15 Dumb Sales Questions Smart Reps Ask

dumb-questions-smart-salespeople-ask-compressor-414844-edited.jpg

Let’s be real: Most salespeople are annoying. They view their prospects as numbers in their sales funnel, not as people. They believe earning your business is a chess match and a signed contract means they “won the game.”

However, the average prospect doesn’t know how to purchase anything that falls outside their area of expertise. Think about it. Do you really know how to buy a TV? Do you know what precise technical questions to ask? You’d probably like some help, right?

But when the salesperson at the electronic store asks if she can help, what do you typically respond with? “No, I’m just browsing.”

The cat-and-mouse game buyers and salespeople play has created an unproductive, competitive environment that doesn’t benefit either party.

One of the most common culprits? The questions you’re asking your prospects. Luckily, once you know where you’re going wrong, you can course-correct. Stop asking these 15 common questions — or at the least, rephrase them.

15 Dumb Sales Questions to Avoid

1) “What is your budget?” or “What would you like to spend?”

Buyers often rationalize lying to salespeople about their budget because they feel it is the necessary first step in a negotiation. And why do you need to know about budget up front anyway? If the buyer has purchased what you are selling in the past, they will have money to spend. If they have not — how will they know what price is right?

Instead of demanding a budget right off the bat, strive to understand the prospect’s process for buying and their spend tolerance. Simply asking about their buying process for your type of product or service will get you a lot better information than asking specifically about budget.

2) “What’s more important to you, price or quality?”

Shame on you for asking this question. If you beat the competition solely on price, just come out and say it. However if you are not the low-cost provider, you need to build value. Your prospects will naturally associate a given amount of value with “what the product is supposed to cost” so a good salesperson will try to understand that perspective and discuss price from there.

3) “Are you the decision maker?”

This is a bad question because it’s unclear. Are you asking if they’re the decision maker for which vendors move on to the next step in the buying process? Or are you asking if they can they sign off on the proposal? This puts the prospect in an ego predicament. No one wants to feel as if they are just the informer.

Instead, ask the question,“Who is involved in this process?” Even the CEO gets input from others (or at least he or she should). This should reveal all relevant influencers, stakeholders, and the ultimate decision maker.

Salespeople need to identify the decision makers so they can work with these stakeholders throughout the buying process. Too often we leave it to others to sell our products and services to executives because we failed to appropriately engage them.

4) “What’s your biggest pain point?”

You won’t get the answer simply by asking. Most salespeople stop probing for pain once they hear an indicator such as, “If this doesn’t go well, I will get fired.” However, pain is rooted in emotion. In this example, the pain isn’t the potential of getting fired — it’s the emotion associated with getting fired.

Everything we buy is bought emotionally, so unless you know the pain, how can you truly help? Seek to understand the prospect’s underlying emotional need for change.

5) “How good are your products and services?”

This is a legitimate sales question to ask if your product or service promises to improve the prospect’s business results. However, if you pose it in this way, prepare yourself for a biased answer.

How can you get an honest response? Ask questions around how the business is doing from a third-party perspective, or versus the competition. For instance:

  • When you lose, why do you lose?
  • What do your customers say about your products and services?
  • What percentage of your business is referrals?

6) “How strategic are you?”

Ego will not allow your prospect to say “not at all” (even if that’s the truth). On the other hand, if they do show vulnerability, they will likely blame the company or others for it (which shows they are not truly strategic).

Instead of asking this question at all, simply listen to your prospects’ answers to other queries. I guarantee you will discover if they are strategic or not.

7) “Would you like a proposal or quote?”

When you ask this question, you will likely get blown off one of two ways. You will be either be told “I am happy with my current vendor” or “I don’t want to waste your time.”

Another possibility is that the prospect will gladly take your proposal … and use it to price check their current vendor. Your proposal then functions as intel for your competition. Finally, the prospect could request your proposal simply to get you out of their hair.

A proposal should simply be a summary of expectations both parties have already agreed upon. It should only be sent once you have agreed on scope, pricing, timing, etc., and serves as documentation for the work being completed. It does not sell anything in and of itself.

8) “Can I show you our capabilities?” or “Would you like a presentation?”

Show and tell is for your nine-year-old. If you are presenting, you are not selling. You are bragging. Don’t brag.

9) “Is this a good time to chat?”

Do you think your prospects sit in their offices hoping a salesperson calls? There is never time, but people can make time if they want to. This question gives your prospect an easy out. A better way to ask this question is, “Did I catch you at a bad time?”

10) “What level of service are you willing to pay for?”

This question implies that your relationship is only about money, and that’s just not true. Sales is about balancing what the prospect needs with what they want. Your questions should inform you about the prospect’s business so you can discuss appropriate solutions.

Build value, not budgets. If your business offers multiple service levels, ask the relevant questions in order to make a recommendation.

11) “Who is your competition?”

You should do research before you talk to prospects to identify their biggest rivals. Asking this question makes you look like you’re uninformed on their industry and company. Have some ideas about who their competition is, but don’t want to jump to conclusions? Try asking your prospect, “I did some research, and it looks like your biggest competitors are X, Y, and Z. Does that sound right to you?”

This question allows you to verify your findings without losing face or seeming ill-prepared.

12) “What can I do?” or “What will it take to earn your business?”

This sets you up for failure because you are now just an order taker. The prospect tells you in this moment what it will take to get a signed contract … and they will continue to tell you what you have to do for the rest of the relationship. This isn’t exactly the partnership you touted when trying to earn the business. This question also implies that you will take on anyone and are willing to be insincere to close a deal.

Get to know the prospect’s business, their pains, and how you can help. If it makes sense to work together, it will happen. If not, move on.

13) “Who was the best salesperson who ever called on you?”

Who cares? Are you going to be inauthentic and act like someone else to try to earn the business? Would you ask your spouse who was the best person they ever dated? Forgo this question in lieu of more valuable and revealing queries.

14) “What do you dislike about your current vendor?”

The objective here is totally transparent: You’re trying to identify weaknesses in your prospect’s current supplier relationship so you can position yourself as a better alternative. If the buyer says, “Their shipments are frequently late,” you’ll predictably say something along the lines of, “We’re always on time; ask our customers,” or “We move mountains to deliver our goods on the right date.” 

It’s actually less persuasive to present your company’s strengths reactively. The prospect will wonder if you’re only touting that specific detail because you’re trying to amp up their dissatisfaction. Instead, delve into their priorities and needs and position your offering accordingly. Your pitch will feel more genuine.

15) “Can you tell me about your business?”

Unlike questions that dig into your prospect’s needs, objectives, and strategic initiatives, asking them to tell you about their business is solely for your benefit. In addition, posing such a high-level, broad question tells the buyer you haven’t even bothered to browse their company website before the call.

A good sales professional has virtually no cap on earning potential, but it takes more than practice to attain mastery. Top salespeople continuously develop and refine sales skills through learning — with the help of a coach, trainer, manager, or on their own. Don’t you think asking great questions is one of those critical skills?

This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

Source: 15 Dumb Sales Questions Smart Reps Ask
blog.hubspot.com/sales

Close More Deals Using This Neuroscience-Backed Principle of Persuasion

psychology-tip-sales-802728-edited.jpg

You’re on a call with a prospect, and everything is going smoothly. You are both cracking jokes like old friends, and there’s a strong rapport.

Your prospect is from Minnesota? What a coincidence! Your grandparents lived in Saint Paul for ten years before they moved to San Francisco. The conversation couldn’t be better.

By the time it ends, you’re confident they’re going to buy. All you need to do is send a proposal.

But then the buyer goes radio silent. One month later, and you’ve written four follow-up emails and left two voicemails.

Finally, you get a reply: “Thanks, we are not interested at the moment.”

Sometimes, the opposite happens. The prospect you are talking with doesn’t seem to respond to your friendly approach. However, when you send a proposal, she ends up converting into a customer.

