Three Deadly Sins That Sellers Must Avoid

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By Miller Heimen Group

smiling-young-consultant-offering-pen-elderly-client_1262-19074Sellers aren’t alone in suffering through the impacts of COVID-19: your customers are likely feeling the same pressures and stresses that are plaguing you and keeping you awake at night.

Before you can sell to your customers, you need to understand their mindset and, more importantly, recognize how their mindset affects their decision-making. And you need to avoid the three deadly sins that trigger inaction.

The Rational Decision Maker vs. the Emotional Decision Maker

In normal times, your buying influences—anyone who has a positive or negative impact on your ability to close the deal—are likely to be governed more by rationality than by their emotion.

What do we mean? Think about your buying influence as consisting of two separate decision makers. The first, the rational decision maker, is governed by reason and data, and considers this data in the logical, more deliberate processing areas of the brain. The second, the emotional decision maker, filters information differently and focuses on emotions, which causes them to make decisions in a different way—and often more quickly and impulsively.

Given today’s turbulent times, buyers may frequently toggle between the rational and emotional sides of their brain. As a seller, it’s your job to figure out which decision maker is in charge when you’re speaking with your buyer, so you can deliver the right logic and data that appeals to them.

How will you know whether a buyer is being led by their emotions? Look for scenarios where the customer’s intentions and actions aren’t aligned. You may notice a difference between their tone and their words, or you may sense that they aren’t articulating everything they’re saying based on their body language.

If you discover that you’re talking to the emotional decision maker, the next step is to determine which emotional mindset they’re in.

The Three Emotional Mindsets

The uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic tend to push emotional buyers into one of three mindsets: fight, flight or freeze.

  • Fight: Buyers feel a lot of adrenaline and run toward the threat.
  • Flight: Buyers feel fear and try to outrun the threat.
  • Freeze: Buyers feel numb to the pain of the problem and lose their motivation to act: they become hypervigilant about the personal consequences of making a decision, so it starts to feel as if doing nothing is the right thing to do.

Unless your solution fixes an imminent and probable loss scenario, it’s unlikely that the emotional decision maker will act. So, even if your buyer is suffering from problems that are getting worse and there’s an action they could take that would solve those problems, they’re less likely to act because they can’t think about the future, even if the future results aren’t that far off. And they’re also likely to keep you at arm’s length.

Three Things Never to Try With Reluctant Buyers

When a buyer is stuck, how do you try to get them to engage? Do you offer incentives or discounts? Do you discuss the reasons they should proceed and reiterate the rational benefits of your deal? Or do you wait it out, presuming that the buyer will get in touch when they want to move forward?

The proper way to proceed is to wait until your buyer indicates that they’re ready to proceed. But many sellers try pressuring, prescribing and minimizing tactics—even if they don’t realize they’re using them—which pushes buyers further away.

  1. Pressuring: Sellers shouldn’t put undue pressure on buyers to make decisions or close a deal with deadlines and other threats. Here’s an example: “If you go ahead with the proposal, we’ll apply a 10% discount, but you must commit to the deal by the tenth of the month.”
  2. Prescribing: Sellers should avoid prescribing, or pushing their own ideas and solutions on buyers. Statements that prescribe may sound like this: “If I were you, I would…” or “The way to handle that concern is…”
  3. Minimizing: Sellers who lack empathy may downplay their buyer’s concerns, either by suggesting that they don’t matter or by offering baseless assurances. Don’t say things like this: “I can see us being out of this situation in a couple of months, and, if you move ahead with our deal, you’ll be in a great position to hit the ground running when everyone returns to work.”

How Top Performers Get Through to Emotional Decision Makers

Top sellers know to steer clear of these three deadly sins—but that doesn’t mean that they should ignore their customers. On the contrary, they should keep building their relationships by listening and being authentic. They realize that they can’t solve problems for their buyers, but they can serve as a guide and coach, offering support and asking tough questions that help their buyers share how they feel.

Posted in Sales Insights

7 Ways to Identify the ‘Rainmaker’ on Your Sales Team

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By Maddie Sheng

rainmaker salespeopleIt should come at no surprise that your sales team harbors a range of talents and strengths. Some members may be quick to close deals, while others are better at forging client relationships. In addition, every sales team should have some rainmakers. Yes, as in, make it rain!

What is a rainmaker in sales?

A rainmaker in sales is someone who frequently brings in new business and generates leads for the company. Without a doubt, they are high-achieving individuals, making them key assets to the team.

The name is said to be inspired by a tribal practice of rainmaking, where a rainmaker summons rain for crops to prosper. Similarly, a sales rainmaker allows a company to prosper through never-ending business development and new connections.

So, how can you identify the rainmaker(s) on your team? Below are some common traits of these superstar salespeople to help you pinpoint them on your team.

Common Rainmaker Sales Traits

1. They’re focused on the bigger picture.

It’s common for salespeople to have goals that are created by or with their managers. These goals often focus on hitting certain numbers and sales revenue.

While these sales goals apply to rainmakers as well, they’re not their sole focus. Rainmakers are driven by a larger vision which they work to make reality by setting a combination of sales, financial, career, and personal goals. Rainmakers believe that working to meet and even exceed these goals will propel them towards success.

For example, this could be a working parent who knows they must bring in a certain income to support his or her children. A larger vision of being able to provide the best education and lifestyle for the children is what fuels them to move forward. Instead of feeling instant gratification from money, rainmakers think long-term and have clarity on what they’re ultimately working for.

2. They’re experts in the industry.

A good salesperson is great at selling their product. A rainmaker salesperson sells not only the product, but also the brand and vision of their company. To do this, they meticulously study their industry and understand how their pitch can stand out against competitors.

This skill is especially valuable to build credibility and trust with the client. It allows rainmakers to bounce back from any concern, question, or hesitation a prospect may have during a conversation. Rainmakers can clearly communicate a product’s features and benefits without a doubt. But in the end, the client is buying the story that rainmakers craft.

