Sales is one of the most difficult professions in the world. There are so many variables in what we do on a daily basis it’s hard to keep everything in line. Here are some common challenges we all face and some actionable tips on how to address them.
1. Getting caught with “Do you even know what we do?” on an initial call
If you’ve ever had this happen to you and you didn’t have an answer, you know how embarrassing it can be. Most sales professionals prospect by picking up a list of names, dialing, and hoping for the best. What we need to be doing instead is earning the right to make the call.
Here’s how to earn your right:
- Know who you are calling and what the company does ahead of time. The more research we do on the account the better.
- At the very least, have a client’s website open in front of you while making the call.
2. Losing the deal after getting a verbal agreement
This is one of the worst things that can happen, especially at the end of the month or quarter. When we get a verbal agreement we get excited, update our forecast, tell our manager the deal is coming in, brag about it to our team, and so on. Then, when it doesn’t come through we end up looking like jokes.
Here are a few ways to handle verbal agreements:
- Ignore them. They are not a signed contract.
- Have a clear understanding of the role of the person who gave you the verbal, where they are on the “power line,” and how much authority they have.
- If they are not the decision maker do everything you can to get in front of someone who is.
- Write an email confirming they are ready to move forward and have them email you back in agreement.
- Schedule a meeting on the calendar for the “decision.” Don’t let them get off with something like, “We’ll sign off by the end of the week.”
3. Forgetting about the handoff to Procurement or Legal
You’ve done a great job meeting with all the key decision makers and now you’re ready to close but there is one more step – dealing with Procurement and/or Legal. Doh!
Procurement has one job – to get your solution at the absolute lowest price possible. Legal has one job – protect the client against anything and everything they can. Neither of them cares about any of the work you’ve done to date with the business decision makers.
Here are a few ways to deal with this:
- Make sure you involve them early in the process. See if you can speak with them directly on the phone or in person so you can develop some sort of relationship.
- Don’t get caught in a strictly e-mail relationship with them. If it’s for the legal review, see if you can get your lawyer to talk to theirs and get yourself out of the middle.
- Make sure you have a real “Champion” on the business side who you can bring back into the situation with Procurement if it gets too ugly.
- Understand the implementation needs and the timeline of the client and back out when you need to start the contract process. You can even tell the client you will send them your standard terms early in the process before the proposal and ask then to send them to legal or procurement to get the red lines out of the way sooner rather than later.
4. Getting caught off guard when making your calls
Have you ever made a bunch of calls and been lulled to sleep by the monotony of it all only to get caught off guard by an executive who actually picks up the phone? Most people end up freezing for a minute, stuttering, and ultimately puking all over the client with a gross elevator pitch. Those calls usually end up with the kiss of death: “That sounds interesting. Why don’t you send me some information and call me in a week.” It happens to the best of us.
Here are a few ways we can prevent this:
- Do some research before each call and at least know what the company does.
- Make sure you have a reason for your call every time. Start off every phone call with this statement “The reason for my call today is….”
- Develop 3-4 one line statements (we call them Attention Grabbers) that take no longer than 15 seconds. Get the listener to respond with “Tell me more” or “How do you do that?”
- Have fun with it. If you ever get caught don’t try to fake your way out of it. Be honest and make light of it. You’d be surprised how many people will forgive you if you’re honest.
5. Getting blindsided in a meeting
Have you ever walked into a meeting completely prepared to meet with one or two people and it ends up being a group of people you’ve never met before? Or, there’s that one person who sits in the corner with their arms folded waiting to pounce and ruin your presentation? Or, you walk in thinking you’re there to meet about one thing and they completely change the topic? Meetings are challenging for a lot of reasons. We need to make sure we’re controlling them as much as possible.
Here’s how to put yourself in the best position possible with meetings:
- Send a meeting invite to your main contact and ask them to forward it along to everyone else who will be in the meeting.
- Do a background check on LinkedIn on all the meeting participants to see if they have ever worked for a competitor or a company that used to be a client of a competitor.
- Send an email out to all the attendees the day before the meeting with a brief 3-point agenda that covers what you want to talk about. Leave 3 bullet points open and ask them to fill in the blanks with what they want to cover.
- Use the agenda to start the meeting and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Good luck and make it happen!
Every Friday in the Make It Happen community, we answer your questions in the Friday Happy Hour. Here is a mashup of some of our best questions.
This post originally appeared on Salesforce.com