A successful founder I know came to me. His companies product had traction and had been growing but sales were starting to flatten out.
They were looking for answers to get sales growth increasing again.
He was hoping to start raising money in 6 months and wanted to show a track record of strong growth.
He needed a plan to accelerate sales and show the promise of sustained growth.
Here are the 7 things I shared with him to grow sales.
I’ve used these 7 tips myself and with my clients to get meetings and close deals with prospective customers ranging from individuals to founders to Senior VP’s and C-level executives at the biggest utility in California.
Regardless of company size, the principles are the same.
The right messages delivered to the right people at the right time create and win deals.
People Pay Attention to Problems
People buy for their reasons, not yours. It’s important to focus on problems because that’s what your customers are thinking about and that’s what their attention is focused on.
Everyone is busy and we’re limited in what we can pay attention to.
Because of this people pay the most attention to their top 2-3 biggest problems.
If you want to engage with your buyers quickly with their motivation and buy-in, focus on how you help your customers solve their 2-3 biggest problems.
Action Plan-Think back to the 3-5 deals that were the easiest to close in the last 18-24 months. What problems are your customers solving with your solution? Don’t know? Schedule a meeting and find out.
2. Share a Great Storyline
Your customer's big problems shape their attention. It puts them on high alert for possible solutions.
To get their attention and an initial conversation, you need to craft a great storyline that connects their problem with a great outcome.
Don’t confuse a storyline with an elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is a pitch about who you are and what you do.
A storyline is an opening line to start a conversation with a prospective customer that positions you both as peers.
Elevator pitch - I’m Steve with Scaling Sales, I help founders and CEOs grow sales by improving close rates and positioning their solutions as urgent and valuable.
Storyline – It’s painful and expensive when salespeople mistake buying signs and their deals don’t close, right?
Action Plan – Create storylines for each of the top 2-3 problems you’ve identified. Test them out on prospective customers in calls, email, and marketing content. Keep track of what’s working and what’s not.
3. Sales Process
Once you’ve gotten your prospective customer's attention and you’ve gotten a meeting, now you need to sell.
The best performing salespeople and sales teams use a repeatable sales process.
Occasionally I hear pushback on sales processes, that limit an individual’s ability to sell.
A sales process is like a song and salespeople are like performers.
Singers cover other artists' work all the time because they’re popular and they give the fans what they want.
I didn’t know I was a Miley Cyrus fan (heresy!) until I heard her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide.
Notice in the video she had her phone out to prompt her for the lyrics.
In the moment it’s good to have a documented sales process to reference to keep you on track and help you deliver performance that maximizes your chances of winning the deal.
A sales process answers the question of what to do and say at each step of the buying process.
If at any point during the buying process you wonder what the right thing to say or do is, you need to improve your sales process to address that issue while improving engagement and advancing the deal.
Action Plan – What are the top 2-3 places in the buying process where it breaks down? Are you ghosted by customers after you deliver a proposal? What are the key things that need to happen to address these issues? Where do they need to happen in the sales process?
Document your sales process so that you can improve it.
4. Who Owns the Problem?
Often we think about selling to companies but individuals decide for companies.
The more individualized you can be in your approach the easier it is to sell.
The people who own the problem are the ones you need to approach and talk to.
When you're contacted by a prospective customer it's often by someone who is gathering information but doesn’t own the problem.
Don’t make the mistake of selling the person gathering information. If you only talk to the information gatherer you won’t know what problems need to be solved for the person who matters.
Action Plan – Identify who owns the problem. You can determine this by asking the question, “Who doesn’t get paid their bonus or gets fired if this problem isn’t fixed?”
Start talking to these people. Until you do, you don’t have good information on where you are in a deal and your chances of winning it.
5. Who creates the budget?
A key to winning deals is to have the person who creates/approves the budget to pay for your solution have skin in the game. If the problem impacts them and they can approve the resources to pay you you’re most of the way to a closed deal.
In low dollar sales or sales to smaller companies, the decision-maker and budget creator are often the same person or group. If this is the case with you, most of your work is done in #4.
If the decision-maker and budget creator are not the same people, then close rates are higher when you include solutions to the problems that impact them (and sometimes their needs and requirements, but not always) in the sales process as well.
Action Plan – Are you addressing the needs of the budget creator/approver? Yes/no? If not, who is the budget creator and what are the top 2-3 problems you could solve for them?
6. Reach Out To Your Prospective Customers
Timing and message are everything when approaching a possible customer.
Either the time is right to talk to you or if you can shift your prospect's perspective so that the right time is now.
This is urgency. Either urgency exists or you create it.
For example, often a new CMO has the mandate to generate more leads for the sales team. They are under time pressure to perform and solve this problem. If your solution somehow contributes to increasing leads, then you have a high chance of getting a meeting if you contact them in their first 60 days on the job when they’re addressing the lead issue.
One effective way to create urgency is to help someone do their job better.
I worked with a client who sold paper records storage to controllers and CFO’s at large organizations. Sales cycles took multiple months and had a relatively low success rate. We started approaching the General Counsel with the storyline, “It’s expensive when you’re defending a lawsuit and the opposing side can subpoena records that weren’t destroyed because the retention policy wasn’t adhered to, isn’t it.”
We offered a solution to automate retention policy compliance and deals started closing in 1 or 2 calls and sales cycles were reduced to a week or two.
Tie your message to the top 2-3 problems your customers have to solve. Be consistent in this across email, calls, and marketing content.
Action Plan – Make a list of your top 100 ideal customers. Identify those who might have an urgent need now and those whom you need to create urgency for. Design an ourtreach campign. For example, over two weeks, create a campaign of 8-10 touch points of calls, emails, and email videos with a mix of messages addressing the top 2-3 problems. Track your success and improve subsequent campaigns.
7. Make it Easy For Customers to Buy From You.
All things being equal, people take the path of least effort.
Do what you can to remove friction from the buying process.
But don’t make buying so easy that your customers don’t engage with you.
If prospective customers don’t engage with you it's hard to forecast sales and predict win rates on current deals. It also makes it more difficult for you to influence the decision process.
Engaged customers are motivated and you can influence them.
Two keys to engagement with customers,
-When they request information or actions from you, like a proposal, for example, use that request to get the information you need to shape the deal and schedule your next call, meeting, or connection point.
-Confirm your understanding and advance the deal at every prospect touchpoint. You only have a limited number of contacts with prospects. Don’t waste them, maximize them!
Action Plan – How can you make it easier for your customers to buy from you? What are the top 2-3 things you can do to increase engagement with prospects at each step of the sales process?
Questions? Let's talk. Leave your thoughts in the comments or contact me and with questions.