Over the past twenty-years I've noticed significant changes in roles and responsibilities that have become much more specialized. Below are two (2) examples and I know you can come up with many more:
Baseball: Remember the starting pitcher was measured on how many complete games he pitched. Many starters would even stay in the game and pitch extra innings. Now, we have pitching specialists who are long relievers, middle relievers, set-up men and closers.
Marketing: For the most part, the role of a Marketing person was being responsible for the 4Ps: Product, Price, Promotion and Positioning. Now, you have pricing specialists, business development (quasi positioning and sales) and traditional - even digital promotional specialists.
As a result of the interactive, web-based technology that is available today and the expertise that is needed in all phases of the sales process, isn't it time to have a team of specialists who are focused on finding leads, selecting prospects (or getting prospects to find you), defining needs, solving problems and developing solutions? Isn't this the most important piece of your business? Here are some ideas:
- Internet and Inbound Marketing - For this to be successful, you need a great website (i.e. structure, skeleton and surface) and excellent content writers that frequently research and write about interesting and informative topics - making it easy for customers to find YOU!
- "All Prospects are Leads, But All Leads are not Prospects" - So how do sales people find leads and select prospects that best fit your ideal customers? It's not easy, it takes time and you have choices. 1) You can pull lead lists, collect business cards and randomly call or email and pitch your product or 2) the smarter way is "you" determine who your ideal customer profile is and research those prospects who are important to you.
- So you have your prospects, now what? If you follow choice 2 (above) then you better be prepared to know something about the prospect before you reach out to them. For you to stand out and have a prospect be interested in a meeting, you should have a valuable business reason. You should have professionally designed information available about your company, yourself, great success stories and testimonials that would appeal to your prospects. Finally, you have to be persistent. Remember, these are not leads, they are prospects you want to do business with... Ideal customers!
Halftime - More Study Time
- Now the 1st meeting takes place. Not only do you have to be prepared for the sales visit, you have to have the interpersonal skills to establish rapport with the prospect. You have to make the connection and get the prospect (or stranger) to feel comfortable. Being prepared nowadays is checking their website, looking at Linkedin profiles, social media, etc., anything where there is a connection that will open up a conversation. You have to take the initiative because the prospect won't. Instinctively, this can be the most important part of your visit.
- You got each others attention and you're starting to establish credibility, start to ask intuitive open ended questions and start to "listen and take notes." Keep the Q&A flowing between both of you throughout the needs assessment. Don't jump to the close!
- Start to formulate with the prospect what you're hearing into a list of needs, If you established rapport and if you're engaging the prospect throughout the assessment you should have a good list of needs.
- Ask this question, "If you need to get something done tomorrow, what would it be?" I think you'll see your list of needs be reduced to a few critical assignments. That's OK... Start to perform a deeper dive into the needs analysis of those critical assignments. You may want to stop here and assign some homework for the next meeting. Don't jump to the close!
- Collaborate with the prospect and include the prospect at every stage of the assignment(s) in solving problems throughout the needs analysis process. Depending on the complexity of each assignment, this could take a lot of your time and effort, but it increases your probability of closing the project. Don't jump to the close!
- Make sure that everything up to this point has been confirmed and agreed too and start prepping for the close. Start the "what if feelers" "What if we can do this, is this what you want, would this work?"
- Build and deliver your "No Surprise" proposal. By this time, your prospect should not be surprised by the proposal content, the value you are providing and the 3rd quarter process you went through together. Most importantly, this will help you to establish trust and credibility with each other over the long term. Yes, it's all about relationships!
- Now it's time to ask for the close... Both of you put the "skin in the game" and should be ready to start the project.
Based on the all of the above, think about the amount of time, effort and skillsets needed in transitioning a lead to a prospect, a prospect to an appointment, conducting a need assessment/analysis and collaborating with the prospect up to the close. BTW, you may need 100 of these projects (some easier, some more difficult than others) to make your revenue number..
Is it time to redefine the role of the sales organization?