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Sure, selling accounting software is different than selling firm services, but if you stop to think about the sales process, the two really aren’t that different. In fact, they have more in common than you may think.
But selling does not have to be complicated. Years ago, a friend of mine framed “sales” quite well when he told me that most people overthink the selling process. Essentially, it boils down to this: You have something that someone else wants, yet that person doesn’t know they want it or that they even need it.
If this concept seems overly simple, read on. Based on my experiences, I have compiled four best practices in the selling process that can apply to providers/vendors as well as firms:
1. The Less You Push a Sale, the More it Becomes One
CPAs and accountants are smart people and can sniff a salesperson coming a mile away. It’s no wonder most of them spring across the trade show floor avoiding the vendors and their Jedi-like mind tricks. The reality is, most vendors would rather spend time educating the accountant on why a certain solution improves productivity rather than actually making a sale.
For vendors, in order to counteract “anthrosalesophobia” you should deliberately avoid camping on your “About Us” speech or the pitch about who you are and what you do. If a prospect asks what your company is about, keep the answer short – like 60 seconds. And rather than rambling on about you, get the prospect talking; listen to them… really listen to them. Most of the time, you’ll pick up on what they really need to solve, such as a particular problem or issue.
2. Becoming a Trusted Referral Source Will Increase Your Reputation and Revenue
When prospects explain their situations, you will have a simple decision to make: you can either help them or not. It’s as clear as that, but what you can do if you cannot help is to provide a referral to a company that can.
You’ll damage your reputation by pushing a prospect or even a current customer to something they don’t need just for the sake of making a sale. Instead, just like Kris Kringle in ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ seek to be a trusted referral source who is much more interested in being their confidant and friend – a quality that will reward you 10-fold sometime soon.
In order to make an informed referral, educate yourself on what your competition is doing and become intimately familiar with these solutions, whether it is a firm niche service or a vendor’s tax program. This is time well spent to understand your competition, even if you do not provide referrals any time in the near future.
3. Avoid Surprises by Communicating With the Customer During the Sales Process
No one likes surprises, least of all a prospect who still hasn’t signed on the dotted line. You’ll want to make sure you’ve communicated what the customer needs to know to ensure he or she fully understands the timing and costs associated with a new installation.
For example, you can avoid the deal-breaker conversation if the customer finds out the installation or conversion will take six weeks instead of the already-promised two weeks. Be completely transparent and meet regularly on the phone to ensure every aspect is known.
Of course, you’ll have to stay involved in every step of discovery and solution. It’s okay if something takes six weeks to accomplish as long as the customer understands and agrees. You don’t want to get to the end of the sales cycle only to find out the customer does not have the budget or the time to buy the product or service.
4. Be Patient!
If a sale is meant to be, it will happen. Today, there are more than enough salespeople looking for the easy win, but a great sale is not always quick.
By now, anyone in your selling organization ought to know three things: How long it takes to identify a prospect to put into the pipeline; how long it takes to convert the prospect to a customer; and how long it takes for an average installation or engagement to finish. If you don’t have these three pieces to the sales puzzle, you are doing your company, and more importantly, your prospects-clients a real disservice.
The importance of setting proper expectations cannot be overstated. As Murphy’s Law famously reminds us, “The length of a minute depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on.”
Anticipate what people need before they know they need it; do this as you follow these four best practices, and you’ll greatly increase your chances for selling success.
Mark Severance is director of Sales and Marketing for Arxis Technology, Inc. in Simi Valley, Calif., where he oversees lead generation, corporate communication, new client sales and client satisfaction. He is also an active member of the Information Technology Alliance. Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.