In the competitive world of sales, the art of closing a deal can be elusive and tricky to navigate. While each business may have their own software or strategies they swear by, many unspoken rules for a successful sales process are universal.
To help salespeople learn how to effectively close deals, I’ve outlined the essential dos and don’ts of modern-day sales based on tried and true experiences in the field.
Sales “Do’s” and Best Practices for a Smooth Sales Cycle
Have a lead generation and forecasting plan
A consistent, full pipeline is a must for a successful sales cycle. Always bring new people into the pipeline through a variety of lead generation strategies that can save your sales team time searching for new qualified leads. Although a significant amount of our opportunities are obtained from partners and our website, if we didn’t have a steady stream of leads, I would be doing prospecting to maintain a full pipeline.
Test messaging and what resonates with a certain vertical
Experiment with different messaging when engaging with prospects to test what resonates best with certain verticals. Assess the impact of these varying tactics and adopt the effective ones into your strategy. If something is sticking, use that across all sales for that vertical or if the messaging is not working, don’t hesitate and change it right away.
Before the initial discovery call, always do due diligence and prepare for the meeting. The introductory call is the most important communication in the sales process as it allows the salesperson to build rapport, understand the prospect’s business and learn about the competitive landscape. In our case, this pre-discovery research would include ranking trends for the industry and competitors.
You should also be sure to factor in the seasonality when performing this background research. Prepare a list of questions to ask during the initial call to shift the focus of the conversation on the prospect’s needs and pain points so that you can provide all the answers after the discovery stage.
During a discovery call
The most crucial objective during the discovery call is to schedule a follow-up call at the end of the conversation. Scheduling a second call is always a must so you can have something on the books.
During this introductory exchange, you are setting the groundwork with the prospect. Get a sense of their timeline, budget and seriousness – are you talking to the ultimate decision maker? If not, be sure to include them on the next follow-up call.
This initial call is also the time to build rapport with the prospect. Find commonalities between yourself and the prospect and discuss relatable experiences to help them connect with your brand and reduce feelings of uncertainty. Show the prospect your industry expertise to reassure them that you can find them the optimal solution to address their pain points.
No matter how well the discovery call went, stick to your sales process and don’t cut corners. For myself and my sales team, we wouldn’t go from discovery to proposal without going through the audit phase first. While shortcuts may help close a sale sooner and generate faster revenue, long-term success is derived from mutual reassurance that you are the right product or service for the prospect and that they are a good candidate for the solutions you offer.
Plan a new industry vertical you want to penetrate
In the fast-paced environment of modern-day sales, you should always look for opportunistic growth to diversify your strategies and explore new business. Plan for entering new verticals by examining your current offerings and assess how your core competencies can be applied to a new industry when lead sources dry up.
As explained by Ensignis, expanding into a new vertical market can be challenging and requires clear implementation plans to adapt your products or services to the needs of an all-new audience. Think ahead about future openings in new markets to help your sales team achieve a competitive advantage.
Forecast and plan to set goals
Determine your personal and team-wide sales goals and set benchmarks that will allow you track progress as you reach them. How many proposals will you need to send out to close your goal number of sales? What is your lead to closed deals conversion ratio? These numbers are necessary to calculate to provide a clear guideline of what needs to happen to achieve these sales goals.
Have actions in place for when a deal closes
Prepare a protocol for what to do once a sale closes. By setting up a process for post-sale actions, your team will always know what the next step is to ensure the closed deal leads to a smooth, successful relationship with the customer.
For us, our action items include deploying the closed deal into Asana – the project management system we utilize to track and organize projects. Once our technology is updated, we focus on communicating with the new customer and hit the ground running. We plan a kickoff call with the client and initiate our workflow.
Long-term relationships with clients are built on mutual trust and understanding. When communicating with the prospect, focus less on the sale or pitching an offer they can’t pass up. Instead, spend more time learning their overall business, their pain points and what specific solutions you can offer them. A consultative approach will also make your offering stick more; they’re not just buying your product or service, they’re seeking your expertise to apply to their own business.
Sales “Don’ts” to Avoid
Don’t make assumptions about their needs and goals
When discovering more information about your prospect, don’t make assumptions about their needs or goals. Think more in depth about who their audience is, what products or services they offer and what they’re trying to accomplish (both in the short and long-term). By understanding what to focus on from the prospect’s perspective, you can better cater your pitch and offerings to their needs.
For example, we could assume that a pet food brand wants to sell more dog food based on the limited information we have to work with. However, in reality, the pet food brand may actually want to only focus on their dog treats. Therefore, making assumptions about a brand’s priorities can actually harm your business and relationship with a client.
Don’t call during their busy times or interrupt their schedule
The time that you reach out to a prospect can heavily impact the outcomes of your call. Never directly contact or schedule that initial call during the prospect’s busy hours, which may vary depending on the industry that they operate in. If they are a restaurant, dinner hours are out of the question. If it’s a rehab center, avoid Mondays as that’s when they have the most patient calls. Find out what times to avoid contacting them to prevent conflicts or getting ignored altogether.
Don’t let time kill your deals
Time is the killer of all deals. Don’t allow too much time pass between communications during the sales cycle. Make sure that you are checking in with them consistently to avoid slipping through the cracks. However, ensure that you are also not harassing the prospect as that can also hurt your chances of closing a deal.
Don’t ask a question if it won’t provide any value
When getting to know your prospect, you should be asking relevant questions to identify problem areas you can address with your offerings. Focus on the solutions. With that being said, avoid questions that don’t provide any value to your company. For example, do not waste your time asking them if they have plans to open retail businesses if that doesn’t relate to your plan for the business.
Don’t stray from your process
Although conversations should not be rehearsed and should feel organic and unique to each prospect, do not stray from your process. Your tried-and-true approach is what brought you to where you are now. Do not cut corners just because it will save time in the short-term as it can create problems later along the road.
Don’t spray and pray
The “spray and pray” model of sales, meaning reaching out to as many opportunities as possible and hoping to hear back, is ineffective. To optimize your outreach, only target one vertical at a time. Shifting your attention to one vertical at a time allows you to apply your strategy for that market to all related prospects and covers all your bases. Additionally, focusing your efforts avoids the confusion of going back and forth between verticals and minimizes the risk of human errors such as initiating a discovery call with the wrong prospect.
Don’t get too far into the sales process without the decision maker
Make sure you are talking to the key decision maker early on in the sales process. If you can’t get them on the introductory call, ask to add them to the next follow up call. Going too far into the sales process without involving the key decision makers wastes time and is inefficient. All this will mean is that you will have to go back and re-present the same plan.
The sales process is continuously evolving and being supplemented by technology. At Power Digital, for example, we use outbound email prospecting to create more efficiencies in our processes. In your industry, this could be a great addition to your cold calling that lets you reach more people in less time.