The B2B sales process is unique to each industry, however, there are common threads that can help you to understand how to control your process. One of the most common sales mistakes agents make is to move to recommendations too early. If your goal is to build predictability and sustainability into your sales process, an effective opportunity to debrief is an important part of the process.
When reviewing an opportunity to determine if you’re ready to make your recommendations, you want to make sure you understand how your recommendations fit within the overall situation of your prospect.
If you stop and answer these 15 questions before making your recommendation, you might just save yourself time, improve your ROI and close the deal:
1. What problems are we going to solve?
Your first approach to the client should be with an understanding of their specific pain points and how your product or service addresses them. By providing specific answers you put yourself in good stead to be able to secure the client’s business or understand that your product or service does not answer the client’s pain point.
2. What problems do they have?
Winning business at higher margins requires that you understand how your offerings fit into the client’s overall scheme of operations. You need to be familiar with the broader issues your offering will impact, and what things you might not be able to resolve.
3. What have they done to solve those problems to this point?
Understanding what actions your client has pursued, and why those actions have failed to address the pain point, will help you better understand your recommendations.
4. Who’s impacted by the problem?
People and initiatives are going to be impacted at least indirectly by your solution. Make sure you know who and what is impacted and that you communicate this with the client so that they can make informed decisions.
5. What alternatives exist to solve the problem?
You need to understand your competition. Even if you believe your solution to be unique, there are others offering something similar. When you understand how you are different from your competitors, you are in a better position to solve problems.
6. What other problems/initiatives are competing for attention with these problems?
One of the most common causes of great proposals failing is that it doesn’t align with everything else that your prospect is doing. Make sure that your recommendations align with, and don’t overwhelm, your prospect’s organization.
7. Who is impacted by these problems?
The indirect benefits of your recommendations and the opportunity costs that you impact are a vital piece of your recommendation. It can mean the difference between your prospect selecting your company, or a completely unrelated proposal.
8. Who makes the go/no go decision?
You need to know who the real decision-maker/s is/are. While you might be talking with one person, they are often just the relay, so remember, your relationship extends beyond your immediate contact.
9. How is a decision like this made?
It’s not enough to just know the decision-maker, you must also be clear on the process your prospect will employ in making a decision. Some companies will consult with an entire team of workers who will be impacted by the sale, while others will consult with a board, or make a unilateral decision.
10. What resources/budget is allocated to address the problem?
If your recommendation is the solution, the price is only a piece of the investment your prospect is going to have to make. Often times the biggest challenge to sales success is overcoming the inertia barrier. Depending on the nature of your recommendation, companies can be resistant to changes that would obviously improve systems, but threaten exsisiting structures.
11. What’s the cost/consequence of the problem?
There’s only one reason a prospect fails to buy from you; they don’t see the consequences. Make sure you prevent this barrier by clearly communicating the impact your recommendations will have and how they change the organization.
12. What’s the timeline/ramp-up time for a solution?
If you’re not being asked this question, it’s a good bet that your prospect is discussing it internally. Discuss the timeframe and rollout of your solution so that your prospect understands each stage of the process.
13. What are the threats to the solution?
There is always a risk of failure. One of the best ways to reduce the perceived risk is to highlight what can cause failure, as well as informing your prospect of what you do to minimize the likelihood of failure. Advising your prospect about any weakness or holes in your recommendation, which might occur if the prospect were to use a patchwork solution, for example, informs your prospect and allows them to make an informed decision, building trust between you.
14. What expectations should the customer have?
Your long-term success is highly dependent on managing your customer’s expectations. Don’t handle this important area passively, address it proactively. Closing a sale can often hinge on relationships.
15. Who else is competing?
The more you know about who else is competing for the business you are, the more prepared you can be. Your solution can be presented as a superior option only if you know how your solution differs from your competitor, and why your recommendation answers the prospects pain point in the most effective way.
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