qualifying

Free Move When Extending A Job Offer

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We talk a lot about “free moves,” which are, essentially, questions your salespeople should be asking at certain points in a qualifying process. They are natural, enlightening questions that help bring a deeper level of clarity to a conversation.

Today’s job market is quite tight and strong candidates are in demand. You have to prepare for multiple offers going to your top candidates. If you have identified them as strong, it is most likely that another company (or more) has done the same. However, there is a qualifying principle from selling that works effectively when extending job offers.

Here is the principle - you can prequalify your candidate (or prospect in selling) before extending the offer (or proposal in selling). It is a free move which means you should take it.

Here is an example from Chief Revenue Officer:

Assuming we meet and extend an offer that includes these provisions…and satisfy your questions regarding the offer, what happens at the end of our discussion?

It is a simple, appropriate question. Here is more from the book:

You want to hear a response that clearly speaks to accepting the offer. If that is not forthcoming, this may not be your candidate for two reasons:

  1. Salespeople who can’t make a decision usually can’t get prospects to make decisions either.

  2. If the candidate is thinking about taking your offer and going shopping, this is where you’ll discover it, and you can now prevent that from happening.

Again, it is a free move and one that will be most enlightening to your qualifying of the candidate’s interest. The second move is to solidify the candidate’s commitment to your offer. If they are strong, their current employer may not want to lose them. This fact means that you should place the thought of a counter offer in their mind.

An example:

When you give your notice to your current employer, how do you expect them to respond? When they attempt to make a counter offer to you, what do you anticipate your response will be?

Think of this as training…you are training your future salesperson to anticipate the employer’s response and to be prepared to dismiss it. If the candidate is sold on your opportunity, they will follow through with a rejection of the counter offer.

One secondary benefit is that you are setting the expectation that their current employer will provide a counter offer. If the candidate is a bit shaky or unsure, they will steel their resolve to leave when an expected counter offer does not materialize.

These are free moves with tremendous returns. Use them whenever possible and contact us for more moves you may be missing.

Myths About Persuasion

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We like to boil sales down to getting other people to change behavior. This “change” requires salespeople who are persuasive.

The Selling Power archives contain a quick-read article about persuasion. The focus is debunking myths that permeate sales cultures regarding how to be persuasive. There are 6 myths they note, but this one is preeminent:

2. If you give customers enough facts, you’ll get their business.

Wrong. People do not base their buying decisions on facts. Research shows that the first step in a decision process is emotional engagement. Without an emotional response at the outset, persuasion does not occur.

Absolutely true. People make decisions emotionally and justify them (later) intellectually. If you do not understand this fact, you will sell on features and benefits. This will work if you are selling to Mr. Spock, it will not work on humans. Successful salespeople know their Differentiating Value and they know their Critical Qualifying Questions. Those two items, when connected to an emotional response, guide the salesperson to qualify the prospect.

That ability leads into the author’s third point:

3. Some folks are natural salespeople.

No. Charisma and personality are helpful, but they do not guarantee success, particularly in complex or technical sales. Effective salespeople have certain habits and behavior in common – and that includes the so-called naturals, even if they’re not consciously aware of the habits and behavior.

Many truths to unpack in that paragraph. First, many people confuse charisma for competence when it comes to selling. This conventional wisdom couldn’t be more wrong. Sales are won by the salesperson who asks the right questions and listens closely. This leads to the second point that certain behaviors are key to success in sales. Stephen Covey used to say, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Understanding is key - the strongest salespeople are attentive to the prospect’s words which is conveyed by the salesperson’s body language, focus and responses.

All six of the points from the article are key. Persuasion is a process and the backbone of all successful selling.

Learning From B2C Sales

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We’re in the midst of dramatic changes in the B2B sales world. The rapidly-expanding automation tools are changing the role of the salesperson’s role from prospecting to qualifying. These changes have already been absorbed, at some level, in the B2C world…and one major change is driving the shift in B2B sales.

The main driver of change is the expectation for a customer-centric approach to all sales. This principle has always been a marketing motto, but today it must be part of the fabric of your sales culture. The B2C companies have already embraced this approach.

A quick-read article from Sales & Marketing Management expands on this topic also. The author’s assertion is that B2B sales incorporate a model that relies on market data/feedback to flow through the salespeople. B2C sales rely on direct data compiled by the marketing department to guide development. This distinction is precisely what we are seeing. B2B sales are starting to migrate much of the early qualifying into the marketing department.

A summary of the adaptations needed in B2B selling to succeed in the new economy:

Sales invites marketing to participate in buyer interactions — Marketing is able to gain and maintain a pulse on the market through firsthand interactions, and sales provides marketing the opportunity to do so on a regular basis when it will be most valuable to winning the sales cycle. Net, marketing adds value to sales and is invited to help more — gaining invaluable buyers insights along the way.

