4 Basic Sales Strategies That Get Results
I just lost a really big deal. Lost it not because I did not have a relationship with my buyer. Lost it not because I did not understand their needs. Lost it not even because my competition offered better solutions or a better product. I lost it simply because I forgot the most important of sales strategies – I did not directly ask for the business.
Here is the story. About a year ago, April 2016, I did a series of keynote speaking engagements for a company. A series of four programs to be exact. They were thrilled, said I had the highest scores among speakers they had hired. They immediately gave me another bit of work, asking me to do a webinar for their staff. Again, I hit it out of the park, and my ratings were off the chart.
The meeting planners told me right away they definitely wanted to work with me again. She also shared they have an internal policy, that they need to “change-up” the speakers every year, so they would be looking to work with me again in 2018. Great, at this point I believe I have it in the bag. I go ahead and put four speaking gigs in 2018 on my calendar.
Not one to take a deal for granted, I marked my calendar to do systematic follow-ups. That is where my mistake began. Typically, I would follow-up with potential clients using a three to one ratio. Three follow-ups adding value and building our relationship balanced with one follow-up about me and asking directly for the business. But this time I was so sure, so positive that I had the deal that I never bothered actually asking for the business. I just followed-up building the relationship.
I have to say my follow-ups were brilliant! One of the meeting planners was having surgery. I sent her flowers and called two weeks later to see how she was doing. I hit every holiday with fun cards and things to make them laugh. I had two articles published in industry related magazines, and shared those both to add value and reinforce my expertise. And the list goes on, we were fast becoming good friends.
Every contact I made they responded, and responded enthusiastically. So, when March rolled around (2017) I knew they would be planning for 2018, and I waited for them to reach out to talk business. When no one did, I sent another fun card and a new video I had released. Both meeting planners reached back out giving me high praise and thanking me for the share.
Thinking things were on track, I let it sit for a few weeks. When the first week of April came, I started to get a little worried, but still I did not want to push. I figured they were just behind in their planning. By mid-April no word, I got my first clue I might have missed my shot. Two-days ago, I decide to finally pull the trigger and just flat out ask about working together again in 2018.
The response I got still makes me a little sick to my stomach. How could I have been so dense as to not actually ask for the business. “Meridith, we would love to work with you again, our attendees loved you. However, our schedule is full for 2018, you know us we plan ahead. Please reach out for 2019, and do not be a stranger until then.”
What a lesson, and what lesson that I learned the hard way. I had done so much right, hit every step of how to get business accept the obvious one – actually ask for the business. Trust that I will not make that mistake again, and here are four basic sales strategies to ensure you do not make it either.
4 Basic Sales Strategies That Get Results
1. Build Relationships First – before you can ask for anything, you have to build relationships with your prospects. The only reason people do business with you is because they know you, they like you and they have a relationship with you. So, slow the sales process down and invest in connecting with your prospects and building the relationship. I had this piece down, both meeting planners I had both a personal and a professional relationship with, and in doing so I had positioned myself well to get the deal.
2. Understand The Needs – invest in asking a lot of open ended questions and really listen. That means be present, and not just waiting for your turn to speak. If we pay attention to our prospects and listen to what they say, we will discover not only what they need, but the order in which they want it. Selling to prospects based on their urgent need builds trust. Again, I had this down! I knew what my prospects wanted in terms of new programs and some ideas of how they wanted this delivered. There was more demand for webinar, and more demand for audience interaction.
3. Sell Results – once you understand the need, you are clear on what they want and the order in which they want it you are ready to position the deal. Position it to close that is. We all hear we need to sell solutions, and while that is true we need to also sell results. What is in it for them, what will be different for them, and what is your prospects return on investment. In other words, how will their problem be solved, their business grow, or in my world their audience be impacted. Again, I had this nailed! We had discussed several times the new programs I was doing, and how they matched exactly with some challenges or information their attendees requested. I also “lightly” shared some new audience interaction and engagement I was doing. Saying “lightly” because I did not want to be too pushy – I say regretfully.
4. Flat Out Ask For The Business – last but not least you need to actually ask for the business. If you have done the above three steps (and you MUST do them and in this order) you are ready to ask for the business. If the relationship is built, you understand the need, you have positioned the results your prospect will get, then you are well positioned to aggressively ask for the business. My mistake – I assumed – and in assuming I lost the deal. I assumed because we had a relationship, because I clearly understood the need, and that I had sold results that I did not need to actually ask for the business. I was wrong.
The one thing that I love about sales is that you can always learn and you are always growing. For me, this growth was a little painful, but believe I will not forget this lesson. Follow these four steps, do them in order, and watch as you open more doors and close more sales.
What are your stories or lessons around asking for the business? I would love to hear!