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Because you work with many buyers, you often know more about one particular buyer’s problems than they do. Join Kendra Lee, Founder of the KLA Group, as she shares why the best prospects need your guidance most of all. Reps may worry that guiding prospects will come across as pushy or bossy, but they forget that they still have more knowledge than their buyers. You hear the challenges all your buyers face and can guide them in the best way to solve them – and the best way to buy.

I listen to see if we can be successful with this company in helping them achieve whatever their goal is when they work with us.”

Kendra Lee | Founder, KLA Group
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President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.

Kevin Micalizzi: Welcome to the Quotable podcast. I'm Kevin Micalizzi. Today we're going to be speaking with Kendra Lee. She's the president and founder of the KLA group. We're going to be talking about leading your prospects through the entire sales process, as well as defining what a good prospect is, and ways you can help encourage your prospects to be good prospects.

Let's jump into it. Kendra, thank you for joining me on the podcast.

Kendra Lee: Thank you for having me, Kevin. I'm excited to be here.

Micalizzi: So, Kendra, I'm excited to jump into this. Before we do, though, for our listeners who aren't familiar with you, would you give us a brief picture of who you are and what you do?

Lee: Yes. I am president and founder of KLA group. Our organization helps companies get more customers. We work primarily with companies that are up to $100 million in annual revenue. So, often times they are just starting to get their sales forces in order, their sales processes in order, and putting their lead generation strategies in place. Or, we're helping them take it to that next level.

Micalizzi: When we were prepping for this, you and I were talking about good prospects, and how to help your prospects be good prospects. I would love if you could define, in your mind, what makes a prospect good?

Lee: Well, there's the obvious thing that we know when we're selling, and that is that a prospect meets the criteria of the right-size company, they are in a target market that you focus on, whether it's an industry or a geography. Clearly we would like them to have money.

Micalizzi: You'd hope, right?

Lee: Exactly. And that they're going to be doing something in the right time frame. But, to me, the money and time frame question actually comes second.

When you're doing calling, or emails, or lead generation, I look at it and I think, we're going to find out in our first conversation if the timing is right for them. What I want even before that is a prospect who is one that fits the culture of where we can be successful, in addition to being the right target market, talking to the right contact who has money in the budget.

Micalizzi: What do you mean by culture? Is it a values thing? Is it a process thing?

Lee: I think it's both values and process. I think of clients that we've worked with where their customers have ultimately not benefited. Sometimes it's because the expectations were set incorrectly. So, you can fix that in your sales process and you can fix that in your process.

Other times it's just because, as companies you want different things. So, I can give you an example. If you think about personality styles, and one of the foundation ones is where you could have a driver, expressive, amiable, or an analytic.

If you have a client that is very analytical, let's say, and they want every "i" dotted, every "t" crossed, they want lots of data, lots of information, and they want to be kept apprised of it very frequently, but as an organization, let's say you're more creative, you might be more amiable, more expressive, and data and process aren't your strengths. There's the possibility that that won't be a good fit as far as a customer.

Micalizzi: Yeah. Especially if it's organizational. I could see a lot of friction there.

Lee: Exactly. So, when you're talking with a prospect, it's not just qualifying them for those key things that we are told, you know, these are the things you need to find. It's also listening to see, can we be successful with this company in helping them achieve whatever their goal is if they work with us. That's what I mean when I say a cultural fit.

Micalizzi: Okay. So, now let's say we have found a prospect that does have that cultural fit. I know, you know, if you look at research from CEB and any of the conversations I think people are having around B2B selling, the buyers don't have a set process, so every time they want to purchase something, especially something complex, it can be very challenging and a lot of people involved.

And I'm curious because you and I had talked about the need for sales reps to lead their prospects through this sales process. And I get the impression that you don't just mean, okay, here's my defined sales process and I'm just going to guide you through these steps, but really helping them in the entire buying process. Am I reading that right?

Lee: Yes, you are. I think as a salesperson, I still like the term consultative salesperson. I think when you are working from your client's best interest and finding solutions to the need that will be the best fit for them, part of what you're doing is you're helping to guide them in figuring that out.

Even in today's day, where we've got the internet, and clients, prospects can go do a ton of research and figure out what it is that they want. When they come to you, there are still things that they could not possibly have thought about just because it’s not their business, this is your business.

So, your role is to really help them to think about all the different aspects. Unless, of course, you're selling a transactional solution and they truly are just calling to place an order. But even then, you can still guide them with what are the questions that they need to be thinking about to be sure that they have fully thought through the decision that they're making. So, that's early in the process.

