Do you find yourself in a situation where you need to bring in revenues by selling products or services but don't enjoy the process of selling?
Do you lead a sales organization that needs to sell high-end, big-ticket projects to business clients by being professional, trusted advisors to them?
Do you run a business with a post-sales technical support team that can bring in higher sales revenues to the company?
In this strategy guide, I share 20 unconventional sales strategies that allow you and your sales organization to stop being the stereo-typical salesperson, but also allow you to bring in higher revenues, at better margins, and with less effort.
Introduction: Why Read this Strategy Guide
Can you imagine a 10-year-old ever walking up to his mom and saying: "Hey, mom, someday when I grow up, I'll be a salesman?"
If you happen to be in a situation where you need to bring in revenues in exchange for products or services, in other words, you need to sell something to someone, but you're not comfortable selling, you're not comfortable being a salesperson, you probably have the right instinct.
The reason we don't like selling is that we've been on the other side being sold by salespeople and we don't like how that feels. So what we really don't want to be is this image of the salesperson we've created in our minds.
So, if you are in this situation where you need to sell but you're not comfortable selling, you're not comfortable being a salesperson, stick around, because I have some good news for you.
In this article, I'm going to share with you 20 unconventional sales strategies that will allow you to stop being that salesperson but will also allow you to bring in more revenues, at better margins, and with less effort.
What Will You Gain by Reading This Strategy Guide?
There are two promises that I'm making here, and within those two promises, there are two or three more promises. So I just want to clarify them a bit.
The first one is that you don't have to be a traditional, stereotypical, pushy salesperson to sell and bring in revenues.
And the second promise is that you'll actually get better sales results than those who do sell the traditional way.
Increase Your Sales Revenues
What do I mean when I say better sales results?
Well, what it means is that the volume of sales revenues, the dollar value, will in fact be higher, will increase, and you'll also bring those sales at better margins.
Improve Your Profit Margins
What's a better margin?
Well, if your average sale size is, let's say, about 10000 dollars and if your cost of sales is five thousand dollars, your margin is five thousand dollars in that case.
So that margin will increase with the nontraditional, unconventional sales strategies that I'm about to share with you.
Decrease Effort In Selling Activities
And the third thing that's going to happen is that you'll be spending less energy. Now, there are several aspects to energy.
The first is obviously the physical effort. The second one is time. And then the third is the psychological energy, the mental energy that we spend in dealing with potential clients.
When we get in front of potential clients, the posturing there normally is, "I'm here to sell you something."
And the buyer goes into this position where they think that they're buying something.
So one party is selling. The other party is buying. And the selling party is trying to sell something to them. And the buying party is trying to sort of resist and push back on the moves that the salesperson is making.
This is not a very productive way to build a relationship.
Any relationship, in fact, but especially the relationship with someone who potentially will be your client.
So what I'm saying is that with the unconventional, non-traditional sales strategies that I'm about to share, the effort, the psychological effort, the psychological energy that gets consumed in this kind of back-and-forth relationship will go down.
So it feels like less effort.
And what that means is that you would want to be in front of the prospects because you'll enjoy the selling process more.
You would want to be dealing with potential clients and talk business with them.
Agree or Disagree? "When we get in front of potential clients, the posturing there normally is, 'I'm here to sell you something.'" #awayre
Who is This Strategy Guide Written For?
It's a strange situation that we find ourselves in, isn't it, where someone needs to sell but doesn't enjoy selling?
How does someone get into this situation where they need to be selling, but they don't enjoy selling?
Let me give you some examples of people who fall into this type of situation, and maybe you can figure out for yourself if you can identify with at least one of them or maybe some combination of them.
Professional Services Firms
The first is the executives of professional services firms that are maybe midsize or boutique or even smaller size. These are the professional services firms that fall into one of the many various verticals.
You may be:
- A CEO of an information technology solution company.
- A value-added reseller of information technology.
- An owner of an advertising agency.
- The president of a home remodeling company.
- The managing director of an accounting firm.
- The principal of a high-end photography studio.
- The senior partner in an architectural or engineering firm.
Large Scale Enterprise Solutions
The other set of examples is the folks who sell large-scale enterprise solutions to institutions such as government institutions, the Fortune Fives of the world, big corporations, and even big non-profits in some cases.
These are the situations where the salesperson has to reach out to multiple people in an organization and sometimes even reach out to the multiple levels within an organization in order to make a sale.
It's not a transactional sale, per se. It's more of a consultative sale where you need to build relationships with potential clients.
It may also be a sale that's heavy on the technical expertise side so you're providing some services and some expertise even as you're making a sale.
Some examples of such sales are:
- Sales of large-scale consulting projects.
- Sales of enterprise-scale software. But when you implement enterprise software, you may also have to go into the organization and help them implement that software and provide a turnkey solution. So this is similar to the sales of large-scale systems integration projects.
- Sales of systems integration projects that bring together various pieces of technology into deliverable solutions.
Another example is service professionals. They are basically technical experts who need to provide post-sales technical service, but they're also in the best position to be selling something because they've built a certain level of trust with their clients.
You may have heard this statistic that says it's five times easier to sell to an existing client, or to get repeat business from an existing client than to make a new sale to someone who has never done business with you before.
So people who are providing the post-sale technical services are in the best position to bring in extra revenues, either from the same clients or other people in the same organization.
Heating and Air-Conditioning Services
A good example of such people, such folks, is heating and air conditioning services.
We had a service technician the other day who came in and fixed our air conditioning.
He charged us a couple of hundred dollars and then he said, "Hey, I think you need a new system."
Now, when I hear something like that, my first instinct as a consumer is "You're trying to sell me something. I don't want to be spending ten thousand dollars right now on a new system."
Now, he may be telling me the truth. I may truly need a new system.
So how do you do this where you're making another bigger sale to a client, but you're doing it by being an expert adviser?
So you're becoming a trusted adviser to folks.
That's a good example of someone who doesn't necessarily want to sell but can sell and would sometimes need to sell.
Information Technology and Software Services
Some businesses that fall in a similar category are information technology services and software implementation services.
They also have to do post-sale support, and they can also bring in revenues from existing clients.
And then there are the financial services.
This is a good example because these are the folks to whom we trust our hard-earned cash and they are managing this money.
So I don't want to be giving my money to someone who just wants to sell me stuff. I want to give it to someone who I trust as an adviser, as a professional, trusted adviser.
So this is a situation where you need to be an expert, you need to be an adviser.
But you're obviously selling because you will benefit financially from the buying decision that the client is going to make.
Experienced Salespeople at a Plateau
And the last example is an experienced salesperson who has reached a plateau in their career.
These are the folks who enjoy selling. They've done well. They've built a nice career.
But then they get to a point where they're thinking, "Hey, you know, this is not as much fun as it used to be anymore."
So I'm looking for something new.
Maybe something has shifted in their industry.
Maybe just our overall environment right now is such that people don't like to be sold anymore, even less than they did before. (Well, people never enjoyed being sold before, but they like it even less now.)
So what do you do?
Maybe you're looking for some kind of edge, some kind of angle so you can get back into the game, so you can enjoy selling one more time.
Agree or Disagree? "If I'm an expert with credentials and qualifications, I have a certain level of authority. As a qualified professional, I bring value to the marketplace. If I'm acting subservient, I'm undermining my authority and professionalism." #awayre
4 Mindsets that Make Selling Ineffective
There's another way in which we get into a situation where we need to sell, but we don't enjoy selling, and that is through the mindset.
We've been on the other side of the table being sold by salespeople, and some of us don't like the way we get sold.
There are certain things that they do, the salespeople do, that we don't particularly like.
For example, one thing that many salespeople do is that they act subservient.
If I'm a professional, I don't want to be subservient to someone. If I'm an expert with credentials and qualifications, I have a certain level of authority. As a qualified professional, I bring certain value to the marketplace.
If I'm acting subservient, I'm undermining my authority and professionalism.
If I act subservient, I cannot be the professional adviser that I want to be and probably should be.
Mindset #1: "Selling is beneath me."
The thing, though, is that if you approach selling the right way, we don't have to be subservient.
But we don't know how to do that. So we equate being a salesperson with being subservient. And then we kind of make this connection, internally, that "selling is beneath me," that "I don't want to be the kind of a person who a normal salesperson is."
So this is one mindset, "selling is beneath me," that gets in the way of us being able to go out there and do the kinds of things that we need to do to bring in revenues.
Mindset #2: "If I sell, they won't like me."
Another mindset that is connected to the first one is "If I sell, they won't like me."
We have seen salespeople do certain things that we don't like them for. We've all been subjected to some salesy behavior from salespeople.
They won't listen to what I'm saying. They talk too much. They will not hear no as an answer. They'll keep pushing something that we've already told them we're not interested in. They'll bait and switch. And on and on and on it goes.
All of these things that salespeople do, we don't like them for it, at some level, maybe subconsciously.
Sometimes even after we buy from them, we don't like the behavior. So we equate that behavior with being a salesperson, as in "This is what it's like to be a salesperson." And then we basically make up this belief, which is that "If I sell, people won't like me."