3. They know how to adapt to customers.

Rainmakers realize that customers are people at the end of the day, each with their own unique personality, backgrounds, and beliefs.

Before meeting clients, rainmakers thoroughly prepare to make sure they understand the customer. This can include learning more about the customer’s needs, characteristics, and behaviors such as their business model, challenges, potential reservations, communication style, and more.

Because of their stellar soft skills, rainmakers know how to cater to people of all kinds and make the customer feel comfortable when speaking with them. Their power to put customers at ease and switch off defense mode increases the chances of striking a deal.

4. They form genuine connections with clients.

Rainmaker salespeople see every client as a person to form a relationship with. Now, they don’t have to be best friends, but it’s valuable to maintain a genuine relationship with prospects.

Instead of overwhelming the client with offers, rainmakers take time to listen to the client’s issues, complaints, and goals. In fact, the initial meeting might not even involve a typical pitch — rather, this time may be used by a rainmaker to step into the client’s shoes. As a result, clients often gain appreciation for and trust in the salesperson.

This relationship selling can pay off in the long run in multiple ways. For one, existing clients will return for more, becoming a constant source of business. These connections can also open new doors and refer new contacts from their own network to the rainmaker salesperson.

5. They have a growth mindset.

A person with a growth mindset believes it’s possible to change and develop your abilities over time, and that failure only helps to learn. They’re free from limiting beliefs telling them that they’re not good enough or something is impossible.

Instead of thinking, “I don’t know how to do this,” someone with a growth mindset thinks, “I can learn how to do this.” The difference is significant since the growth mindset encourages the person to be proactive rather than give up.

For rainmakers, this mindset is required for every aspect of the job. A growth mindset will prevent them from being easily discouraged and push them to constantly sharpen their skills. Moreover, when receiving feedback, rainmakers don’t take it personally and use it as their chance to improve their craft.

6. They know how to handle rejection.

For many people, the word “no” seems like a dead end. That’s it. Everything’s over.

For rainmakers, no simply means not now. It may take some more time and conversations, but rainmakers believe they will eventually win the deal, even if the chances are unlikely. This positive outlook drives and encourages them to continue building their relationships with the client to keep them top of mind.

When faced with rejection, rainmakers also take time to investigate the reason behind the decision that was made. Perhaps their client’s business is reprioritizing or they need more clarification on a certain part of the product. Honing in on why the rejection happened helps rainmakers better understand the client’s perspective and adjust accordingly. Or, simply take that lesson with them to their next meeting with a new prospect.

7. They motivate other salespeople.

As a salesperson, it’s important to stay motivated. Times can get tough, so something or someone needs to keep the drive going.

Rainmakers inspire the rest of the sales team to do better with their outstanding performance and disciplined selves. They act as role models for the team and are often highly regarded by their peers.

What’s unique about their way of motivating is that it’s not necessarily intended. For rainmakers, they’re most likely not using every day as a chance to motivate the team. Yet, indirectly, they do so through their admirable actions and results — they’re able to naturally lift up the people around them which makes them highly valuable team members.

Rainmakers are all-stars and their characteristics make them sought after team members by sales managers. Now knowing some common qualities of rainmakers, can you identify who the rainmakers are on your sales team?

Posted in Sales Performance Measurement, Sales Talent

How To Manage Challenging Customer Conversations

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By Jenny Powell, Director Miradorus

crazy-mad-beautiful-woman-talking-speaker_1262-20888As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a serious impact on society, the economy and our customers, you might be having more challenging customer conversations than usual.

It may be delivering bad news to a customer, fielding more complaints or your customers simply being quicker to become angry.

The key principles below offer you a framework to manage a challenging conversation in a way that generates trust and mutual understanding, transforming a difficult situation into a positive service experience.

You can shift these conversations from something you might dread – to something you handle with confidence.

  • Make it personal: Create a professional atmosphere and communicate clearly. Show that you understand and appreciate the situation. Be believable and reliable.
  • Keep it simple: Use simple and clear language and avoid jargon.
  • Respond quickly: Listen carefully so you can react quickly to the customer’s enquiry. Answer calls, emails etc. as fast as possible to resolve issues.
  • Be entrepreneurial: Try to find a win-win situation whenever possible and make decisions that are in the best interests for both of you.

In addition, each conversation should consist of the following four elements:

  • Greet: Answer the call politely and demonstrate your willingness to help.
  • Get: Gather and confirm key information. Ask 2 or 3 questions about the customer’s situation. Confirm back to them to make sure you’ve understood correctly.
  • Give: Provide information on potential solutions. Demonstrate empathy with the customer. Restate your willingness to help.
  • Go: Summarise and agree next steps for both you and the customer.

If you conduct the conversation in a calm and sensible fashion most customers will accept that you are trying to help them. However, there will be times when the customer’s worry or concerns boil over into emotion, such as shouting at you, blaming you, personally insulting you, or even crying. It’s important that you:

  • Don’t take it personally. Stay calm and professional.
  • Don’t get drawn into an argument.
  • Try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes (to understand why they are so anxious/scared).
  • Only apologise if you (or your company) has actually made a mistake.
  • When delivering bad news, try to offer options – either to resolve the current situation or prevent a reoccurrence.

At Miradorus we have many years’ experience helping businesses and individuals manage challenging conversations. As we ourselves look at adapting how we do business, we’ve been working closely with our clients to adapt our programmes to virtual delivery and are pleased to say this is getting the same stellar feedback as our in-person training, as the comments below from participants during a recent virtual workshop show:

“The time we spent as a group sharing our experiences was a real ‘stop the world’ moment. I went into my next call feeling refreshed and energised!”

”I really enjoyed that session, and loved the breakout rooms!”
You don’t have to wait until in-person training becomes viable again – a bespoke virtual training can have the impact you desire.