At Kraftblick, a digital marketing agency, we encounter this type of behavior often. But it’s less unpredictable than you’d think. The answer lies in cognitive persuasion.

The #1 Psychology Tip Salespeople Need to Know

Emotions vs. Logic in Sales

To grasp the mystery of how the brain reacts to persuasion, think of communication in the army.

Whenever something happens on a battlefield, the same news travels in two directions. One stream of information reaches a platoon commander, or the leader of a small army unit. The platoon commander has to act on this news immediately, since the survival of her soldiers is at stake. There’s no time for in-depth analysis and reflection.

This particular direction is similar to how information from an outside world transfers to the limbic system of the brain, the “emotional brain.” The limbic brain activates the fight-or-flight response in our body. Emotions may take full reign over the logical mind.

2-The route to the limbic system.png

The limbic system reacts to an emotionally charged message

At the same time, the other stream of battlefield news may be brought to the army headquarters by scout planes. The information is dissected, scrutinized, and evaluated. Military headquarters resembles the neocortex — a thinking part of the brain. The route to the neocortex is longer than the one to the limbic system. However, the result is a well-informed, deliberate decision.

3-The route to the neocortex.png

The message is rushing to the neocortex

Our impulsive actions (a burst of anger, an ill-considered purchase, and so on) originate in the limbic system. When reflecting on the past, we may wonder how we could have done something so stupid. It’s because the route to the limbic system is shorter than the one to the neocortex. Simply put, it takes less time to react than to think of how to react.

The resemblance between the brain and the army continues. At some point, the platoon commander submits the news report to the army center. Similarly, when information from the limbic system reaches the neocortex, it’s time for the brain to analyze our emotional reaction and how well it matched the situation.

4-Decision-making_process.png

The neocortex is overruling the emotional response

Notice again that the same information travels in two directions in our brain. These routes are parallel, but no matter their difference, information eventually ends up in the “rational brain.”

What does it mean for persuasion tactics that are based on emotions?

The Power of Emotions Is Exaggerated

Some claim regardless of what salespeople are selling — products, services, or advice — people buy based on feelings.

However, I believe we overestimate the power of emotion and oversimplify the decision making process. The fact that the emotional center in the brain reports to the thinking brain should encourage salespeople and managers to embrace its several applications.

Monochrome persuasion, i.e. purely logical or emotional, is incomplete.

To be convinced, most people require a combination of emotion and fact-based arguments. Human brains are built to perceive and analyze information before deciding on a conclusion. Give your prospects facts, statistics, and case studies to support your emotional appeals.

Emotional people possess “rational brains” as well.

Persuasion techniques such as flattery, praise, or charm aren’t helpful if your prospect recognizes they’re being manipulated.

Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, was a master of influence and persuasion. But a reader who’s not as skilled may apply his techniques awkwardly — instantly alerting the other person to their motives.

Never forget you’re dealing with thinking humans who can read between the lines. Strive to be authentic and helpful, and you’ll be able to persuade people organically.

Even if people act on emotions now, they may back down later.

Although the route to the limbic system (the emotional brain) is shorter than the route to the neocortex, information eventually ends up in the thinking brain.

Driven by their impulses, a prospect might buy whatever you suggest or agree to your negotiation terms. However, if this decision actually contradict his interests, he’ll realize that shortly — and may renege. Not only will you permanently damage the relationship and lose the sale, but you’ll miss the opportunity for a referral and generate negative word-of-mouth.
In the long run, encouraging impulsive decisions won’t help you build trust or win clients’ hearts.

Emotion-Based Tactics to Steer Clear of

If you want someone to act on his or her emotions, you need to intervene during a time lag between information being processed in the limbic system and the same information rushing to the thinking brain. This is a window when a rational mind is asleep while emotions are activated, and nobody is there to suppress them.

While these manipulative techniques can lead to short-term gains, they’ll hurt you in the long run by generating negative word-of-mouth; cancellations and refunds; and a high churn rate.

Emotional tactics to avoid:

  • Evoking strong negative emotions in prospects (like fear, rage, and frustration) and pressing them to act right away.
  • Creating a false sense of urgency.
  • Demanding immediate responses and refusing to give buyers time to think about your offer.
  • Encouraging prospects to sign your agreement without seeking a second opinion.
  • Targeting prospects when they are tired, stressed, or distracted.

Final Thoughts

Let’s return to my original point. What happens to the prospects who seem like they’re ready to buy but end up walking away? Is the magic of influence fleeting?

If you frequently puzzle over your prospective clients’ mood swings, your strategy is probably too dependent on emotion.

Remember: Although it’s easier to evoke feelings in someone and play on them than appeal to their logical side, eventually, that logical side will tame their emotions.

Whenever you have to make a point or negotiate a deal, use these simple yet useful recommendations.

  1. Use emotional appeal to get your prospect’s attention, not convince them to buy.
  2. Incorporate facts, numbers, and other logical elements into your sales pitch.
  3. Do not abuse the power of emotions. You might gain temporary influence over the prospect’s mind, but these tactics will backfire once the “emotional spell” breaks.

How do you use emotion versus logic when selling? Let us know in the comments!

HubSpot CRM

Source: Close More Deals Using This Neuroscience-Backed Principle of Persuasion
blog.hubspot.com/sales

The 3 Quota-Killing Mistakes Only Experienced Salespeople Make

mistakes-experienced-salespeople-make-compressor-197787-edited.jpg

Who’s likelier to make a mistake: The rookie sales rep who’s never sold a day in their life, or the veteran rep who’s been on the front lines for nine years?

The reality is, they’re both going to screw up. Experienced salespeople simply make different mistakes.

Here are the three biggest errors I see seasoned reps make — along with the steps you can take to avoid them.

1) They Over-Qualify

Successful salespeople pay attention to their customers’ commonalities. This helps them hone in on the most lucrative buyer personas and disqualify poor fits.

Unfortunately, many start to believe there’s only one “recipe” for a good customer. In other words, they over-qualify.

To give you an example, suppose a rep sells in a competitive landscape. She’s noticed she enjoys a high success rate when she talks to prospects 90 days before their contract renewal.

When a buyer who’s six months away from renewing their contract falls in her lap, the rep thinks, “That’s not the DNA of my typical buyer; I’m not going to invest in the opportunity.”

This mentality can really depress a salesperson’s potential earnings.

I recommend that at any given time, 10-15% of the deals you’re working should be risky. If you have 20 in your pipeline, two or so should be opportunities you’re not comfortable forecasting. You’ll maintain a predictable revenue without leaving valuable money on the table.

2) They Lean Too Heavily On Existing Champions

As salespeople become comfortable in their role and territory, they begin to develop strong relationships with certain customers. In fact, the longer a salesperson stays in a role, the more account champions she usually has.

But familiarity breeds complacency. As soon as the rep gets comfortable and assumes she’s guaranteed her customer’s business — both current and future — she exposes herself to the competition. By far the biggest reason smaller, scrappier suppliers can kick out long-standing vendors? The incumbent stopped truly working the account.

To avoid this fate, use a multi-threaded approach. Every month or quarter, ask yourself:

  • “Do I know who all of the current customer stakeholders are?”
  • “Who’s left since I last surveyed the account? Who’s joined? Who’s gotten a promotion? Who’s moved teams?”
  • “Which business units, departments, or office locations should I target next?”

Challenge yourself to add at least one new contact to your CRM every quarter. If there’s an opportunity to expand the account, you should be adding a new opportunity into your pipeline every year.

I don’t recommend asking your champion to make these introductions for you. Not only is it a big ask, they don’t always know the people you should be speaking to.

Instead, be upfront and tell them your objectives. Make them feel important by offering to include them in your conversations.

Here’s a script you can use:

“I’ve worked with you for [X months, years] and [company] for [Y months, years]. You’re an amazing client. This year, I’m going to talk to more people — my goal is to speak with one new [business unit, team, department, stakeholder, user] each [month, quarter]. When I reach out, would you like to be included on those calls?”