There's some truth in that belief, by the way, which is that if we sell like that, of course, they won't like me, but we don't know that we have an option not to behave like that and still bring in healthy sales revenues for our business.
So we just don't make the effort that we could and probably should to bring in healthy sales revenues for our business.
Mindset #3: "Professionals don't need to sell."
The third mindset that gets in the way of us being able to bring in revenues is that "Professionals don't need to sell." Again, this is all connected. The belief system that drives this mindset goes something like this. "I'm a professional, I have value and I bring value to the table and I'm proud of what I do. And if I'm so good at what I do, why is it that I need to sell the way that salespeople do?"
Basically, we believe that if we're so good as professionals, the client should just come to us and line up to buy from us. And because of this belief system or this mindset, we don't want to go out there and do the kinds of things that we need to do to bring in revenues into the company.
Mindset #4: "Selling used to be fun, but not anymore."
The fourth one is not really a mindset in a sense, but there is something in there that makes it into a mindset that gets in the way of us being able to bring in revenues, which is that selling used to be fun, but it's not fun anymore.
This is for those of us who have sold for a while and we've enjoyed the game of selling. Selling used to be fun, but somehow we get to a situation where something has changed, something is different. Maybe the industry that we're in has shifted underneath us, or maybe people's buying behaviors have changed with the information that they have now that they didn't have before.
And because of those reasons, selling is not what it used to be. It's not fun anymore. I don't enjoy selling anymore. And when this happens, we don't want to get in front of the people that we need to get in front of and have the conversations and the dialogues that we need to have to bring in sales revenues.
The unconventional sales strategies that I have in mind are meant to bypass or short-circuit these belief systems so that we can show up as professionals that we are and engage in conversations that allow us to close sales and bring in revenues at good margins.
Agree or Disagree? "But if you make that process overly systematic, it becomes a dead and wooden process. And who wants to be a part of a process where there's two robots just pretending to be talking to each other and having a conversation?" #awayre
Why Unconventional Sales Strategies: 3 Pitfalls of Conventional Selling
One more thing on this topic of conventional versus unconventional selling or traditional versus non-traditional selling.
What are some things that happen? What are some of the pitfalls of selling the old-fashioned way, the hard-charging way, the stereotypical way?
Makes Us “Pushy,” Not Professional
Well, one of the things that happen is that when we sell the traditional way, our potential clients, our prospects, our prospective clients, see us as pushy salespeople.
Now, we may not be that pushy salesperson at our core, but when we exhibit some of the behaviors that a pushy salesperson does, they equate us, maybe subconsciously, with some salespeople that they've had to deal with in the past.
And that's not good because they don't see us as a professional we want to be projected as.
They see us as just another pushy salesperson trying to push their products and services on them.
Enhances and Magnifies Distrust
Now, traditional selling also does something else. It enhances and magnifies the distrust that's existing between the two parties.
See, when you have one person acting as a seller and the other person acting as a buyer, we put on these hats - we put on these roles of one person being the buyer and the other person being the seller - there's already a built-in distrust.
There is some resistance between the two parties, and there is quite a bit of stress.
One person is trying to push something on the other person, and the other person is trying to just kind of push it back.
And that's not an ideal way of having a conversation, having a dialogue.
So when we do the behaviors that traditional salespeople do, that prospects have already seen them do in the past, that further magnifies that distrust and just enhances it.
And that creates more stress in the relationship that's already built with some level of stress.
Frustrating, Inhuman Experience
If you've ever played tennis with someone or any game, really, you'll realize that both parties in that game, even if they're playing within the rules of the game, they do some things that are unpredictable.
And that's the fun part of the game.
There are rules, but you also do some things that are unexpected because they are two human beings playing the game.
It's not two computers playing with each other.
The selling and buying event between two people is like that.
You have two human beings talking to each other. One person is saying something. The other person is responding to that. And you're having a good dialogue, right?
But if you make that process overly systematic, it becomes a dead and wooden process.
And who wants to be a part of a process where there's two robots just pretending to be talking to each other and having a conversation? But, really, they are not engaging with each other as two human beings.
This is what we have done with traditional training in the sales industry. We've systematized everything. We have created steps and processes for every part of our selling activities.
What that does is that it takes the soul out of a conversation about buying and selling.
Now, I'm not saying that there is no need or there is no place for a system in selling.
What I'm saying is that we make this process or this conversation, this dialogue, this dynamic thing that should be happening between two people into something that's overly scripted and overly systematic.
And that just doesn't play well.
What it does is that it affects our sales results because our sales conversations aren't as effective as they could be.
What is Personal Selling?
Personal selling, or human-to-human selling, is live-action buying and selling, where two real human beings are having, at least in some part of their buying and selling process, an actual conversation where one person is saying something and the other person is responding, and vice versa.
It may be a video chat. It could be a face-to-face conversation across the table, or it could be a phone conversation.
In this article, this is our only scope.
Often, when people talk about buying, selling, systems and processes, they're talking about digital marketing, copywriting and, basically, marketing. We're not talking about situations where there is no live interaction between two human beings.
This is an important distinction to make because many of the strategies we discuss in this guide will not be effective in marketing.
I have written a more detailed explanation on the meaning and definition of personal selling here.
Agree or Disagree? "If a business doesn't have healthy, consistent revenues coming in, in some kind of predictable fashion over a long period of time, it really cannot exist as a profitable entity in the marketplace." #awayre
You Only Have to Solve 6 Problems to Increase Sales Revenues
I have a question for you: If your business was a tree - the business that you either work for or manage or run or lead or own - what would represent the trunk of that tree?
Obviously, there's no right or wrong answer to this question because it's an analogy.
But, if you were to ask me that question, I would say that the trunk of that tree is the revenues or the sales that are coming into that business.
Because if a business doesn't have healthy, consistent revenues coming in, in some kind of predictable fashion over a long period of time, it really cannot exist as a profitable entity in the marketplace.
Now, you might make an argument that, well, what about Uber and Tesla? We live in this different world now where, seemingly, some of these companies can go on perpetually losing money where they have some sales, but they are not profitable yet.
How do they thrive, and how do they do so well?
To that, I would say a couple of things.
The first thing is that even for an Uber or a Tesla, they need to have a projected path to profitability sometime in the future.
And the second thing is that they do have a product to sell.
They, of course, have the cars and the car-rides.
But they also have a bigger product to sell to the market, which is the business itself.
So in their case, what they're selling is equity in the business, because that's their primary source of income or cash-flow coming in. So their marketplace is the stock market, and the product is the company itself - the equity or equity positions or shares in their company.
With that as a background...
If you buy into this argument that a business cannot thrive and succeed over a long period, unless it has healthy sales revenues coming in at a good profit margin, you have to have some strategies to bring in those revenues.
Let's look at it this way...
If a business - it might be your business or someone else's business - doesn't have adequate sales revenues coming in, consistently over a long period of time, obviously it has some underlying sales problems.
And I would say that those underlying sales problems have some root causes.
I'm going to make an argument that a business, a selling business...
Now, a selling business is a human-to-human selling where a human-being is going out there and making a sale to a potential client for a product or service, in exchange for money, obviously...
For a business like that, if they don't have enough sales, there are only 6 problems that they need to fix.
And if they fix those 6 problems, they have a healthy business.
Further, those 6 problems in sales come from 20 root causes. For each one of those 20 root causes, if I have one sales strategy, I have 20 sales strategies. And those 20 sales strategies will build up to 6 sales solutions, which will result in increased sales revenues.
We have a lot to cover in this article. And it can get a little overwhelming. And it can get a little confusing.
So I want to give it a framework.
And this is the framework we are going with.
Agree or Disagree? "If you assume that you can make a sales process systematic, you're also assuming that the person sitting across from you, the potential client, is some kind of machine that will follow a predictable pattern." #awayre
6 Sales Problems And Their Solutions
6 Sales Problems
Getting back to our analogy of a tree as a business and sales revenues as the trunk, if a business has inadequate sales revenues, it only has 6 problems that it needs to fix.
The first problem is an inadequate quantity in the sales pipeline.
What is a sales pipeline? It's the number of opportunities that are waiting to be closed. These are the people who have identified themselves as somewhat interested.
They have shown some kind of interest in the product or the service that you're offering.
They're basically saying, "OK, I'm ready enough to talk to you and your sales team to figure out whether it makes sense for me to do business with you."
That is your sales pipeline.
The sales pipeline is the number of opportunities that are waiting to be closed.
And some of them will not buy, obviously. If you have 10 people in your sales pipeline, maybe 3 will buy and 7 won't.
So those 10 opportunities that are waiting for you to talk to - that is your sales pipeline.
So the first problem we have is that we don't have enough of these opportunities waiting in our sales pipeline, at any given point in time.
The second problem is the quality of the prospects in that sales pipeline is low.
A bit later, we will go a little deeper into what it means to have a high-quality sales pipeline versus a low-quality sales pipeline.
But in a nutshell, it is basically three things:
1. They either don't have an urgency, or they don't have a strong enough need to buy your product or service or what you're offering.
