Posted 11th September 2012.
Today's blog post is a guest article from Michael Zipursky. A good friend and real expert in marketing and sales for consultants and other professionals. Take a special look at the “Clear A Path” section – simple to do but an area where most people go wrong.
Get Unstuck and Shorten Your Sales Cycle
It's not uncommon for consultants and independent professionals to find their pipeline full of leads and prospective business, though not enough of that business is being closed.
Imagine a funnel being filled with small marbles from the wide end at the top. Each one represents a potential client and project. You know that the majority of these should be coming out the bottom in the form of a sale…yet nothing is moving.
When you find yourself in this situation, it's important to sit back and analyze the situation. Often one or more issues are at play. Once you deal with the issues it's like you've greased up all the marbles and they start coming out the bottom at a quick rate.
So how do you identify the problem in your sales cycle to fix it and grow your business?
Here are several strategies to help you get started…
Houston, We Have A Problem
In fact, maybe you have more than one. The problem I'm talking about however is not a problem with YOUR business. I’m referring to the problem your prospective client is facing. Once you've identified the real issue they are having, you can ensure that you focus your language and communications so that you're addressing it. To uncover what's really going on and how big of a problem the issue is, consultant and author Andrew Sobel suggests asking questions like: ” “What is this costing you right now?”; “If you don’t fix this problem, what will the consequences be?”; “What do you think this opportunity is worth to your organization?”; “What other issues is this causing for you?”; and “Would you say this is one of your top two or three priorities?” As soon as you've discovered the real issue and what it is worth to your prospective client you will be well on your way to moving the sales cycle along.
Clear A Path
Neglecting to outline the steps involved in the sales process clearly for the client is a mistake many consultants make. At the end of every meeting you need to inform the client what the next step is and when it will happen. In addition, you'll find it valuable to walk them through a step-by-step of what your sales process is. That may be starting with an Analysis, and then on to a Review Meeting, then a Recommendation Session with Discussion on Investment and so on. The better your prospective client understands your process the more likely they will be to move along it.
You are THE Authority
Another common challenge you may face is questions around your authority. If a prospective client doesn't have full trust in you, they will find it very difficult to engage you. In fact, this is one of the key reasons sales cycles can take so long. If the client is not convinced that you clearly are the best option for them, they will put off making a purchase. In this situation you need to do all that you can to educate and provide value to your prospective client to prove to them that you are an authority, that you get results and that they can trust you. Think case studies, testimonials, reports, demonstrations.
Shrink The Table
If you've ever sat a boardroom table and had a feeling that too many people are present you know what I'm hinting at with this point. When you are moving a prospective client through the sales cycle, it's critical that you are speaking directly with the decision maker. Anyone that doesn't need to be there ideally shouldn't be. If they can add value to the conversation and process, then value their input and attendance. If not, focus your energy on speaking directly with the decision maker. You will find that as soon as you talk to the right person and get on the same page with them, the whole sales cycle will speed up.
Sometimes asking a simple question can provide you with extremely powerful information. For example, “What would we need to have ready in order for us to start this project at the beginning of next month?” The goal here is to figure out what your prospective client's real objections are. You can then figure out how to remove those objections and create a clear route to win the project.
It's a great question, right? If there is no scarcity involved then your prospective client has no reason to move quickly. Scarcity doesn't have to be a ‘limited-time offer'. It can be something as simple as “We can only accept 2 new projects next month so if you want to do this soon it would be best to get moving quickly…” Or scarcity can be focused more on the company. “How much is this issue costing your company each day it is not dealt with?” If it's a big problem, finding a solution and having it implemented ASAP becomes valuable.
By looking at your current sales cycle and your prospective client and referencing each of these points you'll be able to uncover the current roadblocks in your path, remove them, and be well on your way to closing more sales.
Michael Zipursky is a strategy and lead-generation consultant, author, and founder of Consulting Success, a leading resource to help you become a consultant, and FreshGigs.ca, a jobsite for marketing and creative professionals in Canada.