3) They Stop Learning

According to HubSpot Research, the majority of salespeople with five-plus years of experience say that when they find something works, they don’t change it.

That’s an issue. While a tactic or technique may have been very effective in 2010, 2012, or even 2016, technology, industries, jobs, and people change. Continual success depends on continual learning, practice, and evolution.

I’ll give you the perfect example. I asked a group of salespeople I was training to describe the purpose of an email subject line. They unanimously agreed it was convincing the prospect to read the email and summarizing its contents.

If it were 2005, that would have been a great response. However, in 2017 email subject lines have a different purpose. Buyers don’t really care about them — but spam filters do. Use the wrong words or format, and your prospect’s email client will send your message straight to the spam folder.

To ensure you’re keeping your skills sharp and current, read sales blogs (like this one or my own), subscribe to sales podcasts, attend training, proactively request feedback and guidance from your sales manager, go to sales conferences and networking events, or ask the other salespeople on your team what’s working for them. You probably don’t have time for all of these, so pick two or three strategies to focus on.

Rookie or veteran — you’ve got to keep learning and moving forward.  Come see Jeff live in Boston on June 12.  He’ll be leading two of his most popular workshops – Why You? Why You Now?™ 1/2 prospecting and Hammer It Closed™ 1/2 day negotiating and closing workshop.

HubSpot Free Sales Training


Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

SPIN Selling: The Ultimate Guide

SPIN-selling-compressor-227111-edited.jpg

If you’re a B2B salesperson, you’ve probably heard about SPIN Sales. It’s one of the most well-known — not to mention oldest — selling systems. SPIN gives reps a research-backed framework for working and closing complex deals with extended sales processes.

You can use SPIN principles along with your current sales methodology. The strategy focuses on asking good questions in the right order, using active listening, and translating the prospect’s needs into your product’s features. (Many of SPIN’s principles align well with inbound sales.)

To help you implement the most useful tips, aspects, and templates from SPIN Selling, we’ve put together the following guide:

What is SPIN Selling?

The SPIN sales strategy comes from Neil Rackham’s 1988 classic, “Spin Selling.” It’s based on 12 years of research and 35,000 sales calls.

To win larger, consultative deals, Rackham argues salespeople must abandon traditional sales techniques. Rather than twisting their customers’ arms, they need to build value, identify needs, and ultimately, serve as a trusted advisor.

SPIN Selling Acronym

SPIN stands for the four stages of the questioning sequence:

  • S: Situation
  • P: Problem
  • I: Implication
  • N: Need-Payoff

SPIN Selling Summary

To get the full impact of Rackham’s advice, we recommend reading the entire book. Here’s the link to SPIN Selling book on Amazon.

Here’s a handy overview of the contents:

Section 1. Sales Behavior and Sales Success

  • Closing is less important than most salespeople and managers think
  • Questioning is more important than most salespeople and managers think
  • The ratio of close-ended to open-ended questions doesn’t predict selling success
  • Great reps focus on preventing, not handling, objections

Section 2. Obtaining Commitment: Closing the Sale

  • Successful closing depends on getting the right commitment
  • Reps must determine their call objectives in advance
  • There are four potential outcomes to every sales call: Order, advance, continuation, no-sales

Section 3. Customer Needs in the Major Sale

  • Implicit needs are statements about problems, issues, and areas of dissatisfaction
  • Explicit needs are specific features or functions
  • In larger sales, explicit needs are strong buying signals

Section 4. The SPIN Strategy

  • Salespeople who close at high rates tend to ask the same types of questions in the same order
  • There are four main question types: Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-Payoff
  • Each question type plays a different role in moving the buyer toward the sale

Section 5. Giving Benefits in Major Sales

  • Features and benefits are the most common ways to pitch a product to the buyer
  • Advantages are less effective later in the sales process
  • Features are more important to users than decision makers
  • Benefits have the highest influence over the purchasing decision, but only when presented near the end of the sales conversation

Section 6. Preventing Objections

  • Objections are usually created by the salesperson, not the buyer
  • The more advantages you present, the more objections you’ll receive
  • Develop needs before you offer benefits to avoid unnecessary objections

Section 7. Preliminaries: Opening the Call

  • Don’t use conventional openings, i.e. providing benefits or relating to the prospect’s personal interests
  • Get down to business quickly and establish your purpose

Section 8. Turning Theory Into Practice

  • Adopt one principle of SPIN Selling at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed
  • Practice them with smaller accounts or existing customers first

SPIN Selling Questions

Questions are the foundation of SPIN Selling. Rackham and his team found top-performing salespeople rarely, if ever, pose random, low-value questions. Not only does every question have a clear purpose, but the order in which they ask their questions is strategic, too.

The four main types of SPIN Selling questions are:

  1. Situation
  2. Problem
  3. Implication
  4. Need-Payoff

Let’s examine each type in more detail.

SPIN Situation Questions

Use Situation questions to learn where your prospects stand — from their processes and pain points to competitive plans and results. The specific questions will depend on your product; for example, if you offer leadership training for mid-level managers, you might ask, “How do you currently teach first-time managers best practices and strategies?”

If you sell office supplies, on the other hand, you might ask, “How do you purchase office supplies right now?”

Here are some sample questions you can customize for your own use:

  • What is your role at [company]?
  • How do you do X?
  • What’s your process for X?
  • Walk me through your day.
  • Do you have a strategy in place for X?
  • Who’s responsible for X?
  • How long have you done X this way?
  • Why do you do X this way?
  • How much budget do you have assigned to X?
  • Why do you do X this way?
  • How important is X to your business?
  • Who uses X most frequently? What are their objectives?
  • Which tools do you currently use to do X?
  • Who is your current vendor for X?
  • Why did you choose your current vendor for X?

Note the lack of fact-gathering questions like, “How big is your company?”, “How many locations do you have?”, “Which products do you sell?”, and so on. When Rackham published “SPIN Selling,” there wasn’t anywhere near as much information available to sellers.

Now that you can discover a long list of key details about your prospect with a quick online search, many situational questions are no longer effective. Not only do they make buyers impatient, these questions also leave less time for the most important ones. Ask as few of the questions in this category as you can — and make sure you’ve done research before the call.

SPIN Problem Questions

In this stage, reps identify potential areas of opportunity. In other words, what gap isn’t being filled? Where is the prospect dissatisfied? They may be unaware they have a problem, so delve into the common places your solution adds value.

  • How long does it take to do X?
  • How expensive is X?
  • How many people are required to achieve the necessary results?
  • What happens if you’re not successful with X?
  • Does this process ever fail?
  • Are you satisfied with your current process for X? The results?
  • How reliable is your equipment?
  • When you have issues, is it typically easy to figure out what went wrong?
  • How much effort is required to fix your tools or buy new ones?
  • Are you happy with your current supplier?

SPIN Implication Questions

Once you’ve identified an issue, figure out how serious it is. Implication questions reveal the depth and magnitude of your prospect’s pain point — simultaneously giving you valuable information for customizing your message and instilling urgency in the buyer.

According to Rackham, they should have a new appreciation for the problem by the time you’ve finished this part of the conversation.

Rackham also says top-performing salespeople ask four times as many Implication questions than their average peers.

  • What’s the productivity cost of doing X that way?
  • What could you accomplish with an extra [amount of time] each [week, month]?
  • Would your customers be [more satisfied, engaged, loyal] if you didn’t experience [problem related to X]?
  • If you didn’t experience [issue], would it be easier to achieve [primary objective]?
  • Does [issue] ever prevent you from hitting your goals in [business area]?
  • When was the last time X didn’t work?
  • How is [issue] impacting your team members?
  • Would you say [issue] is a blocker in terms of your personal career growth?
  • Would saving [amount of time] make a significant difference to your [team, budget, company]?
  • How would you use an extra [amount of money] each [week, month, quarter, year]?
  • Has a problem with X ever negatively impacted your KPIs?