2. They either don't have money themselves or they don't have access to get that money from somewhere else, from some other department or someone else. For example, if it's a husband and a wife team, a spouse may have to get involved to get access to that fund.
3. They don't have the decision-making authority themselves. They may have to either work within a team with someone else to make the decision, or there might be someone else higher above them in the corporate hierarchy who also has to get involved in making that decision.
We'll go a bit deeper into that a little later. But for now, the second reason we don't have enough sales revenues, the second problem we have, is that the quality in our sales pipeline, the quality of opportunities in our sales pipeline, isn't high enough.
The third problem is that our closing ratio is not high enough, or it's low.
Every industry, every company and every sales organization will have its benchmark on their closing ratio.
If you have 10 opportunities in your sales pipeline at any point in time, and if you're closing 3 of those 10 opportunities, your closing ratio is 3 out of 10, meaning that 7 people don't do business with you out of 10.
It is what it is. There is no right or wrong about it.
But if you can increase that closing ratio, for example, from 3 to 4, you just increased your sales earning capacity by about 33 percent or one-third.
The fourth problem is that we are facing too much pricing pressures out in the field, meaning that we're getting push-back on the price from our prospects.
The fifth problem is that our sales cycles are taking too long to close.
What does that mean? And what's a sales cycle?
A sales cycle is the timeframe between the time that someone shows an interest in your product or service, to the time that you either close the sale - the money gets in the bank - or you lose the sale.
That is the length of your sales cycle.
You can benchmark it for your industry and, more importantly, for your company.
But there are no right or wrong rules about this.
If you are selling an enterprise solution with many parties in many departments involved, your sales cycle could be months long. They could be six-months-, one-year-, two-year-, or even three-year-long sales cycles.
And if you're selling a consumer item like a pen, your sales cycle may be several hours.
If you're selling a smartphone, for example, that could be one or two hours.
And for a small business with, let's say, a $10,000 sale, maybe your sales cycle is a week or two or maybe a month.
So once again, if the sales cycle is too long, if it's taking too long for us, for me and my sales organization, to go out and complete a sale, that is not good because I'm wasting my time, my resources, and my energies into chasing opportunities that slip out of the fingers.
The sixth problem in selling is that we find ourselves trapped in a sales process.
If you go back to, let's say, the 1800s, about 200 years ago, this was a time of the Industrial Revolution.
And as the business community, this idea of machines fascinated us.
We wanted everything to become a machine because the machine was predictable and controllable. The machine-view of business allowed us to make things efficient so we can take all the human elements out of it.
So we started making everything process-ized and systematized. Now, somewhere along the line, we also started making our sales processes systematized and process-ized.
However, there are actually two issues with this.
If you assume that you can make a sales process systematic, you're also assuming that the person sitting across from you, the potential client, is some kind of machine that will follow a predictable pattern.
The first is that if you assume that you can make a process systematic, you're assuming that the person sitting across from you, the potential client, is some kind of machine that will follow a predictable pattern.
And the second assumption, which is also a faulty assumption, is that you, the salesperson, me, who is the selling party in the conversation, I'm also some kind of predictable machine, which is not also true, obviously.
This would work if I was writing a script in a movie or a drama or a play where both sides have lines and they're both following scripts.
But it doesn't work in the actual world.
In the actual world, the prospect is not going to follow the script that you give them, even if they end up accepting the script.
In the real world, both sides are going to talk about what matters to them most, and they're going to try to come to some kind of common ground in order to make a deal.
Or not. In which case, they may agree to part friends.
Being trapped in a sales process means that the salesperson ends up accepting a process that is given to them, given to her or him, by maybe the boss or the organization within which they work, without making any efforts to fit their personal style and values.
There's nothing wrong with the idea of systems. In fact, I think systems do help.
But trouble starts when the systems become overly systematized and we become overly dependent on scripts.
Sometimes we, the salespeople, follow a script, even when the prospect is not following the script.
So we say something and the prospect says something and we don't even listen to what the prospect is saying and we just move on with the next step in our process.
This is a disconnect.
This doesn't work well in sales, and it affects our sales results negatively.
6 Sales Solutions
What are the solutions to these 6 sales problems?
Solution number 1 is a full sales pipeline.
Solution number 2 is the high quality of opportunities in a sales pipeline.
Solution number 3 is a high closing ratio.
Solution number 4 is pricing cooperation, instead of pricing pressures.
Solution number 5 is short sales cycles instead of the long sales cycles.
So what's the solution to being trapped in a sales process?
Well, solution number 6 is that we are freed by the sales process.
Now, pay attention to the words here.
It's not freed from the sales process. It's freed by the sales process.
What I mean by this is that the process is there, but it's a kind of process that allows us to not just be two machines having a scripted conversation with each other, but two human beings having a true, meaningful conversation where the salesperson is truly listening to the problems, concerns, aspirations, goals, dreams and objectives of the prospect and hopefully coming up with the right kinds of solutions, maybe with the help of their products and services.
And then that becomes a part of the solution that they offer to the customer.
So when we are freed by the sales process, the steps are there; the process is there.
But it also allows enough space for the salesperson to become more in-the-moment so they can have a true heart-to-heart conversation when they are listening and responding to what the potential customer is saying in the moment.
So this is not rocket science, is it?
If I have a full sales pipeline with a large number of opportunities waiting for me to be closed, most, if not all, of those opportunities, are high quality, meaning that they have shared their problems with me that I can solve, there are enough budget and money allocated and it's there on the table, and I'm talking to either the decision-makers themselves or someone who has access to the decision-makers...
If all my opportunities are high-quality opportunities like that, if my closing ratio is high, if my sales cycles are short, and instead of being trapped in a sales process that traps and confines me into doing things in a certain way, in a certain scripted fashion, I'm freed by the sales process, where I have steps I follow, but, I'm also allowed, I'm also finding my space within that system to do the things that I need to do - truly listen to my client's needs and concerns - if I have all these things in place, what do you think the results are going to be?
I'm going to have six sales solutions and they are obviously going to increase my sales revenues.
And when I have healthy sales revenues, my business, either the business that I own or operate or manage or the business that I work for and also my sales career, is going to thrive and grow.
Sales Problem and Solution #1: Quantity of Opportunities in Your Sales Pipeline
Sales Problem #1: Inadequate Quantity
The first problem that we have is the inadequate quantity of opportunities in our sales pipeline.
There are 3 reasons the quantity of opportunities in our sales pipeline is lower than what they need to be.
Reason #1: Weak WIIFM
Well, the first reason is that we have a weak W-I-I-F-M.
What's a W-I-I-F-M?
Let me ask you this question: What is one frequency, one thing that almost everyone on this planet, all seven billion of us, we're all tuned into permanently?
Well, it's called WIIFM, What's In It For Me?
You see, all of us, all seven billion of us on this planet, we're facing some challenges and issues and pains and sometimes suffering.
We are always scanning our environment and our horizons to look for some kind of resolution or solution to those pains, challenges and problems we're facing.
If a product or service is to get the attention from the target market, they need to know - we need to know as providers of our products and services - what those challenges are that they are looking for the solutions to.
And if we're not targeting their needs, their pains, and their aspirations and what they're trying to resolve and solve...
If we're not doing an adequate job getting their attention addressing those issues, we will not get the attention that we should get from our marketplace.
And because of that, they'll tune us out.
If they tune us out, we don't get the incoming inquiries, engagement and interest from our marketplace that we should get.
Reason #2: Ineffective Sales Action Plan
The second reason we don't have enough opportunities in our sales pipeline is because we have an ineffective Sales Action Plan.
Basically, there are three aspects to this.
The first aspect is that we don't even have a sales action plan, meaning that we are just winging it.
The second aspect is that we have an action plan, but it's not the right set of actions.
And the third aspect is that we have a plan, it's the right set of actions, but our sales team is not doing what it needs to do to execute that sales plan.
Reason #3: Disengaged
The third reason we don't have enough number of opportunities in our sales pipeline is that we, as a sales team, as a sales organization, as a business, as a company, all the people in the company, we're not engaged with our sales message and with our sales action plan.
Case Story: A Business Goes Through a Message Revamp
One time I was sitting down with a business president.
He walks in all excited and he says, "Hey, listen, we went through a complete revamp of our marketing message and our sales message, our whole branding."
"We have a new website, new t-shirts, new brochures, new slogan, new message, new everything."
"And," he said, "look, I'm actually wearing one of the t-shirts today."
I said, "Well, what does it say?"
He's sitting across the table from me and I can't read the slogan that's on his t-shirt.
He says, "I don't remember what it is."
So he has to reach over and turn that piece of fabric upside down on his t-shirt to read what that slogan said so he could tell me.
Question: Why would a business president who probably spent tens of thousands of dollars redoing their marketing message not remember their new marketing tag-line?
How would you answer the question at the end of the story above?
Here's my take: The reason this business president did not remember his company's new slogan was because he was not involved in the creation of their marketing message.
When we are not engaged in creating our marketing message, we are not as enthusiastic and as passionate about our market and about our message as we could be.