Posted in Customer Relationships, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service

Virtual Selling – Normalised Sooner Than We Thought

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By David Freedman, Director of Sales

ezgif.com-gif-maker-1So what do we do now?

What was once the future is now the present. We assumed that airport delays, service station sandwiches, anxious waits in reception, and handshakes (remember those?) were all – and would remain – the unchanging rites of the seller’s daily life.

Instead, we have accelerated into a world in which major opportunity sellers and key account managers, with targets to meet and multi-year complex sales to manage, are unable to leave the house. The prospects, clients or customers they’d be meeting are stuck at home too. But business cannot simply pause; and selling is the vanguard of business. Salespeople can do things differently – and maybe even better.

There’s a long history and therefore a body of accumulated experience and guidance on the one-to-one, telephone-based sale. My colleague Andrew Eaves has written about that. But that’s just part of the story.

The first time I was involved in winning a significant bid opportunity with a completely new client from contact to contract without any real-world interaction between the key parties was probably a decade ago. The chosen channels of communication were email and voice calling, which weren’t exactly bleeding-edge apps even then. Now everyone is learning: there are now new tools to master, and new behaviours to adopt. But in doing so we must remember the unchanging behaviours that always distinguish the successful from the unsuccessful sales person.

Much of the Huthwaite research into the skills of successful sales people – whether building value in the early cycle, or capturing it in the commitment stages and the negotiation – focuses on verbal behaviours. And so at a time when communication relies upon distant voices (sometimes augmented by a live picture shrunk to a postage stamp as more and more people join the discussion) so the focus increases on what people say, how they listen, and how they process information communicated in the discussion as it progresses into a persuasive case.

Virtual selling isn’t without risks for salespeople. The seductive novelty of new technologies can lead to selling teams becoming technology-led, shaping their behaviour around what technology allows, rather than because those behaviours are conducive to successful selling. So, think about what kind of virtual selling is appropriate for which stage of the Buying Cycle™.

When customers are at the beginning of the Buying Cycle™ – still in what we call Changes Over Time, and probably not yet considering making the kinds of investment you want them to be talking about – you might need a series of one-to-one calls, Zooms or whatever. It is probably not a successful strategy to look immediately for a multi-user conference meeting with all the stakeholders, just because you’ve learnt how to do it.

As you would in real life, go first to the person who might be receptive to an early approach. Work with them to assess the landscape, find the right internal coaches, see who in the organisation might be trying to manage business problems that you could solve. Discover what competition is present and what the decision-making process will be, if there is one. Note that just at the moment, that decision-making process might have been up-ended as customer companies re-assess their priorities; some of your best contacts might be worrying about other things.

All of that is the kind of thing that is best done in a series of one-to-one contacts (phone, email, text, WhatsApp or video call doesn’t matter) to the people we call the Focus of Receptivity, rather than revealing  your strategic discovery plan to banks of unfamiliar faces staring back at you across the ether, wondering why you’ve brought them there when they could be helping their 12 year-old with their home physics lessons.

When you do establish who the next rung of important and relevant influencers are – the people who own the problems you are trying to solve – you might well find yourself facing a gallery of moving, talking faces. And at this point, especially if you have the daunting feeling that all of their sceptical eyes are on you, it would be dangerously easy to forget the eternal verities of good selling.

Truly successful selling should always be more of a ‘pull’ than a ‘push’ interaction. In the real world, the unskilled salesperson often spends too much time listing the features of their offer, rather than asking consultative questions and listening carefully to gain an understanding of the prospective customers’ problems. That’s a trap salespeople are even more likely to fall into on virtual platforms, without the same behavioural cues to suggest someone else wants to speak; or where you, as a seller, are more likely to speak simply to prevent a period of silence on the call. That’s usually the time when you say something you regret or the listeners have no real need to hear.

Instead, giving the customer plenty of room to speak so that they can fully outline business problems they are facing is vital for effective, persuasive selling, in which the conversation is centred on the problems and potential solutions of the prospective customer and them alone. That means allowing the would-be customer to talk until they have given their fullest possible answer – easy to do in person, relatively straightforward on a call, but more difficult on a multi-stakeholder Zoom meeting.

In the virtual world, traditional selling skills, such as listening carefully and asking intelligent questions to uncover customer issues, are in fact more important than ever, helping to compensate for a decline in the quality of in-person cues.

There are sensible precautions a skilled salesperson can take when selling virtually. Just as during an in-person meeting it wouldn’t be good practice to rattle through 30 slides without any attempt at real dialogue with prospective customers, so this should be avoided in virtual forums. All the more so because while you are focused on droning through the slides, worrying if everyone can see your screenshare, and setting up the next item, you cannot be focused at all on the people themselves – their reactions, whether they want to ask a question, whether they’ve left the room or are scrolling through their emails in another window or on the phone.

Voice, data and video over IP have given us the power (used properly) to interact fairly fully and to practise plenty of the behaviours that Huthwaite research shows are used more often by successful communicators than by the average. We call them things like “Bringing In”, “Testing Understanding”, “Summarising” and “Building”. The same technologies can also help us to avoid persistent “Shutting Out”, (shown by our research to be a behaviour linked to low success in many contexts) if we use those technologies with care, and remain alert. Having one of your team lead the conference (or your part of it) and another colleague on the lookout for who is itching to ask a question, build on a proposal or challenge a claim isn’t a bad idea.

As well as applying the same skills and behaviours that are important in real-world selling to virtual environments, salespeople will need to recognise the extent to which virtual selling can exacerbate mistakes commonly made in real-world interactions.

Addressing just a single person with an off-topic remark during a group discussion is distracting in the real-world, and likewise in the virtual environment. All the current technologies allow bi-lateral conversations within a wider group discussion in such a way as nobody else notices (chat sidebars, break-out rooms etc). Is that a sensible option though? My sense is – and we’ve no particular research in this area to back this up yet – that one should handle with care. Use the facility for quick clarification for the customer, and agreement of immediate tactics with colleagues, but not for strategic considerations or detailed conferring, because doing so takes focus away from the real object of the meeting: the customer group as a whole and what they are saying.