SPIN Need-Payoff Questions

Need-Payoff questions encourage the prospect to explain your product’s benefits in their own words, which is far more persuasive than listening to you describe those benefits.

Essentially, you’re asking questions that surface your offering’s potential to help with their core needs or problems. These questions focus on the value, importance, or utility of the solution.

Make sure your Need-Payoff questions don’t highlight issues your product can’t solve. For instance, if you help corporate recruiting teams identify potential engineering candidates, you shouldn’t ask about the impact of hiring better marketers.

Fortunately, it’s relatively simple to develop Need-Payoff questions — they should come directly from your Implication questions.

Sample Implication question: “Has a problem with X ever prevented you from meeting a deadline?”

Sample Need-Payoff question: “If you could do X in half the time, would that make it easier to meet your deadlines?”

Customizable Need-Payoff questions include:

  • Would it help if … ?
  • Would X make it simpler to achieve [positive event]?
  • Would your team find value in … ?
  • Do you think solving [problem] would significantly impact you in Y way?
  • Is it important for your team members to see X benefit so they can take Y action?

Be careful — Need-Payoff questions can backfire. If they’re too obvious, you might come across as condescending. Try to reframe the solution in a way the buyer hasn’t previously considered.

For example, rather than asking, “Would your company benefit in saving money?”, you could ask, “Would redirecting $1,000 per week from your content creation budget and putting it into Facebook advertising drive significant traffic toward your blog?”

The 4 Stages of a SPIN Sale

Rackham says there are four basic stages of every sale:

  1. Opening (also called “preliminaries”)
  2. Investigating
  3. Demonstrating capability
  4. Obtaining commitment

Transactional salespeople often move through all four of these stages in a single sales call. However, reps working on larger, more complex deals might take two months to two years to complete them.

To help mid-market and enterprise salespeople measure their progress, Rackham uses the concept of “advances.” An advance is an action the buyer commits to that brings you closer to a purchase.

The operative word is action. It’s tempting to interpret your prospect’s request for more information or a proposal as a buying signal, but that puts the ball entirely in your court. If the buyer is actually interested, they’ll agree to do some work as well.

A continuation is a sales conversation that ends with an undesirable outcome. In other words, when you finish the call or meeting the buyer hasn’t agreed to any next steps that will advance the deal.

Example advances include the prospect reviewing your pricing page and sending you their questions, signing up for a free trial and exploring the tool, or introducing you to a key stakeholder.

Come up with as many valuable advances as possible. The more paths to the sale you have, the likelier you are to get there. When your prospect turns down one of your advances — for example, an introduction to Procurement — you can calmly accept the rejection and then propose something else.

An order is the third potential outcome of a sales call. The buyer agrees to purchase your product and shows their strong desire by signing paperwork. For large deals, this is usually the last outcome in a series of progressively larger closes.

A no-sale is the fourth (and least desirable) outcome. Your prospect rejects your request — you can’t meet with the decision maker, they won’t schedule another meeting, or at the most extreme, they say there’s no possibility you’ll work together.

SPIN Selling Opening

SPIN Selling and inbound sales take the same approach to the first, or connect, call. Reps shouldn’t immediately jump into their product’s features and benefits — not only will this overly aggressive strategy turn off prospects, but salespeople will lose the opportunity to learn valuable information.

The purpose of the connect call is to get the buyer’s attention and start to earn their trust. Lead with a compelling insight or thought-provoking question.

SPIN Selling Investigating

Investigation is the most important phase of SPIN Selling. It’s equivalent to the discovery call: You’re figuring out how your product can help the buyer, identifying their priorities and buying criteria, and gaining credibility by asking relevant, targeted, strategic questions.

According to Rackham, a strong question strategy can improve your close rate by 20%.

SPIN Selling Demonstrating Capability

Once you’ve connected the dots between your solution and the prospect’s needs, you need to prove that connection exists.

There are three basic ways to describe your product’s capabilities, Rackham says:

  1. Features
  2. Advantages
  3. Benefits

Features are most useful when selling low-cost, simple products. A feature for a cup might be, “It can hold 10 ounces of liquid.” End users tend to find features more compelling than decision makers, who care about the bottom-line results.

Advantages describe how a product’s features are actually used. Like benefits, they’re useful for smaller purchases but less persuasive with larger ones. The advantage of a cup might be, “You can use it to drink both hot and cold beverages.”

Benefits go one step further and show how a feature can help the prospect. They typically have a financial component and meet your customer’s need(s). A well-crafted benefit gives the buyer a reason to buy your product. The benefit of your cup might be, “Since you drink coffee in the morning and iced coffee in the afternoon, you’ll appreciate this mug’s versatility. Now you can enjoy both beverages with one cup.”

The FAB formula gives you another way to think about features, advantages, and benefits.

Because [product] has [feature]

[user] will be able to [advantage]

which means [prospect] will experience [benefit].

Let’s fill in this formula for a salesperson offering employee gamification software.

“Because our platform lets you set up leaderboards for your service teams, customer support reps will get a real-time overview of their performance compared to their peers. That means they’ll be motivated to raise their average satisfaction rating and respond to tickets more quickly.”

SPIN Objections

In every deal, objections are inevitable. In fact, you should worry more if you’re not getting them — that means your prospect has reservations they’re not sharing with you. Your goal is to discover why the buyer hasn’t already pulled the trigger on this purchase, then help them understand why their concerns aren’t true blockers.

(Of course, if there’s a valid reason your product isn’t a good fit, you shouldn’t persuade them otherwise.)

Rackham states there are two types of objections:

  1. Value: Your prospect isn’t convinced about your product’s ROI. They might say, “I like its features, but the cost is too high.”
  2. Capability: Your prospect doubts that your product can meet their specific needs. That translates to comments like, “I’m not sure it’ll be able to do X for us,” “That process seems like it would take more time than you say,” and “I think we need a more robust solution.”

Capability objections can be further broken down:

  1. Can’t: Your solution cannot solve one of the buyer’s main priorities
  2. Can: Your solution can solve one of their main priorities, but they don’t perceive that

It’s important to prevent as many objections as possible. The majority of objections are actually avoidable if you avoid selling too soon.

Rackham’s research revealed that reps can cut the number of objections in half by using implication and need-payoff questions to build value before presenting a solution.

In the traditional sequence, the salesperson asks a Problem question. Then they use the prospect’s answer to offer the corresponding product feature.

However, the rep usually doesn’t have enough context to truly understand what the prospect is trying to accomplish or what’s blocking her. Their generic, one-size-fits-all answer prompts the buyer to push back — and she’s probably not going to listen to any of their future suggestions.

Try the SPIN sequence instead. Ask a Problem question, probe into the consequences with Implication questions, then ask the buyer to recognize the value of a solution with a Need-Payoff question.

Modern-Day SPIN Selling

“SPIN Selling” was published more than 30 years ago. Although its core techniques and principles hold true, the typical buying journey has evolved. If you’re going to use the SPIN model, you should update it.

First, ask as few Situation and Problem questions as possible. Prospects simply don’t have the patience to do your homework for you. They don’t want you to identify the pain points they already know about — if that was the case, they’d simply buy the solution by themselves. You’re valuable because you can find opportunities or pain points your buyers don’t yet know about.

With that in mind, use thought-provoking questions such as, “Has your organization ever considered [new strategy]?”, “Do you know [surprising statistic]?”, and “Would you like some recommendations for preparing for [impending industry event]?” 

Rackham didn’t give these questions their own category, but they’re definitely useful in modern sales.

Second, incorporate social selling into your strategy. When Rackham came out with “Social Selling,” LinkedIn didn’t exist. Now you have far more insight into your buyers’ perspectives, priorities, and personalities than salespeople in the late ’80s could ever have dreamed of. Don’t let this valuable resource go to waste. Read your prospect’s profile(s), browse their group comments and any articles they’ve written or shared, check out their Recommendations section to get a feel for their work ethic, and so on. Become as familiar with each individual as you can before your kick-off sales call so you can engage them like it’s the fifth meeting, not the first.