And when we are not engaged with our message, we cannot execute our Sales Action Plan very well.
As a result, our marketing, our selling, and our prospecting activities are not as effective as they could be.
Sales Solution #1: Full Sales Pipeline
So how do we fix this problem?
How do we put enough number of opportunities in our sales pipeline so it's always a little fuller than we can handle comfortably?
Well, let's look at the first cause, the first reason we have this problem in the first place, which is that we have a weak WIIFM.
Well, what do I do with it? I turn it into a strong What's In It For Me.
Case Story: A Businessperson at a Networking Event Stops Me In My Tracks
One time, I ran into a woman at a networking event and I asked her this question as we all do, right?
I said, "What do you do?"
I had given myself an assignment: Ask this question to 20 people at that event, listen intently, and then I get to go home.
My stomach rumbled. She was the last person I would meet at that event. Talk to this one last person and then I get to go home and eat my dinner.
I had already asked the same question to 19 other people at that event. I was bracing for yet another rambling spiel on how wonderful her business was and how they made the world a better place.
Instead, she said, "Well, that's a good question. But before I answer the question, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," I said.
"If I gave you 2 extra hours a day right now that you don't have in your day, what would you do with them?" she asked.
I gave her a blank look. She pressed on.
"Instead of 24 hours a day, if you had 26 hours a day in your day, what would you do with those extra 2 hours?"
I struggled with an answer as my tired mind went searching for things I would do with 2 extra hours a day.
An answer popped in my head. I went with it. "Have a leisurely dinner and watch some TV."
"What a nice thought," I said to myself on my way home, as I continued to think about what I would do with 2 extra hours a day in my day.
Question: What was about this businessperson's response that stands out from the typical answers we hear at business networking events?
As you consider the question at the end of the story above, what are some things that come to mind?
The point of this story is that that's an example of a strong What's-In-It-For-Me component.
Obviously, I have some ideas about what I'll do with 2 extra hours a day in my day.
I'm sure that if I asked you that question, you'll also have some ideas about what you will do with those extra two hours.
She immediately got my attention with that question and with her message.
She further clarified her message on her website, which was "We give you two extra hours a day that you don't have right now."
That's very concrete.
It's very specific, and it gets to the heart of the issue.
It turns out she was an organizational consultant who helped people get organized so they can find time in the day that they don't think that they have.
The entire story, the whole narrative, comes together.
And a part of that message is what the client will get specifically when they work with her.
She had designed her entire business to deliver the promise that she was making, which was "Two extra hours a day that the executive doesn't have right now."
Sales Strategy #1: Strong WIIFM
Strategy number one is to create a marketing message within which there is a strong What's-In-It-For-Me or WIIFM component.
Sales Strategy #2: Effective Sales Action Plan
The second way to fix this problem of not having enough opportunities in our sales pipeline is to have an effective Sales Action Plan.
Strategy number two is to develop, execute, track, and continuously improve a sales action plan.
How do I do this? How do I go about making an effective Sales Action Plan?
Well, it's really easy, but I'll be honest with you, it's a bit of work.
The first thing we have to do is develop a list of prospecting activities, maybe three or four or five, maybe seven, that we're committed to taking, either individually or as a sales organization.
That's number one.
Number two is we need to go out and just do them and then track the results - that's number three - track the results, feedback, from these activities, whether those actions, activities and behaviors and actions are getting the results I want.
And if I'm not getting the right results, I need to either add some new activities or maybe need to improve my skills in doing the activities I'm already doing.
If there is something on that list that is just not producing the right results, after trying everything, maybe you need to just take it out and do something else that might produce better results for you.
Sales Strategy #3: Engaged
The third way to make sure that we have a large quantity of opportunities in our sales pipeline is to make sure that our sales team, our executives and basically everyone in the company is passionately engaged with the sales message of our company. For the sales team, it's also important that they are engaged with the execution of their Sales Action Plan.
Now, the only way that I know how to do this, which is strategy number three, is to involve your sales team, your marketing team, and your key executives in creating your Sales and Marketing Message.
Strategy number three is to involve your sales team, your marketing team, and your key executives in creating your Sales and Marketing Message.
Now, if I outsource this, which sometimes makes sense to do, I still need to make sure that the company that I'm hiring knows that we want to get involved in the process of creating our Sales and Marketing Message. That we - not just me who is making the hiring decision to bring them in, but also my sales team, my marketing team, and my key executives - are involved in the creation of the marketing message from the ground up.
When we are involved in the creation of the marketing message, we can't help but become passionate and engaged with that creation and with the marketing message itself.
On a bit of an aside, this creation of the marketing message is not a once-and-done process.
I hope that you don't make it that - that we create this once and we're done and we never have to look at it again.
I would recommend that you would make it an ongoing process and, in fact, use it to bring together your sales team on the same page or use it at your sales meetings, your all-hands meetings, and even with your executives.
So it's an evolving message.
And there is always something that we can do a little better, a bit different in the message.
The first unconventional strategy of the twenty is to build a sales and marketing message with a strong What's-In-It-For-Me.
Strategy number two is to have an effective Sales Action Plan that the sales team is committed to, engaged with, and working continuously to make better.
Strategy number three is to make sure that you and your sales team are an integral part of creating and crafting a strong marketing message.
When we do those things consistently and continuously over time, we have a better chance of filling up our sales pipeline and keeping it full.
Sales Problem and Solution #2: Quality of Opportunities in Your Sales Pipeline
Sales Problem #2: Low Quality of Sales Pipeline
The second problem we have in professional selling, as in selling in which we are perceived more as a professional than as a salesperson, is that the quality of opportunities in our sales pipeline is low.
Now, what do I mean when I say the quality of opportunities in the sales pipeline?
Well, let me put it this way.
If I have a high quality of opportunities in my sales pipeline, they are more likely to buy from me. And if I have a low quality of opportunities in my sales pipeline, they are less likely to buy from me.
What are some reasons this problem exists in the first place? Why do I have a low quality of sales pipeline in the first place?
There are 4 reasons the quality of opportunities in our sales pipeline is lower than ideal.
Please note, these 4 reasons are numbered 4 through 7 below to continue from the previous 3 reasons, or causes, of sales problems.
Story: I Improve My Darts Game
Sometime ago, a friend and I went to a bar, and we started playing this game that I'm sure you've played.
It's called the game of darts.
It's a game where there is a "dartboard" on a wall. It's got some concentric circles. There is a "bullseye" in the middle.
And you throw darts - arrows - at this board.
If you hit the bullseye, you get the maximum number of points. If you hit the other circles around the bullseye, you still get points, but they are fewer points.
So we are playing this game. I soon realize that I'm not very good at it.
After some time, my friend - he must've been trying to be helpful - says, "Hey, did you bring your glasses?"
I said, "Well, I didn't bring my glasses."
He says, "Why don't you borrow mine?"
So I borrowed his glasses, I put them on and I'm playing the game again.
Now, our prescription numbers are pretty close to each other, so I can see better.
Almost immediately, my game improved.
Question: How can we apply the lesson of this story to improving the quality of our sales pipeline?
Reason #4: Unclear Target
Here's a point of the story above: The first reason the quality of opportunities in our sales pipeline is low is that we're not crystal clear about what makes an ideal client for us.
If I'm not crystal clear about what makes an ideal client for me and my business, if I'm not clear about what my bullseye is, I will not hit that bullseye.
I'm going to end up putting the wrong kinds of prospects in my sales pipeline.
And if I have wrong prospects in my sales pipeline, I'm going to waste my time, energy and effort chasing the wrong kinds of prospects whose problems I probably cannot solve.
Reason #5: Unclear Message
The second reason the quality of our sales pipeline is low is that our message is not clear.
When we define an ideal client or an ideal customer avatar, one aspect of that definition needs to be which problems we help them solve and which goals and objectives we help them achieve.
And our message must talk about them in emotional terms, or at least in a way that brings out some emotions in them.
There also needs to be a strategic match between the kinds of problems we solve and the kinds of problems they face.
If I have prospects whose problems I can solve very well, they are more likely to buy from me.
And in my sales and marketing message, I need to be crystal clear about the kinds of problems we solve for our ideal client.
If our sales and marketing message is not clear, we may attract prospects who are not your ideal potential clients.
So you will end up wasting time, energy, and effort with prospects who are not likely to buy from you.
Reason #6: Unqualified Potentials
The third reason we have a low quality of opportunities in our sales pipeline is that we're putting unqualified prospects in our sales pipeline and calling them qualified.
What's the definition of an unqualified prospect?
Well, there are certain things that we should be checking off to call a prospect qualified.
There are three criteria.
The first one is that they have a problem, an objective or a goal that they want to achieve or a problem they want to solve.
And there is an emotional charge to that, an emotional urgency in wanting to fix a problem.
Number two is that they have the money and the budget to pay for it. If they don't have the money, they may have to go to someone else and get that money, and we need to identify that clearly.
It could be some other department within the organization or someone else on their team.
Number three is that they have either the decision-making authority themselves or have access to someone who is in the decision-making authority.