There are some distinct advantages to sellers in the virtual sales paradigm.

One is that it is probably simpler to convene, and at short notice, a meeting of the people you really need to speak to at each stage of the Buying Cycle™. They will be busy of course – they might be covering for colleagues as well as trying to keep their own show on the road – but they won’t have large chunks of their diary given over to travel. So organising a series of smaller meetings with the right key player(s) as they move around the Buying Cycle™ – possibly without the impediment of gatekeeping assistants – will be easier.

Secondly, it makes those meetings cheaper for you to attend – and cost of sale is going to be a closely patrolled metric in the harder times to come.

Thirdly, when you are on the call, the documents that you might have used in your preparation and planning (in Huthwaite terms these would be Call Planners, T-forms, Persuasive Case Analyses, Negotiation Organisers and the like) can be there with you on your desk or on your tablet device in a way that would seem odd if you brought them out and plonked them on the table at the client’s office. They should never be rigid scripts or straitjackets for how you conduct the call, but they can be a valuable help in ordering your thoughts and building your argument.

When this is all over (a phrase that almost types itself by now) this might or might not be the permanent new face of sales. Some things might revert, but as with any seismic shock, many of the changes to the landscape are sure to be permanent. If we can manage without a full day’s travel for a one hour meeting now, why should we ever go back to the old way? People who want to see you in person really can see you on their laptop.

Once video conferencing moved from a dedicated office suite brimming with expensive specialist hardware to a four-inch long plastic and glass supercomputer in your pocket, the world changed. As technology improves and video conferencing advances to the extent that key stakeholders on the other side of the world feel like they are in the same room, the behaviours and best practice examples of real-world selling will be even more easily applied in the virtual space. In the meantime, adaptive use of today’s virtual channels offers significant opportunities. Sales teams must ensure they and their customers – not the technology – are in the driving seat when it comes to getting the most from these platforms.

 

Posted in Sales, Virtual

How B2B Sales Have Changed During COVID-19

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By Liz Harrison, Ryan Gavin, Candace Lun Plotkin, and Jennifer Stanley

The pivot: Accelerated migration to remote and digital

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the way companies buy from and sell to each other now looks very different than it used to—perhaps permanently. To thrive in the next normal, B2B companies will need to continue adapting to the new economic reality.

To understand how large the challenge is and actively monitor the major shifts and swings, McKinsey & Company created its B2B Decision Maker Pulse, a survey of 3,600 B2B decision makers in 11 countries, 12 sectors, and 14 spend categories. For more insights, access the full research, How B2B decision makers are responding to the coronavirus crisis.

Among the emerging trends:

PNG-B2B-Sales-Infographic-v2

About the author(s)

Liz Harrison is an associate partner in McKinsey’s Charlotte office, and Ryan Gavin, Candace Lun Plotkin, and Jennifer Stanley are partners in the Boston office.

The authors wish to thank Yagmur Anis, Barr Seitz, and Cindy Van Horne for their contributions to this article.

Posted in B2B, Sales Transformation

What Is Customer Service Excellence?

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By Jenny Powell, Director

Customer-Service-ExcellenceRemember when it used to be ok to be “good enough” with customer service? Nowadays product commoditisation, social media, customer buying power, “me too” offerings, strong competition and fickle customers mean it’s harder than ever to set yourself apart. For that reason, customer service is the holy grail for all companies that strive for differentiation. We all love truly excellent customer service – it makes us come back again and again. The end customer is no longer an afterthought.

The Difference Between “Good Enough” and “Excellence”

Good service is competent, friendly and timely. Truly excellent service goes much further, and involves:

  • passion
  • empathy
  • engagement
  • proactivity
  • a sense of urgency
  • the desire to exceed expectations.

We have to remember that we are creating a wonderful emotional experience for the customer. Organisations that ignore the power of their customers’ emotions and invest solely in processes and systems are likely to fall short.

Emotion Over Logic

Many customers make daily choices from an emotional rather than logical point of view. We must remember this from the moment we engage them. A dirty entrance to a restaurant is thought to shape an entire dining experience. An ugly, hard-to-understand website will increase the likelihood of the customer navigating away.

However, perhaps the most important moment in customer service is actually the last moment of the process – this is the one that sticks in the customer’s mind. Do you remember the jazzy homepage of the website that you first saw or the messy final experience at the website check-out?

Take a moment to think of your own customer service experience. What wowed you? What created your loyalty? What was the last impression in your most powerful experiences?

The last impression defines the service experience and determines new choices.

Powerful Customer Service Excellence Is Created At The End Of The Experience

As a service provider, paying more attention to the final moments of a service experience may pay off more than anything else that has gone before. Having contingency plans for potential system failures that could happen towards the end of the service transaction will also be an investment well made. Make sure that even if there is a mistake at this stage, the best service providers know how to recover to leave a lasting, positive impression.

Avoid potential pain in the future by taking the time to create a positive final experience for your customer. Make it a moment of magic – not a moment of misery!

Posted in Customer Relationships, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, Customer Success

8 Questions to Ask a Potential Customer About Their Business Pain Points

By Dan Tyre, Sales Director at HubSpot

8 Questions to Ask a Potential Customer About Their Business Pain PointsEver spent time with a prospect who didn’t buy? Of course you have.

Is it fun?

No, it is not.

Selling to people who can’t or won’t buy is a huge drain on your sales productivity, budget, and team. Top two-percenters need to spend time only with prospects who need your help, want your help, and are willing to work with you to solve their problems.

