Friday, December 31, 2010

Slow Down, Sell Faster

I am really enjoying the snow. It is gorgeous out this morning. The snow is still clean, the air is brisk. The stars are bright but fading. Beautiful.

I have really enjoyed this past week. Email, meetings, travel and call volume have all been much lower than usual. I notice my pace has dropped.

It is in these periods of low rush that my creativity tends to be the highest. Much of my life is spent in a rush.

I think of productivity a bit as a funnel. If there are lots of things coming in the top, that creates pressure and helps things move out the bottom more quickly. This is where my Time Management systems kick in to make sure I am getting the right things done.

So during this slower time, I do notice my productivity is lower. So one technique I have used is to pile more in the top of the funnel by creating new projects and new deadlines. I know I work better with a bit of deadline pressure.

But the offset is the lower creativity. So I am thinking I need to devise ways to slow down a bit. Unfortunately, that usually means being more ruthless about the calls and meetings that I take. It goes against my "don't be rude" meter but I think for me it makes sense.

This slow period ties in well to a book by Kevin Davis - Slow Down, Sell Faster - Understand your Customer's buying process and maximize your sales.

Slow Down emphasizes what we all know - knowledge is key. Seek first to listen. understanding a customers' needs helps sell way more than prematurely pitching.

It is a good book. Well written. I would consider it a must read for anyone selling big ticket products particularly in a B2B environment.

From a review on Hotelinteractive's site:

1. Avoid talking too soon about your solution. That tactic only gives your competitors an edge because the customer is likely in the middle of the buying process. Essentially, you reach the end of your sales process just as the customer arrives at the point when they start comparison shopping. To sell more and to sell faster, slow down your sales conversations. Get your customers to talk more about their needs, problems and opportunities. That knowledge will help you create a greater urgency for them to take action.

2. Don’t just dance with the one who brought ya! Most major purchasing decisions these days are made by a team of people. You can hit a lot of speed bumps if all your knowledge comes from only one contact. Get to a second and third decision-maker as quickly as you can in the process. Identify all the decision-makers on the complex buying team. Ask your contact, “What other key people should I talk with to gather more information about these problems and needs?"

3. Always seek to identify a second customer need. Why? The first need is the most understood by your customer, while the second need is typically not. Also, the first need may have been identified by your competitor, so by identifying a second need you have a chance to re-define the customer’s solution requirements in your favor.

4. Go down the corporate ladder before going up. Have you been taught to get to executive-level decisions makers as quickly as you can? That’s not bad advice… unless you go there with nothing interesting or important to say about the customer’s business. Going down the organizational chart to talk to users about their challenges and needs can give you insights that will help you deliver a more compelling message to executives.

5. If you are brought into the customer’s buying cycle late in the game, try to diagnose a need that your competitors have missed. That will help you go from laggard to leader in the customer's eyes.

6. Don’t “pitch” differentiators that have no connection to customer needs. Pick your top five differentiators, and first raise the problems those differentiators solve when you talk to a prospect. See where you get a strong reaction. For a differentiator to become a competitive advantage it must be connected to a customer problem.

7. Know at least three reasons why your customer should buy from you. These reasons must be connected to explicit customer needs. Otherwise, you have no right to ask for the customer's business.

8. Keep in close contact with the customer, especially when they are in a comparison mode. If you are asked to deliver a proposal or presentation, the odds are high that the customer is asking other suppliers as well. Talk to your sponsor ahead of time to see if anything has changed. Immediately after a presentation, schedule another appointment with your sponsor.

9. Help your customer define realistic expectations. Ask them: "Six months from today how will you know this decision was a success?"

10. Measure the success of a sales call based on what actions the customer takes afterwards, not by what you did during the meeting. When planning a sales call, then, ask yourself “what specific action do I want my prospect to take after this meeting, and by when?”

11. Convert intangible customer criteria into tangible criteria. You cannot make a case that some feature or capability of your solution is tied to a customer need if you don’t know how that need is defined.

“It’s becoming harder and harder to differentiate yourself based on what you sell because products and services are becoming increasingly alike,” Davis said. “Today’s most successful salespeople and organizations know they need to stand out based on how they sell. Salespeople who slow down each sales conversation end up spending more time with each prospect. Now, when relationships are so important to sales success, having a higher quantity and quality of time with each customer is going to result in higher sales.”


At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Maria Payroll said...

Interesting post. Thank you for sharing those great tips. I do agree that productivity increases when one knows there's a deadline to meet. Though it's always better to finish the work before the deadline. Another thing, if you plan to sell a product, you should know what the customers want.


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