If we don't have these three criteria checked off, we end up putting opportunities in our sales pipeline that are not fully qualified. Such opportunities tend to not pan out in the long run.
Because of that, we end up losing sales.
There are two reasons we put unqualified prospects in our sales pipeline and call them qualified.
The first one is that many organizations are not familiar with these three criteria.
If we don't know about them, obviously we have no way of qualifying against them.
The second reason we do it is curious. It has to do with psychology.
In sales, whether it's professional selling or any other type of selling, we are often under a tremendous amount of pressure from the people to whom we are accountable for producing results and bringing in sales revenues.
It could be a boss, or it could be a formal body of people, maybe a board or a committee, to whom we report our results and revenue numbers.
It could even be a spouse.
Sometimes it's our children to whom we are accountable.
We need to tell them that, "Hey, I have this much money coming in next month or next quarter or next two quarters."
To do that, we need to tell them we've got some things going.
So we have some opportunities in our pipeline and sometimes we fake or fudge those numbers a little.
The motivational industry probably had something to do with this, positive thinking and things like that, where we are trained to paint a positive picture, even though it may not be very positive.
So instead of telling the numbers the way they are to other people, we kind of put a positive spin on it.
And we say that "Hey, you know, I have some great qualified opportunities in my pipeline," even though some of those opportunities are not that great or maybe all of those opportunities are not that great.
When we tell others and ourselves a story that our sales pipeline is a high quality, even though it's not, we end up putting prospects in our sales pipeline and then we chase those opportunities. In the end, we end up wasting our time, effort, money and energy in chasing opportunities that ultimately don't pan out.
Case Story: Prospective Client Uses My Work to Shop My Competition
Some time ago, I had a systems integration business. This is when we used to do large-scale systems integration projects for some regional retail chains.
In those days, I used to write long proposals.
One time, a prospective client asked me to write a proposal. I wrote a nice, beautiful, detailed proposal that was about 20 pages long with all kinds of good stuff in it, all kinds of details about how I was going to fix their problem, how I was going to implement a system for them.
I gave them the proposal, and I went my way.
A few days later, I was talking to a competitor, my friendly competitor, with whom we used to partner on large-scale systems integration projects.
He shared with me a Request For Quotation from one of his prospects. So I started reading this RFQ.
As I started reading it, the words looked vaguely familiar.
I soon realized that the reason the words looked familiar was because it was me who had written those words.
What my prospect had done was that they took the proposal that I had written for them, turned it into an RFQ, a Request For Quotation, and started shopping my competition with the work that I had done.
Question: Have you ever had a situation where your prospective client used the proposal you gave them to comparison-shop you with your competition?
Reason #7: Premature Solutions
How would you feel if what happened to me in the story above happened to you?
Now, this is an extreme situation. This probably doesn't happen to you a lot.
But if you have been in the selling business for a while, you would know something that happens often, which is that we get comparison-shopped with the knowledge that we give to our prospects.
Something very strange happens in selling.
Let's pretend that I'm a prospect, I have a business and I have a problem to solve. I need to bring in some expertise or products and services to fix that problem.
So I need to hire someone to fix that problem. How do I make sure that I hire the right people to solve my problem?
Well, here's the problem with that whole situation.
I need to find an expert to solve my problem, but I don't have the expertise that they have. That's why I need them.
So I need someone else to bring me that expertise.
But then I need to figure out whether they are the right people. So I need something, some expertise, to figure out who is the right person for me to be doing a project.
I need to figure out who is the right person or the right company I need to hire to solve my problem. But I don't have the knowledge to evaluate them properly. That's why I need them in the first place.
It's a strange thing.
It's a catch-22 kind of problem where I need them for their expertise. But I also need to qualify them whether they have the expertise.
So what do I do? How do I make sure that I hire the right person?
Well, what most people do is they talk to someone, they get to know what they know, and then they take that information and knowledge to someone else and they talk about that.
So, as prospects, we educate ourselves through the process of buying about the product and services that are being sold and being bought.
And then we use that knowledge to shop the competition.
This works really well for the prospect, obviously.
But if I'm on the other side, if I'm the selling party in this transaction, I end up giving away my expertise and my knowledge to my prospect.
And then that knowledge and expertise that are taken from me get used to shop me with my competition, causing them to make them less likely to buy from me.
So I empower my prospect to shop my competition, reducing the chances they'll do business with me.
You know, selling is a tough business and we have little power over prospects.
But there are two kinds of power that we do have.
One is the knowledge of psychology. That's the reason a guy like me has business.
The second power that we have is the knowledge or the expertise that we bring to the table.
The fourth reason we have a low quality of opportunities in our sales pipeline is that we give away our expertise and knowledge too early in the sales process.
If we give away our knowledge or the expertise too early in the selling process, we lose the leverage that we have over the prospect. And if we lose that leverage, we lower the quality of the prospect that we have.
As a result, we end up with a lower quality of prospects in our sales pipeline.
What we should do, instead, is spend more time qualifying our prospects than offering expertise.
Sales Solution #2: High Quality of Sales Pipeline
Sales Strategy #4: Clear Target
Sales Strategy number four is to get crystal clear about what makes an ideal client for you.
When you are clear about who your ideal client is, the likelihood will be higher that you attract ideal potential clients to you.
We need to have a detailed view of who this person is so we can target them specifically and clearly.
The term the sales and marketing industry has coined for this is Customer Avatar.
One way to do this is to think about an existing client who you think is an ideal client and write down all of their characteristics that make them an ideal client.
One of the most important things that you can figure out about this ideal client is what problems you solve for them with your products and services, or which goals and objectives you help them achieve.
Once I have that, once I have the clarity about who my target client is, it will change the way I talk to my prospective clients, in-person and in my marketing materials.
And that will allow me to make sure that I only put in my sales pipeline prospects who match that definition of my ideal client.
And that will allow me to make sure that the quality of my sales pipeline is high.
Sales Strategy #5: Clear Message
Sales Strategy number five is: Have a clear sales and marketing message that defines who your ideal prospect is and which problems you solve for them.
When you do, you will attract the right kinds of potentials whose problems you can solve and whose goals and aspirations you can help achieve.
Such prospects are more likely to buy from you because they will bond with you more deeply.
So in my sales and marketing message, I need to be very clear about whose problems I'm solving and what those problems are. Or whose goals I'm helping achieve, whose aspirations I'm addressing, and who is going to benefit the most from the kinds of services and products that we offer and what those goals are and objectives, specifically, that we can help them achieve.
And when I do that, I'm going to put in my sales pipeline more of the ideal target prospects that we've already defined for ourselves.
And that will allow me to improve the quality of my sales pipeline.
Sales Strategy #6: Deeper Qualification
Sales Strategy number six is: Spend twice as much time qualifying your prospects as you spend educating them and presenting solutions to them.
So instead of giving away the power of your product, expertise and knowledge early in the sales process, spend more time asking meaningful questions and collecting information about what's important to them.
Also, follow up these questions with how they'll pay for the solutions and what process they'll follow in making a buying decision.
When you qualify a prospect before you present them solutions, you increase the likelihood that they will buy from you.
Sales Strategy #7: Qualified Potential Customers
Sales Strategy number seven is: Only offer solutions, expertise, and advice to qualified prospects.
Again, for a prospect to be qualified, I want to see three things.
Number one, they have the urgency to fix their problem now.
Number two is that they have the money available to pay for it.
Number three, they have the decision-making authority to make their buying decision or have access to someone who can make that decision.
But unless a prospect is qualified, I don't present them with a solution.
So think about this.
This is kind of common sense, right?
If I'm crystal clear about who my potential client is, if my message is clear and it addresses their pains, problems, aspirations and what makes them tick, if I'm spending more time qualifying my prospects than presenting solutions to them, if I present my solutions and product expertise to only those prospects who are qualified, all these people are highly likely to buy from me.
And that's how I improve the likelihood that the prospects in my sales pipeline will buy from me.
And that's how we improve the quality of our sales pipeline.
Sales Problem and Solution # 3: Your Closing Ratio
Sales Problem #3: Low Closing Ratio
The third problem that we have that contributes to not having enough sales revenues in our business is the fact that we have a closing ratio that is too low.
What's a closing ratio?
Well, the closing ratio is a percentage of opportunities we end up turning into real, closed business.
So, if you have 10 prospects in your sales pipeline and three of them buy from you, your closing ratio is three out of 10 or 30 percent.
What are the reasons that cause this problem to exist in the first place?
Well, there are five causes - five reasons - that contribute to a low closing ratio.
Please note, these 5 reasons are numbered 8 through 12 below to continue from the previous 7 reasons, or causes, of sales problems.
Reason #8: No Pain
The first cause for a low closing ratio is that we don't take the time to uncover the prospect's pain.
The term pain has been used quite a bit lately. It has become a very common term in sales literature.
But what does it really mean when we say that we haven't uncovered their pain?
What it means is that we have not uncovered the emotional reasons that make them want to do something, either solve a problem or achieve a goal that causes a sense of urgency.