Your prospects need to have authority and money, but having business pain trumps both. If your prospects don’t have business pain, they have no need. And without need, there’s no hope for a sale. It’s up to salespeople to ask effective sales questions and uncover business pain as quickly as possible.Business Pain Points

Business Pain Points

A business pain point is an issue or problem causing “pain” in an organization and requiring a solution. True business pain isn’t a problem where the solution is a nice-to-have. It’s a budgeted, pull-your-hair-out, have-to-get-it-solved, discussed-at-the-board-level kind of problem.  Because they affect the bottom line, they must be solved in order for the organization to grow and function successfully.

Business pain points keep the company from functioning and, therefore, should be addressed as a priority.

Business Pain Point Examples

If your prospects say they’re experiencing employee dissatisfaction and retention issues that are impacting their productivity and hiring, customer churn that impacts their revenue, or a severe lack of leads that makes it impossible to hit their revenue goals, you’ve hit on business pain points.

Pain is the first thing top salespeople look for in their prospects because pain is what starts them on a buying journey in the first place and is the driving urgency to find a solution. These are some of the most common types of business pain points your prospects might face and examples of each:

1. Positioning Pain Points

What company doesn’t need to acquire more or better business? However, this end goal is easier to set than to achieve. Many businesses may understand — or think they understand — what’s holding their marketing and positioning efforts back. Here are some examples of what you might hear from prospects who have positioning pains: 

  • “No one knows who our company is.” 
  • “Our competitors are outspending us.” 
  • “The market is changing, leaving us behind.”
  • “Until now, we haven’t considered digital marketing, so we’re behind.”

Because acquisition is so closely aligned with revenue, successfully identifying a positioning pain and your solution for it is a great way to prove value.

2. Productivity Pain Points

Is there something that’s prohibiting a company and its employees from working efficiently and effectively? Your product or service might be able to help them solve these issues.

3. Financial Pain Points

Money is a big topic in business, and many business pains are caused by lack of it and solved by more of it. Every company benefits from improving their financial standing. Here are some examples of critical financial pain points that require serious solutions: 

  • “We’re not selling enough to keep the lights on.” 
  • “Revenue is up, but profitability is low.” 
  • “We don’t have enough visibility to know if we’re making good financial decisions.” 
  • “We may be overpaying for equipment and tools, but we don’t know what to cut.”

Your offerings might help businesses who want to reduce spending or better manage cash flow.

4. People Pain Points

People are at the heart of every business, often constituting both the greatest expense and largest asset. If there are people problems such as the following, it can cause problems in other areas of the business: 

  • “Employee morale is low.”
  • “We lose our best employees to higher paying positions elsewhere.”
  • “Our lack of diversity leads to lack of innovation.” 
  • “We can’t trust our middle managers to train and motivate.” 

If your product or service helps organizations manage, incentivize, or delight employees, you’ll take the pressure off those at the top and look like a hero to anyone else involved too.

5. Process Pain Points

With people problems come operational problems (or maybe the other way around). Your prospects know that the best way to achieve repeatable success is by implementing repeatable processes. The question, then, is “how?” They may be facing hurdles such as: 

  • “Our hiring process is unwieldy, and we struggle with finding highly qualified candidates.”
  • “Customer churn is high because our service department is inundated and can’t keep up.” 
  • “We have no system in place to qualify leads.” 
  • “There’s inconsistencies in each employee’s workflow, which leads to disorganization and varying performance.” 

If you unearth process pain points, ask your prospect to envision what a smoothly running company, department, or system would feel like and what kind of difference it would make.

6. Productivity Pain Points

It’s the job of managers to remove roadblocks for the team so that things get done, productivity is high, and profit benefits. That said, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds of the business and fall victim to inefficiencies that waste major time. Here are some examples of productivity pain points in business: 

  • “We keep missing client deadlines.” 
  • “We spend way too much time in meetings.” 
  • “Our administrative work is out of hand.” 
  • “Quality issues with our product has led to costly recalls and/or customer churn.” 

If there’s something prohibiting a company and its employees from working efficiently and effectively, you can position your solution as a time, money, and headache saver.

8 Questions That Can Identify a Customer’s Pain Points

As you’re performing sales qualification with a prospect, here are eight questions to help you unearth some of the business pains that can create great dialogue:

1. What’s your biggest inhibitor to company (or division) growth?

Pain point question for: All prospects

This is a classic soundbite that cuts straight to the heart of the matter. Every company is in the business of growth, so the biggest obstacle to growth is generally a serious pain.

Many prospects haven’t thought about this at all, so this question builds your personal credibility as well. Helping prospects talk through their current business situation can increase your understanding of the company while demonstrating your expertise in a non-showy way.

Usually, the business pains fall around revenue, customers, employees, product, or investment capital. Get to the meat of the conversation quickly with these follow-up questions:

  • What’s your plan to tackle X pain?
  • When is your deadline to solve this problem?
  • Do you think it’ll be easy or hard to solve it?
  • Who in your company is working to fix this right now?

These questions will blow your conversation wide open. By drilling down their responses to any of these, you’ll learn a lot about your prospect’s pain and spot opportunities to help.

You will also learn how they are approaching their pain. You should hear a certain amount of stress in their voice. This is healthy. It means they are likely to spend money to help address a business issue.

2. What is your biggest hairball?

Pain point question for: All prospects

This is a more whimsical version of question one. I like using it because it has personality, is funny, and creates a vision of chaos.

Most importantly, it’ll stir up your prospect’s emotion and gets to their core needs.

Whether they’re facing a major cross-departmental operational issue, an internal team problem, or a clear obstacle to growth, getting your prospect talking about what they’re most frustrated by is a great way to get them excited about a potential solution.

It is also more personal. You’re asking your prospect how the pain affects them. Based on their answer, you’ll be able to determine if they have a potential personal win that can give you some extra support to get the deal through.

3. What does your boss obsess about?

Pain point question for: Individual contributors

You won’t always be talking to the head honcho — sometimes, you’ll be speaking to someone two or three levels below them.

It’s in your best interest to get them involved in the conversation as early as possible. There are three reasons for this.

