At the beginning of every sales process, there is some form of needs assessment performed by the buyer and seller. When sales reps are tasked with “opportunity creation,” uncovering a pain which forces the customer to take immediate action is the key to sustained success. Let’s look at some ways you can utilize pain to further the sales process.
First, have you uncovered a true pain that impacts the entire organization you’re selling to? If the solution you are proposing is merely an easier way to do things yet doesn’t contribute directly to a primary business objective (i.e. increase revenue, decrease cost, and/or minimize risk), it is unlikely to expedite the sales process. Focus your selling efforts on selling solutions which contribute most to helping your customer achieve their business objectives. There isn’t a company around that wouldn’t want to generate more sales, cut costs, or minimize their exposure to risk. The questions you should help your customer answer are “how much will it cost me to achieve my objectives by implementing your solution, and how long until returns are noticeable?”
After uncovering a potential pain, it’s time to validate it with any and all organizational stakeholders involved. Very few organizations leave major decisions to just one person these days. Even if you are dealing with an owner of a small company, that owner will likely have a desire to involve others if for no other reason than to keep from alienating anyone. Never assume everyone will be on board just because the “head cheese” favors your solution. Plus, the more people who express an approval of your solution, the better leverage you have when it’s time to sign the deal.
You’ve now uncovered a true pain and validated that pain with other stakeholders within your customer’s company, now what? Do you have a definitive budget approved for your solution? If you’ve heard something along the lines of “don’t worry about funding, the money will be there for this project,” you’re in trouble! If your customer is serious about implementing your solution, access to funding should be clearly established early in the process. If it is not, expect the sales cycle to expand. If you are entering the sales cycle at the very beginning, however, and you are able to help the customer establish a hard budget along with criteria, that’s fantastic—you’re in the driver’s seat. Just be sure not to mash the accelerator in hopes of closing the sale according to your timeframe. Maintain patience and work at your customer’s pace to keep things on track and in your favor.
After establishing a solid budget, it’s time to establish a timeframe to implement your proposed solution. When does your customer desire to have the solution implemented? What impacts does this have on your own organization—can they meet the deadline without investing an abnormal amount of resources? Make doubly sure your organization can support the desired timeline as proposed—there’s nothing worse than crafting a deal your customer is fired up about only to have your organization pull the plug because they weren’t able to deliver because of an overly aggressive timeline or a resources conflict. Keep in regular contact with your support people throughout your negotiations so there are no surprises come deal time.
Once the timeline is established, it is now, the time to project a potential sale on your sales forecast because it is likely to become reality, and you’ll have a good idea as to when you’ll receive payment for the implementation. Far too often sales reps leave an introductory meeting with a prospect and immediately forecast potential sales on their sales reports. This is asinine—you don’t know the likelihood of a potential sale until you’ve worked through the steps discussed thus far and have a good idea of when your customer actually wants your solution implemented. Do yourself, your company, and your customers a favor and work with them to outline a realistic timeline. You’ll save everyone involved a lot of headaches. Your customer will be happy to share this information with you provided you step through the process in a logical fashion and keep the communication channels open throughout.
Exposing a true pain is the key to sales success. When status quo is no longer an option, your customer is forced to act, and this is the time for you to shine by working through the process just defined.