Third, guide their buying process. As the average number of stakeholders involved in every B2B deal grows larger, and internal buying processes become more complex, your expertise gets more valuable. Prospects need you to help them purchase your product like they never have before. Come prepared with the job titles — and potentially names, if you can find them — of their coworkers who need to be informed or consulted. Tell your point of contact what their manager is going to want to know before they approve the decision, and send them materials to make their presentation more compelling. Work with your contact to anticipate and avoid roadblocks. Liaise with Procurement and/or Legal when necessary to get the deal over the finish line as quickly and easily as possible. Although Rackham didn’t give these recommendations in “SPIN Selling,” they’re one of the most effective ways to differentiate yourself in modern sales.

How are you using SPIN Selling techniques to prospect, qualify, and close? Let us know in the comments!

HubSpot CRM


Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

5 Techniques for Hitting Your Number by the 15th of Every Month

meet-quota-middle-of-month-633889-edited.jpg

Salespeople evolve. In stage one, they’re learning the ropes. It’s usually an epic battle to make their quota every month or quarter — if they hit it at all.

In stage two, reps have developed the right systems and honed their sales skills. They’re meeting quota almost every month or quarter.

That’s where many salespeople stop. However, the elite reps keep evolving. They make it to stage three — hitting their targets by the 15th of every month.

If you’re still in stage one, I suggest bookmarking this post and coming back to it when you’re consistently meeting quota. The processes and techniques I’m going to share are highly sophisticated, so they won’t work unless you’re ready for them.

Let’s dive in.

1) Create a Long-Term Plan

Salespeople who want to hit 100% of their quota by the 15th of the month need to take a long-term perspective.

Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots, is a great example of this. He’s not managing game to game or week to week, He’s managing year to year.

Rather than thinking How can I make my number this month or quarter?, focus on meeting your yearly targets.

I recommend mapping out your entire year. Start with your annual objective, then work backward to create monthly objectives for expected revenue, number of new customers, and/or total sales volume.

Don’t forget to factor in any vacations you’re planning on taking, national holidays, and seasonal demand.

For example, if sales heat up in the spring and fall off in the summer, you’d want to set more aggressive goals for March, April, and May, and smaller ones for June, July, and August.

This process will help you stay consistent no matter what time of year it is or what’s happening in your buyer’s world.

2) Prospect, Prospect, Prospect

What are you doing on the last day of the month? According to HubSpot sales manager Sam Moorhead, you should be spending just as much time prospecting as you spend on the first day of the month — if not more time.

“If you want to set yourself up for success the next month, you need to set up new opportunities,” he says. “The best salespeople I know have already hit their quota by the last day and are using it as a huge prospecting blitz.”

While many reps devote the entire last day to work on existing deals, Moorhead believes they’re being inefficient.

“We waste a lot of time thinking through and agonizing over these deals, but we’re not actually moving the dial forward,” he explains.

The takeaway: Block out 50% of the last day of the month for emailing new buyers, asking for referrals, looking for potential contacts on LinkedIn, seeing if you have any old prospects ready to be reengaged, etc.

3) Create Authentic Urgency

Unfortunately, we’ve taught prospects they’ll get a better deal if they wait until the end of the month, says HubSpot senior sales manager Greg Brown.

That makes it difficult to close deals at the beginning or middle of the month.

Brown advises salespeople to create urgency around their prospects’ goals, so they’re incentivized to buy as soon as possible.

“Find out when they need to have a solution up and running,” he says. “Not when they buy the product — but when it’s actually in place. Then work backward.”

Here’s a soundbite:

“You need the platform for a conference on September 15, and you’re sending promo materials 45 days ahead of time — August 1. It takes 30 to 45 days to get set up, so we’d need to finalize the agreement by June 17.” 

Once you’ve set a deadline that has nothing to do with discounting, it’ll be much easier to bring deals earlier.

4) Re-Set Discount Expectations

What if you sense your prospect is still holding out for an eleventh-hour price cut? Reset their expectations around discounts.

Brown suggests these statements:

  • There’s a limited number of discounts I can give. If we get this done by [agreed-upon date], I’ll have more flexibility with pricing.
  • We’re working toward a deadline of [agreed-upon date]. Luckily, I have more discounting power earlier in the month, so I should be able to accommodate your budget.
  • To be fully transparent with you, I have less pricing flexibility later in the month. My manager has cracked down on end-of-month discounting.

Of course, you should never lie to your prospect. If they find out from another buyer that you’ve misrepresented your power to discount, they’ll be understandably pissed.

5) Prioritize Your Time

With this strategy, you don’t have any time for prospects who are still in the awareness stage of their buyer’s journey. You should be focusing on opportunities that are highly likely to close in the near future.

When you come across someone who’s still researching their problem and the solution, direct them to the right resources and say, “I’m the right person to talk to when you’re ready. Please call me when you’re closer to a decision.”

You can also offer to periodically drop them an email if you find something relevant to their situation or company. This will keep you top-of-mind and position you as a trusted advisor — so when they are further down the funnel, you’ll be the first rep they’ll call.

I use this technique to help buyers and keep my future pipeline full without taking my eyes off the ball.

One last word of advice: Don’t sandbag. If you’ve hit 100% of your quota by the middle of the month, you might be tempted to postpone any hot deals until the next month. But this isn’t the right mentality. Time kills deals — so if the customer is ready to buy, don’t delay no matter what day it is.

With these strategies, you can consistently make your quota with half the month left.

Free Sales Training from HubSpot Academy


Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

Announcing The Real Deal of Sales: A New Video Show With Keenan, A Sales Guy

introducing-real-deal-of-sales-compressor-491548-edited.jpg

Let’s get real: Sales is freaking hard! It takes a lot to be a great salesperson, but most people don’t understand that. In fact, sales is probably one of the most misunderstood jobs.

But we get it. We understand the pain and the hustle and we want you to know something: You are not alone, my friend.

There are so many salespeople out there who deal with the same challenges and we want you to get to know their stories. That’s why we joined forces with Jim Keenan, the creator of A Sales Guy, to bring you The Real Deal of Sales, a brand-new video show featuring real sales stories from real salespeople.

Subscribe here to get a notification every time we release a new episode.

Meet the host

The Real Deal of Sales is all about keeping it real. So the host of the show had to be someone who loves to ask difficult questions and who’s not afraid to call out the elephant in the room. Some mad energy and a bold, but friendly style were also welcomed.

Given the requirements, the role fit Keenan like a glove (to say the least).  

Keenan Quote 1 The Real Deal of Sales.png

“#TheRealDealofSales was built to pay homage to the people who are doing the sales grind every day”- @keenan http://hubs.ly/H07gHTN0 Click to Tweet

If this is the first time you’ve heard about him, here’s a proper introduction. Keenan’s been “selling something to someone for his entire life” so he knows first-hand what’s it like “in the real world.” More importantly, he has been influencing, learning from and shaping the world of sales for a long, long time.

There aren’t many people in the world who are as passionate about sales and salespeople as Keenan.

You get it why we’re very pumped to have him as the host of our show.

Who is this show for?

The Real Deal of Sales is for everyone who hustles every day, trying to crush their numbers and hit their quota. Whether you’re new to the sales profession or you’ve been here for some time — there’s something for everybody. 

Keenan Quote 2 The Real Deal of Sales.png

“It takes a special badass to truly be a good salesperson”- @keenan #TheRealDealofSales http://hubs.ly/H07gHTN0 Click to Tweet

Keenan will be interviewing salespeople of all types, from BDRs to VPs of Sales, giving everyone a voice.

Which brings me to the best part.

What topics will they cover?

