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Sales Strategy
Bob Beck lock

We all make mistakes when selling our product or service. Here are the most common sales mistakes people make. Early in my career I have to admit I have made many of these mistakes.

Sales Mistake #1: Allowing a prospect to lead the sales process. As you know the best way to control the sales interaction is to apply a quid pro quo sales approach. You want to establish a reasonable give and take relationship with your prospects early in the sales cycle. Selling is about relationships. Too many time sales people put themselves in a subservient position and let prospect run allover them. You would never let any other person in their life get away with this so why let prospects? If prospects are in control how can you impact the closing date thus have an accurate forecast?

Who can think of an example where this has happened to you and would like to share?

Sales Mistake #2: Not completing pre-call research. One of our students tells us, "After several weeks of voice mail I finally connected with my prospect and scheduled a meeting. Unfortunately, I entered the meeting without first researching the company or the person I was meeting with. Instead of presenting a solution to an existing problem, I spent the entire meeting learning fundamental information, which to senior executives, is a complete waste of their time." This approach is one of most common sales mistakes. Invest the time learning about your prospect both professionally and personally before you call them and before you try to schedule a meeting. I have actually seen deals forecasted before the first presentation has been done.

Always check support logs, search for recent headlines and communicate with the services director before visiting a customer.

Sales Mistake #3: Talking too much. Too many salespeople talk too much during the sales interaction. They espouse about your products, its features, services you offer and so on. When I first bought new computers for my business I recall speaking to a sales- person who told me how long he had been in the business, how smart he was, how good his computers were, etc. But this dialogue did nothing to convince me that I should buy from him. Instead, I walked away thinking that he did not care about my specific needs. A friend of mine is in the advertising business often talks to prospects who initially request a quote. Instead of talking at great length about the ad agency's experience and qualifications, he gets the potential client talking about their business before even requesting a meeting. By doing this he is able to determine the most effective strategy and solutions for that prospect. You will be able to create a relationship of mutual respect and work together toward a date to sign the agreement.

Talking too much also applies to presales, services and anyone else that you might include in the sales cycle. Remind yourself as well as others to listen and only address the questions that are asked. We often ramble which sometimes opens the door for additional questions that would not have been asked otherwise.

Sales Mistake #4: Giving the prospect information that is irrelevant. When I worked in the corporate world I was subjected to countless presentations where the salesperson shared information that was completely meaningless to me. I don't care about your financial backing or who your clients are. Make the most of your presentation by telling prospects how they will benefit from your product or service by relating it to both to personal and professional needs. Sometime prospects are so nice they just tell you what you want to hear. You have to validate what they are telling you and validate the date they say they will sign by. Make the prospect sell you on why the deal has to be done on a certain date. If they can't it is probably premature to forecast the opportunity.

Always ask the question "SO WHAT"

Sales Mistake #5: Not being prepared. I remember a salesperson in one of our  classes telling me she was calling a prospect expecting to receive his voicemail. That meant she was completely unprepared when he answered the phone himself. Instead of asking him a series of qualifying questions she simply responded to his questions, allowing the prosect to control the sale. Unfortunately, she didn't progress any further than that initial call. When you make a cold call or attend a meeting with a prospect it is critical that you are prepared. This means having all relevant information at your fingertips including, testimonials, samples, and a list of questions you need to ask. I suggest creating a checklist of the vital information you will need and reviewing this list before you make your call. If it is a newly assigned account, you have exactly one opportunity to make a great first impression and you will not make it if you are not prepared. If you are hosting a call or presentation, it only takes one mistake to lose the deal. Always be prepared by constantly anticipating or role playing how the customer will respond or what questions they will ask; BE PREPARED. Forecasting deals like this is always just wishing and hoping you will turn it around in the time frame you have forecasted.

Sales Mistake #6: Neglecting to ask for the sale. When you sell software and services, you have the obligation to ask the prospect for a commitment by a specific date. If you have invested time and resources assessing their needs and know that your software and services will solve their issues, you earned the right to ask and expect an answer. Many people are concerned with coming across as pushy but as long as you ask for the sale in a non-threatening, confident manner, people will usually respond favorably. If you don't ask for the business and nail down a date it is almost impossible to have an accurate forecast.

