About a year ago a woman came into my office.
She was running a fairly successful marketing firm yet she struggled to get her clients to connect with her sales message.
To her it felt "icky". She liked educating. She liked showing her clients what she would do for them.
But they would respond, "okay... if you're so confident, how about we pay you when you generate us the results..."
Uggh. Who can manage a business like that?
So the woman decided that something needed to change. She hired a sales person. Who basically followed her lead, and also was not able to make any sales. So it was a hard decision that it was time to fire the new hire and start at square one. How would she make this into a business?
Marketing and Sales are Not the Same
Many people bucket marketing and sales under the same category, but they're not.
If you look at publicly traded companies annual reports, they will use terms on their income statement as revenue, income, or sales. The terms are synonymous.
Marketing will usually use other terms such as retail or promotion. But you would never see an income statement label "marketing" for the amount of money that comes in.
Although in many businesses marketing may be the first impression a potential client has with your business, it's not the first place that we should start focusing on. Marketing comes after we already are clear how a client buys, and what was the tipping point to make them purchase. Once that is clear, then we double-down on the message in a marketing.
start at the smaller distance to the dollar
But for now, we want to only focus on the shortest distance to the dollar and work from there.
Know Your Numbers
Since we are now going to be focusing on the shortest distance to the dollar the question we need to ask ourselves is how do we get there?
Unless we are fortunate enough to have a client immediately want to buy (in which case this formula isn't really for you - we're focusing on clients who are buying high-priced services, who will require a lot of nurturing and hand-holding), you will have to ask yourself, what's the step that comes just before the close? The proposal.
We won't be able to throw out proposals to everyone, and not every proposal will close, so we want to prepare ourselves for two times more proposals than the number of closes. Hopefully we don't need that many, but it always better to over-prepare. Shoot for the stars and land on the moon.
Before the proposals we will need more meetings. Having about four times the number of meetings as what we need in closed deals is an ideal goal.
Finally, it will take about ten prospects to lead us to those four meetings.
Prospects are considered people (or companies) that we are either laser-focused targeting or individuals that we will be able to connect with in a high-level form of communication, such as phone or face-to-face. Email is not a high-level form of communication and should only be used as a last effort to get in front of someone.
You can immediately see why focusing on marketing first is the wrong approach. In just the sales efforts we are hoping for one-in-ten people to connect with us for a sale. When we add marketing to this approach we start to look at best-case scenario a 2-3% conversion, which means you are hoping to have one in every fifty clients ready! Those are odds that personally I will only add when I know with CERTAINTY that my 10% approach is working.
Everyone's sales funnel will be slightly different, and it is up to you to figure out your particular numbers, but this is a starting point.
If you continue to focus on the only thing that truly matters - how many meetings are you booking every week, and is it enough to achieve your revenue goals, you'll meet your target every time.
Revenue is the lagging indicator, meetings are the leading indicator.
"Who" Before "What"
When a lot of small businesses get started they will typically rack their brain asking themselves:
- What should I start selling?
- What am I good at?
- What will people buy?
Focusing on the what limits you to then trying to figure out who will actually buy your product.
Before I created KO Sales U, I wanted to be a life coach. I spent HOURS creating an online meditation program, with videos, files, and programs.
I sold 0 of them. Not even my mom wanted to buy it.
If someone would have asked me who it was designed for, I would have responded "everyone". Uggh! The mistakes we make as first time entrepreneurs.
When I finally had my "brick in the head" moment, I realized what I did wrong. I was trying to fit a round peg in a square hole, instead of going to the people I wanted to work with and ask them what they needed, how my skillset could help, and why it was important for them to solve that problem.
Meeting with people first helps in two ways. First, it makes you genuinely interested in understanding others (we'll get to why that's important next). Secondly, when you take the time to understand others, they'll take the time to understand you.
Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood - Stephen Covey
As you understand people they will like you, and eventually love you. And those will always be the easiest to sell to.
People who love you will always buy from you, no matter what you are selling.
Get clear on who you want to sell to first, and everything else will flow much easier.
