Opening Closed Doors - Work Your Business Relationships

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You are ready for a spectacular year. The resolution has been made: you are committed to working on your business relationships and advancing your career.

You began reviewing the list of prospects who said "No" to you last year. Sure, they may have turned you down in the past but the New Year usually brings changes; changes in the economy, in technology and in your prospective client's business. If your approach is merely to touch base and see if they are in a better purchasing position, you have the same plan as every other salesperson.

Instead, before making your next contact, spend some time evaluating the history of the account. Chances are there were things you missed during your initial interaction that cost you the sale. Uncovering where you went wrong, realigning your thinking then developing a strategy to follow will enable you to generate the result you are seeking. Here are a few ideas:

Determine Why They Really Didn't Buy.

This is better done immediately after you are turned down, but it's also a good way to get back in front of someone. The key is to get someone to speak to you openly. This can be difficult, since many clients feel the need to disguise the truth so as not to "hurt your feelings." Instead, they use generic reasoning, such as high price or bad timing. Get to the real reason by asking questions about their goals this year, problems they are facing with their current product or service, etc. This often leads to a conversation about the potential purchase of your product/service that you would never have gotten otherwise. Here's a great question you can use to uncover the core objection. "I'm sensing that there may have been something else that got in the way of us working together other than the (price/timing/etc.), is that true?"

Do Your Homework.

It isn't enough to simply understand the problem and provide a solution. Anticipate your client's future needs. Where do they rank within their industry and how does that compare to past years? What changes are expected for their industry? Will the economy or technology have an effect on their business? What are some of the problems they will face this year? How will utilizing your product/service help solve them? If you want to create a new purchasing opportunity, uncover what their current as well as future needs are; needs your client may not be able to even identify themselves.

Get Their Attention.

What is the client's motivation to listen to you another time? Determine the advantage your product/service will produce for them; the benefit of the benefit. It can be greater productivity, lower overhead, monetary savings, or an increase in their quality of life. To stimulate the client's attention, develop a short, concise message you can send them via fax or e-mail describing the specific problems solved through utilizing your product/service. Be creative. There are probably dozens of features you could promote. It is up to you to uncover the one that would motivate this client to speak to you again.

Become More Than Simply a Salesperson; Become a Resource.

Determine how you can contribute to the growth of a client's business aside from the product or service you are offering. It could be supplying them with a free newsletter or educational seminar, providing a better service plan, or connecting them with other people in your circle of influence that can contribute to the success of their business. Create a contest among the members of your staff to develop ideas that will add value to your product/service without increasing your prices or fees. More service and value at a perceived lower price creates a new interest. Adding value to your product or service at no additional cost to the client is exceeding your client's expectations.

Stop Selling Products, Start Selling Solutions.

Feature and benefit selling is a dying strategy. Most companies are no longer in the business of selling products but of providing solutions. Clients are more interested in what the end result or advantage your product or service will produce for them as opposed to what your product does. It can be greater productivity, lower overhead, monetary savings, or an increase in the quality of life. What problems are solved by your product or service? How much value will they derive as an end result of what you are offering? In order to provide a solution you must first understand the problem. Ask questions up front to get a complete understanding of the client's position. You can then look ahead to create a picture of what's next and be better able to accurately pinpoint how your product or service can assist them in reaching their goals.

Stop Chasing Dead Opportunities.

Are you making too many follow-up calls? Whether it's because of a stubborn attitude or ignorance that a sale is truly dead, salespeople sometimes spend too much time chasing accounts that simply don't qualify as a potential sale. This should have been detected during the discovery process. If it hasn't, ask questions to determine exactly where the prospect stands. When discussing the possibility of earning the business of a client, it is crucial that you give them the opportunity to not only say "Yes" but "No" as well. Getting turned down can make you feel rejected, but it also allows you to go on to more promising prospects.

Keith Rosen is the CEO of Profit Builders. He has taken his years of management, business ownership and coaching experience into the business community where he provides personalized one-on-one and group coaching and corporate training to improve, build, and manage your career and your life for optimum success and enjoyment. Keith has been the keynote speaker and executive coach for organizations such as GE, MCI WorldCom, and the American Marketing Association. Being a pioneer in the coaching profession, Keith is one of the first to hold the designation of Master Certified Coach and is also a widely published columnist.

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