Winning in sales never happens by chance, it happens by design. If you want to close more deals and grow your revenue, you need to master the art of selling. Here’s how.
There’s no time like the present to start devising a winning sales action plan. Clive Butkow, former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Accenture South Africa, with 28 years of management consulting experience, says there are ten core steps to closing more deals and growing a loyal customer base.
A successful sales record is the result of a strategy, preparation and the ability and willingness to follow through.
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These ten steps can turn you and your team into sales warriors:
1. Qualify the deal
What you say no to is more important than what you say yes to. Great sales organisations learn to say no to okay opportunities so that they can say yes to the best opportunities. The key to success is focus. Spray and pray doesn’t work. You want to put all of your energy into the best opportunities.
2. Compile and execute a win strategy
Today’s incredibly competitive landscape means that businesses are winning deals by millimetres, not miles and yet how close you got doesn’t matter – there’s no prize for second place. Sales is win or lose, and that difference lies in preparation.
“We used to hold a win strategy session at Accenture,” says Butkow. “We’d pay attention to the proposal and put in hours of preparation for the pitch. We went in prepared.”
3. Get a client coach
This is possibly the most important step in the process. A client coach is someone inside the organisation who supports you and wants to do business with you, and is willing to share your client’s values, needs and strategies to make it happen. Identify a coach and build a relationship with them.
“You can’t close a large deal without a client coach,” says Butkow. “Without them we had less than a 5% win rate; with a coach, we had upwards of 50%.” According to Butkow, if his team didn’t have a client coach, they would walk away from the deal and concentrate elsewhere.
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4. Know your client’s buyer values
Do you know why your clients are buying what they buy? The only way you can get that level of insight is through a client coach. Remember, what the client cares about is more important than what you’re good at.
5. Know your client’s social style
There is no good or bad style, but there is a right and wrong way to approach a client based on their style. Style speaks to predictable behaviour. Are your client stakeholders analytical, drivers, expressive, amiable? Do you understand who wants what, how they want to consume information and how they prefer to do business?
6. Confirm the decision making process
Who are the stakeholders? And who are your potential saboteurs? Where does procurement fit in? “Every deal starts with a ‘power map’, says Butkow.
“This is a spider diagram that lists all stakeholders and decision makers, and critically takes note of who does and doesn’t support you. Once you understand the landscape, you can concentrate on getting your neutral stakeholders into a positive position, and your negatives to neutral.” This is an area where client coaches play a crucial role.
7. Sell the problem you solve, not the product
Listen to the client, become their doctor; they need an improvement in an area of their business. If you focus on your features and benefits, you aren’t tapping into this need. You’re selling a product. You need to focus on a solution.
8. Know your competition
This includes strengths, weaknesses and how their salespeople operate. Don’t obsess over your clients and what they’re doing, but still really, really know them. “They will know you,” says Butkow. “They will see where your weaknesses are. You’ve got to be ahead of competition.”
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9. Preparing for the final pitch
Flawless execution is preceded by painstaking preparation. “Never underestimate the oral stage,” says Butkow. “Practice for at least five days before the presentation. You need to do dry runs so that the actual pitch is the last take.”
10. Complete a win/loss analysis
“Every time we won or lost a deal, we would set up a meeting with the client and ask them why – what were our strengths and weaknesses? What did competitors do better?” explains Butkow.
There are some dos and don’ts to a win/loss analysis though. First, make sure someone else from the team conducts it, and not the sales rep who lost the deal. Next, don’t be defensive. This is an ideal opportunity to build the relationship for future deals, or if the winning bid doesn’t deliver.
“We often won the next deal because of this meeting,” says Butkow. “We learnt a lot, we implemented those lessons in future pitches, and we showed that we cared about their business.”
Ask for the deal. 85% of Fortune 500 companies say they awarded deals to consultancies simply because at the end of the sales process they asked for it. Don’t wait for business to come to you. Ask for it.