The purpose of the series is to show you what sales is really all about. That’s why we’re planning to talk to salespeople about some of the hottest topics in the business, like:

  • What they love about sales
  • What they hate about it
  • How they got into this profession in the first place
  • Their “secret sauce”
  • Their biggest mistake or most embarrassing moment
  • The most difficult part of their job

Check out the first episode: What is the Hardest Part of Sales?

Each episode will cover a different topic, but one thing will stay the same: Keenan will be keeping it real. His straightforward interviews will help you see what it really takes to be a great salesperson. His job is to dig out their stories and share them with you, every week.

Want to share your thoughts or ask Keenan a question? Tweet him at #TheRealDealofSales! 


Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

The Secrets of Using DISC to Close More Deals

use-disc-in-selling-compressor-680515-edited.jpg

There’s a subtle, debilitating disease that affects almost everyone in sales. It can go unnoticed for weeks, months, or even years.

“Autopilot sales mode”: Doing the same tasks day after day leads to autopilot, or the tendency to act without conscious thought.

For example, many salespeople have outgoing, talkative, emotional, enthusiastic personalities. And they sell in a way that feels most “natural” to them. Every time they get on a call, they sell in a way that they would like to be sold to without thinking twice about it. Most salespeople don’t think about why they’re saying what they’re saying.

An outgoing, emotional personality is great when you’re selling to a decision maker who also has that personality. But what if your customers are more reserved or analytical? What if they’re less willing to take risk or are less optimistic?

In situations like this, going on “autopilot sales mode” can cripple your close rate.

The best salespeople modify their script to their audience members based on their personality. They understand the same tone and delivery style won’t always work for two different customers. They know different types of customers need different buying experiences.

One framework you can use to adapt yourself to your audience is the taking a sales-based DISC personality assessment. (No time to delve into this today, but chat with us here if you’ve questions.)

By understanding which DISC archetype most closely matches you and your prospect, you’ll know which strategy and presentation style to use.

In this post, I’ll show you how you can grow your sales by using the DISC framework.

Identify DISC Type

The first step in figuring out how to adapt sales presentation to your customers is first understanding your own personality type.

DISC is broken down into four archetypes: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance.

  • “Dominant” (D) people prioritize results over everything else. They care most about their bottom line and are very direct in their communication.
  • “Influential” (I) people care most about influencing or persuading others. They put a lot of weight on their relationships.
  • “Steady” (S) people emphasize security. They look for sincerity and dependability over anything else.
  • “Compliant” (C) people want as much information as possible about your product or service. They value quality and accuracy and are afraid of making the wrong move.

Aside from taking a DISC assessment test, you can figure out your own profile by thinking about your behavior in different situations. For example:

  • Dominant people are highly driven and ambitious, with anger being their driving emotion. They’re also extroverted, task-oriented, and occasionally impatient.
  • Influential people aren’t afraid of being the center of attention. If you’re the Influential type, you’re probably enthusiastic about what you do, talkative, and extroverted.
  • Steady people are frequently reserved or non-emotional. These people crave security, are resistant to change, and prefer working on one or two tasks instead of several.
  • Compliant people are very accurate, precise, and detail-oriented. They’re naturally cautious and rely on calculated data-backed decisions rather than gut feelings.

Once you figure out your own DISC profile, you’ll have a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to selling to other personality types.

Most salespeople naturally sell to their own personality type instead of thinking about the personality of their customers.

For example, if you have a high “D” personality, you might become impatient with someone who’s an “S” who prefers to take an interaction more slowly. If you’re an “S” selling to a “D”, you might get turned off by their direct and confrontational approach.

If you’re an “I” and you’re selling to a potential customer who’s a “C,” you might try to sell to their emotions or feelings when they want facts and data.

Here are some behavioral and body language clues you can use to quickly figure out the personality of your customers:

  • HIgh “D” people typically move fast and always on the go. They’ll talk with their hands, using big gestures. They’re not enthusiastic about small talk. Sometimes, they can give the impression that they’re rude or hard to deal with.
  • High “I” people are typically trusting and optimistic. They use lots of facial expressions and hand gestures while they talk.
  • High “S” people tend to keep “poker” faces and don’t display much emotion. They’ll talk and walk with a steady, easy pace.
  • High “C” people will ask direct, detailed questions. Their classic body language is having their arms folded, with a hand on their chin.

Here’s an infographic that shows the communication styles of different personalities:

fourLetter Selling DISC.png

You can figure out the main personality type of your potential customers within the first few minutes of an interaction based on how they respond to small talk, the first questions they ask you, and their body language.

Adapt Your Selling Style to Your Buyer’s DISC Type

Once you’re aware of your personality type and know how to identify the personality types of your customers, you can adapt your sales techniques to resonate with them.

Here are some tactical ideas on how to do that for each personality type:

Dominant

If you’re selling to a high “D” customer, show you respect their views and requirements without making them feel like you’re simply agreeing to whatever they say. They’ll view that as a sign of weakness.

You should also avoid focusing on them personally, and stick to the facts at hand.

Dominant people are strongly influenced by other people who they perceive as having high status or power. When possible, use testimonials from well-known people in your industry.

Influential

“I” personalities like to talk about their ideas and emotions, so ask them what they’re thinking and feeling. Let them vocalize what’s working and what’s not.

They can also be disorganized and avoid details, so providing summaries or takeaways of what you discussed can help them focus on what you want them to focus on. But only include details that are absolutely necessary.

Steadiness

People with high “S” personalities are even-tempered, composed, and good at listening. Show them you’re interested in who they are as a person, and don’t let your sales pitch feel too “transactional.” Make it clear you value the relationship.

If you focus too much on facts and numbers, you’ll risk coming off as impersonal.

Compliant

People with high “C” personalities like having as much information as possible. Give them the information from your verbal pitch again in writing. Knowing they can review all the documents later and make an informed decision puts “C” people at ease.

Having a detailed pros and cons list in your proposal can also help them make a decision.

Compliant people are very afraid of making the wrong decision, so offering some type of guarantee or refund can help ease their worry.

Many salespeople sell in a way that feels most “natural” to them, which usually means selling to their own personality type. That’s why most pitches tend to have inconsistent results.

If you’re able to adapt your pitch on the fly to the personality of your customer, you’ll consistently exceed your quota.

May the sales be with you.

Want a visual guide to using DISC to sell? Download this handy resource.

HubSpot CRM


Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

How Google Killed 1 Million Sales Jobs — And How to Keep Yours

google-killed-sales-jobs-compressor-289188-edited.jpg

In 2015, Forrester predicted that one million of the 4.5 million B2B sales professionals in existence will be out of a job by 2020. The firm explained there are currently four types of B2B salespeople.

s4linfographic2.pngSource: Sales for Life

Order Takers: Reps who sell simple solutions in simple buying environments. According to Forrester, they’ll see a 37% decline, which translates to 600,000 jobs lost.

Explainers: Reps who sell more complex solutions in a relatively simple buying environment. They’ll see a 27% decline, or 400,000 jobs lost.

Navigators: Reps who sell fairly simple solutions in complex buying environments. They’ll see a 17% decline, or 150,000 jobs lost.

Consultants: Reps who sell complex products in complex buying environments. They’ll see a 10% increase, or 50,000 jobs gained.

Will these jobs vanish immediately? Not necessarily. Forrester Research principal analyst Mary Shea, PhD, argues that 62% of salespeople in 2020 will still be Order Takers or Explainers.

I agree, as the window of time is too narrow to see substantive swings. However, you will be hard-pressed to find an Order Taker, Explainer, or Navigator that doesn’t want to fight hand over fist for one of the 550,000 Consultant sales roles that are expected to exist by 2020. For those already sitting in the Consultant role, watch out — you have a million people gunning for your job in the next few years.

But let’s back up for a minute. Before we get to the future, it’s instructive to examine the past events that led to this state of affairs.

How Did We Get Here?

In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google with the mission of “organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.”

Google gave people the ability to find information on their own terms and on their own time. Marketers needed to win back the attention of the consumers flocking to Google (and abandoning more traditional marketing channels), so they turned to digital content marketing.