I have a question for you.
Let's pretend there is a child in your family who is about five years old.
It could be your child or it could be someone else's. It doesn't matter.
And this little person, this boy or a girl, wants something.
Let's pretend it's early in the morning and you are getting ready for school and she says she wants some ice-cream.
And you as a good parent, an aunt, a good uncle or big brother or sister, you say, "Sure honey, but listen, right now is time for breakfast. How about you go to school now? And when you get back in the afternoon, you can have some ice-cream."
The question I have for you is this: What are the chances that this kid will say, "Sure, mom or dad. That's OK, I understand. I'll wait until I get back from school to have my ice cream."
If you ever dealt with a five-year-old, you know that this never happens.
When a kid says they want something, they want it when?
They want it now.
So there's this sense of urgency that they have in wanting what they want.
A child does not yet understand the concept of time, because their rational mind hasn't developed yet.
One thing they say in psychology is that the child in us never goes away, even when we grow up.
When our prospects and potential clients get older, they develop many rational characteristics.
But the child in them never goes away.
It is still there, sitting underneath the surface.
So when we talk about pain, what it really is is that if the potential client doesn't have the sense of urgency, as in "I want this now," what they'll do is they'll just play games and make their buying activity a very intellectual process and not an emotional process.
Because of that, they will not be able to make decisions quickly.
The faculty in us that allows us to make decisions is not the intellectual faculty.
It's actually the emotional faculty. The emotion in us basically tells us, "Hey, I want something and I want it now."
So one reason we have a low closing ratio, meaning that we don't close enough business, is because we have not uncovered the emotional reason that the prospect has that causes them to buy something or make a buying decision.
Sometimes we call this pain.
Pain is something that is hurting us, something that is not right in our life.
And we have a sense of urgency, an emotional charge, to want to fix a problem and fix it now.
If we're to close more sales, we need to find a way to get our prospects in touch with their sense of urgency in fixing their problems or attaining their goals.
Reason #9: No Money
The second reason our closing ratio is low is that our potential clients don't either have the money to pay for our products or services, or they don't have access to that money.
More specifically, we have not asked them whether they have a budget set aside or have access to money to pay for our products or services before presenting to them our features, benefits, and solutions.
Reason #10: Can't Decide
The third reason for a low closing ratio is that we have not qualified them for having a decision-making authority before we present to them our products, services, and solutions.
You may have realized that in many selling situations, our prospective clients don't really have the final buying authority for the purchase.
If you're working in the corporate world, they may have to go to someone else to make the buying decision.
So you need to be speaking with someone else in that case who has the authority to say both a yes or no to wanting to buy something.
And if they don't have that buying authority, you need to get them to a point where they'll say, "OK, fine, I'll take you to that person" or together we'll go to that person who does have that buying authority.
This other person or persons that they have to go through could be their boss, for example, or sometimes even a committee.
This may also happen in a buying situation where a husband and a wife both have to make a buying decision.
For example, you may be speaking to the husband. But just because the husband is ready to buy doesn't necessarily mean that the wife is also on-board with it. So you need to have both of them on-board and sometimes in the same room before you can close the sale.
So if we end up presenting our solutions, our products, and our services to these folks who do not have the buying or the decision-making authority, who don't have the emotional reasons to buy or who don't have the money to pay for, we will waste our time, effort and energy working with them.
In the end, even if we present to them our best solutions, they will not be able to buy. And we will not be able to close a sale with them.
Reason #11: Proposals
The fourth reason our closing ratio is low is that we are giving them our expertise and knowledge in the forms of proposals, product demos and presentations prematurely.
Don't get me wrong, there is a time to give proposals and free information.
But the issue here is that we do it prematurely before making sure that we have qualified the prospect.
A qualified prospect is someone who has checked off on three boxes.
Number one, we've uncovered their emotional reasons for buying.
Number two, we've verified their access to money.
And number three, we have confirmed their decision-making ability or their access to the decision-makers.
When we give our proposals to them without qualifying them, what we are doing is free consulting.
As a salesperson, it's in our self-interest to be not giving out too many free proposals or not too many detailed proposals, where we're just solving the problems for them and we're giving away our expertise to them.
What they'll often do with that expertise is that they'll take it, go somewhere else and shop us around. This will just make the sales cycle longer and more drawn out.
And because of that, it'll be more difficult to close that sale.
Reason #12: Thinking About It
The fifth reason our closing ratio is low is that we accept think-it-over as a positive buying signal instead of seeing it for what it is, which is what I call passive rejection or a passive no.
When you're speaking with someone who doesn't have an emotional reason to buy, an urgency, they cannot make a decision, they do not have the money, they just take our proposals and shop us around, what they'll do often is they will say, "I'll think about it" or "Let me think this over."
They'll be nice to you and send you away. They'll also go away for a while.
This kind of interaction just makes the selling process ineffective for both the buyer and the seller.
With a buying process like that, you're not able to get them to make quick decisions. As a result, you close fewer sales, and that brings down your closing ratio.
So how do we fix this? How do we improve our closing ratio?
Sales Solution #3: High Closing Ratio
Sales Strategy #8: Pain
Strategy number eight is: Ask gentle, nurturing questions to draw out the child in your potential client.
Let me explain what that means. The word pain has become very popular in sales methodologies lately.
But there is a bit of misunderstanding here, which is that when we say pain, we're not causing pain as a salesperson.
If we cause pain, if we induce pain in a prospect, they are likely to run from us.
Prospects don't want to be in front of someone who's causing pain.
What we need to do instead is a little different.
If they've entered in a buying cycle with you, if they have gotten to a point where they're saying, "maybe I need to buy something from you," there's almost always a very high chance that there is an emotional reason which is already there to buy something.
So a professional salesperson will uncover that emotional reason for buying, which is already there.
How do we do it? Well, what we need to do is ask a ton of questions.
One thing that we really need to get good at is asking questions and figure out what is the reason - the emotional reason - that is felt strongly within them that is causing them to consider buying something.
By the way, a bit of an aside, it's also a great way to build a powerful bond with prospects.
Meaning that when we do this right, when we do it with a level of authenticity, concern and care, and we ask certain questions that bring out such emotional reasons for them to buy, they bond with us.
And that will set us apart from our competition - if we do this well.
Sales Strategy #9: Have Money
Strategy number nine is: Gauge your potential's money tolerance before presenting your features, benefits, and solutions, not after.
Once we know what their emotional reason is for buying, we need to figure out whether they have the money to pay for the problems that we're talking about or the products or services that they're considering buying from us.
And if they don't have the money, we need to have a good conversation, a solid, honest conversation about where they're going to get the money from.
Are they going to go to their boss and get the money?
Are they going to go to another department and get the money?
Are they going to put it on a credit card?
Are they going to take a loan?
These are all valid questions to ask.
We need to get into all of that, make sure that they have enough money or they have access to that money to pay for our products and services.
Sales Strategy #10: Can Decide
Strategy number 10 is: Uncover the process by which your potentials will make a buying decision before you present to them your products or services.
How do we do this?
Well, by continuing to ask them a ton of questions.
If they can't decide, we need to ask them who gets involved or who else gets involved in making the buying decision and whether we can talk to that person or persons directly.
Sales Strategy #11: Qualification
Strategy number 11 is: Only give expertise and knowledge to those potentials who are qualified to work with you.
The fourth reason for a low closing ratio is that as much as possible, we should not be throwing proposals out there.
Asking for a proposal is an inevitable thing that people will do.
And the first thing, the first instinct that we should develop as professionals is not to be giving out proposals when we don't need to.
Now, I'm not saying that you need to create some kind of animosity or aggravate them.
There are ways to do this in a way that doesn't make them upset.
So we need to find a way to not be giving our proposals while also allowing there to be a good, strong dialogue and communication with them and bring the conversation back to the emotional reasons for them to buy a product or service.
Sales Strategy #12: Now
Strategy number 12 is: Give your potential clients permission to tell you a no at the start of a sales process.
The last reason for a low closing ratio is think-it-over.
We need to get to a point where the think-it-over is now.
Something that we need to get clear in our heads is that it's OK if the prospect says no.
So somewhere along the line, our posture, our body language, the way we speak, we should be giving them permission, consciously and subconsciously, to just make a decision.
No is OK and yes is fine.
One thing we do as salespeople, or the salespeople are trained to do, is to never take no for an answer.
Never, ever, ever, ever go there or never let them go there.
Basically, don't ever lead a prospect down the rabbit hole where they might end up saying no. This is a very dangerous mindset, because what that does is that it just irritates them, and it creates a huge distance between us and them.
We need to get them to the point by asking questions, by asking gentle, probing questions where they're saying, "OK, I need this now."
And they actually tell you that, and they feel that. You can see that in their body language.
You can see in their facial expressions that they want this now.
And that's how you turn your low closing ratio into a high closing ratio.
This is common sense, isn't it?
If there is no pain, if there is no money on the table, if they can't decide and we're leaving a lot of proposals out there, and if they're saying, "I'm going to think about it," we will not close a lot of sales, right?
