- Most sales people find themselves trapped in a vicious sales cycle.
- Consistent sales success depends on following a virtuous sales cycle
- 3 behaviors that lead to virtuous sales cycle
- What are you doing to stay fresh professionally?
- Without renewal you can become stale.
- Sellers have to factor the customer’s needs into their sales processes.
- The Uncertainty Principle in Sales states that how you sell to the customer changes how the customer will make their decisions and the process you need to use to sell to them.
- Uncertainty Principle requires flexibility and in its application leads to a Virtuous Sales Cycle.
Is Yours A Vicious Sales Cycle? Or A Virtuous Sales Cycle?
Which One Are You In?
Most everyone is familiar with the concept of a vicious cycle, or vicious circle (i.e., a repeating sequence of connected events in which each cycle reinforces the previous one, in this case, negatively).
In sales, a Vicious Sales Cycle stems from bad sales practices that lead to poor results combined with an inability or unwillingness to change, which leads in turn to a never-ending, self-reinforcing cycle of unacceptable sales performance.
Unfortunately too many sales professionals operate within a Vicious Sales Cycle.
What are some key behaviors that open the door to a vicious sales cycle?
- Lack of consistently applied sales processes. Success in sales is based on a foundation of well-defined, documented sales processes (and associated metrics) that establish clear expectations for how selling should occur in your organization.
- Lack of responsiveness. Today’s customer is substantially pre-educated about your product or service before they ever engage with your sales team. By definition, when they do contact you for the first time their need for information in order to make a decision is urgent.
- Lack of urgency. See #2 above. The timeframe for every sales action should be immediate. It’s what customers expect. Anything less is the start of a slippery slope.
- Lack of product knowledge and business acumen. Customers rely on you to provide the necessary content and context they require to make a fully informed purchase decision. Customers will be reluctant to invest their time to build relationships with sellers who can’t provide value.
Your goal should be to build a Virtuous Sales Cycle. A virtuous cycle is defined as a “Self-propagating advantageous situation in which a successful solution leads to more of a desired result or another success which generates still more desired results or successes in a chain.”
A Virtuous Sales Cycle is what happens when best sales practices are consistently applied to produce above-average results, which in turn create a chain of positive results that feed off of each other to generate even better performance.
Therefore, the aim of every salesperson should be to convert their sales efforts into Virtuous Sales Cycles rather than the all-too-typical Vicious Sales Cycle in which unresponsive, time-wasting sales behaviors spiral downwards into a never-ending series of poor performance.
What are a few of the behaviors you should use to create and perpetuate a Virtuous Sales Cycle?
- Sell with Maximum Impact in the Least Time. Selling with Maximum Impact in the Least Time means that every interaction with a customer must be pre-planned to achieve the maximum impact and provide the maximum value for the customer with the least investment of their time possible.
- Be absolutely responsive to the customer in Zero-Time. Because the timeframe for every sales action is immediate anything that you put off, any customer interaction that you defer until later, is less likely to ever occur. In my training courses I teach that “later” lives on the same street as “never.”
- Continually fine-tune your sales processes. Nothing stays the same. Products change. Customers change. Technology changes. How you sell your product, and the metrics used to measure the effectiveness of your processes, have to evolve to keep pace with these changes.
Let’s put this in context and see how you can use these to initiate your Virtuous Sales Cycle.
What happens when you consistently sell with Maximum Impact and enable your customers to make informed purchase decisions with a smaller investment of their time?
By virtue of selling more effectively you will naturally compress the customers’ buying cycle. Compressing their buying cycle will not only win you more orders it will also create more selling time for you to sell to additional prospects.
(Reduce your prospects’ buying cycle by 5% then you will suddenly have 5% more sales time. This could be equal to an extra 13 selling days per year. How many more orders could you win with that extra time?)
If you sell to these additional prospects in the same effective manner then this process of positive sales outcomes becomes self-propagating. Success begets success and you have kick-started your Virtuous Sales Cycle.
What’s Your Sales Expiration Date?
What Are You Doing To Stay Fresh?
Pick up nearly any food product you can find on the shelves of your local supermarket and it will be stamped with an expiration date.
Look on the bottom of the carton, or on the cap, and you’ll see “Best if used by June 21, 2012” or “Sell by June 21, 2012.”
This useful bit of regulation is designed to protect consumers from products that sat on the shelves too long at the store and didn’t sell or that have been hidden in the back of your cupboard behind the cans of baked beans and slowly turning moldy and inedible over the years.
Who’s protecting your customers from salespeople that have turned moldy and stale.
Have You Gone Stale?
Salespeople have an expiration date as well. If you don’t adapt your selling to keep pace with your customer’s rapidly changing buying behaviors, then you risk turning into the sales equivalent of an expired credit card.
Are you keeping fully informed of the economic and technological changes that are affecting your customers business?
Are you fully educated about the new technologies and products at your company?
Do you know more about your products and services than your customers?
Then, like a credit card past its expiration date, you are of no value to anyone.
Who’s Checking Your Expiration Date?
With new clients I often see sales managers that keep chronically underperforming sales people onboard well past their expiration dates.
Sales managers are human and, like most people, they are averse to change. They find it easier to follow the path of least resistance and to work around a sluggard rather than go through the hassle of firing them. Even if it places an extra burden on the rest of their sales team to pick up the slack.
If you have salespeople who are no longer suited to sell your product or service then every minute you keep them onboard is a minute too long. It is a myth that good salespeople can sell anything.
To ensure the growth of your company, salespeople must have relevant experience and skills that will enable them to be completely responsive to the information requirements of their customers.
If they don’t, they must go. Period.
