April 8, 2015

Responsiveness In Sales Is About More Than Being Fast

Being responsive to your prospect is faster than being first to respond.

sprinting-figureWhat does it mean to be responsive? First, I will tell what it doesn’t mean. “Responsive” doesn’t mean fast.

Responsiveness in selling is composed of two inseparable elements: value and speed. They both need to be present to be responsive. Take away one element and you are no longer responsive. Imagine that responsiveness is a molecule like H20 composed of two elements; hydrogen and oxygen. Take away the H2 (two hydrogen atoms) and you just have O (oxygen.) Oxygen is great for breathing but it’s not much use for quenching your thirst.

Similarly, if you are fast to respond to your prospects, but cannot deliver the value (i.e. information in the form of things such as data, insights, questions, context, use cases, ROI and others) that they need to move forward in their buying process, then you are not being responsive. Being fast is good for gold medals. But, in the absence of value, speed is not a virtue in sales.

Your responsiveness, or lack thereof, is often your prospect’s first experience dealing with you and your company. What do you want your buyer’s first perception of you, your product and your company to be?

Responsiveness is an absolute value.
You either are or you aren’t. You can’t be sort of responsive. Customers are acutely aware of responsiveness in sales. Unfortunately, they aren’t on the receiving end of it very often. But, what will happen to your sales results when you condition your customers to expect absolute responsiveness from you?

For a salesperson, responsiveness becomes a key competitive advantage in a commodity oriented world. Customers experience from the first sales touch the value of working with your company. Use responsiveness to help your prospects move through their evaluation and decision making process faster. The competitors that don’t keep up with you will quickly find themselves fighting for second place. And, as everyone in sales knows, you don’t earn commissions by finishing second.

How can you incorporate absolute responsiveness into your selling?

1. Make responsiveness a priority. It has to become a habit. Every time you engage with a prospect you need to be focused on the importance of providing the higher level of sales service and responsiveness that will enable them to move more quickly through their buying process.

2. Execute a Value Plan for every sales touch. Responsiveness is about time and value. Thus, you need to be certain that you are providing value for the time the customer is investing in you. This means that every interaction with a prospect needs a Value Plan. A Value Plan has two components. The first is a Goal that is defined in terms of the value that you will deliver that will help the prospect move at least one step closer to making a decision. The second is an Outcome that is defined in terms of the next steps the customer will commit to take as a result of the receiving the value you delivered.

3. Create metrics for your key sales processes. You have to measure your level of responsiveness. If you aren’t measuring it, it isn’t happening. Take the first step and establish metrics for all of your key customer facing sales activities. I recommend that you start with your simple sales processes first. For instance, how long should it take you to follow-up a sales lead? How long should it take to respond to a buyer’s email or voice mail message? Measure how long it takes you now. Then define a metric that is your goal for fine-tuning your process and improving upon that metric.

4. Continually acquire more expertise about your products and your customers. A customer’s buying process is nothing more than an organized search for the information they need to make a well-informed purchase decision. With market research showing that customers want to make purchase decisions faster, your responsiveness will depend on your ability to quickly provide the answers the prospect requires. A responsive sales rep can’t just be the traffic cop routing internal knowledge resources to the buyer. You need to be able to deliver value of your own to your customers. This means setting aside time on a consistent schedule in your calendar to learn more about the products you sell and how your customers are using them to achieve their desired outcomes.

Don’t fall victim to the epidemic of poor responsiveness in sales. It’s important to be aware of just how essential the buyer’s perception of your responsiveness is to your ability to win their business. If you value responsiveness, then it will quickly become apparent to your prospect that you do. And, it will give you the edge that will help you rise above your competitors.