs while I drove around, which dramatically improved my listening skills and qualifying skills. The following year my close ratio increased to 75 percent! In my last full year of selling HVAC maintenance agreements, my close rate was 85 percent.
To succeed in sales, you need both the Art and the Science. Ten leads turn into four proposals and you close three of them. Fill your funnel. Ask for referrals. Make 20 calls a day. Reach out to old customers and engage them in a discussion.
For example, here is an e-mail I sent to a prospect turned client recently:
Did you notice how fast I turned around the agreement from the time of our conceptual agreement? Your Service Sales Team needs to understand that in a complex sale, every interaction counts!
Think about our relationship and dialogue that last month:
1.) You heard me speak
2.) We had lunch
3.) We talked after lunch and exchanged cards and had a brief discussion
4.) I gave you a book and you read it and sent me an email
5.) We spoke once on the phone
6.) We spoke again the next day. I clarified your objectives and built trust
7.) I emailed you an e-book that is relevant to our common objectives
8.) Now you have the agreement and a choice that fits in your budget
9.) I asked for the sale, twice.
A complex sale (like Service Agreement Sales) has a series of events that seemingly unfold organically. It's smooth, seamless and effective. THAT is what I will teach you and your team to do habitually, naturally, consistently.
Let's choose a date and get this done by Friday? Thank you for your trust. I look forward to working with you.
If you are in sales, and who isn't, make certain you are paying attention to both the Art and the Science. Each of us needs to understand the process of sales and be able to teach it. Only then will you enjoy sales mastery.
Now where are those instructions? My grandkids are getting restless to play with that new toy. Gotta go!