TRUST THE SALES PROCESS

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“#NBATwitter is going to love Ben Simmons so much”-@kpelton

A lifelong Sixers fan and a salesman for the last 14 years I have been impressed with the Sixers organization’s’ effort to engage their fan base during their recent tanking or, as Sixers fans have dubbed it: “The Process”

So how did we get here, and what the heck does it have to do with sales? “The Process” could have only occurred at this time and place, with these market conditions being what they are. Simply put, the state of Sixers fandom is very similar to that of prospective clients. Let’s explore!

Fans and Buyers are more educated than ever: This adage has been true since the turn of the decade and is the basis of any good sales strategy.

We accept and assume that prospective clients research our companies and ourselves prior to picking up the phone. Good reps have learned to use this to our advantage. If you’re not asking qualifying questions like “who else are you considering?” (and why) or “what has selection process looked like up to this point?” and of course “what about my company led you to contact me” then you’re already behind.

If you work for a mature company you’re probably using qualifying tools that provide you amazing insight into what your prospect is looking for. Prospects have been conditioned to give information like budgets, timelines, # of competitors, etc. to get the information they need to make a decision.

The Sixers front office was able to qualify their prospect and created a personae that they wanted to market to. They saw a fan base that was starved for a winner and sick of being stuck in NBA purgatory. The also were quick to notice a booming ecosystem of blogs and Twitter influencers who preached patience and a rebuild.

The foundation was set, and their goal was clear, the Sixers now had a (controversial) plan. The question was: How do you sell it?

They were transparent about their plan: Sales in many ways used to be about games. Saying “yes” to questions and letting the implementation team figure it out after. Promising ROI that simply wasn’t feasible. You could get away with actions like this because it rarely came back to bite you. Now there’s a whole ecosystem of review sites, linkedin groups and their ilk that allow purchasers to speak with one and other.

The Sixers knew they couldn’t put a bad product on the court and call it progress. They’d be savaged across the internet. Instead they asked for, and preached patience. They pointed to teams that had success building through the draft. They promised not just to lose, but to lose intelligently. No more overpaying for mediocre free agents well past their prime (Hello Elton Brand), they were going to focus on building a strong foundation for the future.

Compare this to how companies now inform prospects. They’re not preaching patience but they are setting the rules of engagement early in the prospects research. Whether they provide pricing right there on their website, or requiring prospects to fill out information for a contact or a download they’re establishing how to interact with the vendor from the onset. These checkpoints are imperative in a modern sales funnel. They establish a level of interest and in the case of pricing, help weed out prospects who simply can’t afford your company’s services.

Most importantly, these tools condition prospects to engage with you in a manner that implies they have control while actually conveying the control to the rep. By being transparent in their “Asset Collection” fans were mollified when the Sixers took injured players, or international prospects not ready to come to the NBA. Sixers fans, who had no real control over the team’s decision making process felt like they could approve moves based off of the strategy they had tacitly agreed to.

So you’ve educated your prospects, you’ve conditioned them to engage how you want. There’s just one key factor left…..

It’s all in the experience: When everyone is the same, and everyone promises the same things what possible differentiator is there? The answer of course, is in the sales experience. I find this to be especially true in service sectors, where your “product” is intangible and therefore cannot be compared to something similar. However, experience sells, regardless of the product. The Sixers realized this and formed the largest sales staff in the NBA, they focused on the sales experience, they went highly digital and offered what can only be described as concierge service for group and corporate sales. Despite not having a premium product on the floor the Sixers were dedicated and succeeded in conveying a premium “feel” to their sales efforts which translated into a confidence in their product which they conveyed to the their customers.

Whether you sell products or services, whether you’re in a highly transactional, lower cost industry or doing 6 figure plus deals that take 6–12 months (or more!) to close THE EXPERIENCE SELLS. Be quick (24 hours max) to follow up with a prospect, if you’re going to need more time, let them know. Under promise and over deliver.

Because of the premium experience they were to be confident in their delivery, which is key as well. In your conversations about your product you most convey confidence and enthusiasm, you must project your value. The Sixers and Sam Hinkie saw value in “The Process,” and as I gaze upon the future of the team I must say I see a bright one and that validates the last 3 years. As a customer I am glad to have been committed to the team and I will continue to purchase tickets, merchandise and watch their games. Which is all they can really ask for!

I have sold a multitude of products and services from the biggest names in the industry to relative unknowns and I can attribute my success to one thing: THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE COMES FIRST. It’s simple, it’s almost too obvious but ask yourself “how would I want to be treated if the shoe was on the other foot?” Remember, every email, phone call and pitch is a chance for your prospect to judge you. Every proposal, quote and SOW needs to be clean and concise. Make your prospect look forward to hearing from you and you’ll have sales gold.

Follow your gut and happy selling!

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