In the 20+ years we have been working with sales managers and salespeople, a constant need is sales opportunity strategy advice. One of the main roles of a Sales Manager is to help train your salespeople on how to stay on track during a sales cycle. Each company will have unique domain, market and competitor background but fundamentally, in each case it is knowing what questions to ask.
During any sales opportunity coaching sessions consider asking these three questions with any sales opportunity:
- Why do anything?
- Why now?
- Why with us?
Let’s explore these, acknowledging the answers can’t all be known at the beginning of a sales opportunity but focusing on answering them is critical to maintain focus and winning the sale.
Why do anything?
Any person and organization has a myriad of priorities. Going through a buying decision whether for marketing services, new equipment or office space, is a major commitment that may include multiple people and maybe competing with multiple priorities. So how will your prospect justify the effort and invest the time? Often, the buyer has latent pain – they know they need to do something but they may not know what they need to know or how to decide. They almost certainly don’t want to speak with a salesperson without a strong sense of what they need and whether it is affordable. This presents your first challenge – how to help the potential buyer to answer the question – Why do anything?
Therefore, marketing and sales campaigns which provide the prospect with honest content where the buyer can educate themselves is vital. Your sales team’s prospecting activities (emails, phone calls) should leverage this content and assist in identifying the issues and required capabilities. Blogs, webinars, case studies as all examples of content that may be beneficial to the prospect as long as it is not overtly self-serving.
Once they engage with a prospect, top sales professionals know they can both help the prospect and increase their company’s potential sales success through a deeper discovery phase. Exploring unexpressed potential needs, linking the implications of the current issues with other functions within the enterprise and tying the project to corporate objectives will both help the prospect build momentum internally and differentiate your offering. This is critical to begin to build your “business case” for taking action.
Consider again the myriad priorities within the prospect company and the limited availability for executive support and investment capital or expense. To win the business requires more than beating your competition – you need to help your prospect communicate the importance of this initiative and gain internal approval. Perhaps this project is critical to retain a key customer, or comply with upcoming regulations. It may require a formal cost justification and follow a capital approval procedure. If the prospect does not have experience or insight to elevating the importance of your sale within the company and how to navigate the approval cycle, you will either have to help them or accept the consequences. Tools to assist your prospect such as payback models, use cases and template presentations can be both valuable and appreciated.
Timing is important, as knowing when the solution to fix the “pain” must be implemented and begin operation can drive the prospect’s sense of urgency to purchase.
Why with us?
Successful salespeople develop a competitive strategy starting at prospect qualification, refining and adjusting through the Discovery stage. What are the issues and capabilities that your company has helped the prospect uncover and how do you prove the ability to deliver? Are they unique and important to the prospect? Can the competition respond?
Often the committee will meet many days or weeks after all the vendor presentations. Summarizing the issues, the capabilities you offered and how these were received by the team and communicating to all of the committee members could be your last opportunity to stand apart. Whenever possible, these documents should be personalized.
As a Sales Manager, is it important to have your team act professionally, staying aligned throughout with the prospect’s buying process and possibly added value as it has progressed? Remember, as the point of vendor selection nears, the buyer’s sense of risk rises. How you understand and respond to this state may be the deciding factor amongst the prospects choices.
During the life of any complex sales opportunity it is sometimes difficult to for a salesperson to keep their arms around the abundance of information, questions, insights and tactics. Consider these three questions as their guide. Regularly reviewing each opportunity with these questions and honestly facing the answers, will provide the salesperson and sales manager the insights to adjust the opportunity strategy. Training your sales team to crisply communicate opportunity status to executives within your company via these three questions will both be appreciated and demonstrate your team’s competence and professionalism.
If you would like an additional set of “Magic Questions for Sales Managers”, Ken@AcumenMgmt.com