SALES REPS PAY ATTENTION!
I have never been a salesperson nor a sales manager. I have, however, been a decision maker many times in a B2B selling environment. A recent experience has inspired me to share some advice for direct sales people who work hard on a deal, but end up losing the sale. If you are a professional sales person, read more!
First, a Note:
Your sales funnel is called a funnel because people drop out. If they didn't, it would be called a sales column. Don't take it personally.
Lucky Enough to Have a Prospect Close the Loop
As a decision maker, I ALWAYS close out a relationship either by purchasing, or by letting the sales rep know I have gone a different direction. I also let the sales rep know the real reason for my decision. I understand that many or maybe most buyers simply stop returning your calls until you get the hint and quit trying. I always give the person with whom I have been working the respect of a phone call and an explanation of my decision. THIS IS GOLD! You may not get this information very often so LISTEN!
Was it You?
If the prospect gives you negative feedback about how you handled the sales cycle, DO NOT get defensive or try to refute their examples. They are ALWAYS right from THEIR PERSPECTIVE. Not everyone is the same and wants to be treated the same. This prospect is giving you incite on how to treat other prospects like them.
BE HUMBLE. You are never too good to improve. It may feel like a lecture, but this is the best sales training you will ever get - a prospect telling you exactly what went wrong for them. If you have built enough of a relationship with a prospect that they want to give you this uncomfortable advice, that means they want to help you be successful in the future. That's a win! If they didn't care about you, they wouldn't bother telling you anything.
Was it the Wrong Fit?
Most of my decisions to not purchase have nothing to do with the sales rep. During a sales cycle, I am vetting a product or service. If the product is not the right fit, there is NOTHING the rep can do about that. This may be valuable feedback for your company and how the product meets or doesn't meet the needs of a market segment. Communicate this feedback to your team.
If a prospect tells you about a product deficiency or mismatch in need, DO NOT ARGUE with their conclusions. You may provide additional information if you feel like there has been missed communication along the way, but likely this will appear as if you are simply trying to save the sale, and force a fit that isn't right for the business. DO NOT EVER tell the prospect you think they are making a mistake. After going through a long sales cycle, this is very insulting. You are telling me I have poor judgment. Nothing good can come of this. NOTHING. You will likely not change my mind, and will do unnecessary damage to our relationship.
Maintain Professionalism Always!
This is the most important piece. When I close out a sales cycle, I'm not ending a relationship in my eyes, but to many sales people, it looks like a "break-up". I don't view the relationship as finished or as a waste of time. I view that relationship as one more valuable connection.
Below is what I want to hear from a rep after I let them know I am going another direction:
"I really appreciate your time, knowledge, and hard work. I have decided to go another direction and here is why..."
Sales Rep -
"[Prospect Name], thank you for respecting my time and letting me know your reasoning. I appreciate the [insight/feedback]. It sounds like you are making the best decision for your team. I wish you the best and I hope we can keep in touch. I have enjoyed getting to know you. Know that [your company] is always here to support you should your situation change and you wish to continue our conversation. Take care!"
Why Take the High Road?
REFERRALS! I like almost every sales rep I have worked with even if I have not purchased from them. I feel indebted to them after they have worked so hard for me. If anyone in my network happens to go through the same buying process, I tell them about my experience and what I have learned.
"Thanks for sharing your experience with [Insert your brand here]. That gives me a lot to go on."
"If you decide to look into [Insert your brand name here], let me know. I'll connect you with [Always Professional Awesome Sales Rep - YOU]. He/she was absolutely wonderful and will take great care of you and your team."
When you show me consistent professionalism and integrity, I will NEVER forget that. There is a chance I will still buy from you in the future AND I will always be working to send business your way!