Our colleague, Andy Paul, has just published a new book – Amp Up Your Sales. We thought it was interesting – and asked Andy to share some of the ideas contained in the book in this guest post …
Sellers and buyers alike want to accelerate the sales and buying processes. Both parties can realize measurable gains in productivity if these processes were shorter. So, what’s holding them back?
On average, how many meaningful, substantive sales touches do you have with a prospect in your typical sales cycle?
First, subtract all the meaningless one-sided “touching base” emails and “checking in” voice mails that you send to a prospects and then count how many meaningful sales touches you have in your average sales process where you actually interact with and deliver value to your prospect.
The number will vary by the nature of the product and service being sold. But in general, the answer is “not many.” And that number is shrinking as customers put more pressure on sellers to help them navigate their buying process is a shorter period of time and with fewer sales touches.
If you waste just one of those sales interactions without delivering meaningful value to your buyer, what percentage of your sales cycle will you just have wasted?
It is absolutely essential to avoid empty sales touches, which are sales interactions that consume your buyers’ time without giving them anything of value in return. Waste your buyers’ time and it will make them reluctant to invest more time in you. If that happens, you’ll be on the outside looking in with your nose pressed against the glass as the buyer moves forward with your competitor.
Two Important Value Questions
Here’s a simple way to avoid empty sales touches. Answer these two questions before each and every interaction with a prospect:
- “What value I can deliver today that will help move the customer at least one step closer to make a purchase decision? (Another way to frame the question is to ask ‘What information does the buyer need from me today to move at least one step closer to making a purchase decision?’)
- “What’s the very next action that I want the customer to take as a result of receiving this value?”
If the answer to either question is “I don’t know,” then don’t do anything with that prospect until you do. Each time you interact with a prospect they invest some of their limited time in you and they expect to receive something of value in return. If you train a prospect through empty sales touches to expect not to receive value from you, then you can expect not to receive any more of their time in order to sell to them.
You’re better off sitting on your hands than calling the customer without a plan to deliver value.
Are You Prepared To Deliver Value?
Let’s look at how this works in practice. Let’s assume that your typical sales cycle has five actual interactive touches with your buyer. Last week you met a potential prospect at a business event and scheduled a time to meet them at their office to follow-up on their interest in your services. You showed up at the meeting two days later but you hadn’t adequately prepared in advance. You hadn’t spent enough time learning about the prospect, their products, their industry, the people you were going to meet and the challenges they faced in their business. In short, you weren’t ready to ask the probing questions that would get to the heart of the prospect’s requirements and, as a result, you missed out on uncovering their key pain points.
The prospect exited the meeting without learning substantially more about your services than they knew going in. They had doubts about working with you and your company because you didn’t deliver anything of value in the meeting that would help them move closer to a decision. As a result the meeting didn’t produce an outcome that was satisfactory to the buyer or to you. The customer felt that you unnecessarily wasted their time. And, you didn’t secure a commitment from the buyer to move forward in their process.
This is the point in the sales process where salespeople often trip up. That empty sales call just wasted one of your five meaningful sales touches. 20% of the opportunities you have to deliver value to a buyer just disappeared for good. Suddenly, you’re behind the curve with the prospect. Not only did you fail to deliver value you didn’t provide the prospect with a compelling reason to move their buying process with you to the next step. When this happens, it’s extremely difficult to make up lost ground and in all likelihood you will be fighting for second place. And, as we know well, there are no medals for coming in second in sales.
Remember: start by answering this simple question before every sales touch: Am I going to deliver value to the prospect in this interaction that will move them at least one step closer to making their decision? Don’t waste the prospect’s time, or your time, until the answer to that question is yes.