Fewer customers? sell smarter

Let’s face it. When the economy was rocking we had it pretty easy. They we’re buying. We were selling like crazy and so it went. Until it went. Now getting consumers to part with cash is like trying to pull the hood ornament off the new Dodge Challenger….while it’s driving!

With some time on our hands and reinvention in the air, I thought we’d check in with the go-to-guy for sales training and leadership, Keith Rosen. Keith has over twenty years of sales management experience, is a consultant, speaker and author and has been recognized by Inc. magazine and Fast Company as one of the five most influential executive coaches. His latest book, Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions, was named the 2008 Sales Leadership Book of the Year and one of the World's Best Business Books of 2009. Recently, Keith won the Stevie award for being The 2009 Sales Education Leader of the Year.

This is the first of our two-part interview with Keith.

Tell us about your business?

Most of my time is spent working with sales and management teams or working one to one coaching, training and strategizing with sales leaders and executives. Whether that means helping managers develop the missing discipline of leadership and become better coaches through a management coach training program, or helping sales teams and salespeople reinvent and re-engineer their selling process and methodology. Most companies are leveraging me to support their two most important business initiatives today, which are acquiring and retaining customers.

To achieve this, organizations are recognizing the need to make their sales and management team more valuable than ever before. This is accomplished through better sales training and executive coaching. Businesses are finally realizing that in order for their people to sell more, it all starts with the way they're managed. And the simple fact is, you cannot grow with what you already know.

How has selling changed?

Lets face it. In today’s new world and ever-evolving marketplace; order taking and transactional selling are dead. You can no longer rely on your product or service to separate yourself to the point where you’re simply connecting with a prospect or customer and taking their order. After all, virtually anyone can sell in good times. But in new and more challenging times when everyone is more transparent than ever before, this is when our true essence, character, skills and abilities are tested.

The real universal gap that I see after coaching and training thousands of salespeople, regardless of industry or profession, is the set of deeper qualifying and disqualifying questions that need to be asked, which simply aren’t. These are the questions that go beyond uncovering the more obvious criteria that may determine whether or not the person is indeed a likely candidate for your solution, product or service.

I’m referring to the tougher questions salespeople are more reluctant to explore that uncover the prospect’s underlying thinking, the real decision makers involved as well as the decision making process that goes on behind the scenes which most salespeople are unaware of.

Sure, you can ask your prospects the more generic questions about the current products, services, solutions and vendor's they currently use. But what about the questions that facilitate a buying decision; the tougher questions that help you better understand if this prospect is, in fact, even qualified to buy from you now, in the near future or ever?

I’m referring to questions that uncover:

- A deeper understanding of how they buy

- How they make decisions

- The internal workings of the company

- The people and egos involved

- The process they are going to go through when they hang up the phone with you or end the meeting and then attempt to solve the problem or find a new solution on their own using the resources or venders they currently have

- The concerns or roadblocks that you could encounter down the road that would stall or destroy the potential for a sale

- The timely and relevant issues that are going on internally

-The overall mood of the company and its leaders, and so on.

What do you say to folks who are working hard but just not closing business?

Low closing percentages = a misalignment in who you should be presenting to and following up with in the first place.

Instead of challenging the customers in a positive and consultative way, some salespeople operate under a cloak of ambiguity and false hope. Because they don’t have all the data they need that would determine whether or not the selling opportunity is authentic, many wind up investing their time and energy on moving the wrong prospects through their selling cycle.

Now the cost to the salesperson and the company is exponential; lost time spent on the wrong prospects x time not invested uncovering and working with the truly qualified ones.

If you are often left in a state of shock when you lose a sale you thought you had, never hear back from a certain prospect who you thought was great fit or if you’re spending your time guessing, hypothesizing, wondering and justifying why a prospect fell into the growing abyss of lost selling opportunities and stalled sales, I can guarantee you this; it’s because you’re not asking the deeper questions that need to be asked.

To learn more about Keith and his books: Click Here

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com


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