Happy Valentine’s Day to all!
The ideas readers submitted for future Beyond the Horizon e-newsletters were fantastic! Thank you, very much!
Not only did I get a dozen or so very legit notions, but your responses catalyzed ideas for a similar number of topics I’ll eventually cover. So, what am I waiting for?
There were three pages of feedback and the one I’ll “tackle” first is a perpetual head-scratcher - “How to shorten the sales cycle?” (Thanks, Don!)
It seems incongruous someone who’s been selling to media for 30 years would dare talk about decreasing the sales cycle when, you guessed it, some have resisted my charms for ALL of those 30 years, but here’re five thoughts – all important:
1. Share Peer/Competitor Successes – If there’s a local furniture store that has not or only advertises episodically, the BEST way to engage them is to point out the success a competitor has enjoyed when using a specific solution. With a glowing testimonial; even better! If it includes an ROI statement, you’ve hit a home run. The store you reference could be in a neighboring community or even an example from a “sister” paper yet must be verifiable.
2. Drop in – what a novel concept. Go and see the prospect. Drop in early in the morning before the crowds show up; Bang on their door during crappy weather; or approach the prospect when it’s “off” season to launch their promotional push in advance of the upcoming season.
We all send – and receive – too many emails. It will get worse. (Argh!) Thanks to our smart devices we literally “screen” every phone call and sometimes Siri or Google screens them for us!
Be sure when you are face-to-face you ACT as a trusted advisor, with her interests in mind. Differentiate yourself. Introduce something NEW. Offer a one-of-a-kind solution. Talk LONGTERM, not one-offs. Sell solutions, not a product.
Or, said differently, “Get out of the office/home and SEE and TALK to humans!” I bet you’ll be glad you did.
3. Listening by Questioning – create your Go-To list of questions (perhaps a dozen?) you’ll ask every prospect, and soon-to-be customer you engage.
I’ve been on way too many four-legged calls when a sales rep simply talks. That might be pitching the single product/solution the boss is focused on this week or an end-of-the-month-gotta-hit-budget discounted offer. STOP the INSANITY. If you listen to answers from well-crafted and sincerely asked questions, you’ll be different (see #2) and in an infinitely better position to serve.
What are your marketing objectives?
What worked well in the past? How did you measure success?
Do you audit what your peers are doing?
Is there seasonality to your business?
What was it that drew you to this line of work?
How are you thanking existing customers?
Do you have a loyalty program?
What was a flop? Do you know why it didn’t work?
How many are on your email marketing list? Do you manage those communications through MailChimp or something else?
You get the idea, right? Ask and then SHUT UP and listen. (By the way, NOT at the same time!) Their answers will drive your recommended solution and strengthen your relationship.
4. Prospect MORE – Let’s pretend your average sales cycle is 9 months. IF you need more closes, there must be more prospects in your pipeline. We all tend to focus on existing accounts or categories and fail miserably at e-x-p-a-n-d-i-n-g the number of prospects in the sales funnel. Selling more to existing will not work in the long term.
As important as retention is, the ONLY way a business grows is by adding new. Deal with it.
5. Lower expectations – (which might mean lowering your bosses’ expectations, too?!) If closing an account normally takes 4 months and the unfortunate reality is 6 months is much more typical, adjust your expectations. SIX MONTHS IT IS. (See #4)
YIKES! I’m beyond the limit of the too many words vs. not enough to say threshold, so let me sign off till next month.
P.S. Minor variations of these suggestions apply no matter what you are selling!