Few years ago, I wrote an “ultimate guide to sell anything” that I gave to my junior sales team. This team managed to close deals immediately and after many iterations, the principles remain true.
The most important concept to understand in sales is this is a number game. Every time you pitch somebody, you have a x% of chance to close this one. The game is to pitch as many people as possible in the shortest period of time possible while increasing x as much as possible.
In this article, let’s talk about the first factor, time. Time is the most valuable resource in the world because no matter how tall, how handsome, how rich and how smart you are, you have 24H to spend every day, just like anybody else.
To correctly invest your time, you have to only spend it with people who are buying and saving it from people aren’t. This exercice is called “qualification”.
Qualification is usually what makes the difference between a great sales guy and a good one. With experience, a sales guy should be able to tell, in few seconds, if somebody can be closed or not.
The process of qualification can be segmented into different stages. Bear in mind that I use my own words here and it is possible that your sales organization uses different terms. But the stages should be the same.
Each phase is defined by a stimuli, a reaction and an outcome. And every outcome should be leading you closer to your final goal, closing the deal.
The sales guy is responsible for creating the stimuli, measure the reaction and then, manage the outcome (drive the conversation, lead the deal).
The first stimuli is basically reaching out somebody. The reaction here is quite binary: response or not.
[The science behind this first stimuli is very complex and I’ll probably address it in other articles. But for now, don’t worry too much about this and start with simple stimuli like sending an emails or texts]
If somebody enters your store, or returns your email/call, this one is an opportunity (10% to close). Basically every time you have a response from somebody, consider this one as an opportunity.
At this point, you want to immediately greet this person and figure out the motive. If this person has a problem and is talking to you about it, then this one becomes a candidate (20%–25% to close).
It is very important to listen and listen carefully. Many people waste their resource because they don’t listen: be good at recognizing what the opportunity is about. What is the problem? And if this one isn’t talking about a problem, then you are probably wasting your time.
From here, you look at what you got in store first. Only if you got something, then start selling your solution. If the solution you have solves the problem, this person is now a lead (50%–75% to close).
There are many articles talking about “selling before building”. This is good and I’ve personally applied this trick. But this one should not be miss-understood: it doesn’t mean you should sell anything.
What it means is: “have a clearly defined solution assumption in your mind for a clear problem assumption aiming a clear target assumption and you want to validate them. And the best way to validate these assumptions is to act like you have already created the solution. And if the potential user says yes to your solution, then build it”.
Also, don’t try to sell anything that isn’t genuinely solving your candidate’s problem. Not only you’d be wasting your time, you’d also break the bridge of trust that may be important in future sales.
Finally, don’t over-sell. There is a stage in the sales cycle where you do an “up-sell” but timing is key and this isn’t the right moment to do it.
The most efficient way to lead this conversation is to be clear, simple, honest and quick: start with the problem you just heard, explain what you think your understood, make sure the lead agrees with you on the problem. And then, show how your solution solves it.
If your lead is interested in your solution, then this one becomes a prospect (90% to close). This stage is often missed and people have trouble recognizing it. So let’s make it simple: are you only talking about price? If you are, then, yes, it’s time to close.
Finally, when the prospect paid you, you now have a customer. And yes, this one should be the most important person in your life.
The best way to quickly qualify somebody is to ask questions.
Here are few questions that can help you. Have a score card, ask the questions in the right order and every time somebody answers yes to a question, this one goes to the next stage.
Opportunity: does this one belong to my market? My segment? (If Yes, move to the next stage)
Candidate: is this one talking about a problem? Do we have a solution to this one’s problem? (If Yes, move to the next stage)
Lead: does this one agree our solution can solve the problem? Is this one asking about the price? (If Yes, move to the next stage)
Prospect: if the price is OK, does this one want the solution now? (If Yes, move to the next stage)
Your goal is to ask and get answers to all these questions in the shortest period of time possible. If you encounter a NO to one of these questions, stop immediately and focus on another opportunity.
[You should realize by now the importance of creating a large pipeline. Because it is a number game, the more people you reach in the first place, the better. This explains why TV ads have been so expensive: because it can pitch millions of people.]
The questions are meant to be direct. Don’t be afraid of rejections. You actually want a quick No rather than a long maybe because you can immediately focus on finding the next Yes.