February 2014

In This Issue

Business Development for Professionals

 

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Visit www.kison.com

 

Business Development for Professionals

Sell is a four letter word to many professional service providers such as accountants, engineers and lawyers. They don't want to use the word, let alone do something that resembles selling. They view selling as something that is performed by "non" professionals who work in retail or on a used car lot. Yes, unprofessional sales people do exist and four letter words are often in sentences used to describe them. I believe true sales professionals are found in every industry and business sector including engineering, accounting, law, architecture, entertainment, health care and education to name a few. Professional sales people make things happen. The bottom line is that unless someone asks for the business or the order, nothing happens – no sale, no contract, no back log and no job.

The steps required to become a business developer or sales person for professional services such as engineering are no different than those for selling life insurance. If you take a close look at individuals in any industry who prosper even in difficult times, two key factors will be evident.

First, they take a proactive approach to obtaining business. They don't wait for the phone to ring or an email or text to arrive and then react to the prospect's needs. They proactively engage in business development and secure the types of projects and clients they want and need to build their business and their reputation.

Second, when the target market or desired sector has been identified, they apply a proven structured selling and business development process such as the Kison Sales Diamond™ to secure work. They don't wing it. They plan and prepare. They don't expect someone else such as a senior partner or a manager to make the sale; they acquire the necessary skills and knowledge. They don't sell only when they need more business; rather selling becomes a new way of thinking and acting. Incidentally, because of that approach they are the ones that are busy because they have secured a backlog of contracts or projects.

Professional sellers start from a place of personal integrity which is grounded in values and ethics that focus on serving the client by providing a product or service that directly benefits the client. The sales process they apply enables them to earn the right to present solutions and options that address the client's requirements and enables the client to make an informed buying decision. The control and power is in the clients' hands at all times. It is the sales person's responsibility to spend sufficient time discovering client requirements by asking open ended questions and listening carefully in order to present the best solutions or options that will provide the most value and peace of mind for the client.

The flip-side of sales people that are accused of being manipulative is a customer who tries to take advantage, or mislead the sales person to further his or her own agenda. Every profession has "bad apples" and sales is no worse than others. It ultimately comes down to the individual and their morals and ethics which inform their decisions and actions.

One last thing – sales people must be taught to sell professionally. We don't allow our children to raise themselves and hope they make the right decisions in life. In similar fashion it is the responsibility of those leading and managing sales people to ensure they go about it professionally and ethically.

I am including some key concepts from our professional selling skills program to assist you improve your sales effectiveness and achieve greater results. The following steps, if applied consistently, will help attract new clients and even more importantly, retain existing ones.

Prospecting

Identifying new clients and additional opportunities with existing clients is a continuous process. Completing one project for a client doesn't guarantee they will give you more work. A good rule of thumb is to treat each completed contract as an opportunity to begin the business development process over again. Assuming that clients will return automatically is a dangerous practice.

Qualifying

Evaluating the client's needs and desires is critical. If there is not a clear understanding of the client's expectations on tangible items (such as meeting deadlines and coming in on budget) and intangible issues (trust in your team or feeling good about your company), you may be working on the basis of false assumptions. Your client's feelings are very important and need to be recognized at the beginning of a project. Use the qualifying process to uncover valuable information about the client's expectations by developing detailed product questionnaires and by using probing questions.

Presenting

Your ability to design and conduct a presentation that does more than just address the technical aspects of your project is critical. Today's more sophisticated and demanding clients are looking for the benefits of dealing with you and your firm. They may have done their homework by conducting an extensive online assessment of options and resources available. Ask yourself: does your presentation build value in the mind of your client? If you have not identified the areas in which you and your firm can add value to the project, you are not selling to your full potential. A well-crafted presentation must do more than just present impressive statistics and data; it must touch the client at an emotional level by making them feel that they want and need to do business with you. You must draw the client into your presentation at an emotional level to secure the contract – if you don't – your competitor probably will. Remember that your clients buy primarily on emotions not logic.

Asking for the business

As surprising as it may seem, many firms are great at conducting presentations yet poor at asking for the business. They are nothing more than "professional visitors" who believe that all they have to do is show up, provide the facts and the business will be theirs. If you are serious about being in business ten years from now, keep asking your way to success. If you have prepared an excellent presentation, and conducted a professional demonstration, and know you can do the job, you have a right to ask for the business. If you don't ask, you don't deserve to get it.

