Your Team Doesn’t Have a Closing Problem
One of the most common requests we receive at The Brooks Group is for sales negotiation training on closing techniques. Too many sales managers think their team has a closing problem, when in reality, they have a prospecting problem.
Most salespeople believe the old adage: if you tell your story to enough people, some of them will buy. While this is obviously true to a degree, no one wants to spend time throwing mud against the wall anymore to see what sticks.
If your team is having a hard time closing deals, it’s time for you to back up and analyze how they’re prospecting.
All Prospects Start as Suspects
Your salespeople should be acutely aware of your company’s criteria for a qualified prospect. We believe qualified prospects have the following characteristics:
- Awareness of a need
- The authority and ability to buy or commit
- A sense of urgency to buy
- Trust in your salesperson and your organization
- A willingness to listen
- Strategic alignment with your organization (this one’s a bonus)
Until a person meets all the above criteria, they are still a suspect. The objective is to qualify them so they can become an actual prospect.
To put it plainly, suspects need to be qualified. Prospects need to be presented with solutions and asked to buy. The majority of closing issues arise when salespeople pitch solutions to individuals who have not yet been fully qualified.
So, the first thing you should do when a salesperson tells you about a deal that’s stuck in their pipeline is find out if the prospect has been properly qualified.
Six Keys for Effective Prospecting
Once your team has mastered the criteria for what makes a qualified prospect, they’ll be ready to go out and start qualifying! Here are six keys to maximizing their productivity.
1. Treat prospecting as the lifeblood of your sales career.
So many salespeople try to go too far with too few. They create pressure for themselves at the end of fiscal periods and wind up offering discounts in exchange for orders. They’re not profitable, unhappy, give away their company’s profit, and make life difficult for their sales managers.
A great low-pressure way to hold people accountable to this is to simply talk about it. Your people will live up to your expectations, and they’ll gauge your expectations by the things you talk about.
2. Treat prospecting as your most valuable time management tool.
Don’t let your team waste time working with unqualified prospects. Yes, they need to always be qualifying suspects into prospects, but they should not be presenting solutions or trying to close anyone who isn’t 100% qualified.
Make it a point during your one-on-ones not to strategize with a rep on how to close a prospect who isn’t qualified. Directly ask reps “what makes you think this is a qualified prospect?” You can also ask pointed questions to ensure all five characteristics have been met:
- What is their pressing need? Did they tell you that, or did you assume it?
- Do they have the authority and ability to buy?
- What is causing their sense of urgency?
- How do you know they trust you?
- How do you know they’re willing to listen to you?
If a rep can’t answer these questions, they’re not done qualifying. They need to figure out how to get the answers or consider whether the suspect will ever be qualified. For example, it’s possible a suspect hasn’t indicated that they have a sense of urgency, because they don’t.
Don’t waste time with sloppy or haphazard prospecting.
3. Use the CRM to get organized.
Make sure your CRM is set up to your advantage. Create a short answer text field where reps can enter a brief explanation for why a prospect is qualified. This is especially useful for newer reps or ones who need to work on their prospecting.
4. Always be on the alert for prospects.
One of the key recommendations from our What Works in Prospecting whitepaper is that sellers should identify and monitor relevant trigger events or indicators that signal a potential buyer’s need for their product or service.
For instance, someone who sells construction equipment could track building permits as a trigger event, which will help direct their prospecting process toward greater efficiency and effectiveness.
5. Stay in constant touch with active suspects.
In the same research for the above whitepaper, we found that on average, salespeople miss out on 11% of active buyers because they take silence for a no. Reps who are in new business development roles (as opposed to reps dedicated to growing existing accounts, or reps who have to do both) capture those active buyers because they don’t stop outreach until after 9-11 touchpoints.
The most ironic finding is that salespeople reported they don’t expect buyers to respond until five contact attempts have been made, yet on average they give up after only four!
A prospecting strategy includes ideas of the value you will provide during your outreach. For example, you could share a whitepaper, send an email with an article, call to ask if they’ll be attending a particular tradeshow, etc. It’s much easier to make those outreach attempts when what to say has already been decided.
6. Keep upgrading your prospecting system and techniques.
In a perfect world, your team would know the perfect questions they could ask every time to qualify a prospect quickly and effectively.
Unfortunately, people respond differently to the same questions. A question that gets one prospect talking might not work well with a different prospect.
The key is to develop a list of open-ended questions and follow a process. Reps should always know what they’re trying to accomplish and try different strategies to get there. For example, they could use a three-deep questioning strategy to try and get a quiet suspect talking.
The Most Vital Aspect of Sales
Remember, the most vital aspect of sales is seldom the close. The work your reps do before they sit down at the negotiation table will have a greater impact on their closing ratio than anything else.
Check out our award-winning IMPACT Sales Training if you need help developing a solid strategy encompassing everything from prospecting to closing. In two days, you can give your team a live, instructor-led training that’s been taught to over one million sales professionals to help them transform their sales careers from average into extraordinary.
Check out our Sales How To Hub for additional insight on this topic with exclusive access to our Sales Leader Coaching Videos and tools!