Most customers focus on 3 letters when making important purchase decisions. At the end of the day, they will choose whichever product or service they believe provides the greatest return on investment (ROI).
Sales organizations, on the other hand, should focus on 5 letters, those being: R-O-I-S-E (Return on Invested Sales Effort).
Too often people refer to the familiar theme that sales is a “numbers game.” While I agree that tracking activity & results is, and will always be, an integral part of managing sales teams, simply pressing salespeople to make more calls in an effort to fill the pipeline ignores the most important metric in any business—sales efficiency.
Now that the average success rate for sellers leaving voice-mail messages or sending email solicitations has dropped below 1%, rather than just ‘banging the phones’ and hoping for the best, one has to wonder why there’s not a greater focus on the notion of increasing sales effectiveness.
The ‘number’ sellers should really focus on is conversion rate. What if were possible to get a 30%, 40%, or 50%+ response rate when reaching out to new prospects, as opposed to a 1% return on your invested sales effort? Similarly, what if you could accelerate the sales cycle, create a greater sense of urgency, maintain higher margins, and improve your closing ratio?
Relying on sales tricks or gimmicks to boost performance is unsustainable in today’s competitive business environment. But show me someone who is not only focused on sales efficiency, but knows how to execute more effectively, and I will show you a top performer in any company or industry.
How does one increase their R-O-I-S-E? I have published six books on the subject of sales effectiveness, but for our purposes here, allow me to give you three simple thoughts that can be implemented next time you talk with real live prospects or customers:
1.) Create Mini-Invitations
It’s easy to dive straight into ‘sales mode’ and barrage customers with questions. But just because you want to ask a bunch of sales questions doesn’t mean customers will “want to” share information with a salesperson they don’t yet know or trust. That’s why the very first question in my needs development strategy is:
Seller: “Mr. Customer, can I ask you a couple specifics about ______?”
This question is not only easy to ask, it’s easy to answer—typically with a “Yes.” In Question Based Selling, we call this securing a mini-invitation.
Once the customer says, “Yes,” “Sure,” or gives you any other affirmative response, they have essentially invited you to ask questions. Bingo! By securing a mini-invitation to ask questions, you can expect to get more information, in more depth, that’s also more accurate.
2.) Trying to Indict the Customer… Seriously?
Sellers offer solutions to solve problems. And, in order to actually solve a problem, you first need to know what issues the customer is currently experiencing.
Trouble is, the issues or problems customers face are oftentimes self-induced. While the typical sales mindset is to ‘uncover’ the customer’s needs, there are plenty of occasions where decision makers aren’t excited about exposing their vulnerabilities.
For example, here are a few typical sales questions that can actually thwart your needs development efforts:
“What problems do you have with your current operation?”
“Are you aware of the new compliance regulations?”
“Is it important to stay within a certain budget?”
“We’re doing just fine, thank you.”
“What, do you think we’re ignorant and uninformed?”
“Of course budget is important, duh!” (click)
3.) “Besides the Obvious Goal of…”
One of the best ways to sidestep the risk of asking overly rhetorical sales questions is to ask “to what extent” a certain topic is important to the customer or needs to be further explored.
For example, asking if ‘reliability’ is important to a customer sounds silly. Of course reliability is important! I would be more inclined to ask, “To what extent is reliability important?” Asking the customer to quantify their perspective on relevant topics is one of the simplest ways to remove the “Duh!” factor.
Another risk reduction technique is simply to ask, “Besides the obvious goals of ____, ____, and ____, what else are you concerned about?” Fill in the blanks with three topics that are relevant to the target industry, and the pride factor that so often causes people to be guarded in their responses is more likely to generate the opposite reaction—where customers open up and share tons of valuable information.
Bottom line: Just ‘probing’ for needs is intrusive and laced with risk. A strategic approach to needs development gives savvy salespeople an opportunity to increase their R-O-I-S-E by raising potential issues, objectives, goals, wants, needs, and desires that the customer may not have otherwise considered. In fact, helping potential buyers better understand their needs is one of the greatest opportunities sellers have to add value throughout the sales process.