Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Making a sale is hard enough; don't botch the easy onesBy CHRISTOPHER THOMPSON
August 19. 2017 6:47PM
This past week was interesting for me. We're working on a project for a client that involves having some custom work done to manufacture a large piece of art that we'll be using for a brand awareness campaign. The piece we are having manufactured is unique and requires special machinery, skill and engineering to construct.
So I have been on a mission to track down a company that can do the work and meet our tight timeline. And that's required me to reach out blindly to more than 20 different companies. The experiences I had with each company I spoke with varied greatly, and the experience was eye-opening for me. But most importantly, there are some great lessons and examples to discuss that can have a positive impact on your company's sales efforts.
When it comes to sales, you can't sit around and wait for the phone to ring. Almost every company has some sort of proactive sales strategy to drive results. So when a potential customer does their own research, finds your company and reaches out to you on their own, you'd better not screw it up.
These types of scenarios are really a salesperson's dream. In most cases, the potential customer has a sense of what their needs are, they usually have money budgeted and they are ready to make a decision. These sales opportunities also convert into business at a much higher percentage than opportunities that were uncovered proactively by a salesperson. And that's an important aspect to consider.
As I started reaching out to different companies, I quickly realized how many of them completely botch the best type of sales opportunity out there. A good number of the companies told me right off the bat that they were too busy and couldn't meet the deadline. And not a single one of those captured my name, company and contact info to stay in touch with future opportunities.
A major miss.
A handful of companies never got back to me. They took all of my information, said they would work with their internal teams and get an estimate over to me as quickly as possible and simply never did. That's unfortunate and a missed opportunity for them.
Instead of focusing on the negative, let's talk about a few that really shined. One company I called immediately connected me to a sales rep, and you could just tell he had it down. He asked all the right questions, expressed his appreciation for the opportunity and got back to me quickly with the estimate and details of the project.
Another company I spoke with was so excited about the project. They were all about doing whatever they could to win the job. They recognized the existing project, but also talked a lot about additional work in the future. They took time to educate me on their capabilities, team and approach. It was a great experience and this particular company really stood out.
The key with the few companies I spoke with that did an outstanding job was that they had a process in place to handle inquiries from potential customers. They didn't wing it. They knew exactly what to do, and it started with the first person to answer the phone. And this is the main takeaway from this experience. Your company has to have a process in place to handle these types of sales opportunities.
And believe me, it's not rocket science.
Start with the basics, like when a new customer calls in, what does that flow look like? Who answers the phone? What do they say? How does that individual capture the customer's information? Once they identify the sales opportunity, where is that person sent? Are they blindly transferred into some random sales rep's voicemail, or is there a process to find a live person to speak with the customer as quickly as possible?
It's also important to "wow" the customer right out of the gate. That first experience will ultimately determine that person's perception of your company.
You have a chance to really impress and do great things. And if you haven't thought through it and don't have a good process in place, there is a good chance you can really screw it up and miss a major opportunity.
Christopher Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is vice president of business development at Talient Action Group in Manchester and writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.