One of my favorite salespeople that I had coached was a gentleman named Jason (name was changed to keep my clientele private). Jason is a religious man with a young family. From the millennial generation. A solid person. He was a former business owner. No college. He was smart and had the motivation necessary to be successful. Jason worked 6 or 7 days a week because he was so motivated and goal focused. I was fascinated by the number of hours he put in working while still finding time to be with his family. In our first session, he told me he only wanted to work 3 days a week, so he could spend time with his church and family, but realized that he needed to make more sales calls to hit his income goals.
Jason never had any formal sales training until he went to work for one of the nation’s leading solar companies. I coached all the sales managers and sales directors, and he was the only sales person that I coached from that company. This solar company put Jason through some intensive training before certifying him to make sales calls. When we met, Jason was an above average performer, but not anywhere near the top. He was more motivated to sign up for coaching than most salespeople. His employer picked up most of the cost if he hit certain sales targets.
A Fast Start
I've always found people who enter sales coaching programs to see some noticeable improvement almost immediately before they've really had any of the benefit from goal setting, training or accountability. I suppose they naturally prepare themselves with a stronger focus on their goals and activity. Jason was no different. His performance started improving almost immediately. After our first meeting, Jason set his income goals and activity goals. Then he really started to produce. Within a couple of months, Jason became a consistent top performer, finishing each month ranked first or second of many sales personnel. Then one month, his production took a hit.
We discussed the situation and quickly uncovered the cause of his dilemma. Jason stopped following the sales cycle. He took shortcuts. What do I mean by that? In my recent blog, "Your Sales Team Doesn’t Need Strong Closing Skills", I wrote about the importance of listening skills and asking the right questions. This part of the sales process has lots of names for it. I’ve typically identified the questioning part of the call as either a “needs analysis” or an “introduction”. When you ask the appropriate questions during a need’s analysis, listen to the answers, then ask an appropriate follow up question, good things happen. Sometimes, like magic, the prospective customers talk themselves into the sale. The presentation is short and the close is a formality. As most of us know, you don't typically have that much good fortune and you need to make a solid presentation that seamlessly transitions from the need’s analysis to the presentation and into a close; typically followed by objection handling. And back to a close.
The Root of Jason's Problem
What was Jason’s problem? It was a common mistake made by all salespeople at some point in their careers. Some continue to make the same mistake repeatedly. In Jason’s case, he would hear a buying signal like “my power company s*cks”, he’d find out why, get more excited about that buying signal, and jump right into his presentation without knowing what motivated the prospect to invite him into his house. Not only that, he didn’t ask some of the questions involving the layout of the house, the roof, square footage, and other specifications, which normally occur during the need’s analysis. Sure, he still might get a commitment to close. But, it wasn’t as solid a commitment as it would have been had he understood all the needs of the client before he presented. Once he attempted to gather the specifications after the presentation and close, the customer often became confused by all these new questions so late in the process. As a result, the customer would get nervous, and he lost the sale. This really happened, repeatedly.
Jason's Happy Ending
Jason corrected this transgression and returned to the top position for sales performance. Coincidentally, this happened again with him about 6 months later, which we corrected again. That is the beauty of coaching. 95% of companies do not coach their salespeople effectively.
The purpose of this story
Stick to the sales cycle, also known as a sales process. Follow it with discipline. Resist any temptation to jump into your presentation until you have uncovered all the relevant needs of your prospective buyer. Build up emotion with the prospect about the problem or need they may have. the needs analysis is the most important customer facing part of the sales cycle. If you jump ahead before you complete the needs analysis, you are less likely to close the sale. Stick to the sales cycle and make more money.
Here is an example of a sales cycle that can apply to any sales call . LIke many solar sales calls, there is a preset appointment.
Many top solar power salespeople generate their own leads and are paid extra commission, since they save money on lead generation for the company. Self generated leads often come from customer referrals. Some come from prospecting activity.
If you apply prospecting as the first step, you can use my example as a complete sales cycle. I typically prefer to construct an actual sales cycle for the prospecting phase that insures a goal is met (meeting scheduled), if my client doesn't plan to close on the first phone call.
Tip for Sales Managers: Check your sales team to make sure they follow the sales cycle. It is easily missed in a coaching session. Include this as a regular component of your sales coaching.
Thanks for reading.
Check out this article "The Top 8 Requirements for Becoming a Great Salesperson", by Dave Kurlan, who is founder of one of our partners, OMG
Christopher Wallace opened Saratoga Sales Consulting in 2014, after a career in sales management and executive sales and marketing management. Contact him for any reason at email@example.com or call 518-879-6428.
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