To be successful in sales, you have to hit people where it matters most to them personally. Most of the time, it's going to come down to MONEY. The faster you realize that money talks in business, the quicker you're going to start closing business. Yes, you're going to catch the outlier decision maker that wants to increase productivity by implementing some complex and expensive solution, but most of the time, it's going to be, "what's the cost vs. current spend, and is it going to be the slightest bit better than what we're currently doing."
Talk With Decision Makers
Sales is about talking the same language as the business decision maker you're presenting to at that moment in time. If you're talking apples, and they're talking oranges, it's not going to work. If you're talking about some great technology that's going to completely change the way they currently do business, and it's going to take a massive amount of time and effort for the decision maker to implement, it's probably not going to happen. Most decision makers have kids, a wife, a husband, a partner, etc., and aren't going to be willing to sacrifice all that so the place they work can send a rocket to the moon.
Keep it Real
I'm not saying that all decision makers are like this, what I'm doing is educating you and keeping it real so that you know what you're working with. In sales classes and business development classes, they'll teach you all about probing questions, need payoff, and all that jazz, which is good information to know, but in the end, they're like Algebra and Calculus, as they're rarely going to be used unless you want to sound ungenuine and like a robot. Business decision makers want to be spoken to in plain English or whatever language you both speak as a primary means of communication.
Put Pricing First
Having a 37-page sales proposal with your pricing as the last page doesn't work anymore. In today's marketplace, everything is online already, and the decision maker most likely already knows what they want and just wants you to reaffirm that they're making the best decision. Being authentic and sharing business success stories of people that made the same lease or purchase they're thinking of making is always best practice. They don't care what you think, they want to know what other people think of your products and services. If they ask what you think, "make a recommendation based on your experiences."
A simple example is saying something along the lines of,
"In my experience of [implementing or selling] this [product or service] for [insert amount of years] I've seen the most success when a company does [XYZ statement] with our [product or service]."
There's no need to labor on and on about anything else. It's like answering a math question, 2+2=4. It never fails, and it's always a dead-simple answer. Sales reps spin themselves into corners and tight spots all the time when they talk too much. Decision makers just want answers to their questions. They don't need some roundabout directions to get to where they want to go. The more direct and short you are, the better you're going to be.
3 Answers You Need to Know
Let me give you 3 quick questions every decision maker is going to ask you.
- What's it cost?
- How's it going to make my business better?
- How easy is it to implement?
It's best practice to have the answers ready to go for any of the products or services you sell.
You have to master these. Look at yourself in the mirror and practice. Grab your dog, practice more. When you feel like you've conquered the answers with your dog, move on to your wife, partner, husband, or family member, and have them grill you like a decision maker. Role playing is one of the best activities you can do as a sales rep. Using video is even better as you'll see quirks, pauses in conversation, and natural body language choke-outs that break the congruency in the conversation.
Never Break the Congruence
When you break congruency, you break the trust, and when you break the trust, decision makers run the other direction because they think you either don't know what you're talking about or you don't know what you're doing.
BTW... if you don't know what congruency is, look it up.
The simple definition of congruence is:
con·gru·ence - the quality or state of agreeing, coinciding, or being congruent
I'd suggest you do some additional research on the term to see how impactful it can be when presenting to business decision makers.
Presenting a service or product you sell to a decision maker that isn't related to a budget they handle or fall under, is like selling ice to an Eskimo. It's not going to work, it's going to make you look bad, and it's going to leave a bad image because it's going to show that you didn't do the proper research or ask the appropriate questions to them before presenting.
Here's a no-brainer question to ask a decision maker,
"Does [XYZ product or service] fall under your budget?"
I didn't have to get on a spacesuit and do 2-years of preparation to ask that one. All I had to do was think simple and ask away. By doing so, I saved time for both of us and most likely got the decision maker's contact information about what I'm looking to sell. Most of the time, if you ask simple and direct questions, you'll get back simple and direct answers. When you ask double-sided questions and two and three and four questions all at the same time, it's over for you. No one can remember all that. The more you make it difficult, the more the deal is never going to happen. If you want some excellent practice, listen to an excellent podcast host, as they have on HBR.org or PBS.org or any of the more popular mainstream shows. They ask one question, the guest expands on it, and then they move on to the next one.
Get In Sync
Sync your activities with the business decision maker you're presenting to. Work on their time, when they have time. Trying to cram your time into their time is never a good idea. If you live on the East Coast and they live on the West Coast, then work when they want to work with you. It's understandable if you have an initial time conflict due to family life or other business meetings, that's fine, but when it becomes consistent, you can say, sayonara to the deal as decision makers don't have time to mess around. The more information you can provide to them ahead of time, i.e., white papers, resource materials, implementation guides, product guides, service guides, and anything else relevant, the better. They probably won't go through it all ahead of time, but it shows you've put the work in upfront to ensure they have everything they need to have an educated conversation.
Support Like No Other Can Provide
You'd better be able to support whatever product or service you're pitching as well. Selling a broken promise is never good and will have longstanding negative effects for years to come as most decision makers are in groups like Vistage and YPO and talk to their peers about their experiences. If you're on the positive end of the spectrum, you're golden and will receive referrals all the time, while if you're on the negative end of the spectrum, all you're going to hear is crickets. Excellent customer service will determine you're overall client success rate without a doubt. Great companies continue to increase sales revenue by supporting what they sell. If you're a solopreneur or startup founder with a small team, don't take on more clients than you can handle. Don't look at it as turning away business, look at it as delaying the onboarding of a new client. Believe me, the decision maker will appreciate you a lot more if you're upfront with them about timeframes, expectations, deliveries, etc.
Be Confident and Authoritative
Business decision makers want to work with sales reps that are confident, authoritative, and influential in their market segment. As the sales rep, you need to do everything you can to know and learn everything about every market segment you sell into. If you sell into automotive, then be the automotive expert when you're talking to the decision maker, and if you sell into technology, then be the technology expert. This takes time to master, but those that do, absolutely annihilate the standard 9-5 sales reps that just show up, do the absolute minimum, and then go home without learning anything new. This type of sales rep makes no money, complains that their job is too tough, and really needs to be doing something else. DON'T be this person.
What Decision Makers Want
In the end, I can go on and on about selling to decision makers, but I'll leave you with this final statement,
"Decision makers want to deal with human beings that have similar interests to them and will make them look good and do a nice job working inside of their company."
You can dissect this, you can reflect this, you can take this money to the bank like it's a blank check because it's what works. I know. I've been in the most challenging, most difficult, hand-to-hand combat type sales you can ever have for 20+ years and have had mucho-grande success. I only talk about what works and how you can get better, so use what I share here as your sales success guide, and enjoy your journey.