If this is happening, you will not have a very high closing ratio because you are just going to have lots of people out there who are "thinking about it" and not buying from you.
So if you turn that into an emotional reason to buy, which is shared, which is felt and we know what it is, if we get them to a point where they're sharing their money requirements with us, if they have the buying authority to make that purchase, if we're not leaving a lot of proposals out there on the table, if they're not giving us think-it-over's as answers, if they're making the decision to either say yes or no now, if we're doing all these things, we're going to have a very high closing ratio, correct?
It's going to be a higher closing ratio.
I'm not saying that you're going to close 100 percent of all the deals you get in front of. It can happen and it does happen. But I'm not saying that it will always happen.
However, you will improve your closing ratio.
Let's pretend that you're closing 2 out of 10 of the people in your sales pipeline, meaning that you have 10 opportunities sitting in your sales pipeline, and 8 of them either say no or just kind of wither away and go somewhere else.
And you only close 2 of those 10. That's a 20 percent close ratio. You can improve that if you do these things consistently, over time. You can get it to maybe 30 percent or 40 percent. If you get to a 40 percent closing ratio from 20 percent, that's a 100 percent improvement in your closing ratio.
That's the power of some of these small changes that you can make in your selling approach.
Sales Problem and Solution # 4: Pricing of Your Services and Products
Sales Problem #4: Pricing Pressures
Problem number four is pricing pressures.
Pricing pressures happen in two places. The first time that they give you a price objection is before they even see you face to face.
And the second time is in their buying process when they are talking to you in a sales dialogue.
Please note, these 2 causes for pricing pressures are numbered 13 and 14 below to continue from the previous 12 reasons, or causes, of sales problems.
Reason #13: Commodity
The reason our price becomes an issue in the first place is because we are seen - our products, services and company - as a commodity by the marketplace.
A commodity is a product or a service that is indistinguishable from other similar products and services.
This first pricing objection happens because they can't tell the difference between what you offer and what your competition does.
Again, this happens before they even see a salesperson face to face.
It happens when they see your marketing message somewhere in some kind of public forum, maybe on your website, in your advertisement, on social media, on your YouTube channel, or what have you.
So, in your marketing material, maybe you are saying things that just will kind of bundle you with other people.
In other words, you are not highlighting distinguishing features in your products or services that make you stand out as the only place that does something and does that really well.
So you are perceived as a commodity, as in you are doing something that everybody else is doing or a lot of other people are doing.
Because of that, you're not standing out.
Reason #14: Intellectual
The second place where the pricing objection happens is when we engage with them in a one-on-one dialogue.
When we engage with them in a one-on-one dialogue, at some point they'll bring up the price.
The reason this second pricing objection happens is that, perhaps, you are appealing to the intellectual side of your prospects when making a selling argument.
So the reason we get pricing pressures when we are in a sales cycle with them is because you let their buying decision become an intellectual decision.
I would like for you to think about a buying decision that you made.
Let's pretend that you bought a car.
When you bought the car, was it an intellectual decision, 100 percent, or was it an emotional one?
If you really thought hard about this, you would probably agree that you had more of an emotional reason to buy than an intellectual one.
You may not have shared that emotional reason with the salesperson you bought it from, but the reason was there.
So we don't buy intellectually. The faculty that allows us to make decisions, including buying decisions, is not our intellect.
It's actually our emotions.
When the buying process becomes overly intellectual, prospects will object to our price.
A professional can change that by getting them to talk about their emotional reasons for making a purchasing decision.
Sales Solution #4: Pricing Cooperation
Sales Strategy #13: Monopoly
Strategy number 13 is: Set yourself up to be perceived by your marketplace as meaningfully different.
So how do we fix this?
One way we can fix it is by going back to our Sales and Marketing Message.
In our Sales and Marketing Message, we need to spell out what makes us different, what makes us stand out in the marketplace.
What is it we do that no one else can do as well as we do, in some way, shape, or form that is important to the prospects, that is meaningful to our marketplace in their terms?
When we do that, we stand out as a monopoly. Monopoly in the marketplace is when you are doing something that they perceive that only you can do as well as you do, and no one else can do it as well as you do.
When you stand out like that, at some level, they are less likely to give you a pricing fight later on.
Sales Strategy #14: Emotional
Strategy number 14 is: Engage the emotional side of the potentials before talking about money.
The pricing objection in the second phase, when we are talking to them face to face, happens because we're not engaging their emotional side, their psychological child.
When we're not addressing their psychological child, we are not bringing out the emotional reasons for them to buy. When they feel and share with you the emotional reasons to buy, they are likely to forget about price and just talk about what their needs are.
So the pricing issue doesn't become an intellectual issue.
It becomes more of an emotional issue.
And they're willing to pay a fair price to get rid of the problem they're facing.
When you have a message that sets you apart as a monopoly, and when you begin to talk more about the emotional reasons for them to buy, their pricing pressures will turn into price cooperation.
When you do this right, you and them would come on the same side of the table and the conversation now becomes, "How are you going to pay for this, and what is it that I can do to help you find the money?"
So the pricing pressures become pricing cooperation where the two parties are talking about it as an issue that they both need to resolve together.
Sales Problem and Solution # 5: Length of Your Sales Cycles
Sales Problem #5: Long Sales Cycles
The fifth reason our sales revenues are not where we want them to be is that our deals are taking too long to close.
In sales methodology terms, what this means is that our sales cycles are too long.
The length of a sales cycle is the time that elapses from the point that someone shows an interest in your product or service to the point when they have completed buying and the money's in the bank, or you have lost a sale where you shake hands and part friends and say, "Well, we're not going to do business."
Long sales cycles happen for four reasons.
A side note here, you may now have started to see some common themes and common ideas.
So I will not spend too much time going into the things that we've already talked about.
I'm just going to spend more time on the strategies and less time on the problems.
Please note, these 4 reasons are numbered 15 through 18 below to continue from the previous 14 reasons, or causes, of sales problems.
Reason #15: Wrong Potentials
The first reason our sales cycles are too long is because we have wrong potential clients in our sales pipeline.
Reason #16: Unemotional
The second reason is your approach to selling is overly intellectual, so the potential clients are also engaging with you intellectually.
Reason #17: No Is Not OK
The third reason is that you're avoiding a no and refusing to go down the road to potentially getting a no as an answer, and the attitude, the persona, the presence that you have is "I will not take no for an answer."
Reason #18: Reactive Negotiations
And the fourth reason for long sales cycles is what I call reactive negotiations. I'll explain this more when we talk about the strategy.
Sales Solution #5: Short Sales Cycles
Sales Strategy #15: Right Potentials
Strategy number 15 is: Craft your company's Sales and Marketing Message to attract your ideal clients.
Obviously, we need to put the right potentials in our sales pipeline.
The right potential is someone who benefits the most from the products and services we offer.
The most important aspect of this definition is that they have an important problem we can fix with our products or services, or they have an important objective that we can help them achieve, obviously with our products and services.
So if you have the wrong potentials in your sales pipeline, they will not make the buying decisions quickly.
So it'll take a very long time to close the sale with them.
So a sale that can close in two meetings, for example, will take three or four or five meetings.
Sales Strategy #16: Emotional Response
Strategy number 16 is: Design your selling process or method to address the emotional side of your prospects.
What this means is that the selling approach you employ can evoke an emotional response from your prospects.
It's important to remember that when we talk about emotions in selling, what that means is that it's not necessarily the salesperson who is emotionally involved in the selling process, but it's the prospect who is emotionally involved in their buying process.
This means that we talk less and listen more, and we ask a lot of questions.
When the prospects are emotionally involved, they are more likely to buy now than putting off the decision until later, so your sales cycles will be shorter.
Sales Strategy #17: No is Okay
Strategy number seventeen is: Make it clear to your prospects that they're expected to make a decision at some point, and that either a no or a yes is OK.
This means that somewhere towards the beginning of your selling cycle, you have a conversation where you say, "Hey, I have a question to ask. If you get to a point, sir, Mr. Prospect or Mrs. Prospect, where you feel like this is not the right thing for you to be doing, meaning that you don't want to buy from me, if that happens or when that happens, would you stop everything and say that? Will you tell me you're not going to buy from me?"
When you have a conversation like that with them, they will be surprised.
They'll look at you funny sometimes, but if you're sincere, they'll be pleasantly surprised because they've never seen or heard a salesperson talk like that before.
They'll say, "Sure, I'll tell you no if I'm not going to buy from you."
When you have a conversation like that, you take a tremendous amount of pressure from their buying process.
And you also take a tremendous amount of pressure from your selling process because you're not trying to get them to do one thing or the other. You're just trying to help them fix a problem.
The idea here is that if you give them the permission to say no, you can also have this other conversation at some point, which is something like, "OK, Mr. and Mrs. Prospect, if it's not a no, is it also OK if we have some kind of discussion to figure out what it looks like moving forward, and what is it that we would do next?"
What you are really going for is some kind of conversation where you tell them that you expect them to make a decision at some point.