Be Genuinely Curious
Your first meeting with a client should be a discovery of who they are and what they would find meaningful in your relationship.
In our sales cycle this would also be the lead qualification meeting where we would ask the client a lot of questions to determine if they are even a right fit for us.
If you went on a first date with someone and all that person did was tell you all about themselves, open their Facebook profile and show you all their pictures and they things they've accomplished, and then finally asked you, "what do you think?" would you ever go on a second date with that person again? Likely not. They know NOTHING about YOU.
Too many companies use their first meeting to give this terrible first impression. They open up with a presentation or a demo. Uggh! I don't want to see your product. I want to know why I should work with you and how I would benefit. I will only know that when you've taken the time to get to know me.
You could say that your clients are asking for the demo in the first meeting and that's why you are presenting it in that way, and that's fine. But then go back to your sales funnel. When you present the demo in the first meeting are you turning 4 meetings into 2 proposals? Are those two proposals turning one close? If that's not working, then you're working harder than you absolutely have to.
Demos and presentations are far more effective when we ask the client a LOT of questions about themselves and what they would like to receive. Then we can focus the demo or presentation entirely on those few aspects that the client wants to see, not the aspects that we want to show them.
Sell the Cake, Not the Recipe
When a bakery sells a wedding cake they ask about the wedding. The experience (and the photos) tied to that experience are what make the cake special, and worth much more to the happy couple.
If the baker was to explain the process, and the ingredients of the cake, the couple would start to question why they are spending that much time. After all, the cake consists of flour, sugar, eggs, butter, baked for a couple of hours. What's hard about that? Why are we spending $350 (or more!) for a cake, when we could do it ourselves, or even buy a box mix that does relatively the same thing.
When we focus on the process of what we are selling the client hears one of two things:
- This is easy, I should be able to do it
- This is harder than I expected, and I'm not up for a "make work" project
We need to focus on the experience of the cake at the wedding, or in your case how the client's experience will change when your project is a regular aspect of their business. How will their company improve? How will their life improve?
Agree to the Highest Level
The next step in the sales cycle is always the next meeting. Hands down. If it's not in the calendar it doesn't exist.
Whether that is still creating value or booking the demo (usually better as a second or third meeting, not the first), or finally the proposal. Whatever you do, don't try to rush through your process.
If the client is busy, that's fine. Book the meeting when they are free.
I was working with a student and after a great meeting with a client, for a deal worth three times more than he had ever sold before, the client asked for the proposal. The man was so excited that he left that meeting, and after an hour of thinking about it, he called me. "The client asked for the proposal, but I forgot to book the meeting. I know you said NEVER email a proposal, so should I just drop it off to their office unannounced?"
My response to him? What's the rush?
If the client wasn't planning on implementing the solution for another two more months, take a moment and ask for the meeting. If the meeting happens to be in a week or two, that is FAR better than sending the proposal right away. Taking the time to go through the solution, and the price, with the client will always be better than taking arguably the MOST important step in the sales cycle and discounting it to the lowest methods of communication.
In the event the client isn't ready to take the next meeting, or next step, then agree to something.
This likely means that I want the client to agree that this relationship is valuable, that the client will be taking some type of future action, or that they will contact us immediately if they choose to go in a different direction. I want people to agree with me, instead of disagreeing. If the next step can't be any type of agreement, I know the deal is not for me, and I move on, and you should too.
Form Habits with Support
Sales skills is the development of interpersonal skills. As nice as it is to read blogs, watch videos, and prepare our list of questions we would ask in a meeting, it can't replace what a real life situation would be like.
Sales is a skills that requires practice with others. We want to hear real objections that we don't know if we can prepare for. We need to be caught off guard from time to time to prepare ourselves for the situations when it will happen.
You wouldn't learn how to play a sport by never playing against, or alongside, another person. So why are you treating the MOST important skill with a different lens?
We are here to help you prepare for your most important aspect of your business.
Check out our program, KO Sales U, and we'll turn you into a Sales Knockout!