One of the most common mistakes that salespeople make is asking for the sale too soon. This usually happens because salespeople’s expectations don’t match the reality of what a sales lead really is.
Not all sales leads are created equal. At the moment when you get a new sales lead, whether it’s a referral from an existing customer or an inquiry through your website, that individual sales prospect might be at a lot of different points in the purchasing process.
You can’t assume that the person on the other end of the phone conversation is as “ready” as you’d like them to be. Especially for complex B2B sales, very few leads are “sales ready.” Instead, sales leads need to be nurtured and qualified. You need to invest some time in building a relationship with the prospect, gaining their trust, and looking for ways to align your solution or service with the prospect’s needs – whether or not they openly state those needs in the first conversation.
According to this survey from Marketing Sherpa, B2B sales leads can be described as going through a three-step process:
This means that you might need to recalibrate your understanding of what it takes to convert a sales lead to a qualified prospect to a sale. It doesn’t happen immediately. Instead, you need to invest some time in the sales process.
When you pick up the phone for your first conversation with a new sales lead, here are some do’s and don’ts:
Don’t assume that the prospect is farther along in their buying process than they actually are – the prospect might need more time to research and evaluate their options. If you assume too much, the prospect will get defensive and will shut you out.
Instead, do say:
These are easy ways to start to build rapport with the client. Make the conversation about them and about their challenges. Listen. Build trust. Show them that you care and that you’re on their side – not trying to impose a sale upon them.
Even when you get a highly promising sales lead where you find out that the company is unhappy with their current solution or vendor, this doesn’t mean that the deal will close quickly. Often when a company has had a bad experience with a vendor, that company is going to do a lot more research and ask a lot of hard questions about implementation and ROI.
If your sales prospect is a business manager in charge of a certain department, business unit or functional operational process, they’re going to be held accountable for the outcomes of the solution you’re selling. When you’re selling to larger companies, the complexity only increases - because there are multiple stakeholders, decision makers, and departments affected by the solution you sell.
Even under “best case” scenarios, a complex B2B sales deal might take three to 18 months to work through the selling process. All of this adds up to a need to be patient. Keep working through your sales processm and at building relationships and establishing trust.
Not every sales lead is going to be the right fit for your solution or your company, but every sales lead has potential to turn into a longer conversation and a longer-term business relationship, if you can adjust your expectations.
About the author:
Gregg Schwartz is the Vice President of Sales at Strategic Sales & Marketing, one of the industry-founding lead generation companies specializing in B2B major account sales lead generation, sales consulting and sales training.
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