This shift didn’t happen overnight — it was a radical change in the way the world consumed information. If you look at the trend line for the search term “Content Marketing” from 2004 to 2017, you’ll see it began taking off around 2012.

Google Trends for “Content Marketing”: 2004-2017

content-marketing-google-trends.png

More interesting still, global spend on content marketing fully surpassed $100 billion globally in 2012. It sped up even more between 2012 and 2016, ballooning up to $200 billion.

Global Content Marketing Spend 2009-2019 (Forecast)

pq_Media.png
Source: PQ Media

Once search became the primary method people used to answer their questions, businesses had to stay relevant, helpful, and involved by making their websites and blogs their customers’ primary resources — not salespeople.

Google vs. the Traditional Salesperson

Today, content marketing supplants the need for Order taker, Explainer, and Navigator salespeople, which is why these jobs are on the decline.

These jobs aren’t gone quite yet; however, content marketing provides virtually endless access to information to buyers — and simultaneously gives them the ability to ignore any information they want. In other words, most prospects no longer need a sales rep to make a buying decision.

We can see this behavior reflected by hundreds of metrics. Here are just five compelling statistics:

  1. Buyers are circumventing reps for as much as 60% of their buying discovery process. In the next few years, they’re predicted to wait until 80% of the decision making process is complete before interacting with Sales.
  2. Only 1% of cold calls lead to booked meetings.
  3. There are an average of 6.8 decision makers in any B2B sale — more than ever before.
  4. Nearly 40% of all buying processes are “blown up” internally before a rep is engaged.
  5. 84% of buyers say the sales cycle takes longer than expected. 

Where Do We Go Next?

I can’t predict the future, but I can develop a few hypotheses of what will happen from here.

Scenario #1: Rise of the Bots

In the first scenario, companies develop a breakthrough technology that enables buyers to engage with them in the absence of a human. Some companies are already on, or headed down, this path. They offer chat platforms to businesses to communicate with their website visitors. Most company websites receive hundreds if not thousands of daily visitors — but they don’t have anyone to engage these potential customers in real time.

This space already includes large and rapidly growing businesses (for example, Intercom has raised over $100 million from 29 investors). I think these companies can — and likely will — do more. With natural language processing, AI will be capable of understanding questions from website visitors or anticipating what they’re likely looking for and serving them the right piece of information at the right time. AI may even be able to “qualify” a website visitor and take them all the way through a sales process to the point of sale.

This model probably won’t work for complex or sensitive enterprise solutions, but it could have an enormous impact for small and medium-size businesses (SMBs).

Scenario #2: Data-Driven Review Sites With a Recommendation Component

In this future, someone finds an efficient way to help buyers sift through endless piles of information. We’re starting to see solutions like this come to life in the software industry: Sites like TrustRadius, G2Crowd, and Software Advice provide verified customer reviews and feedback for a wide swath of products. Notably, G2Crowd has expanded its service to include reviews for business services too, from translation services and lawyers to marketing agencies.

These sites provide buyers with trustworthy, credible perspectives. But resources in this category can’t completely answer the information overload issue because they are contributing to the wealth of content — not helping a buyer cut through it. They also don’t solve for the underlying problem: Buyers don’t always know what they’re looking for or that they’re even solving the right pain point.

These sites would provide more value by analyzing a breadth of business metrics and recommending the right solution or solutions. Perhaps a company like Databox or Tableau could partner with companies like TrustRadius and G2Crowd to provide data-driven software and service recommendations.

Scenario #3: A Reinvented, Reimagined, and Commission-Less Sales Force

In the final scenario, companies reinvent the role of the sales function, transforming sellers into hybrid consultants who are compensated on new customer success metrics rather than closed-won business.

I think this is unlikely to be adopted far and wide in the short to medium-term. In the long-term, it’s possible — but it will only come to fruition after the vast majority of the business world determines there is no longer a sustainable, profitable path to growth using traditional sales methods. We’re not there yet, but there are some companies already experimenting with this model.

How to Survive — Even Thrive — in This New World

If you’re one of Forrester’s three “non-Consultant” types of salespeople, you have two choices: Do nothing and ride out the impending transition, or get ahead of this change and learn consultative sales skills.

For those interested in the latter, HubSpot offers a free certification on consultative selling. There are also a number of excellent books on this topic; I recommend The Challenger Sale.

You should also request your sales manager’s help and feedback as you change your selling strategy.

If you’re a sales trainer or sales coach, shifting your services to focus on consultative selling may or may not be right for you. The decision to expand into these services (assuming you’re not already offering them) depends on the maturity of your business, your current client base, and the personal plans you have for your company in the coming years (for example, I don’t recommend making this switch if you’re about to retire or sell your business.)

Alternatively, if your clients sell moderately to highly complex products or services, especially in B2B, and you don’t already provide these services, consider adding them to your portfolio. Your best bet is partnering with another consultant or coach who already offers these services or a business with a well-established consultative sales playbook such as Sandler, Corporate Executive Board (now Gartner), or HubSpot.

If you’re looking for deep training and hands-on support, you might also consider becoming a HubSpot Sales Partner. This program is designed specifically for businesses like yours interested in expanding into consultative sales services.

What’s your opinion? Is the sales profession racing towards the information-overload “cliff,” has it already run over that cliff, or is there no cliff to speak of?

New Call-to-action


Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

Call or Email? 4 Tips to Determine When to Use Which in Sales

sales-call-or-email-compressor-950326-edited.jpg

The method of outreach sales reps use for a first connect makes a significant difference in response rates. Rather than deciding whether to call a new prospect or send an email based on personal preference, use the method your prospect will be most responsive to.

Which leads me to the question: Phone or email? While there are a few tips that can help you decide, sales reps should know that in the grand scheme of a sales engagement, it’s phone and email. However, I’m specifically addressing the first touch in this article, and since you shouldn’t issue an identical email and voicemail, you have to make a choice.

When deciding between trying a prospect by phone or sending an email, let the following four factors be your guide.

1) Time and Day of the Week

First, consult a calendar and a clock. Statistically, phone connect rates rise as the day progresses, and as the week progresses. In other words, a person is more likely to answer their phone later in the workday and the workweek.

That said, I like to reserve 3 p.m. and later of the prospect’s local time as my prime calling hours. Same goes for Thursdays and Fridays — I block out large chunks of time on these days for cold calling.

But what if a prospect doesn’t pick up their phone in these timeframes? Leave a voicemail. Response rates to voicemails also increase later in the day since checking phone messages is something people often do before heading home for the evening. Calling late is a win-win.

On the other hand, the ideal timespan in which to send email is shorter but more frequent. While I draft connect emails throughout the day, I am careful to send them either 10 minutes before the hour or 10 minutes after the hour. These brief windows correspond with people leaving or going to meetings. What do they do with the few minutes they have to kill? Scroll through email on their smartphones. If you synch your email to be sent with the time your buyer is most likely to check their inbox, your message will pop up on top instead of being buried beneath others. 

2) The Ask

What’s your objective for this first outreach? To set up a meeting? Get some more information? Receive a referral? Figuring out your ask and categorizing it as “weak” or “strong” will help you determine whether to call or email.

Strong asks require commitment from the prospect to do something. I would label requests for meetings, conference calls, or product trials as strong closes. Weak asks seek straightforward information from the buyer — think a prompt for feedback or a referral.

Once you know your close and have determined if it’s strong or weak, it’s easy to choose between a call or an email. If you’re putting forth a strong close, pick up the phone. Because these asks require more from the prospect, salespeople need to employ their closing skills to secure a “yes.” And it’s far easier to persuade on a phone call, when a rep can respond to and smooth over objections in real time. 

But if the ask is weak, draft an email. Don’t take up the prospect’s time on the phone unnecessarily if your request can be fulfilled with a few short lines of text.