Just like that month-old carton of leftover Chinese takeout that’s turned into black mush in its little white carton in the back of your fridge.
What Can You Do To Stay Fresh?
The only constant in selling is change.
Products change. Technology changes. Services change. Customers change.
As a salesperson, or sales manager, you have to confront and adapt to change as well if you want to remain fresh and competitive.
There is no one right answer but there are a variety of choices you can make:
- Make Your Numbers for a Change: It is amazing what can happen to a salesperson if they put in that extra effort, step up their responsiveness, make that extra cold call (or two or three) and start hitting quota on a regular basis. Nothing breeds confidence, and success, like success.
- Stay Current With New Thinking and Trends in Your Profession: For instance, when was the last time you read a book about sales? I urge everyone in sales, salespeople and managers alike, to read at least one new sales book per month. (For instance, you could start by reading my book, Zero-Time Selling, 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales.) Sales has undergone a rapid change in past 10-15 years and the evolution isn’t stopping. Going about your job the “old-fashioned” way is not going to get it done. It is essential to keep an open mind about new ways to achieve your sales objectives.
- Try Something New: Take something from that book you’ve just read and apply it to your selling. Take one new technique from the book and apply it in your daily routine for a week. And then add something new each week thereafter.
- Educate Yourself About Your Customers: Set up a series of Google Alerts to keep abreast of the news about your customers, their industry, their technology, their competitors and your competitors. Use Alltop to survey and read the best blogs that address your customers’ industry(s) from a market, financial and technological perspective. In today’s market, it is not enough to just do your job. You have to be a good business person, who can add value to the customer through your business knowledge.
- Get Some Extra Sales Training: Invest in some extra sales training. Pick an area where you need to sharpen your skills and attend an online class. It could be social selling, prospecting, writing, whatever will help you communicate more effectively with your prospects and customers. Make this an annual event. Don’t rely on your management to provide training that addresses your weaknesses. Be proactive.
- Hang with the Engineers: There is no better way to learn the ins and outs of new products than to hang with the product development people in your company. The most important relationships you need are not necessarily with your customers.
I’ve heard a lot of other good suggestions lately about how to re-energize and re-motivate yourself in selling.
One friend is taking an acting class to help him break out of his “mold.”
Another has started seeing a therapist to help him shed some negative habits that are holding him back in his dealings with customers.
And, before you snicker at that suggestion you might ask yourself why millionaire professional athletes from all sports around the globe flock to talk with Dr. Bob Rotella, the world’s leading sports psychologist.
How do you stay fresh?
The Uncertainty Principle in Selling
Using Change to Your Competitive Advantage
You probably don’t consider the impact of physics on your sales efforts. But you should.
You should evaluate your prospects’ buying processes in terms of Heisenberg’s famous principle of uncertainty.
Werner Heisenberg, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1932, is most well known for his Uncertainty Principle in which he demonstrated that the act of observing or measuring a process will necessarily change its outcome.
While Heisenberg arrived at his famous formulation through his work with the behavior of sub-atomic particles, I have always found that a variation of the Uncertainty Principle applies to sales as well.
My Uncertainty Principle of Selling states: The process of selling to your prospect invariably changes their requirements and decision criteria moving forward. The very process of discovery, of helping the prospect define their requirements, and providing the data and information in response to their questions, forces them to re-assess their needs and what the criteria will be that they use in evaluating sellers and making an informed purchase decision.
What happens when your prospect learns that your SaaS product provides a feature, and associated value, that they hadn’t anticipated when they first put together their requirements?
Or, what happens when your prospect’s expectations for the new machine tool they are looking to acquire aren’t fully met by any of the products that they have evaluated?
The trajectory of their buying process changes and necessarily forces immediate strategy adjustments on the part of the seller, otherwise known as you.
Why is this “Uncertainty” important to you? Because too many sales people fall into the trap of thinking about their sales process, and their prospects’ buying process, like the instructions on your shampoo bottle: just lather, rinse and repeat.
You need to factor into your selling strategies the fact that your prospect’s buying process isn’t a linear, inflexible string of events. You should always make a detailed account plan for a sales opportunity.
For instance, your account strategy can consist of steps 1 through N, that you believe will take the prospect through their buying process. But then, as soon as the customer has completed step 1, the situation will likely change and render your plans moot. This means that you have to be flexible in your approach to selling.
The second reason that the Uncertainty Principle of Selling is important to you is that it reinforces the necessity of being completely and rapidly responsive to your prospect in their search for the information they need to gather and evaluate in order to make a good decision.
Studies show that if you can be the seller who provides the information that shapes your prospect’s “buying paradigm” or “buyer’s vision” then your odds of winning their business rise fairly substantially. It is always a much stronger position to be in if you are proactively shaping your selling strategy by providing the value to the prospect that shapes their buying process, rather than having to be completely reactive to the actions of your competitors.
Conduct a review of your pipeline and ask the following questions about each one of your qualified prospects:
- What can I do for this prospect right now, this minute, today, that will have the maximum sales impact in the least time possible? Make a list of the actions you can proactively and immediately take to shape the buyer’s paradigm and use the Uncertainty Principle to your competitive advantage.
- What can I do today that will create value for this prospect and differentiate my product, company and me from my competitors? Define one step you can take that will set your offering apart in a meaningful, tangible way. If this takes too long to figure out what this should be then you haven’t been paying attention to your prospect.
- What information does this prospect still require from me in order to make an informed purchase decision in the shortest time possible? You should know what this is at any point in the sales process.
The key is to use the Uncertainty Principle to your advantage. Plan your account strategy but be alert and alive to the possibility of change.