  1. They usually control the budget for B2B buying decisions. Their pain won’t necessarily be the same as an individual contributor’s pain, but they’re the one that needs to pull the trigger on a purchase, so start with the decision maker’s pain.
  2. A manager’s pain usually filters down to her direct reports. While an individual contributor and manager won’t view the problem the same way, a win for the manager will usually improve her direct reports’ lives as well. A lot of your prospects will have crappy bosses, and getting them off your prospects’ backs is a big motivator in the sales process.
  3. It signals inexperience. If your contact doesn’t know (or think about) their boss’s business pain, then it might be a sign that they’re too junior or inexperienced to help move a deal forward.

4. What takes up the most time in your day?

Pain point question for: Individual contributors and managers

This is another angle to approach business pain that focuses on your point of contact.

Salespeople hear over and over again that buyers care more about value than features, and this question reveals the concrete value your product could have to your prospects on a personal level.

Ask your prospect about how solving a business pain would impact their team. Would it save them two hours of work a day? Cut their time spent in meetings in half? If you can find something concrete your prospect’s itching for, dig deeper and see exactly how you can help.

5. What’s been repeatedly discussed at standups or all-company meetings by senior management?

Pain point question for: Senior managers and leadership

As mentioned above, business pain isn’t two employees complaining there isn’t enough coffee in the break room. It’s not something that can be fixed quickly or easily.

Pain is what keeps the CEO up at night. It has to be addressed for the company to continue operating at full speed.

What do senior managers put on their quarterly planning agendas? What do they talk about incessantly? What do they send all-company emails about? This is the business pain you’re looking for.

6. What are your gripes?

Pain point question for: All prospects

This might seem petty, but the responses you’ll earn with this question can be extremely telling.

What begins as a complaint about not enough coffee might lead you to bigger pain points such as, “We don’t have enough coffee because our company-wide budgets have been slashed this quarter. We’re really focusing all available resources on advertising in the coming weeks and months.

A lack of coffee is a seemingly laughable and lighthearted gripe — but when the experienced salesperson asks follow-up questions and digs in here, it can illuminate a larger issue you have the resources to solve for.

7. Why are you losing deals?

Pain point question for: Individual contributors and managers

Asking this question might uncover positioning pains, process pains, or productivity pains in one of a company’s most important departments: the sales department.

If you can position your product or service as something that enables sales or marketing teams to acquire more business, you can win over those bottom-line-focused decision makers.

8. Why are customers churning?

Pain point question for: Individual contributors and managers

Losing customers is a big pain, and it can be caused by any number of issues that you may have a solution for.

This is another question that can give you really good insight into how their business operates, what challenges they may be facing, and what kinks in the chain may be prohibiting growth. Information about any one of these can open up a conversation about how you can help.

3 Tips for Addressing Business Pain

Once you identify pain, you can determine how to solve it for your prospect. This is an incredible tool to leverage as a salesperson since you can become a solution-provider rather than a product-seller. Here are three tips to start positioning in this way:

1. Use your prospect’s language when talking about pain.

This is a psychological technique that can go a long way in building trust with your prospect. Instead of trying to appear impressive by relying on jargon only your colleagues would understand, show your prospect you take them seriously by using their language and terminology.

2. Find out who’s empowered to solve the pain.

Find the economic buyer as quickly as possible. Ask your prospect whose budget a purchase would come out of and what teams would need to be involved in a buying decision. There’s little point spending hours with a person who can’t ink a deal.

3. Identify additional key stakeholders as early as possible.

If you’re selling to multiple teams and one team has completely different priorities than another, you need to know early. If you’ll have to go through a two-month legal review process before you can close a deal, you need to know early.

Prospects are sometimes worried they’ll appear less authoritative if they tell you they’re not the sole decision maker, so I like to use the following questions to avoid that impression:

  • Who besides yourself needs to be involved in this decision?
  • Who else would want to know that we had this conversation?

Affirm your prospect’s involvement while asking for information, and it’ll be easier to make sure your pitch meets everybody’s requirements.

Inbound sales is all about empathy. To close more deals and become as helpful as possible, start asking the right questions to the right prospects.

Posted in Asking Questions, Customer Service, Effective Communication, Sales

Three Steps to Take Now to Rebound From the Crisis

By Miller Heiman Group | Sales Performance

iStock-1149282247-576x384In normal times, sales managers carry the heavy weight of many responsibilities, including coaching their sales team, ensuring a positive customer experience and improving financial results. To achieve these goals, they must overcome a series of hurdles—including limited resources, a lack of support and conflicting priorities. But now, they face one more hurdle: the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis. If before we thought that sales managers were running on sand rather than on pavement, they’re now treading quicksand.

But this crisis will pass. And though the impact of the coronavirus will be long-lasting, sales organizations can take steps now to prepare themselves for the inevitable rebound. Sales managers should be at the forefront of this movement, because they have an extensive reach: with an average span of control of between eight and 10 sellers, they’ll have a tremendous impact on how well businesses recover from the setbacks of the pandemic.

Now is the perfect time to address the nagging issues that may be hindering your success—even in the best market. Here are three steps that sales managers can take now to accelerate their organization’s recovery.

1. Assess Your Sales Process

Take a step back and review your sales process, from start to finish. Here are some things to consider.

  • Maximize your use of technology to prioritize your prospects. Your CRM may offer insights into customer intent, along with real-time win-loss data, that will inform your investment of above-the-funnel activities.
  • Build a scorecard for opportunity planning. Few organizations use formal opportunity planning consistently, but it is a key step to getting new business in the door. Consider using a scorecard that evaluates what we call the “Big Six” qualifying criteria to prioritize your prospective deals.
  • Create a process for lead management. Make sure your sales and marketing teams agree on how to define a lead and work together to align your process for lead nurturing.
  • Formalize your account planning strategy. If you want to build long-term customer relationships, you can’t stop selling when you close the deal. Figure out how to continue adding value and exceeding your customers’ expectations long after you’ve collected the signatures.
  • Check the alignment between your sales process and your buyer’s journey. We’ve found that the highest-performing sales organizations have tightly aligned their selling activities—including prospecting, outreach, opportunity management and account management—to their customer’s path.