Marketing directly engages the buyer – Marketing can invite clients and prospects alike to join working sessions on go-to-market strategy and messaging, bringing the voice of the buyer directly to the frontline. Mereo maintains the Decision Maker Network™ for this reason, with 300-plus business buyers for buying journey insights.

Applying market insights effectively – Directly hearing what matters to the buyer and why it matters will influence the messaging framework marketing applies to its content engine, but it also provides opportunities for marketing to transform information into insights, such as buyer personas.

Exactly right - marketing has to be brought into the prospect/market area to understand what is happening in the sales world. There is a fusion occurring between marketing and sales in the early sales funnel. Marketing is identifying target niches while staying involved through the initial contact/qualify. This light qualifying activity is the key component of the B2C model. It has now been brought into the B2B world by buyers.

This newly acquired data provides background for strengthening your Differentiating Value (DV). The foundation of your sales and marketing activities is your Differentiating Value. Your marketing message has to be confirmed by employing market feedback directly from your customers. This confirmation reinforces your DV message. If it is misaligned, your salespeople will be pushing Jell-O up a hill in their prospecting efforts.

We provide a DV Survey that will capture what your customers perceive as your DV. This information is beneficial to both marketing and sales departments as you craft your message to attract the right prospects for your solution. If you are unsure of your DV’s effectiveness, contact us today to learn more about our DV Survey process.

Sales as a Guide, Not an Educator

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The sales world has changed dramatically over the past decade as salespeople are no longer educators.

Granted, education is still a component of the qualifying system. However, salespeople are now a guide in the process. Clearly, the availability of information on the web has created a highly-educated prospect.

The clearest key is this transformation shows up at the beginning of the selling process. Prospects now approach companies with a certain level of understanding regarding your solutions. They have probably researched your company through other sites, scoured your website, and even talked to some of your customers…all before they make first contact with your sales team.

This transformation fundamentally changes the relationship between the salesperson and the prospect. Adjustments must be made. Perhaps your sales team needs to take an evangelical approach by spreading the good news of your solution in the market. Or maybe you have to switch to a relationship-based sale with a sales team focused on interpersonal skills. Qualifying will always be the backbone of successful selling, but the methodology will change.

The success of your team will rely upon their ability to adjust, if they haven’t already. Some categorical shifts to consider:

Old - Sales is an educator
New - Sales is a guide

Old - Prospect profile is information-gathering
New - Prospect profile is solution-savvy (from your competitors too)

Old - Prospecting is general introduction
New - Prospecting is specifically focused

Old - Qualifying focus is Pain and Money
New - Qualifying focus is Want and Need

To be clear, any successful qualifying system will require uncovering the prospect’s perceived pain and their budget to remove that pain. However, the initial qualifying pass will need to start by sorting out the nice-to-have vs. need-to-have solution for a partially-educated prospect who approaches with the beginnings of a self-determined solution.

Coaching for Qualifying

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As a CRO, you have many responsibilities, but one not to overlook is a concerted effort to coach your team. CRO’s are force multipliers - your ability to impart wisdom to your team will make your team more successful. The best ROI for your coaching time with your salespeople is qualifying.

Qualifying is the backbone of all successful selling. There are 5 stages of our Critical Qualifying Questions (CQQ’s) that we espouse in our selling system. However, no matter what selling system you use, your team must be strong qualifiers to succeed. The responsibility for growing that qualifying ability falls on you.

Selling Power has a quick-read, archived article that describes some fundamental questions your team should be asking of any prospect. The author compares qualifying prospects to investigative journalism. From the article (emphasis mine):

In many respects, qualifying prospects is like investigative journalism. The reporter (or, in this case, the salesperson) has to find out the facts of the story, based on who, what, when, where, why, and how. That means coming up with answers to the following questions:

  • Does the customer actually have a need for our products or services?

  • Can the customer afford to buy what we’re selling?

  • Is my primary contact the person who has the ability to make a buying decision, or is this person just gathering information? If not, who does have the authority to purchase?

All qualifying starts with a need so the author is on target. The CQQ’s from our Revenue as a System include Message, Motivation, Money, Methodology, and Market. When you are coaching your team, always keep the qualifying topic at the forefront.

Retro Selling on the Horizon?

Could there be a retrograde coming to sales?

One of the topics we took up this year at the RoundTables was the role of the salesperson in the modern sales world. Social media, artificial intelligence, chat bots, etc., are all having an impact on the traditional sales process. Automation is changing the entire process by limiting (removing?) the salesperson from the prospecting activities. The change in the sales process appears to be moving the requirements for successful selling in the very near future.

Prospecting
No bigger change has occurred anywhere else in the selling process than prospecting. The RoundTable members are experiencing the migration of these activities from sales to marketing. The ability to track marketing initiatives, adjust DV messaging and do a first-pass qualify electronically has changed the process. The addition of bots to the marketing initiatives creates an interaction, albeit somewhat wooden, to mildly qualify the prospect.