That decision can be a yes or no, but you would like for them to make a decision. Even better, you would like for us, both of you, to make a decision.
So, here's the thing, the mindset that we need to show up with is not "I'm here to sell you something and you must not tell me no and you must say yes."
That's what the traditional salesperson or a pushy salesperson does.
As a professional, I would like for you to show up and say, my job is not to sell you stuff.
My job is to help you make a decision, the right decision, whatever that decision is for you, Mr. and Mrs. Prospect, for your situation.
And if it's a no, I'm OK with that. If it's a yes, I would love to work with you and figure out what that looks like.
Sales Strategy #18: Proactive Negotiations
Strategy number eighteen is: Uncover your prospects' pricing and other objections early in your selling process through proactive negotiations.
One thing that I get asked a lot is, "Hey, do you have a class on negotiations?"
Well, I don't have a class on negotiations.
The reason is that when you do this right, you shouldn't have to negotiate.
When I say negotiate, I mean what's known as positional bargaining in the business, which I think is so unpleasant on both sides.
This is the kind of negotiating where you say, "This is going to be ten thousand dollars" and they say, "Well, no, I can't pay ten thousand dollars. Maybe five thousand dollars."
So you come down a little and you say, "OK, well, fine, eight thousand dollars."
This is a very dispiriting, demotivating conversation, in my opinion.
So I call such negotiations reactive negotiations because you're talking about something after you no longer have a leverage on that something.
So your leverage is lost.
I would rather have a conversation like this beforehand.
What I would like for you to try is proactive negotiation. Don't negotiate the price after you've given away your proposals, your time, your energy, and your expertise.
You spend all this time and now you're going to close the deal and then you negotiate.
That's not the best time to negotiate - for either party, really, but especially for the salesperson.
The place and the time when I would negotiate is before you get into all of that.
What can you negotiate in a proactive negotiation?
Well, you can negotiate about how you're going to help them make a buying decision.
Yes is OK. No is fine.
You can negotiate where they're going to find the money if they need to go looking for the money to pay for the product or service that they're about to buy.
How are they going to get to the person who can make a buying decision if the prospect that you're talking to cannot make a decision?
These are the kinds of things that I would talk about before it's too late to talk about them.
I call it proactive negotiation.
Here's a secret.
When you think about it, there are only 3 reasons people don't buy from you.
And those 3 reasons are: they don't have an emotionally compelling reason to buy, they don't have the money, and they can't make a decision on their own.
So if you take away those three reasons early in proactive negotiations, at the beginning of the process, then you're more likely to close your sales quicker.
By the way, you can also proactively negotiate about other things, such as how much time you are going to spend in the buying and selling process and which process they'll use to make a buying decision.
In a nutshell, proactive negotiation is a negotiation about the process as to how they are going to buy and how you're going to help them make a buying decision, where yes is OK and no is fine.
So this is common sense, right?
Think about this.
If I'm talking to the wrong prospects in the first place, if my prospects are not emotionally motivated about solving their problems, if they have not committed to making a decision, and if we leave the most important things to negotiate, like money, until the end of the buying process, obviously it's going to take me a long time to close sales.
The opposite is also true if I'm talking to the right prospects whose problems I can solve in some unique way, if my prospects are emotionally motivated to fix those problems, if they've committed to making a buying decision, either yes or no, and we negotiate the important aspects of the deal towards the beginning of the process, we're going to have prospects who make quick decisions.
And if they do, I'll have shorter sales cycles, which will allow me to free up my time, effort and energies in pursuing more opportunities, which then will allow me to increase my sales revenues.
Sales Problem and Solution # 6: Sales Process
Sales Problem #6: Trapped in a Sales Process
The sixth problem that we have in sales that results in inadequate sales revenues is the fact that we get trapped in a sales process.
What are some reasons that cause this problem to exist in the first place?
Well, there are 2 reasons.
Please note, these 2 reasons are numbered 19 and 20 below to continue from the previous 18 reasons, or causes, of sales problems.
Reason #19: Someone Else
The first reason is that the sales process that you may be using is probably someone else's.
When a sales process is designed by someone else, for someone else, it works great for them. But what if it doesn't work for you?
A sales process is designed for a certain personality of people and with certain types of value systems.
A lot of factors go into why someone will have a certain type of sales process.
When you just kind of take it out of the box, whether you're buying it from a skills trainer or a sales consulting firm, it is their sales process that you're buying into.
Even if you buy that, even if you pay the money to get access to it, you must put yourself in a situation where you actually get to own it psychologically.
So make your own process out of that.
If you don't do that, it is someone else's process. You're buying into someone else's value system, their objectives, and their goals.
You end up owning their values and their goals and objectives and their ways of doing things. This may not be a bad thing, but what if your values and your objectives are not the same as those whose selling system you're adopting?
So being trapped in a selling process is being trapped in someone else's values and someone else's goals and objectives.
One side-effect of this is that the people who work from such a selling process or a selling system won't feel very good deep inside.
If you don't feel good working from a sales process, it may be a sign that the sales process is not designed for you and by you, but for someone else, by someone else.
Reason #20: Machine to Machine
The second reason we may feel trapped in a selling process is when it's designed to be a machine-to-machine process, not a human-to-human process.
The assumption we make when we design a sales process is that we can expect the prospect to behave in a certain way all the time or most of the time.
This is helpful up to a point, but when we make the process into some kind of mechanical system where we expect all our prospects to behave in a certain way all the time, this will create problems in our selling.
This is the kind of a selling process that sees the prospect as a predictable machine.
And if they are a predictable machine, I, the salesperson, am going to make A, B, C, X, Y, Z kinds of moves to get them to buy whatever I'm selling.
When we design a mechanical selling process, we're making two assumptions.
The first assumption is that the prospect is a machine, that they're a predictable robotic thing. And the second assumption is that the salespeople are machines.
So in that case, you see yourself or your salespeople also as machines.
When the sales process doesn't consider the humanity, the humanness, of the people on both sides of the table, the selling party and the buying party, talking, asking questions, listening, understanding - those kinds of things - that sales process will not be effective.
Sales Solution #6: Freed by the Sales Process
Sales Strategy #19: Your Own
Strategy number 19 is: Build your sales process from the ground up when possible.
And if you buy an off-the-shelf process, make sure that you take the time to reinvent it so it's the right fit for the personality and the value system of your sales organization.
Sales Strategy #20: Human to Human
Strategy number 20 is: Build or adopt a sales process that allows you to be human in front of the prospect and treat your prospects as humans.
So make sure that the sales process is designed for a human to human contact, not for a machine to machine interaction.
It sounds like an oxymoron, right?
How do you have a process, but it's a human-to-human process?
Well, think about what it means to be human.
The main thing that we as humans have is emotions.
So instead of trying to take all the emotions out of your selling process, make sure that you design a process that allows your prospects to not just have emotions, but also express those emotions.
Another aspect of being human is to be in the moment.
We love being in the moment and being spontaneous.
So allow for your salespeople to go off script and do what they need to do to truly help a prospect and connect with them.
So think about this. This is common sense, right?
If I have a sales process that is designed for me and by me, as in for my organization and by my sales organization, if it is designed to promote a human-to-human dialogue where we truly understand each other and we are truly trying to help them with their issues and concerns with our products and services, when it allows us a level of spontaneity in our dialogue so we can do in the moment what we need to do to truly help them, that process will not tie us down and strait-jacket us.
Instead, it will free us up to do what we need to do to help a client and make a sale.
Insight Moment: Which Strategy to Try?
So there you have it, 20 unconventional sales strategies to increase your sales revenues.
But hold it!
Before you go, there's one more thing I want to share with you. And please don't skip this part.
You've come this far on the journey with me, and I thank you for that.
Stick around a bit more with this last piece of information.
What we've covered is a lot. And a lot of what I have shared requires a different level of thinking, acting and behaving, and sometimes feeling.
You may even be overwhelmed with the amount of information that you've just had.
So I want to leave you with three extremely important suggestions.
Insight #1: Baby Steps
The first one is baby steps.
What I would like for you to do is pick one thing from the strategies that appeals to you the most or applies to your situation the most.
If you feel comfortable, please leave in the comments section below what that strategy or idea is that appeals to you the most.
Insight #2: Low-Risk Situations
My second suggestion is: Try this stuff out in low-risk situations.
So don't try this stuff on your million-dollar deals just yet. Instead, practice them on a smaller scale or a smaller sale.
If a normal sale size is, let's say, $10,000, try this on a $200 or a $500 sale.
Another situation to practice is on a sale that you already know that you will not get; where you have nothing to lose.
So in that case, try some of this stuff out to see if you can turn it around and win back that sale.
Insight #3: Learn How to Fail
The third thing is: Learn how to fail.
One reason I would like for you to try this in a low-risk situation is because it allows you a safety net within which you can fail and bounce back quickly.
Human to human selling is a contact sport. In a contact sport, we learn the most by trying and failing.
So we need to give ourselves space within which we can safely fail without getting hurt.
If you have questions, ideas or suggestions on any of this, please leave them in the comments section below.
I hope to see you in the next one.