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February 1, 2011

The Forgotten Conversion in the Sales Process: Lead-to-Customer

Written by

handshake This is a guest blog post from Ralph Vugts, Online marketing specialist for Huthwaite Asia Pacific. Huthwaite specializes in sales performance training and works with some of the largest organizations on changing the behaviour of their sales teams.

You have been blogging like crazy. You have a fantastic call to action. Leads are rolling in. But for some reason you struggle to convert those leads into actual customers.

Small transactional sales are perfect for the web. No one thinks twice about shelling out $7 for a small item via an online checkout system. But closing bigger deals is another thing. At some point you need a little human interaction. HubSpot tools do a great job of preparing the prospect for your sales call but if your sales team doesn’t have the right skills to understand your customer’s needs, they will simply not close the deal.

Lack of selling skills is not a rare phenomenon among salespeople. We conducted on December 2010 a survey of 544 Sales Directors and General Managers and 22% said that the selling skills of their team were the #1 reason for not reaching their sales targets for the quarter.

Sales professionals involved in complex sales need a strategy if they want to succeed. They need to understand the customer decision process and be able to execute sales best practices .

Asking the right questions

Gone are the good old days where you can simply call on a prospect, list your products’ features and expect to take an order. If you sell a product or service at a premium price, and you have competitors that can beat you on price, the key is adding value in the eyes of the customer. This is where knowing how to ask the right questions is so crucial. By asking the right questions you will discover what their concerns are. This will give you an opportunity to address their concerns and create tangible value for your customer through the sales process.

Effective questioning skills that drive the sales process are the most important skills that a seller can develop. With the right sales questions the seller will get answers that will help him or her to better understand and address the customer’s needs.

The questioning process will also allow the customer to come to conclusions about their own business issues. And this is important, because customers always value the conclusions they come to themselves (with the assistance of guiding questions) more than those that are forced upon them. If all you do is tell customers what they need, and how you as a seller can help meet those needs, you will fail in today’s selling environment. The majority of customers who are in the market for complex products or services much prefer a more consultative approach.

Since all questions are not created equal, it’s important that you ask questions that are helpful and insightful from the customer’s perspective. The customer is not looking to fill in the gaps of your knowledge. Instead, they look to you to understand their issues with greater clarity. Using your expertise and listening skills, you want your questions to lead them down a path of self-discovery.

Sounds great, but what should I do now?

Assess your sales team. Go along on a sales call and pay attention to how they interact. If they are not asking very many questions and are doing the bulk of the talking, you may have a real problem.

Make sure they do their homework before making a call. Researching information about the potential client before initial contact is essential.  Don’t waste time by asking questions you can easily find out before hand. 

  • Looking at the lead history in HubSpot is a great place to start. 
  • Also remember to Google their company to find articles about other possible problems they might have.  
  • If you have a large organization, ask around if anyone has any knowledge about the prospect. There is always a good chance someone might know something you don’t.

Encourage buy-in from others in the company . The aim of every meeting is to move the sale forward, and the best way to do this is to get a commitment from the prospect to do something on their end that will progress the sale. For example:

  • Get them to bring along their most senior manager to the next meeting, a person who has the final approval.
  • Arrange a meeting with someone who owns the problem in their organization.
  • Ask them to supply a report on some information you need, such as quarterly results or current presentations.
  • Get them to commit to a paid trial.

Are you having trouble closing deals? How would you rate your sales team’s question asking skills?

For more free information on how to sell like a pro have a look at Huthwaite’s whitepapers on sales performance here .

Photo by: bearroast

Topics: Lead Generation Inbound Sales Inbound Sales

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