Scaling up can be tricky for salespeople looking to get customers

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Scaling up is indeed a challenge for all types of businesses whether it is a startup or a conglomerate going global. My friend Huggy Rao has written a bestseller on this subject based on his and a colleague’s research at Stanford.

Sometimes, it might be better to stay at the same level and do things more meaningfully. Scaling up is a tricky subject, especially for salespeople looking to gain new customers. I am going to list some of the issues specific to increasing the customer base here.

Are your salespeople talking too much?: Salespeople who are too focused on their pitch end up dominating the time with a prospect. As a result, for every 60 minutes spent in front of a prospect, five minutes is spent selling the product or service and 55 minutes saying things that might actually be buying it back. Result: no order, cancelled order, or “I’ll think it over”. The 80/20 rule applies to selling as well. The goal should be to get the prospect to do 80 per cent of the talking, while you do only 20 per cent. The trick is in training them to do so. You probably require outside help of consultants in this respect.

Are your salespeople complaining that the selling is becoming like begging?: Quite often salespeople fail to think of their time with a prospect as an interview to find out whether the prospect qualifies to do business with their company. Instead of asking the questions that will determine whether it is possible to move the prospect to the level of customer, salespeople often find themselves hoping, wishing and even begging for the opportunity to “just show my wares” and maybe make a sale. In selling, questions are the instrument to conduct a qualifying examination of the prospect.

Are your salespeople answering unasked questions?: When a customer says something like, “your price is too high”, sales people often switch into a defensive mode. They will begin a lengthy speech on quality or value, or they might respond with a concession or price reduction. If customers can get a discount by merely making a statement, they will reason that they should not buy before trying something more powerful to get an even better price. “Your price is too high” is not a question; it does not require an answer.

Are your salespeople making too many presumptions?: Most companies are no longer in the business of selling products but of providing solutions. This is fine, except that often salespeople try to tell the prospect the solution before they even understand the problem. The salesperson must ask questions up front to get complete understanding of the prospect’s

perspective.

Are your salespeople failing to get a prospect’s commitment to purchase before making a presentation? Salespeople jump too easily at any opportunity to show how smart they are by making a presentation about their products’ or service’s features and benefits. They forget their true goal — to make a sale — and end up merely educating their prospects, who then have all the information they need to buy from a competitor. Yes, presentations may be necessary, but this should be planned carefully. Make your salespeople do prior study of the prospect and then decide.

Are your salespeople failing to get the prospect to reveal budget up front? How can the salesperson possibly propose a solution without knowing the prospect’s priority on a problem? Knowing whether money has been allocated for a project can help distinguish someone who is ready to solve a problem from someone who is merely fishing around. The amount of money the prospect is willing to invest to solve a problem will help determine whether a solution is feasible, and which approach will be best.

Are your salespeople preferring to hear “I want to think it over” rather than ‘no’? Prospects frequently end a sales interview with the standard “think it over” line. The salesperson often accepts this indecision. It is easier to tell a manager or convince yourself that the prospect may buy in the future than to admit that the prospect is not a qualified candidate for the product or service. A ‘no’ allows them to actually go on to prospects that are more promising.

Are your salespeople making too many follow-up calls? Whether because of a stubborn attitude that every prospect can be turned into a customer or ignorance that a sale is truly dead, salespeople sometimes spend too much time chasing accounts that do not qualify for a product or service. I am sure all of us have experienced this time and again. Need to really check on this from time to time.

I have been talking to a number of trainers and consultants in the sales and customer service business and I am always amazed by the number of prospects who tell me they feel heard for the first time. Clients want to know that we get it — we understand their needs, expectations and concerns when doing business.

(The writer is the CEO and MD of CustomerLab Solutions)

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