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Critical Skills For Sales Leaders - The 6 Key Elements of Wrapping Up the Sales

Author: Ian Segail

If you asked the majority of salespeople what "Wrapping Up the Sale" means, they will in most cases say it means to "close the sale". "Wrapping up the Sale" starts at the beginning of the sales cycle - most sales are lost at "Hello!"

Reaching an agreement or "clinching the deal", tying up all the loose ends, and getting to a yes decision is a critical selling capability in the sales process. As a salesperson, even getting a "No" decision is preferable to holding onto a "China egg" (an egg that will never hatch!). However, there is more to "Wrapping Up the Sale" than meets the eye.

The 6 Key Elements of Wrapping up the Sale

Assuming you have laid a firm foundation to the sale by qualifying your prospect, effectively discovering and helping the customer to self-discover their needs, and clearly demonstrating how your product/service meets the needs of all parties concerned with the decision, then there are 6 key elements involved in "Wrapping Up the Sale". These include:

1. Resolving concerns

2. Negotiating

3. Reaching an agreement

4. Implementation Plan

5. Follow up

6. Repeat business & referral strategy

Resolving Concerns

Prospects and customers present concerns and objections when they don't understand or agree with the claims you are making about your products and services. Many salespeople disengage from selling at this point and concede the victory to the prospect. Top salespeople, on the other hand, consider concerns and objections raised by the customer merely as a roadblock and an opportunity to question the prospect further and gather more data about their issue, with a view to further educating them on how they can help to solve their problem or dilemma.

Some concerns and objections may simply be intended to disarm you. However, if you panic in response to a concern that is a sincere obstacle, you may lose the prospect's confidence. The key is to:

First, concentrate on identifying the foundation of the prospect's or customer's concern. Is it a fear of buying something new? A pricing issue? A lack of technical knowledge? A lack of credibility or capability?

Second, because many customer concerns and objections are either covert or unspoken, or based on unclear requirements, further probing can reveal what you need to learn to satisfy their needs and wants. Objections are simply data requests - neither good, nor bad!

Third, when you allow the prospect to express the negative and unfavourable aspects of your offer, it brings the issues out into the open and allows you the opportunity understand the customer's uncertainty and provide the pertinent information to resolve it.

To help resolve issues, a great strategy is to include the customer in the solution process, as they're likely to prefer a solution in which they were involved. When you stop trying to overcome objections and instead work and partner with your prospect as a consultant or coach, you will be far more effective (and less fearful).

Negotiating

How you handle your selling negotiations will determine two key things:

  • Whether you bring home the sale and
  • At what margin you bring home the sale

Many salespeople mistakenly believe that negotiating is something you do at or near the end of the sale. Being an effective sales negotiator begins with your first contact with your customer or prospect. Your prospect is evaluating you; your company and the value of your product/service, right from the moment you make first make contact. Your goal is to be able to clearly demonstrate the value your solution will provide and negotiate a profitable agreement with the customer. There are a number of factors from your customer's perspective that have an influence on the outcome of your sales negotiation:

  • What is the extent of your customer's problem or pain?
  • How much do they want your solution?
  • How do they perceive the value of your expertise?
  • How specialised or unique is your solution?
  • How urgent is their need?
  • How much would they be willing to pay to solve their problem?
  • How much do they perceive your solution as merely a commodity with you as just another vendor?
  • How large is their risk quotient?
  • How much do they like you and/or your company?
  • What is their timing need?
  • How much do they need to WIN?
  • Can they approve the sale?

When you consider the above points, you see that your role as a negotiator proceeds all the way through the sales process. Your role is to constantly probe and seek out information that may be invaluable later should issues like price, terms, quality, delivery, etc. have to be negotiated. Don't wait until you're in the last round to begin negotiating! Remember that as a sales negotiator it is very important for both you and the customer to come away feeling positive about the experience. At the end of the day, the chances are very good that you will want, or need, to do business together in the future.