And then there's guiding them so that they actually get to their decision, which I also think is part of our role as the salesperson. We have to help them with what are all the things they need to think about before they make a decision. Who else do they need to get involved before they make that decision? And how are they going to make the decision?

Because a lot of times when we initially talk to them, if you ask them, you know, how they'll decide, if they're looking at different companies, they can't answer it.

Micalizzi: I mean, most of them probably haven't even thought that through?

Lee: Exactly. They don't, in their mind, have the same checklist that they might for hiring a new staff person.

Micalizzi: When you're working with a prospect like that, are there established ways to go about the purchase and the decision process that, in a broad sense, would be worth sharing? Or is it really an individual, case-by-case basis?

Lee: Yes, I believe there's absolutely a process that you can use, and I'll start very tactically and go strategically. For example, when we start working with a client and we talk about their vision for how they want to get more customers, we actually guide them through a couple of questions that determine what's the right path for them to go.

And we do that all in the first five minutes of talking with them so that we're not wasting their time. Well, when we do that, that then determines a specific set of questions that we know we always have to ask to help the prospect organize their thoughts.

So, tactically, we actually have a call guide for each of those three paths that we could go down. So, as the salesperson, tactically, you could have a call guide that will help you guide that initial conversation. If we talk strategically, yes, there is absolutely a buying process that your prospects should go through whether they recognize it or not.

Micalizzi: Right.

Lee: And for them, it starts with them understanding more about whatever the problem is that has them out looking, thinking that they should buy something. So, we have to help them in organizing their thoughts around, what is it that I need to solve? What's the challenge? What's the problem I'm trying to solve, and just how severe is it? Do I want to solve it today or do I not want to solve it today?

That's what helps start to move them through. So, when I think of a framework, I actually think of the one that you may have heard about, the client buy cycle, where they start where they are completely unaware that they have a problem. Then they're aware that they have a problem and they need to think about addressing it. They're interested and they say, yes, I'm now interested in solving it so I better do some research, and then they desire to fix it.

So, now they're actively looking for what the right solution is, and then they purchase. And as a salesperson, we can map our process directly to that and help a prospect to see if they're aware of a problem, should they or shouldn't they be interested in solving it? And then, when they become interested, we can help them with questions and recommendations on whether or not it makes sense for them to start looking at what potential solutions would be.

Micalizzi: One of the challenges I'm thinking about right now is the fact that sales reps are being asked to do more and more with less time. You know, usually more administrative activities and other things that have to be done beyond just the prospect time, or the customer time. I'm curious, in your experience, how have you found that sales reps need to help guide their prospects with the fact that they're under pressure to get more prospects into the funnel, and really drive more business quickly?

Lee: That's a great question because it absolutely is a challenge for salespeople, especially when you get somebody who's just aware that they have a problem but haven't even figured out if they want to do anything. To me, this is where qualification and recommendations become so important.

So, as a salesperson, one way that you can become the most productive is to pay attention to which of the conversations that you seem to be having over and over with prospects, and really know, how are you going to help guide people based on those conversations? So, for example, we get a lot of people who call and they say they need more leads.

Okay. You know, do you have enough leads in your pipeline, or that you could do longer-term strategies, or do you need immediate leads? Well, the minute they say, we need immediate leads, then I know that we have to talk about prospecting strategies that their sales team can use. So, now, I can hone in the conversation very specifically in that area.

So, for a salesperson, it's being able to qualify very quickly where the initial need is. Are they the right type of client for you to be working with? And then, if they're not, have a recommendation that you can give that will be valuable to them, leaving the customer prospect feeling like they got good value out of talking to you, but move them on from you because they're not the right prospect.

It could be that you're going to refer them to an article, or an e-book, or a resource that you have. It doesn't mean that you have to sit there and stay on the phone for them and, you know, coach guide them and consult, because you don't have time for that. So, I think the qualification piece is really important. And then having a recommendation that you can make that will be valuable to them, but get them off the phone.

Micalizzi: Right. So, you're really not closing the door on that opportunity. If you look at it from a marketing automation perspective, you want to nurture them. So, if you've got somewhere you can guide them, then they still look favorably on you and may come back when they're at a point where they're better ready to purchase.

Lee: Absolutely. And from a marketing automation perspective, as the salesperson, if I find out they're not ready, but maybe they're the right target market, so in the future I might want to work with them, then I would let them know that I'm going to make sure that we continue to send them information that would be of interest and that they should watch that. And when the time is right, let's talk again. Now, I've put them in my marketing automation drip campaign.

