When you’re selling, it can be hard to let go. You like the client, you see long-term potential, and you think you’ve got a good sized opportunity. But, when that deal doesn’t happen it’s frustrating to consider all the time spent. When multiplying this across your team as a sales manager, you’re looking at dozens or hundreds of hours each week spent on opportunities that aren’t going to happen.
Sales managers often spend time coaching reps on overcoming objections as they get uncovered. The problem is that a salesperson can spend an awful lot of time working an opportunity only to get faced with an objection too late in the process. The earlier you can address the objection the better, and many times, you’re better to head it off so you’re controlling the process. Smoke it out!
Here is an effective sales training process to address this issue, and get everyone working together and learning from each other. You can do the following in about an hour, so consider this a topic for your next weekly sales meeting.
- Open with Empathy. Explain that you understand how frustrating it is to lose an opportunity, and that nobody likes to look back on all the time spent on an opportunity that didn’t convert. We’d all rather spend more time winning!
- Why Don’t Opportunities Convert? Ask everyone to share why recent opportunities didn’t convert into a win. It may help to have a list handy of recent lost opportunities that you can ask about. Ask people to shout things out, and put them up on a whiteboard. Don’t spend too much time on any specific opportunity; you’re looking for a quick summary.
- Rank the List. Now go back through and rank the list by restating each one and asking people to raise their hand if they experience that one often. This will quickly get you a top 3-5.
- The Surprise Question. The team is going to expect you to start talking about how to overcome each one – why your quality is better than the next guy’s, why your premium is justified, why your service is better, etc. But, this is where you’ll surprise them when you say, “These are all legitimate reasons for a client not to buy. What I’d like to know is what we can do earlier in the sales process to uncover and address these. If we’re going to lose a deal for these reasons, I’d rather know that before putting too much time into the opportunity.”
- Brainstorm Ideas.Start with an easy one, and ask for ideas (make sure someone is taking notes). As an example, one of the reasons you’ll probably have on the short list is “we were too expensive.” So ask the team what they could do to uncover that earlier in their discussions with the client. If you’re going to lose on price, would you rather know in your first 30-minute conversation and joinlty agree to that with the client, or after you’ve poured in hours writing a proposal, presenting the proposal, putting it in your forecast, talking about it in your weekly pipeline meeting, and following up 5 to 7 times? If you know that your offering is more expensive than competitors’, or that the client is very budget focused, then bring it up first.I’ve heard reps in early conversations say things like, “This sounds like a great opportunity and is right in the center of the target for us. Just to make sure we’re both on the same page, based on what you shared, I would estimate this is going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 to $50,000. I can keep things simple and keep it on the low end, or add some other ideas that could really make an impact taking it to the high end of that range. Our company is rarely the lowest cost option, but we can be flexible if we can work together on the scope of the project. Are we in the right ballpark there?” You’re reps will likely be surprised at the response. Most clients won’t say, “Yeah, you’re too expensive. Never mind.” If they do, all the better because you can move on. What’s more likely is they’ll tell you what they want to see in the proposal, including your ideas on a more expensive option.
- Just Try It. Get through as many as you can, but your goal is to just start somewhere. At the end of the session, ask everyone to try just one of the ideas over the next week and then report back at next week’s meeting.
- How Did It Feel? At next week’s meeting, ask people to share how it went. Not just how clients reacted, but also how it felt for the rep. Were they uncomfortable bringing up the objection themselves? Do they want to brainstorm a better way to ask? How did the clients react?
- Keep at It. Keep refining and encouraging people to keep at it. It will take a good three to four weeks to make it a habit and part of their natural sales process.
This is all about coaching your team with sales skills to LEAD the sales process. Leading means you are helping your client work through the buying process, helping them make an informed decision, and making sure nobody (including yourself) is wasting their time.