A Guide To Closing Deals: 4 Missteps & 5 Questions You Should Know For Sales Success
Your company has hired a lead generation firm and you feel the leads are not moving into sales fast enough. You may be wondering what should be done.
Opportunities may be overlooked or passed on because of basic missteps in internal communication or practices. Although technology has come a long way and we rely heavily on a digital world to share information daily, basic communications surrounding marketing and sales strategies will benefit you and bottom line results. In this post I offer my 35 years of sales and marketing experience to help move the sale along.
Once your lead gen consultant brings you leads, take a look at how the lead is being handled. I’ve found in taking a closer examination that it’s not that there aren’t enough leads in the hopper but rather leads could be handled better. When there is lack of follow through, leads turn into dead-ends. For the sales person it means a lost commission and affects the health of the business.
Fortunately, the reasons behind lost leads are often simple and the solutions are common sense professionalism and classic salesmanship. Let’s now discuss the four most common causes that lead to a failure to close and the five questions you need to ask yourself to stay on track.
The 4 missteps that will keep your leads from closing:
1. Failure to follow through. Is it that you don't have enough leads coming in, or is it that you could be getting back to them faster? If you need help with breaking the ice refer to my earlier blog post "5 Strategies For Succeeding at Pre-Meeting Preparations" and read "Making Time for Small Talk".
Follow through is not so easily completed as one would think. You don’t need to have a proposal or all the market research ready to start a conversation. A simple introductory phone call to say, "Hi, I'm Chris from ABC CRO. I'll be back to you next week but feel free to call me if you have an urgent question or concern regarding our company."
It's also important to note the date that the lead came in and decide in advance when too much time has passed to respond. Establish a timeframe to reach out to the leads and make sure to follow through.
2. Failure to prepare. Too often meetings are hastily arranged and key decision makers are left out of important conversations.
Before you travel to a meeting, do market research and review the lead's background. To justify the trip, show if the company has a current study going on and know what’s in the company pipeline. You should also have a plan of action and distribute an agenda for meeting attendees, prior to leaving for the trip. An agenda will guide your prospects through conversations and help you communicate with all the influential buyers in the sale. Read more on how to prepare for a meeting in my blog post "5 Tips To Start Selling and Stop Taking Orders".
When attending conferences, make the most of the visit. Reach out, in advance, to company contacts that have come in as leads to schedule an appointment. Make the most of social media as well. Many conferences use #hashtags to create a community of sponsors/attendees on Twitter, LinkedIn and now Facebook. This gets the conversation moving before the conference.
When you hire your lead generation company, also make sure they are aware of your own company’s news (i.e. conferences, press releases, blogs, interviews, meetings, staff changes, new hires, etc.). Shared information helps open doors to sales opportunities. Thanks to social media and email marketing, content creation and networking has become easier to share, but people are also bombarded with information on an unprecedented level so it’s vital that the information shared is current and valuable.
3. Failure to put the company before territory. When territories subvert the interests of the company the system needs to be reexamined.
No doubt territories influence us to take ownership and cultivate relationships with companies, but too often they result in a missed opportunity due to someone being on vacation or conflicts with timing and other meetings. Clients don’t want to be a second consideration. A suggestion can be to turn the request into a teleconference call covered by your manager and/or CEO. Everyone takes vacations/everyone gets busy. You know if something can be changed and if the client will work with you regarding changes in scheduling or not being available; however if you sense they won’t collaborate then ask for help and get coverage while you are away. Not only will you save a missed opportunity but you will be recognized as someone who has the company’s interest at heart and be seen as a willing collaborator and team player.
4. Reevaluate the company's "Do Not Contact" list or what we call at Sales-Link, the "Dead Not Closing" list. You may have a huge Do Not Contact list you hand off to your lead gen vendor. Who is on this list? When was it last updated? Evaluate this Do Not Contact list. You could be missing opportunities that might make a difference for you and your company’s financial security. Why are certain contacts closed out from being approached? Has every contact on the list been fully explored or recently contacted? Are all paths to communication open and aggressive?
Realize that you are one person chasing after thousands so it's impossible for a salesperson to be on top of every available opportunity. Conversely, the prospects you are pursuing are just looking for a few special CROs or service providers. The ratio is not even keel, so position yourself and your company to win. Timing is everything. Release those Do Not Contact lists so routine lead generating can be done timely to identify prospects with business opportunities.
In this huge world of drug development work, you must be open to new possibilities, not limit them.
Now that you have the perspective from a lead generator on how we can work together to close deals, I also offer this list of questions to help you to start the important conversation that gets sales teams thinking, recharged and closing deals.
5 questions for a sales person to start closing deals:
1. Are you familiar with your prospects' press releases and online reputation? You should be very familiar with what's going on within the company as well as what’s being said about the company on social media and search engines.
2. What's in the company’s pipeline? Do you know where the company is at in its pipeline? Knowing this information will help formulate your agenda/presentation.
3. Can you place the lead in a 30-60-90 day outlook projection for business? How does this lead rank? Every lead should be qualified with a 30/60/90 day outlook.
4. What is the typical deal size for work your company performs? Can this prospect afford your company’s solution? Can you deliver what the client is seeking? If not, start crafting hybrid solutions that works for all.
As a salesperson you want to identify realistic sales projections. The questions above generate information that creates solutions and conversations with your company’s operations group regarding deliverables. These types of discussions involve upper management who you want to be aware of your activities.
5. Do you have enough content for a written proposal to be sent to the prospect? Let's face it, customers, no matter the industry, want to know your pricing. The longer it takes to give general pricing, the faster you and your employer’s credibility begins to crumble. Be determined to understand and gain clarity so you can get back to the prospect quickly so they can start to familiarize themselves with you and your company.