All the aforementioned activities are essential to become highly effective, not only as a sales person but also as a business person. The future belongs to those who see themselves as responsible for attracting, serving and satisfying their clients on an ongoing basis. It is relationship selling at its optimum! Not only is this approach to business more profitable, it is much more rewarding on a personal level.

If you prefer some quick tips in the form of do's and don'ts review the following list for additional perspective and ideas to improve your sales effectiveness.

THE DO'S

  • Be prepared. Always have samples, technical data, pricing information, endorsements, positive social media, and anything else that will help you build a strong case for what you are offering or help improve your presentation;
  • Know your product/service. Understand all aspects of how it works, know what it does, warranties, replacement policy and technical information. If you can't answer the question don't lie. Find out the answer and get back to them.
  • Be on time. Certainly don't be late but also don't be too early. Sales people that arrive for appointments 30 minutes early can actually put off the client. You may appear desperate or like you don't have anything else to do. Ten to fifteen minutes before is enough unless you have to set up a presentation or samples relating to your meeting.
  • Follow up! Call and email as a follow-up to a meeting within 24 hours unless a specific time is agreed upon by both parties. Provide additional information, samples, pricing, and answers to any requests for information discussed during the meeting on a timely basis.
  • Be honest. If there is something you don't know, don't be afraid to say it – it will benefit you in the long run. Whenever you cannot answer a question you have just discovered an area of learning and development for yourself.
  • Be aware. Look for areas that you can improve your own products and services and those of your client. Become an innovator and someone that is seen as leaving things better than you found them.
  • Be presentable. Make sure that your dress is appropriate for the client/customer that you are visiting and the type of business you are in. Don't under dress as you may be viewed as not caring, indifferent or even sloppy and not worthy of trust.
  • Build relationships. People make their final buy decision on emotions not logic. Once you have demonstrated your competence, knowledge and skills focus building a relationship. Sales people who focus exclusively on the technical aspects of their product or service run the risk of being viewed as a nerd or geek who is unable of carrying on a conversation.
  • Be conscientious. Pay attention to the details, add value whenever you can and represent your company with integrity and pride. Sweat the details! If your gut tells you something isn't right, it probably isn't. Figure out what needs to be done and do it!
  • Ask before you give. Everyone likes to get something and be acknowledged however gifting policies can differ from one company to another. Things such as tickets for sporting events and concerts or even lunches and dinners may be viewed as an attempt to influence the outcome in your favor.
  • Smile. Your face and demeanor can influence the outcome. Be positive, pleasant and have a smile on your face.
  • Ask questions. Use open ended questions to engage the client. The better the question, the better the response and information you'll get. Also create opportunities for the client or prospect to ask you questions. Prompt them if necessary. Trust is created through two way dialogue.

THE DON'TS

  • Assume. Making assumptions about what the client understands or knows can be dangerous. Ask questions that uncover their knowledge, perceptions and preferences so you ca provide a quality solution and value.
  • Over promise. Promising things you can't do is wrong. Be realistic and up front about your abilities Negotiate different terms or outcomes if required rather that make claims and promised that are unrealistic.
  • Blame others. Mistakes happen and things go awry. Deal with the problem and confront the problem properly and 9 times out of 10 the relationship will continue.
  • Underestimate your value. Your time is just as valuable as your client. Without you they will not achieve the results or outcomes they are seeking. Understand the value of what you are offering and present it in manner that informs and educates the client.
  • Don't give up. Even after the proposal or quote has been accepted things can stall. Stay focused and positive while searching for new options or creative solutions that may be required.
  • No secrets. If you know something that will help save money, improve someone's job, help them achieve a goal – don't be afraid to speak up.
  • Don't bash your competition. It's inappropriate, and you may lose the entire sale because you are viewed as being unprofessional.
  • False humility. Don't pretend to be less than you are. State what you can provide and define your value clearly and confidently.
  • Do an end run. Don't come through the "back-door" to over ride your client to make a sale. If you are not talking to the right person is likely because began in the wrong place.

© 2014 Ralph Kison

 

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