By Erick Simpson
This is part two of a five-part series. Click here for part one, here for part three, here for part four, and here for part five.
Most people make purchasing decisions based on emotion and use logic to justify that decision. Therefore, a strong and favorable first impression is vitally important to develop a foundation for successful sales engagements.
For the sales professional to begin the process of positioning themselves as a trusted advisor and securing a productive communication forum where the prospect feels comfortable enough to provide valuable information, the sales professional should begin by reducing risk during the sales engagement and creating a positive perception of their competence with the prospect. This occurs during the Warm-Up, which is the second step in the Seven-Step Sales Process and should be conducted within the first few minutes of any client interaction.
Following are a series of actions a sales professional should conduct to ensure a successful warm-up:
- Use information gathered in the Strategic Preparation phase (step one) of the sales process. The sales professional will be able to find common ground on topics that matter to the prospect by researching their and their competitors’ business websites and current events for their industry. This tactic will create a repository of status/diagnostic questions that can be utilized to uncover their prospect’s business pain and needs.
- Research the name of the prospect, their organization, and its stakeholders via the web for any relevant news or topics of discussion. The sales professional could find valuable information on social media sites that may be used as talking points, such as industry affiliations or current or newsworthy events and their prospect’s hobbies and interests.
- During the sales engagement, the sales professional should observe and take note of any pictures or other such memorabilia in the prospect’s lobby and offices that may be used as talking points. This tactic will allow the prospect to divulge any information pertaining to topics that they may be interested in outside of the workplace.
- The sales professional should also take note of the prospect’s body language, tone, and demeanor during the sales engagement. This will provide behavioral clues and allow the sales professional to begin communication in a more effective manner.
The sales professional should take note that not all people communicate or open up the same way. It will be up to the sales professional to identify and conduct the warm-up that the prospect wants. While some prospects may be willing to share personal information with the sales professional, some may prefer a discussion around their business.
Below are some examples of personal and business warm-up questions:
Personal Warm-Up Questions
- What are your interests outside of work?
- How much time do you usually have to do those types of things?
- When was the last time you were able to take a vacation and what did you do?
- Are you involved in any charitable activities?
Business Warm-Up Questions
- What would your ideal client look like?
- How did you start this business?
- What led you to get into this type of business?
- What is your favorite part about what you do?
- Did you start in this position or did you move from another?
Understanding how to immediately build rapport with a potential client is critical to a sales professional’s success. Considering the newness of how most managed IT services and solutions may seem to a prospect, they will generally make their buying decisions based on the relationship-building skills of the sales professional.
The sales professional’s main goal during the warm-up phase is to reduce perceived risk and this is accomplished by positioning themselves as an expert in the vertical market they are selling to. The sales professional must begin to convey and position themselves as a business consultant in their prospect’s vertical market, with a focus toward how to use technology strategically to achieve their prospects’ and clients’ business objectives.
Step 3: Sales Qualifying
Qualifying is the third step of the seven-step sales process and is a critical one toward a sales professional’s evolution as a prospective client’s trusted advisor. A successful qualifying process is necessary in order to uncover valuable information regarding the prospect’s needs and understand if they can be addressed by — and where they align with — the sales professional’s deliverables and solution stack. During the qualifying phase of the sales process, the sales professional should ask a series of strategic questions that keeps the prospect’s curiosity piqued and strengthens the sales professional’s perceived competence by the prospect.
The sales professional must discover who the decision makers are and why they would want or need the sales professional’s services. The most effective method for uncovering what the prospect is interested in is by asking questions centered on their business strategy and the priority of their strategic goals. The sales professional should position questions around the following business generalities:
Once the sales professional understands the true issues and challenges of the prospect, they must then connect their technology solutions’ features and benefits and what the implications of their adoption would be on more specific areas within the four stated business generalities. The ability to delve deeper into the prospect’s challenges is what creates a true distinction and differentiation between the sales professional and their competition. The sales professional should create a repository of implication questions around each of the challenges that the prospect could be experiencing.
Implication questions are questions that connect the effects of the prospect’s business issues to specific areas within the four stated business generalities. For example: “Since you mentioned that backing up your crucial data is important to your business strategy for this year, how would not having access to critical customer data affect your ability to generate new sales?”
The sales professional should always take a business needs analysis document that will help them gather and document the information needed to properly qualify the sale. It is important to note that the business needs analysis should not dictate the pace of the conversation, but rather support the natural flow of the discussion.
It is crucial that the sales professional remain engaged in a logical conversational tone throughout the qualifying process. The sales professional should utilize three different versions of the business needs analysis: one for the business owner, one for end users, and one for the “unofficial IT person” in the prospect’s organization (if appropriate). Along with documenting end user-focused data and issues, using the end user business needs analysis also will provide an opportunity for the sales professional to “warm-up” the rest of the staff and create internal advocates that also can increase the sense of urgency with the prospect during the sales process.
Ultimately, the sales professional’s responsibility throughout the qualifying phase of the Seven-Step Sales Process is to create a bond with the prospect so as to deepen their relationship and elevate the value of any proposed services or solutions. When the sales professional masters the ability to govern the dynamics of the discussion without losing control of the conversation or making the prospect feel uncomfortable, more candid responses to their questions will be received throughout the engagement. This will enable the sales professional to deliver a more powerful presentation by clearly aligning the proposed features and benefits of their proposed services or solutions to the prospect’s stated and newly uncovered needs.
Next Time: Conducting The Sales Presentation
About The Author
Co-founder of one of the first "Pure Play" MSPs in the industry, and creator of the MSP Mastered™ Methodology for Managed Services business performance improvement, Erick Simpson is a strategic technology business growth and transformation specialist and one of the most prolific, recognized and sought-after business improvement and transformation experts, authors and speakers in the industry. Learn more at www.ericksimpson.com.
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