2. Build a Formal Content Strategy

A sales content strategy does a number of things: it defines the purpose of your content, sets forth the goals that content should help sellers achieve and explains how content should be designed, created and managed to support sales strategies. A little less than a third (31.8%) of respondents reported having a formal content strategy in our Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study. But those with a formal content strategy experienced 27.1% higher win rates and 18.1% higher quota attainment than those without a formal strategy.

To build a content strategy, take these steps:

  • Determine who creates your sellers’ content. It may come from various functions or departments; be thorough in your search.
  • Define and assess your content. To gain clarity, define the various content types and formats that you have. Then map the content to your buyer’s path to ensure there’s a good fit. Identify redundancies, content that needs adjustment and gaps to fill.
  • Develop your strategy. Identify your target audiences, purposes for different situations along the buying journey and the content creation process. Define how each content type will help you achieve your goals.
  • Implement content life-cycle management. Create a schedule for reviewing all content assets to determine when they need to be updated or retired.

3. Continue Good Coaching Habits

In our 2020 Trends in Sales Management report, we found that sales managers spend twice as much time on administration and forecasting—34.1—as they do on coaching their teams. And many businesses still define sales coaching narrowly as a funnel review or a discussion of opportunities. These organizations are missing opportunities to follow a formal or dynamic sales coaching process and improve their sellers’ win rates by double digits.

During the pandemic, with social distancing and remote selling, sales managers have ramped up their visibility to their sales teams. They’ve started using regular check-ins and greater engagement strategies to continue developing their teams. They’ve modeled appropriate behaviors for their sellers, and they’ve conducted more rigorous funnel reviews. All of these practices should continue after the risks posed by the coronavirus subside.

Lay the Foundation Now for a Stronger Sales Strategy

Now is the time to future-proof your organization for not just the next phase in our recovery from COVID-19 but also for future crises. In such times, having a formal approach to the overall sales process, and especially opportunity qualification, content strategy and coaching, can make a lasting, positive impact.

Posted in Sales Coaching, Sales Process, Sales Strategy

Amazon vs British Airways – A Tale Of Two Service Interactions

Miradorus Logo KECIL

By Jenny Powell, Director

Amazon vs BA – A Tale Of Two Service Interactions MiradorusHow often do we come away from a customer service interaction and think “wow”? Unfortunately, not often; so low are our expectations that a company just meeting a service requirement can be a pleasant surprise.

But when companies over-achieve – in terms of getting what you are looking for and being treated in a way you want to be – then we are left with an amazing feeling.

Amazon

I had this feeling after a call with a customer service agent at Amazon recently and asked myself, “What was it that wowed me?”

Firstly – and this is a big one – they actually trusted me as a customer. Of course, I didn’t need to send them a photograph of the damaged packaging which had meant that the smallest item it should have contained had fallen out at some stage.

Trust – wow!

Secondly, I could choose if I wanted to contact or be contacted by them; and when I selected the 5 minute ring back, it actually happened within five minutes. I spoke to someone who was competent and friendly. She quickly understood and empathised with my frustration that the smallest item in the box was the one I needed most quickly and was able to provide a solution that meant it arrived the following day and I didn’t have to do anything to make it happen.

This wasn’t my first great experience with Amazon – consistency is a key ingredient to great customer service interactions. On every occasion, the person I spoke to was empowered to make decisions to solve my problem. They were obviously encouraged to do the right thing for the customer rather than treat them like an idiot or one who is out to cheat them.

British Airways

I went to Holland with British Airways this week to run a training programme. Waiting to board, a request was made for volunteers to put their hand luggage in the hold if they could, as it was a completely full flight.

What could possibly go wrong?

The man at the gate, to whom we explained how important it was that our mission critical poster tube arrived in one piece – and that we would only hand it to him if he could guarantee that it would arrive in one piece – assured us that it would and that it was going straight into the hold.

We actually saw him putting it into the chute leading to the hold. On arrival at Schipol airport, the carousel went round and round and then stopped.

No poster tube.

BA’s local baggage handler (Avia partners) – having initially told us to “wait a few minutes longer”- then filled out a missing-luggage form describing a wheelie bag (there was a box to tick for that) despite being given the shape and dimensions of the tube.

The luggage handler wasn’t the slightest bit interested that the “48 hours” standard response she kept repeating like a mantra, really wouldn’t cut it. No, she couldn’t call BA for us – “Here’s their phone number, you call them”. No, she couldn’t look on the website – but we could. She demonstrated absolutely no interest in helping us, nor empathy for our situation, nor was empowered to do, or say, anything to make the situation more palatable. “It must still be in London,” was all she continued to tell us.

Compensation? “Go online and have a look at what you can do.”
The good news was that we were running a programme on how to deliver Great Customer Service so had a ready-made case study of how not to do it. Amazon does care. The sad thing is, BA really doesn’t.

Posted in Customer Relationships, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, Customer Success

The 7 Steps of the Sales Process: What You Need to Know

By Bob Musial, Global Business Development Coach and Marketer.

7stagesI sat staring at the Dun & Bradstreet printout. It listed information for all the prospects in my California territory including the company name, revenue figures, address, telephone number and — of course — the decision maker’s name and title.

After all, that’s what they beat into our heads during the intensive five-week training program I’d just completed: Go for the decision-maker.

The training program, called “Professional Selling Skills,” took a then-new consultative approach to sales. The seminar instructed us on all things related to the “sales process” and its associated stages — such as qualifying prospects, defining needs, understanding buying patterns, overcoming objectives, presentations, developing listening skills, establishing value-added quantification in relationship to ROI, effective follow-up — the list goes on.

