(By Lisa Thal) One of my first managers, Perry Samuels, taught me a valuable lesson early in my career. He would say, “Don’t skip steps.” At the time I was not sure I fully understood how important those three words would become for my career. He had 40-plus successful years in sales, and he shared with me that most sellers do skip steps; they meet clients and try to close them on the next call and then move to the next prospect.
He explained that I might close a few clients that way, but if I committed to the fundamentals of sales without skipping steps, I would create a lifetime of customers. I have incorporated the system Perry taught me over 30 years ago, and I coach my team with the same philosophy today. It may take extra time and energy up front, but in the end, you will gain your clients’ respect and earn their business for life.
Think about how you prepare yourself for work. Are there new skills you need to learn to earn the business? There are tremendous resources available to you to sharpen your skills. You can Google anything today and you’ll have numerous articles or videos at your fingertips to teach you how to improve or grow.
We’ve all heard expressions like “Do the fundamentals” and “Back to the basics.” The question is, how many of us do the fundamentals consistently? Taking care of the basics can be the difference between losing or earning your clients’ business. When you master the basics, you will become more disciplined and effective in understanding your clients’ needs. Therefore, you will be able to recommend better solutions to get their desired outcomes.
Follow these recommendations for each client to ensure you give yourself the best chance of earning and retaining their business.
1. Winning attitude. It starts with the right mindset. You must recommit every day to accomplishing your desired outcomes. You need to have extreme confidence in yourself and your abilities. You will face rejection daily, so staying positive through each experience is key.
2. Prospecting. You need to embrace the concept of prospecting. This is the lifeline of your business. You need to be strategic in whom you target, seeking those with the greatest potential. Stop chasing small accounts that don’t have the spending potential. Spend your time focused on big accounts with the ability to invest in the strategy you recommend.
3. Probe. Ask great questions to understand where your opportunity is to help the client. Being prepared with thoughtful questions based on your research you did prior to the call will set you apart from your competition. You need to listen more and talk less. Asking great questions and letting the customer talk is a huge benefit.
4. Presentation. Make certain you present thoughtful solutions to your client’s needs. You want to overdeliver on their expectations. Spend time reviewing your notes from the initial meeting to make sure you are presenting answers to their biggest challenges.
5. Objections. Anticipate objections by role-playing with your manager or a co-worker. Ask how your client will measure and view the success of the campaign. The extra time you spend thinking from your client’s perspective can be a game-changer.
6. Ask for the business. You have done the work, now it’s time to ask for the business. Most of us love the rapport and relationship-building. When you follow the basics, you have earned the right to ask how you can help.
7. Make your mark. Once the sale is complete, the real work begins. You have invested a lot of time and energy into gaining this client as a customer. I would ask how they prefer to communicate. Do they prefer weekly phone calls, e-mail, face-to-face meetings, or monthly updates? Create a system that makes it easier on the customer. Staying connected and accessible is critical to retaining them.
8. Recommendations. A happy customer is willing to introduce you to other decision-makers. Ninety-one percent of customers say they’re willing to give referrals, but only 11 percent of salespeople ask for them. (Source: FrontSpin, quoting Dale Carnegie in the article “How Important Are Sales Referrals for B2B Sales?”) Make asking for a referral a part of your routine. Asking for referrals from satisfied customers will shorten the sales cycle for you.
Lisa Thal is the general sales manager for Hubbard Interactive Cincinnati. She’s also the author of Three-Word Meetings: A Simple Strategy to Engage, Inspire and Empower Your Team. Get it on Amazon.com.