So after a while of listening he point blank asked me to help him.
So, I started by asking six hard questions to begin his sales results turnaround. Then I realized he may not be the only person with a b2b sales slump, so I decided to share the six questions to help others to gain clarity of the their situation and move forward successfully.
Here are the six Hard Questions…
The Six Hard Questions for Yourself
- What is working for You?
Create a Victory List of what has worked for you recently and especially over the past 12 months. You want to make certain you have not lost track of what has worked for you. You especially want to discover the traits and habits you used when you getting your best results. Then, use the old shampoo slogan of “rinse and repeat” except you want to repeat what was working for you in the past.
- What is Not Working for You and Why?
The best source of what is not working for you is to observe what is broke. So, first begin to list and review the situations whereby you came in second or didn’t even get an opportunity to get in the game with a buyer. A little more risky is to actually contact the prospects you lost and ask them to share with you what happened and if there was anything they felt you could have done better. If you have never done this, I strongly suggest you do it. When I did it several years ago, I got some valuable information and began to work on it immediately – and amazingly, my sales success improved immediately. You could also ask your manager to work with you during a couple of b2b sales appointments with the clear understanding you are only looking for improvement opportunities rather than criticism or worst for the manager to start selling your prospect/customer. Finally, the “why” part is again for your benefit, no one else. You want to able to develop a cause and effect relationship with the results. Then you can clearly identify the cause, then change the cause which leads to the different and greater results.
- What do You Believe is Keeping You from the Sales Growth You Want?
This is designed specifically for you to focus and concentrate on the Law of Cause and Effect. When you take the time to actually write down your thoughts you will crystallize the issues and be able to recognize the needed steps for improvement. Review your sales process steps during this review. Many times b2b sales people get out of step with their sales process. Out of Step means they are out of alignment with the Buyer Cycle. When you are out of alignment, you will miss an important step or milestone in the sales process – and this step will always come up later causing an immediate issue for you and your results.
- How Are Your Customers?
This one is all about the condition of your customers and prospects. You need to take a serious look at your customers financial trends. Having they been purchasing more or less as a trend? Have you seen law suits or judgments against your customer in the legal news (use Google Trends to get notification), has there been major reorganizations or leadership changes in these companies, and finally have there been major merger & acquisitions in their industry or markets? The answers to these questions will give you a possible clue regarding the need to change your sales strategy or at a minimum to review your Ideal Customer Profile. There may be a need for changing your guidelines.
- What needs to be addressed from the your past?
Okay, this one is personal. What have you been doing in the past three years to improve your skills and knowledge? IF you are NOT in a Continuous Learning mode, then YOU are the most probably cause of your decline in results. This is what I have learned – the b2b sales people who would rather read a Sports Magazine or a Hunting Magazine over a Business Book – sales, manufacturing, communication, personal development/achievement, supply chain, questioning models, etc – are usually the ones hurting in the skills and performance arena. Then they are surprised they customers begin to find new suppliers and sales people to purchase from. The truth is knowledge is doubling every three years or less – therefore, there is a strong possibility your knowledge will be out dated within three years. Assuming you are a Sales Professional, then you need to do what true Professionals do – study your profession on a yearly basis to remain current on sales trends and new skills for sales success. An example of the new skills needed would be the need to stay in control of the sales process with your customers, educating them on improvements (rather than your product) and then using your creativity to innovate solutions for your customers. Action Step – Click on the Tab – Game Changing Sales Books. Then read them!
- What have your Competitors been up to?
Now this one is important if you read the last sentence of the previous suggestions. What your competitors are doing could be changing the competitive environment for the market. We see technology changing at an amazing rate and with the changes comes new opportunities and new best practices. IF you are still selling the “old” solution, then you are forcing yourself into either a lost sales or worst in my opinion – a price cut with the lower margins. This last issue is what created the commodity marketplace for many of you in b2b sales. Now, this one includes the real possibility your company is also being left behind due to a lack of vision for leadership, therefore, your ability to use your creativity and innovation (and persuasion/influence with management) becomes your source for differentiation and renewed sales energy. Here is another opportunity to track your competitors announcements using Google Trends to notify you of there announcements. Then test your information with immediate dialogues with your best customers. Your best customers can be your source of an early warning system of competitive changes or announcements.
Well, there you have the six hard questions for your sales improvement process. It is now time for you to set up some action commitments. Prioritize your list regarding steps for improving your results. Take care of any “low hanging” solutions for a fast success then focus on a more important (higher return on time invested). Alternate between these as you complete your list of needed improvements. And, yes, track your results with your customers. When you see the improvement, it will prove the value of this exercise.