A lot has changed since then — or has it? It’s much easier now to find out what you need to know about a prospect or a client. But although sales terminology might have changed, the basic principles of the selling process haven’t changed that much.

While every business is different, most follow a progression with comparable sales stages. I think of it as a continuum that starts with a sales development process and ends with revenue generation. And it’s true for new business acquisition as well as expansion of existing business.

The typical sales process in the simplest terms goes something like this:

  1. Do target audience research.
  2. Create awareness and generate leads.
  3. Make contact, arrange a meeting, and/or conduct a presentation.
  4. Submit a proposal and win the business.
  5. Repeat.

A successful consultative sales process hinges on two things — establishing credibility and building trust. Once those two things are running smoothly, revenue gets generated.

Keep one important thing in mind. It’s all about the buyer — what they want and when they want it. The key is making sure your selling efforts are in sync with their buying signals and stages. While there are only two fundamentals to this sales process, there are far more interrelated and supporting components that need to work for a successful result to occur.

Here they are.

The 7 Steps of the Sales Process

For the sake of example, we’re going to follow the sales process of a rep from an educational curriculum and scheduling software company.

1. Qualification

This is the stage where qualitative, quantitative, demographic, and psychographic research are analyzed to gain insight into prospect behavior and buying patterns.

It’s where prospect identification, confirmation, and lead generation come in. Inbound marketing, social media, and content marketing efforts — in addition to other available resources like email scheduling tools — help generate qualified leads, greatly reduce cold calling, and shorten the sales cycle considerably.

Let’s say our educational curriculum and scheduling software company operates a popular blog. It publishes an article about the merits of using cloud storage for student information. The article features a call to action that links to a content offer — a webinar on how colleges can use technology to adapt to disruptions to conventional school years.

A high-level administrator from a community college in Northern California reads the article, clicks on the call to action, and provides their contact information in exchange for access to the webinar.

Our rep takes that information and sets up a discovery call with this administrator. On the call, the rep asks relevant, thoughtful questions to get valuable insight into whether this prospect is a good fit in terms of the school’s size, problems, budget, and other key traits.

Let’s say our salesperson asks all the right questions and gets the answers they need. Now, the prospect is a qualified lead, and they can move on through the sales process.

2. Preparation

This sales process stage encompasses a variety of diverse sales skills, such as meeting preparation, creating interest, anticipating and overcoming objections, presenting, consulting, audience engagement techniques, closing gestures, follow-up, and more — a lot more.

And preparation isn’t just a one-time thing — it’s ongoing. Some of the other preparation components encompass understanding the competitive landscape and challenges faced by your prospects, confirming that your products and services will address those challenges and do it in a cost-effective, needs-based manner, and establishing quantifiable value.

If you can’t do all of these things, you’re not truly prepared.

In our example, our salesperson would take the time to understand the challenges a school of that size faces, the budget it might have allocated for scheduling software, how it compares to other community colleges in Northern California in terms of enrollment and endowment, and several other factors that would provide context for the school’s unique challenges.

That way, our salesperson can best establish how their product can fit its needs and help them overcome the overarching issues and concerns it faces.

3. Presentation

Assuming you’ve done all your homework in the first two stages of the process, you may be fortunate enough to book a meeting. The stage following the meeting and/or presentation will be determined by how well you have nailed down the prior two steps and how well you perform your demo — and yes, it is a performance.

So you better know what you’re talking about and rehearse it to the point that you could do it in your sleep while still seeming “spontaneous.” It’s an art form. It’s also an important part of building credibility and establishing trust.

In our example, the rep had better know the ins and outs of the college’s student body, the total number of faculty, the specific courses it’s known for, the size of the campus itself, the number of classrooms, and any other information or factors that could possibly be affected or improved by leveraging the rep’s software.

4. Realization

Once you’ve made it past the first three stages successfully, you might have earned the opportunity to present a proposal. This is where your agreed-upon client needs-based analysis and quantified value benefits need to be clearly laid out and justified. If they aren’t, don’t even bother submitting a proposal.

Our rep would need to take all of the information from the presentation stage and be able to apply it. They would have to definitively demonstrate what the software would do for the college — supported by legitimate figures. If the software’s ability to streamline scheduling would make the college more efficient, they would have to show exactly what that means in quantifiable terms.

5. Perform-ication

Okay, so I made that one up to keep with the “-ation” motif. Really, this sales process stage is about obligation. If you’re lucky enough to be awarded the business — which can often come down to timing and luck — it becomes your obligation to make certain you’ll deliver on what you proposed, and what the client agreed to.

Here, the onus of excellent service and performance shifts partially from the rep to the product itself. In our example, the school better see the results it was promised. The scheduling process has to get considerably easier as a result of using the software. Otherwise, the rep’s entire effort would just be some digital snake oil pitch.

6. Communication

An integral part of the process is keeping both internal and external contacts involved and in the loop. Use your CRM system — that’s what it’s for. But above all, make sure you keep the client updated and do it regularly. If you did well, tell them. If you encountered an issue, tell them about it and explain how it was corrected. They’ll respect you in both instances.

7. Continuation

This is an often-overlooked and underutilized stage of the process — despite containing hidden revenue-generating opportunities. How do I know? Because I’ve seen it happen … and not happen. By neglecting to reinforce value, organizations miss opportunities to justify the client’s decision, and lose out on referrals and upsell business.

Many years have passed since I sat staring at that D&B printout, and it took me a while to define, understand, and fully appreciate the stages in my sales process. You need to figure yours out based on your sales style and training experience.

The names you give to the stages might be different. But more than likely, the steps and supporting components will be similar.

And while I may not know what your specific stages are, I do know that once you understand and do the things necessary to establish credibility and earn trust, you’ll increase the odds of achieving your primary objective — generating revenue.

Posted in Sales Planning, Sales Process

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