And what to do about it.
You’ve invested in training seminars, you’ve mentored, you’ve coached. Maybe you’ve brought people with you to shadow on your team’s sales calls. Perhaps you’ve upped your recruitment game to find more qualified candidates or folks with tons of connections. And yet, your sales staff isn’t closing more business. (Maybe they aren’t closing ANY business.)
What do you do?
Before you dust off PowerPoint®, Prezi, or the software du jour for another bout in the conference room or the beloved Zoom roundtable, let’s talk about what’s really going on. At Burgard, we’ve found that typically this problem is due to one (or more) of four reasons:
- Failure to set up-front contracts
- Not understanding the client’s decision-making process
- Not understanding how to qualify a yes or no
- An internal problem that is affecting all selling behaviors
1: Failure to set up-front contracts
At every stage of the sales process, a salesperson should have a clear next step. If it’s the first contact, is there a next meeting? When is it? And what is the agenda? If they’re writing a proposal or quote, what is the client’s budget, decision-making process, and timeline to sign it or say “no thanks”? If the quote or proposal has been sent, when will it be signed and when will the salesperson follow up?
Without clear next steps, it’s impossible to know what’s going on and where you stand. And with so many unknowns, it’s really difficult to get a yes or no. “I’ll think about it” and “I’ll get back to you” are not acceptable.
2: Not understanding the client’s decision-making process
Say you’re meeting with the head of purchasing to pitch your services or products. Is the person you’re meeting with making the buying decision, or will their boss be responsible for that decision? Is there a board of directors that has to sign off on things? What is their budget for the project (because you better be within it!)? What are their goals, expectations, and how long are they going to wait to get back to you? If your sales staff doesn’t know these things, it’s difficult to create the outcomes you’re seeking.
3: Not understanding how to qualify a yes or no
Even the best salespeople hear “no” quite often. The problem is not hearing “no,” the problem is knowing if the “no” was well qualified (i.e., Was the proposal/product/relationship a bad fit?). In order to truly know you MUST know what the client is looking for explicitly. (Hint: It’s not just what’s in the RFP.) What is the problem that you’re solving for the client? Is it price? Is it a speedy turnaround? Is it information/education they don’t have? Is it a bad relationship and they’re looking for a change? FIND OUT WHAT THEY NEED TO SAY “YES.” Then find out if giving them what they need makes sense for your business. If it’s a bad fit, just walk away and know that your “no” was a success.
4: An internal problem that is affecting all selling behaviors
This is the most common issue we find. Even when the other issues have been accounted for, this often rears its head. A person’s past experiences with work, school, relationships, parents, and childhood create underlying paradigms that affect every action they take. At Burgard, our coaching and educational process helps salespeople uncover what’s holding them back and provides them with actionable means to move beyond it, allowing them to shine and have the confidence—and the know-how—to thrive in a career fraught with unknowns and rejection.
On your end, get to know your team personally. Learn what makes them tick—what they like and don’t like, what their failures have been, and what they fear. The transformations that come from this deep work in the business setting are amazing.