However, the ability to prospect using traditional methods may come back into focus. The consensus was that salespeople with a strong network will become even more valuable to prospecting in the near future. As prospects become inundated with the new prospecting automation tools, salespeople with strong networks will be able to reach out on a personal level to cut through the noise. That ability may lead us back to in-person prospecting via meetings, lunch and learns, sporting events, etc.

Qualifying
There is no greater skill involved in sales success than qualifying. The strongest salespeople know when to ask, what to ask, how to ask the right questions to bring clarity to a potential deal. There are many artificial intelligence (AI) tools entering the marketplace with the goal of augmenting (or replacing?) salespeople. How smart can these tools become in regards to reading people? Will they be able to pick up nonverbal cues? Sarcasm? Stalls?

You see the issue here - sales is a people-oriented function. Humans communication is only 7% verbal, the other 93% is nonverbal including body language, tone, breathing, eye movement, pacing, etc. The rush towards AI qualifying seems inevitable, but a need for salespeople to talk to prospects will persist.

Closing
Qualified deals close themselves…an axiom we subscribe to in strong selling. However, it still requires a closing event to occur. The actual acceptance of the solution at the agreed upon investment. There is a subtlety to closing that seems difficult to imagine in a machine. The minor agreements, the positive signs, the professional approach to asking for the business, all seem deeply seated in the human approach.

Certainly AI will be able to take orders, but closing a deal will require a far more nuanced approach. The empathetic ability of an AI machine, if it possesses any, will be stretched at this phase of a selling process. This step still seems like a retro approach, if we can call it that, will work best. A meeting over a meal, a stall-clearing phone discussion, a face-to-face closing meeting all seem like a standard that will prevent this stage from ever moving away from a salesperson’s involvement.

Where does it end?
AI is surrounded by ambiguity at this point as it continues to develop to new levels. However, no matter how advanced AI becomes, the basis of selling will remain an interaction between two people making a financial decision. The feeling of our RoundTable groups was that the upcoming year will prove to be revealing of the future of AI in the sales world.

CRO Rule #6 - Prospect Motivation

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CRO Success Rule #6
A prospect can never have too much Motivation regarding your Differentiating Value.

We’ve written frequently about Differentiating Value (DV) which is foundational to all successful selling.  The key to DV is translating it into your prospect’s world.  What do they give up in the absence of your DV?  A critical question for sure.

However, usually the consequences of life without your solution aren’t horrible, they are just unknown.  Therefore, when you can translate the consequences of not being your customer into your prospects’ worlds, they can start envisioning their own perceptions of new possibilities.  The more their perceptions become compelling, the more traction your DV has in their decision process.

CRO Rule #3 - No Decision IS a Decision

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CRO Rule #3
If a prospect decides not to do business with your company and there is no impact in his/her world as a result of that decision, the person made a good business decision.  As such, your Message objective is to make sure prospects understand what they will give up (lose) if they decide not to do business with you.

Last week we talked about Differentiating Value (DV) which is a fundamental component of successful selling.  This week we are going to apply DV to your messaging.

DV is what sets your solution apart from your competition.  The key is that the value cannot be tied to quality, service or support.  Those 3 bromides are the backbone of many marketing messages…and an ineffective approach.  The reason is these 3 traits are assumed by prospects and claimed by competitors.  They are the opening ante to enter the game and therefore are difficult topics in which to differentiate your solution.

The key in applying your DV to your message is this – in today’s market you have to clearly express what sets you apart from your competitors and your prospects must find this valuable.  I’m not talking about traditional features and benefits, rather the value you bring that differentiates your solution from your competitor’s.  When there is differentiation, then there is loss for not choosing your solution.  This fact is the key to your message.

What Matters Most in Selling

Photo by  imagesthai.com

Qualifying.

That’s it.  End of post.  No, we’ll go a bit deeper.  I write this post as I sit at a Caribou Coffee right next to an actual sales interview.  It is fascinating to observe as the candidate is doing fairly well.  He is qualifying the position which is excellent.

He is falling down in that he is asking the right questions and then answering them HIMSELF.  Disappointing.

There is an elegance to strong qualifying…almost an artistry.  The questions flow in a conversational manner, the prospect is comfortable in answering and the information is gained by the salesperson.  It is enjoyable to watch from my perspective.

When you are interviewing sales candidates, it is important to watch for more than just the answers they provide.  Pay attention to their questions, their strategy in answering, their conversational approach, etc.  Even watch for candidates who are able to ask difficult questions.  Imagine them selling for your company – will your prospects buy from them.

In the end, the salesperson’s ability to qualify, a job, a prospect, a deal, is the backbone of all good selling.