Sales Mistake #7: Failing to prospect. This is one of the most common mistakes independent business make. When business is good many people stop prospecting, thinking that the flow of business will continue. However, the most successful salespeople prospect all the time. They schedule prospecting time in their agenda every week and measure what techniques net results and which are a waste of time. This is part of the franchise plan requirement. It is really the corner stone to all plans. You have to know what works for you and what does not. By measuring this and have a prospecting discipline, it is much easier to have accurate forecasts.

Sales Mistake #8: Quality questions that uncover specific issues, problems, or corporate objectives are essential in helping you establish yourself as an expert. This is also the best way to learn whether or not your product or service meets the needs of your prospect. Qualifying is the most important part of the sales cycle as we have discussed. The other key is to qualify the decision- maker. If you aren't talking to decision makers, it is impossible to have an accurate forecast. You should never forecast any opportunity, until you have validated what you think, have been told, feel etc. with THE decision maker.

Sales Mistake #9: Many times salespeople do not differentiate themselves. The most effective way to do this is to relate to the person you are selling to. You have to understand and be able to relate the decision maker. Remember decision-makers buy because they are understood not because they understand about your product or services. Once you do this it is easy to either uncover the pending event or create one with a time frame attached to it.

Sales Mistake #10: The best sales people employ a "Franchise Mentality" to their vertical or territory. This part of your culture, but at the end of the day you are in business for yourself. If your pipeline is weak, you will be compelled to chase unqualified opportunities and forecast a wish list versus real deals. I see very few reps actually run their area as if it was their own business. The ones that do are usually consistently on top. If you manage your time and activities much differently, you would see better result and have forecasts that are more accurate.

Sales forecasting is especially difficult when you don't have any previous sales history to guide you, as part of writing your business plan you will have to determine a forecast and have the supporting logic to show how you will obtain the results.

There are all sorts of ways to estimate sales revenues for the purposes of sales forecasting.

One point to remember when sales forecasting is, that if you are employing a true franchise mentality as if you plan to work with a bank for financing your business, you will want to do multiple estimates. This will give you more confidence in your sales forecast. How do you do this?

Sales Forecasting Method #1
Many sales managers and salespeople get too focused on the numbers, the accounts, the deals, etc. The most effective and consistent way to forecast is focus on the activities. There are many ways to acquire revenue from cold calling, direct mail, networking, seminars, etc. The list is endless. Determine what activities you are going to invest your time in and forecast what you expect the result of each activity to be. You will have to measure your success or failure to determine what adjustments you will have to make along the way. By focusing and managing the right activity will results in the numbers you are looking for. Action plans will help you determine where your time should be spent.

Sales Forecasting Method #2
Determine what is the average sales volume/deal size is in a territory of similar size? This isn't the final answer for adequate sales forecasting, since a new business won't hit that target for a while. But this approach is far more scientific than a general 2 per cent figure based others performance.

Sales Forecasting Method #3
For your specific territory determine how many prospects needing your software do you have targeted? How much will they spend on software annually, and what percentage of their spending will you get, compared to competitors?

Sales Forecasting Method #4
Make an estimate of where you think you'll be in six months (such as "I should be selling five deals a quarter") and calculate what your year will be. Tie each marketing activity you are going invest your time in to a result. Pretty soon you will be able to accurate determine your success rate and sales cycle for each activity, thus making it easier to forecast accurately.

Don't Just Do One Sales Forecast #5
Instead of forecasting annual or quarterly sales as a single figure, use one or two of the sales forecasting methods above and generate three figures: pessimistic, optimistic, and realistic. Then put the figures in by month, as depending on your business, there could be HUGE variations by month. You will have to defend the one you go with. If you are doing everything correctly, including controlling the sales cycle this will not be difficult. If you're going to a bank for financing for you franchise, be able to answer questions such as, have you made an allowance for delays in the decision process, for your slow months, but also in case you have to quickly replace a deal in your forecast is your pipeline robust enough to move an opportunity forward?

How specifically will you grow your franchise quarter after quarter-- selling more to existing customers, selling existing products to new customers, selling new products to existing customers, and selling new products in order to attract new customers? We are going to want to see if you've got a real plan and if your forecast as reasonable logic in it.


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