Posted 5th February 2011.
Reason #1 is here, and reason #2 is here
So you've probed the client's issues and they're enthusiastic.
They've had an “aha” moment – you've shared new insights and thinking and they fully trust you're the expert in this field.
And you've explored the impact of the problem – you can see they feel the pain and they need to fix it urgently.
In short, they're sold.
What could possibly go wrong?
Reason 3: You're Selling to the Wrong Person.
This, of course, is particularly applicable when you're selling to large organisations.
Often, the person you speak to initially is either the person you found it easiest to get through to (if you initiated the communication) or the person most interested in solving the problem (if they reached out to you).
That's not the same as the real buyer.
If fact, these days, there's rarely one simple buyer for very large purchases – there's a group of people who all influence the decision in one way or another.
And it's your job to figure out who these people are and make sure you've got them “covered” – preferably by having met them face to face.
How do you find out who these people are? You ask.
Of course, you don't say “who's the real decision-maker around here?”. That's not going to make you any friends.
But during the process of your sales meeting – usually near the end when the potential client you're speaking to is enthusiastic and ready to roll, you need to ask them about their buying process:
-> Who here, apart from yourself, needs to be involved in this decision?
-> What's the process from here for important decisions like this? Who's involved?
If you don't know the answers to these questions you're “selling blind”. You could very well close the sale, but not win any work because behind the scenes, decisions made by people you don't know and have never met go against you.
Nowadays, of course, it's not always possible to meet all the key decision-makers and influencers.
Stricter procurement policies often bar you from speaking to anyone outside a small group if you're taking part in a formal bid process, for example.
If that's the case you have two options.
You can work with the clients you're allowed to speak to (and who are enthusiastic supporters) and coach them to make your case to the key decision-makers. Essentially teaching them to sell internally the way you would.
Or, you might want to consider whether it's worth investing in this bid.
Chances are the incumbent or one of the competitors on the bid already knows the key decision-makers and the odds will be stacked in their favour.
In this case, you may be better off investing your time in another opportunity.
Either way, you need to know who the decision-makers and influencers are and what their role is to make an informed decision on how to approach the sale.
‘Cos if you're not selling to the right person, your chances of winning are slim.
Posted 23rd January 2011.
Reason #1 is here, and reason #3 is here
I get excited by solving client problems.
Can't help it. It's in my DNA somehow.
I bet it's in yours too.
It's what makes us good consultants, coaches, lawyers or whatever our profession is.
But it can also let us down when it comes to selling.
Does this sales meeting scenario ring a bell?
You build rapport with your potential client. You ask insightful questions. They talk about some of the challenges they're facing.
Bam! Your problem-solving skills kick in. You identify the root cause of their issues. Their eyes light up as you hit the right hot buttons. You've got the perfect solution for them.
They get interested. You talk about how you might work together. They get enthusiastic. They really want to proceed…
…then they ask how much.
You tell them your very reasonable fees – a fraction of what the solution is worth to them…
…and for some reason, it all falls apart.
You see, the problem is that your problem-solving skills kicked in too soon.
It's great to solve client problems. I have no qualms about giving them great advice and insight as part of the sales process. In fact I try to do so whenever possible.
But what I've learnt through painful experience is that if you jump to solutions before the client realises just how big their problem is – how much of an impact it truly has on their business – then you don't sell.
What's happening is that since you're an expert, you see straight away just how much that little morale problem actually damages productivity, staff retention and customer satisfaction.
You can take one look at their marketing and see how much money they're throwing away.
You can tell from a brief discussion about how they train their senior staff that their lack of leadership is impacting the company from top to bottom.
But they can't.
They're not an expert like you. So they just see a small problem with morale. They just think they need to beef up their marketing copy a bit.
They can't see how their dysfunctional leadership is damaging every aspect of their company.
And because they can't see this your reasonable fees look huge to them.
A sledgehammer to crack a nut.
You know the rest. Much gnashing of teeth and knotting of brows later they either do nothing, try to fix it themselves, or go with someone cheaper (who doesn't really understand the issue).
Two years later you bump into them and they still haven't fixed it.
So how do you avoid this lose-lose scenario?
Before you jump into problem-solving mode you must work with your potential client to explore the impact of the problem or opportunity they have.
Not just superficially – fully. The knock-on and contingent impacts too.
And you need to help them see the impact for themselves – not just tell them what it is. Ask them questions to help them figure it out.
In many ways, it's even more important than drilling into their problem. Once they've hired you, you can do further exploration of the problem. But if you don't fully explore the impact, you're not going to get hired.
Now I don't mean by this that you exaggerate or manipulate. If through your questioning you discover the problem isn't really a big issue then you say so and move on.
But since you're the expert and they're not, it's your duty to highlight when things are a bigger issue than they realise.
And it's crucial to getting the sale.
Next, I'll reveal reason #3. Or go here to jump ahead.
Posted 17th January 2011.
Has this ever happened to you?
You have an initial meeting with a potential client. They asked to speak with you, or you were recommended to them – so you get off to a good start.
You ask them about their business. You talk about some of the problems they face and identify that there are things you can help them with.
You discuss what you can do and they seem pleased. They ask you to do them a proposal and you leave the meeting feeling rather pleased. It feels like this one is “in the bag”.
Then nothing happens.
Despite writing a very compelling proposal, they don't call you back. Eventually you get through to them and they explain that priorities have changed.
Budgets are tight and although they're still interested in working with you, it won't be for a while – they'll get back to you when things change.
Or perhaps they've chosen to go with a competitor. One you know won't do as good a job as you.
If it does, you're not alone. This scenario is played out time and time again for consultants, coaches and other professionals worldwide.
It happened to me again and again, until I learned three key lessons about why you lose sales. Not that it never happens now. But it happens an awful lot less.
The Top 3 Reasons You Lose Sales
Reason 1: Not Bringing Any New Insights.
These days many clients come to the table already having a clear picture in their minds of what they need and what kind of solution they want.
They may not be an expert like you – but they do their research on the web and come to you with some pretty clear needs laid out.
So you tell them about how you can meet their needs, and how you can deliver the solution they're looking for.
The trouble is, if all you're doing is telling the client that you can meet the needs they've explained to you and can provide the solution they already think they want – then you're a commodity.
Every service provider can tell the clients they'll meet their needs and provide the solution they're looking for. That means all the client has to go on to differentiate between you is price.
Of course, you'll tell them about your great service and people. Your brilliant testimonials and feedback. But everyone can say that.
You can list your USPs and differentiatiors. But the client's not interested in that. They just want to know whether you can meet their needs.
So how can you escape being painted into this corner?
You've got to bring new insights to the table. You've got to get them to change their minds about their needs or the solutions they want.
You've got to dig deeper than just asking the client what their needs are.
You've got to identify and highlight problems or opportunities they didn't know they had.
You've got to suggest different, better solutions than the ones they came up with.
If you can do this, then you're actually adding value. And you're differentiating yourself from your competitors in a real and meaningful way.
You're proposing different solutions to issues the client didn't initially specify. So your solution looks very different (and better) to your competitors.
Now doing this is not easy. You have to really know your stuff. You have to be able to challenge the client without insulting them. You have to be able to think on the spot.
But you must do it. Otherwise you're just competing on price.
(Reason #2 is here and reason #3 is here)