It’s interesting to note that most salespeople take the opposite approach — they ask buyers for meetings through emails and reserve simple questions for calls. Why? Because they’re afraid of being rejected on a strong ask over the phone.

Don’t let fear block your way to connecting with a buyer. Reverse this equation and watch your response rates climb.

3) The Level of the Prospect

Do individual contributors have assistants? Not usually. But do C-level executives? Almost always.

That’s why the higher up your prospect is in an organization, the more likely you are to reach a live person when you call. Since a live conversation with anyone — regardless of whether they’re the person you were trying to reach or not — trumps an email exchange, lean on the phone with buyers at the management level or above. Also, higher-level prospects are generally more comfortable on the phone, and less intimidated by sales calls.

But if individual contributors don’t answer their phones, no one else is going to pick up — and they’re not likely to return a call from an unknown number. In addition, lower-level professionals are often away from their desks — traveling, working in groups, participating in meetings, and so on. Therefore, a rep is much more likely to connect with a prospect at this level through an asynchronous channel such as email.

4) The Buyer Persona

Some buyer personas favor a different communication style than others. Their preference depends on multiple factors: Their age, the nature of their job, their industry, and more.

In general, millennials like communicating by email more than over phone. If you’re reaching out to a younger buyer, take this into account.

You might find professionals in customer-facing roles are more amenable to talking on the phone — because that’s what they’re used to. Those in internal jobs, however, may be more comfortable sending emails.

Lastly, those in more traditional industries are typically accustomed to phone calls.

Following Up

These four criteria make it much easier to choose between an email and a phone call for your first outreach. But what about subsequent touch points?

In my opinion, the beginning and the end of each sales engagement should be phone-heavy, since that’s where the strongest asks are — starting a relationship, and closing a deal. In between, reps should opt for email as a rule of thumb.

Want more sales tips? Check out my blog

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness. 

HubSpot CRM


Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

7 Seemingly Harmless (But Secretly Deadly) Sales Phrases

deadly-sales-phrases-compressor-539081-edited.jpg

How much of what you say do you think other people receive and interpret correctly? Seventy-five perent? Ninety?

The truth is, we miscommunicate just as often — if not more — than we communicate accurately. While that’s a scary thought for any professional, it’s especially relevant to sales. After all, reps spend the majority of their time making phone calls, sending emails, and meeting prospects. In other words, talking to people.

We’d give you the ability to read minds (and thus avoid communication errors) if we could. But technology isn’t quite there yet, so in lieu of that, we’re providing you with seven seemingly harmless — yet secretly deadly — phrases. If you want to send the right message, cut these from your lexicon.

7 Terrible Sales Phrases to Drop From Your Vocabulary Right Now

1) “Interesting.”

People love to call things “interesting.” New data? Interesting. Surprising suggestion? Interesting. Counterintuitive fact? Interesting.

via GIPHY

Up until a few weeks ago, I was a card-carrying member of the “interesting” camp. But here’s the thing: Since we use “interesting” to describe pretty much everything, the word has lost all its meaning. You can contribute far more to a conversation by actually describing what you think.

Let’s say the prospect reveals her company is in a unique position. Rather than saying, “That’s interesting,” you could say, “Thanks for sharing that information — most companies in your space experience the opposite. With that in mind … ”

Or if she proposes an unexpected idea, you might reply, “Nice, I hadn’t thought about it from that angle! What if we …”

As you can see, cutting out the “interesting” crutch forces you to be more specific — and that’s always a good thing.

2) “I trust you’re doing well.”

If “I hope you’re well” scores a five on the spectrum of meaningless cliches, “I trust you’re doing well” is a solid 10.

At least the former suggests some concern for the person’s well-being. The latter, on the other hand, is like saying, “I have no idea how you’re doing, and I’m not going to ask, but let’s just assume everything’s swell.”

via GIPHY

Plus, it sounds stiff and overly formal, like it’s the 1800s and you’re penning a letter to your mother-in-law. Not exactly the effect you’re going for.

Switch out this phrase with a reference to something that recently happened in the prospect’s world. For example, if their department just hired two new employees (which you can easily find on LinkedIn or their company blog), you could say, “Congratulations on the new marketing hires.” Or if the prospect just had a work anniversary, say, “Saw you just hit three years at ScaleVid — way to go!”

Now it’s clear you know they’re doing well, because you’ve done your research. No “hope” or “trust” required.

3) “Don’t worry.”

It’s easy to respond to your prospect’s concerns with a breezy, “Don’t worry!” But telling someone not to be anxious isn’t just ineffective — it’s patronizing.

And ironically, consciously trying to suppress a specific thought or emotion brings it to the front of your mind. That means your well-meaning reply will actually make the prospect more anxious.

via GIPHY

You’ll get much better results by acknowledging how they feel, then proposing a solution.

Imagine your prospect says, “A new coffee shop opened across the street, and they’ve definitely drawn customers away from our cafe.”

Using the two-part framework, you’d respond, “That can be tough. In fact, I had a customer last year in a similar situation — a sandwich chain bought the space next to their subs joint. To help them stay competitive, I … ”

Showing the prospect that you’re on their side and giving them a potential fix is far more soothing than a cliche.

4) “I know how you feel.”

Expressing empathy is always a good idea. However, reps should steer clear of saying, “I know how you feel” — after all, unless you’ve coincidentally experienced the exact same thing as the other person, you don’t know how they feel. And the more extreme the situation, the more aggravating this statement becomes.

via GIPHY

You can convey the same idea (without sounding presumptuous) with a couple simple swaps.

Try one of these alternatives:

  • “That sounds difficult.”
  • “I can imagine that would be hard.”
  • “That must be challenging.”
  • “That situation seems like it would require [patience, grit, creativity].”

And as you can see from the last example, bringing up a former client who faced something similar is also smart. Not only do you prove that you’re familiar with the issue, but you get to weave in a case study. Win-win.

5) “No problem.”

When it comes to apologies, “No problem” is a perfectly good response. You’re telling the other person no harm, no foul, and you’re ready to move on.

via GIPHY

But when someone thanks you, it’s a different story. Saying “no problem” doesn’t just minimize your actions, it implies the prospect’s request was, well, a problem. You’ll immediately lose some of the goodwill you just scored.

Fortunately, the fix is simple: Say “You’re welcome” instead. If you want to switch it up, use “I’m happy to help,” “Glad I could help,” or even “My pleasure.”

6) “As I said before …”

People typically use this phrase as a reminder that they’ve talked about a particular point during an earlier conversation. Unfortunately, the prospect hears, “You’re clearly not smart enough to remember I’ve already covered this, so I guess I have to go over it again.”

via GIPHY

To avoid seeming passive-aggressive, skip the qualifier and launch straight into your comment. Here’s an example:

Before:As I said, our basic package is best for teams with less than four people … ”

After: “Our basic package is best for teams with less than four people … ”

Worried about needlessly repeating yourself? Tell the prospect, “Stop me anytime if we’ve covered this to your satisfaction.”

7) Obviously

Salespeople often unthinkingly use this word to point out something that’s crystal-clear to them. But if that fact or detail isn’t evident to the buyer, the rep seems condescending.

For example, if she’s discussing her product’s capabilities, she might say, “Obviously, it can’t do X or Y, but … ”

via GIPHY

Her prospect will wonder, Wait, why can’t the product do X and Y? Are those functionalities not developed yet? Am I supposed to know about this?”

Use your expertise to deepen your prospect’s trust in you, not make them feel stupid or ignorant. Rather than inserting “obviously” into your statements, simply deliver them. The buyer will feel more comfortable asking questions, and you’ll avoid coming across as patronizing.

Dropping these phrases from your speech will definitely improve communication with your prospect. However, you’ll also need to pay close attention to their body language, tone of voice, and responses — so if your message is taken the wrong way, you’ll know in time to do some damage control.

Which phrases do you always see being misinterpreted? Let us know in the comments!

HubSpot CRM


Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales