A lot of people believe selling is rocket science, something they couldn’t possibly do. If you’ve met me, or read my blog, you’ll already know that I think that’s just not true.
Anyone can sell. It’s really only having a conversation with purpose. Once you’ve got your sales mojo, how do you reach for the sky for sustained sales growth?
You Directly Control 4 Key Elements of Your Sales
You and your staff can directly impact the following four elements of your sales process:
- The volume of sales
- Your conversion rate
- The average sale value
- The length of the sales cycle
Making changes in just one of these areas will result in greater revenue, combine more than one and watch your sales steadily climb.
The FIRST FACTOR: Increasing Sales Volume
It’s a Numbers Game
Increasing the number of sales you make validates the magic that happens when marketing and sales work together. This is quintessentially a numbers game.
To increase sales volume, you need more leads (generated by targeted and tracked marketing). Which you transform with your sales skills into more qualified leads. Which are further transformed with marketing and sales expertise into opportunities. It’s continuous, self-fulfilling cycle of momentum.
How Good is Your Lead Generation?
As for the mechanics, there is a simple formula I developed in The Simple Math of Lead Gen – it’s about helping potential clients understand that you have something that may address one of their pain points, something worth giving up an email address to obtain.
What do you do with these email addresses once you have them? You engage the people who own them. Regularly, with compelling content. You provide something useful. You answer questions and you make it easy for these people to find answers. You share insights you’ve learned. You tell relevant stories. You share your humanity.
Oh, and you keep adding more people to this group. All the time. Because if you aren’t generating leads to qualify, it’s very difficult to close sales and grow your business.
The SECOND FACTOR: Increasing Conversion Rates
What Are Sales Conversion Rates?
When I talk about sales conversion rates, I mean the number of sales made from actual conversations with people. The kind where someone eventually has a phone conversation with you and most likely a face to face meeting too.
The mini-conversions are important milestones in the sales process, but the important thing to remember is that many cannot be influenced directly by you and your sales skills. And your skills are what can have the biggest impact on improving your sales conversion rates.
The Math Behind Conversion Rates
Here’s what you need to do. Define your own conversion rate standards. Both in terms of what you are measuring and what you feel are appropriate levels to target. Once you get started, you’ll find that you intuitively have a pretty good feel for what is the right level for your business.
The basic formula is fairly simple: # of sales / # of leads x 100
If you made 3 sales from 10 sales conversations, your conversion rate is 3/10 x 100 = 30%.
Here’s where those of you who have embraced the mindset that selling is about helping a customer solve a problem will rise to the top. Because this is where your selling (listening and questioning) skills make the difference between a mediocre conversion rate and a very good conversion rate.
When you’ve honed your questioning technique to be able to understand the issues that your prospective clients face, and to uncover the REAL objections behind the stated objections, you’ll find that your conversion rate will start to rise.
The THIRD FACTOR: Increasing Average Sale Value
This is selling expertise at its purest. By taking the time to truly understand your customer’s needs you have the opportunity to craft the solution that is the most beneficial for your customer AND will yield you a greater return.
It’s the difference between selling someone a sandwich only, and considering that your customer is likely having a meal – you also have the opportunity to sell him a beverage and possibly a dessert. And now you’ve just increased your total sale by 30%, simply by understanding your customer’s actual need.
Apply this to every selling encounter and you can see what will happen to your bottom line.
So how do you do it? The answer lies in improving your qualifying skills and managing your sales conversations better. Better questioning is the key. Don’t leave money on the table because you don’t ask the right questions – you must uncover your prospect’s real needs.
There is real skill in doing this. I call these questions compelling questions. As Jeffery Gitomer says, you need to ask questions that make your prospect think. These are the questions that make your prospect think in terms of their needs but answer in terms of your needs. And they most certainly aren’t the kind of questions that can be answered with a yes or a no – how can you continue the conversation then?
If you’re following along with our sandwich sales opportunity questions like: How can I make this the best lunch you’ll have this week? What’s the dessert you’ve been dreaming of? Will you be picnicking or having lunch at the office? In a business to business setting, these questions become even more important as you are often crafting a custom solution that may involve many components.
Remember that you are approaching the sales conversation from the point of view of solving your customer’s problem. But you are also a business owner or someone responsible for making bringing in revenue. And if you can do the first while also keeping in mind the second, you’ll find that you are consistently creating win-win situations and growing your sales.
The FOURTH FACTOR: Reducing the Length of the Sales Cycle
This one is all about follow up folks. With a little bit of good questioning technique thrown in. Always the questions! You will have no doubt noticed how asking those compelling questions has been the common theme throughout this article.
I’ve been surprised at the number of people I work with who seem to be unable to close sales to generate revenue for their businesses. They have done phenomenally well at prospecting and proposal providing, but then, crickets. Some of this is because they aren’t asking the right questions to begin with, but poor follow up is another reason sales aren’t closed in good time.
The reality is that sales cycle length is often out of your control. Business priorities change, employees move to other organizations, businesses are bought and sold. All of which impact potential purchasing. But all too often well-intentioned sales people let business fall through the cracks.
You Need ALL the Purchasing Information
This may be stating the obvious, but you absolutely must have an understanding of your customer’s budget and purchasing cycle. You might have a client who is dead keen to purchase your product or service, but you’ve failed to determine his budget year. It’s only after you’ve put forward your proposal that you discover the purchase won’t be authorized until the following fiscal year. I don’t think the impact on your sales cycle length really needs to be explained!
But more critical is your follow up procedure, which begins before you ask for the sale. While you’re discovering what needs to happen for you to make the sale, you’ll be outlining your own procedures for implementation and on boarding. You and your prospect will both understand what you each need to do and when. You’ll be asking the questions you need answered so you can shorten the sales cycle.
And then, you’ll be following up. Multiple times. By phone. By email. In person, perhaps. Until you have a signed contract or a definitive ‘no’, your sales opportunity hasn’t gone away. And if you are diligent about this, you’ll find that your sales cycles will shorten.
Selling isn’t all that complicated, but it does take persistence, organization, and attention to detail. And most importantly, the ability to ask those compelling questions that really are the key to selling success.
About the Author
Kim Fredrich is The Stylish Marketer, working with women in business to find their sale confidence and win more business. You can find out more about her one-one-one sales coaching, consultancy and workshops in the DC Metro area online. Don’t forget to read more super useful sales tips on her blog, and feel free to call her at 703-822-1928. She actually likes talking on the phone!