An inescapable fact of selling is the inelasticity of the time available to your prospects and customers to perform their jobs. They are trying to increase their productivity and accomplish more in their business, with the same number, or fewer, people, and fewer resources. Just like every company out there.
Of course, the same applies to your company and your business. If you are tasked to sell more with the same resources, then time becomes the most precious commodity you have. Right? If you are given a higher quota and you divide that number by that song from Rent (“five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure, measure a year…”) it means that you have to sell more dollars per minute this year to meet your objectives. You don’t have time to waste. And, your customers don’t have time to waste.
It is important to examine each sales opportunity you are currently working to determine if you are: a) consuming too much of the prospect’s time; and thereby, b) decreasing your chances of winning their business. These two go hand in hand.
Here is a simple metric you should use to determine if you are frittering away the prospect’s time (and with it the order they would give you.) Answer this question: How many times has your prospect had to tell you their story? Their story includes their requirements, their budget, their timeframes, their decision making process and whatever other background information you need to discover to support them through their buying process.
The more times a prospect is forced to tell you their story, the less likely you are to win their business.
If you make your prospects repeat themselves and tell you their story on more than one occasion, then it means one or more of the following time-wasting symptoms are present in your selling:
1. Your salespeople are not listening to the customer. How can you be responsive to the customer and provide them the information they need to take the next step in their buying process and make an informed purchased decision if you aren’t listening and documenting what they are telling you?
2. Your salespeople are too dependent on others to sell. This means that your salespeople don’t have enough knowledge and expertise about your products or your prospects’ industry and need to bring in one or more ‘experts’ to hold their hand and help them sell. Each new person that is brought into an account invariably wants to hear the customer’s story with their own ears.
3. Your salespeople are too reliant on management to win the sale. It has always been my experience, both as a salesperson and sales manager, that if you introduce a sales manager into a sales situation the first thing they will do is ask the prospect to tell him or her their story. The manager does this because her or she doesn’t really trust the version they have heard from the salesperson.
If you have experienced one or more of these symptoms infecting your selling it means that your salespeople are injecting unnecessary additional time into the sales process and reducing their chances of winning the order. Keep in mind that your prospects want to make informed purchase decisions with the smallest investment of their time possible. Forcing them to repeat their story to multiple people from the same company wastes time that they could be spending on other productive activities and will lead them to perceive that their experience working with your company would not necessarily be positive.
One last point. If you are wasting the customer’s time you are also reducing your own sales productivity. Spend too much time with one customer and it will take your selling time away from other prospects and customers.
Andy Paul is author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. A sought-after speaker and business coach, Andy conducts workshops and consults with sales teams of all sizes to teach them how to use responsiveness, speed and intelligent processes to increase sales. Enjoy what you just read? Sign up for our regular digest of valuable Zero-Time Selling sales tips and strategies, “Selling with Maximum Impact.”
© Andy Paul 2013