Improve Your Sales Closing Ratio

Occasionally EGOPOWER readers send me questions or topic suggestions that I feel would be of interest to you. In this issue I give some tips to improve your sales closing ratio in response to a question Rob Smith wrote me from the UK:

"I sell IT equipment to schools in the UK over the phone. I seem to always hold a massive prospect list that's constantly changing but I'm struggling to get my deals closed. The following is how 85% of my potential deals go:

First Contact:

  • I find a prospective customer
  • Find out what they have at the moment and what they want (where they want to be with I.T. in the future)
  • I find out when they are looking to buy
  • And ask who is involved in the decision making

Next Action:

  • I put together a proposal and post/email/fax it to my contact

Second Contact:

  • I call him/her to discuss the proposal with them, make sure it's what they wanted and make a few extra suggestions.
  • I'll try and have a laugh with them to get some rapport going.
  • I'll try & confirm a decision date again.
  • Say something like - "is this something that we can go ahead with now?" it never is?.
  • "I'll call you in ? days to see if you have come to a decision"

Third Contact:

(before date I promised to follow-up on)

  • "Just calling to make sure everything is OK and to see if you have gathered all the other quotes yet?"
  • "how do we compare" - normal response is pretty good
  • "is there anything I can do before you have your meeting tomorrow that would help you in making a decision?" - usual response is "No"

Fourth Contact:

(day of decision)

  • Won't put me through

Fifth Contact:

(day after decision):

  • Secretary says he's not there

Sixth Contact:

  • Secretary speaks to him and then tells me he's selected a competitor.

"It's quite depressing really and I do put the effort in, I'm sure it's just down to my sales skills. What do you suggest?"

Use Precious Sales Time Wisely

Thanks for writing in Rob. Selling this way IS depressing. I suspect that you are losing your deals very early on. By this I mean that you are expending too much energy on deals that you'll never win.

The decision to send out a proposal should be an important one. Only well qualified prospects that you KNOW you have a high likelihood of winning, merit the effort of creating a proposal.

This is contrary to what many of us learn in sales, which is that is a "numbers game". Send out more proposals, and you'll get more sales the thinking goes.

The problem is unless you know with certainty that you are selling to your prospect's most important buying criteria, your proposals have a low chance of success. You can bet that the competitor who wins the deal, knows just what to put into his proposal before he sends it out.

Qualify Better And Close More Sales

You need to get very clear on what is most important to your prospect. You do this by asking the following questions when you first interview the prospect:

- Why are you planning to purchase this new computer network now? - What is most important to you in a new computer network? - Why is this important now?

You also need to know who the likely competition is that is currently being favored (there is almost always someone with the inside track). One way to ascertain this is by inquiring about similar or related purchases made in the past. Find out which vendors they bought from and why they were awarded the contract.

Ask if any of their past vendors are bidding for this deal. Ask why wouldn't they buy from those vendor(s) bidding on this deal if they bought from them in the past.

Ask the following question about each past vendor bidding on the deal separately to determine who is being favored. Don't just ask "why don't you buy from one of those companies?" Instead ask "Why don't you buy from ABC company? They gave you good installation support last time which you said was very important to you".

By asking about preferences for their current/past vendors, you will find out if there is a real opportunity for you or if they just are gathering bids to document that they have performed a competitive evaluation.

>>> Unless you can find a compelling reason why they would switch to a "new" vendor, your odds of closing are going to be very low.

How well do their current vendors meet the "what's most important" to the prospect criteria?

After you've thoroughly discussed the vendors that they have current business relationships, you can easily ask about any other new vendors that they are considering. They'll likely open up to you on this now because you greased the conversation by getting them to talk about their current vendors first.

If they are reluctant to answer questions about other vendors, then tell them you are selective about who you give bids to. If you know whom else they are evaluating, then you will better know if you can help them and should bid on it.

>>> The lesson here is don't do a proposal unless you can PROVE that you offer an advantage in meeting their key criteria. Being me-too is not enough because it is likely that there are already vendors they do business with that they prefer and know better than you.

By rigorously qualifying your prospects, your closing ratio and total sales will increase significantly. You'll be happier also because not only will your bank acount be fatter, but you'll be working with people who want to work with you.

© 1999-2004 Shamus Brown, All Rights Reserved.

Shamus Brown is a Professional Sales Coach and former high-tech sales pro who began his career selling for IBM. Shamus has written more than 50 articles on selling and is the creator of the popular Persuasive Selling Skills CD Audio Program. You can read more of Shamus Brown's sales tips at http://Sales-Tips.industrialEGO.com/ and you can learn more about his persuasive sales skills training at http://www.Persuasive-Sales-Skills.com/

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