Reaching an Agreement

Assuming you have laid the groundwork correctly by uncovering and answering the prospect's needs and concerns during the diagnosis and capability presentation phase of the sales process, then "closing the sale" becomes a mere formality as opposed to an overworked and stressful affair for both buyer and seller. If you are struggling to close sales, you will need to examine your current methods for discovering your customer's needs and requirements and the way you demonstrate the value of your product or service.

Before you attempt to "close" the sale ask yourself "Do I know..."

  • The problems the customer wishes to solve
  • The objectives/goals the customer wishes to achieve
  • Company issues that will be impacted by the decision
  • Personal issues that will be impacted by the decision
  • Financial issues - What funding is available to solve these issues? What or who else is being considered?
  • Time frames
  • Buying influences - Who makes and impacts on the decision?
  • Decision Criteria - How are decisions made? What are the Next Steps? and
  • Have I clearly demonstrated my and my company's capability to meet the needs and specifications of the customer?

Implementation Plan - Sell back from the date they need it

When salespeople and their managers get together and discuss where the "sale is at" within the sales cycle, they tend to focus on what the next steps are to bring the sale to a conclusion. Their focus is on the "close date". However, to the customer, what is most important is the implementation or use date. It is vitally important that you work with end users and buyers in a collaborative effort to identify and work towards their implementation date. In other words, find out when your customer needs the product or service you are selling and then work back from that date to make a case for why closing now is important.

"Salespeople sell forward - but buyers buy backward" Skip Miller

The professional salesperson:

  • Works with the customer's buying schedule, which begins from the implementation date.
  • Identifies the activities and actions the customer must accomplish prior to the implementation date.
  • Gains agreement from the customer on the actions they must accomplish prior to the implementation date.
  • Sets their selling plans, scheduling them to align with the steps in the customer's timeline, working backwards from the date of implementation.
  • Uses the implementation date as a means of accessing senior managers and users (to clearly understand their implementation and other core issues).
  • Selling to the customer's implementation date allows you to accurately set your sales milestones and forecasts. It is also a great tool for bringing your proposals to life because it will include implementation considerations when many organisations only consider implementation after the purchase

Follow Up

Much of your success in selling can be attributed to what you do after you've made the sales call or the sale. Constant and persistent follow up is the key.

We work and live at a very hectic pace and the prospect or customer who hasn't called you back might well be interested in your product/service, but they just haven't gotten back to you yet. There is a great quote from Patricia Fripp, which says, "It is not your customer's responsibility to remember you, but your responsibility to ensure they never forget you."

The frequency and amount of follow up required is very dependent on the complexity of what you sell and the lifetime value of a customer in your industry. Research demonstrates that most potential customers or prospects won't buy the first time they meet with you. On average, they have to encounter a marketing or sales message on at least 5-7 occasions before making a purchasing decision. This makes follow-up an essential ingredient in the selling process.

Mark Victor Hansen said, "Don't think it, ink it". When you rely on your memory you are very likely to forget. Imagine for a minute that your brain was like a PC. What happens if you open too many windows on your PC? Eventually the system gets clogged and clunky and in some cases will just freeze! Something as critical to your sales success as follow up, should not be left to your memory; it simply doesn't work. The best and most effective sales and business people have developed their own follow up system to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Follow-up isn't just about selling; it's about developing relationships.

Efficient follow-up demonstrates that both you and your company have your acts together and really care about ensuring customer satisfaction. However, a large percentage of salespeople don't conduct sales follow-up. Afraid of what they might hear, they avoid the follow-up, often blaming their busy schedules for not getting to it.

During follow-up, it's important to ask open-ended questions and then listen. Asking open-ended questions gives you an opportunity to gather more information from the prospect to pinpoint his or her needs accurately. Ask questions that begin with; who, what, when or how many. Ask something that will engage the prospect and get them talking. Ask "How did you feel about what was included?" as opposed to "Did you get my proposal?" Or "Did it all make sense?"

Your follow-up should convey:

  • I am still interested in you and your current concerns and opportunities.
  • I have something specific and valuable to contribute that would benefit you and or your company.
  • I look forward to hearing from you soon.

A consistent, well-executed follow-up system that keeps past clients and customers close is the most effective method of ensuring a steady flow of referrals and repeat business. Whatever follow-up system you adopt, make sure it's easy to use or implement. All too often, when the system becomes too complicated or unwieldy it gets sidelined and placed in the "too hard" basket. A good follow-up system is essential for building a healthy pipeline. Take the onus off yourself as far as trying to remember things and build a system to do it. If your company already has an effective CRM system, use it. If not, develop your own. It is up to you as a responsible salesperson to drive the sales process; therefore, you must drive your own follow-up system.

Repeat Business and Referral Strategy

Today the best salespeople, selling to both Business-to-Business and individuals, are constantly looking to increase their focus and effort on attracting repeat and referral business. Most astute business people understand that customer loyalty is the most vital aspect of their business because their organisations will live or die from repeat business. No company can exist without customer loyalty and retention.

Customer retention is well known to be much cheaper than customer acquisition. As a result, top salespeople place a big focus on their customer retention and customer relationship management strategies. They constantly look at improving the share of business coming from their existing customer base.

Information technology helps both companies and their salespeople to achieve customer loyalty by providing tools for analysing customer data. This assists with making informed decisions, as well as managing the customer relationships from the sales process all the way through to fulfilment and ongoing follow-up support.

A customer's repeat business is earned by the salesperson that continually provides their customers with what they want. Without effective strategies or processes for consistently offering customers more of what they want, repeat business is earned less frequently. When you communicate news and offers frequently to both past and present customers via telephone, mail or email, it generally increases the frequency of repurchase and is a powerful step salespeople must take to grow their business.

Effective referral strategies

Referral marketing is a vital part of your sales strategy that you cannot afford to do without. Every salesperson knows that one of the most effective ways to grow their business is through referrals, yet most salespeople do not have a means of generating an ongoing source of referrals.

Referrals work because they come from a trusted source that has already benefited from your product/service and yet has no vested interest in your business. The recommendation is independent and unsolicited. In sales terms this means a rapid conversion rate. The sales process is rapidly accelerated because the service or product has already been tried and tested by a reputable third party.

As a salesperson asking for, and getting, referrals is a powerful and low-cost way of building or developing your career. It is a simple approach, which feeds on its own success, but has to be built on secure foundations. Most salespeople don't get enough referrals because of one obstacle - they don't ask for them! An effective referral generation program will take care of this problem by creating a system that generates a steady stream of referrals from your network.

Referral marketing is simple: if you provide excellent products or services that people need, they tell others of their experience. Those others will trust you and want to do business with you because of the recommendation of the original, satisfied customer.

About the Author:

As one of Australia's leading authorities and coaches in sales management, Ian Segail has been involved in the coaching, training and development of sales managers and salespeople for over two decades. Drawing on 25 years of experience in sales, sales management and leading an HR and training team, Ian brings a strong dose of fiscal reality and practicality to his works as a Sales Performance Coach. Engaging directly with business owners and both novice and experienced sales managers alike, across a wide variety of industries and selling disciplines, the focus of Ian's work is to transform sales results for companies by improving sales management practices. Ian is the author of "Bulletproof Your Sales Team - The 5 Keys To Turbo-Boosting Your Sales Team's Results" and a number of business articles, business reports and white papers including "The fish stinks from the head!" and "Why Sales Training Doesn't Work." Ian has an insatiable hunger for studying selling and people management and has passionately pursued answers to the question "How come some people can sell and most can't?" Ian blogs about sales team coaching and performance management at

www.salestutor.com.au

Article Source: ArticlesBase.com - Critical Skills For Sales Leaders - The 6 Key Elements of Wrapping Up the Sale

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