Micalizzi: Right. But even if you don't have that, I absolutely love your advice to have those resources. You know you're going to get these questions.

Lee: Right.

Micalizzi: You know, you'll see the trends, you see the patterns as you go.

Lee: That's right. And even if your company doesn't have any type of marketing automation in place, you may have something good on your website that you could say those are the two or three places I'm always going to point people. Or, a YouTube video. You know, just have a couple of them that fit the most common issues that you hear about from the people that you talk to.

Micalizzi: Right. So, let's say we've qualified them, the folks who need more time, more resources. They're off doing their own things. For our prospects, even just getting to that first meeting, or starting to develop that proposal, do you find that most of the prospects still need that strong guidance in how to approach it?

Lee: Some of them do. I think you have to be prepared to provide it. And when I look at it from a guidance perspective, it truly is using your sales process. So, we know, as salespeople, we always have to ask the requirements-gathering questions. We know there are going to be business-focused questions and there are going to be solutions-focused questions that will help you to make good recommendations.

So, using your sales process to guide them through. The biggest mistake that I see salespeople make that stalls the sales process is that they don't leave prospects with a next step. They don't tell them, here's what you need to go do, here's what I'm going to go do. And then, here's when we will meet again. So, very clear next steps will continue to keep your prospects moving forward.

Micalizzi: Right. You can't just leave it, you know, we'll talk next week, that kind of thing.

Lee: Right. You can't leave it where, well, send me an email and I'll update you. Or, I'll send you an email next week and we'll see how that conversation went. The more specific you can be with your next step, the easier it will be for you to move that prospect forward and help them to continue toward their decision.

Micalizzi: Right. So, you're really being prescriptive here and you're letting them know what the next steps are. I like that.

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Micalizzi: Definitely. Keeps them engaged. And especially if you're leveraging your own process to help guide them through this, then they will need that extra hand-holding, that extra guidance.

Lee: And you know what's really interesting is when you do that as a salesperson, it instills confidence in your prospect that they're going to be well taken care of if they work with your company. They like that somebody is going to guide them and show them what the next step is.

So, while we may think, oh, I'm being really aggressive, or I'm pressuring them, the reality is they appreciate that you're telling them, here's what your next thing is that you should do, and when you do that, here's what I'll do. Or, while you're doing that, this is what I'm going to do. And then let's regroup and let's talk about what you did and what I did and so here's what our next step is. They appreciate that. It's like it takes pressure off of them as they're trying to figure out what the right decision is.

Micalizzi: Now, I'm curious, in the companies you work with — I'm trying to think of a delicate way to ask this.

Lee: [Laughs]

Micalizzi: Well, I think a lot of companies have structured their sales process around what's convenient for sales, not structuring it around the buying process and how their customers buy. So, when we're talking about applying process here, I want to make sure we're clear for our listeners that we're not talking about, you know, this is the process as defined in your CRM, and what's most convenient for sales.

This is really looking at it from the buyer's perspective and giving them the right guidance for their own process, not just how to plug into your own.

Lee: So, first, let me start by saying, a lot of the times clients that we're working with don't have process in place.

Micalizzi: Oh gosh. So, even worse than I was thinking.

Lee: So, well, no, it's cool because it's like a blank slate. We get to help them put that process in place.

Micalizzi: Right.

Lee: When you compare it to your CRM, you can still use the process that's in your CRM because we still have to identify the needs, we have to potentially do a demo, design the solution, present the solution, proposal, close the sales. At a very generic level, that's what a sales process is once you've got a lead.

So, and your CRM will follow that and your forecasting will follow that. It's what you're doing in each of those steps that is what follows the clients by cycle. So, when I'm identifying the needs, if I'm recognizing that the client could be in awareness, interest, or desire, then I'm going to ask my questions, while I'm identifying the needs, to fit where they are.

And I'm going to make my recommendations based on where they are. So, what we're actually talking about is more the sales meeting and how it changes as you move through the sales process. That's what you have to recognize is, based on where your client is in the buy cycle, how do I need to talk to them?

Even though I may be in presenting the proposal,which by the way, we shouldn't be presenting a proposal until we know they're at least well into their phase of interest. It's no good to present a proposal if they're aware that they have a problem but haven't decided if they want to solve it.

Micalizzi: Right. They definitely still need some guidance at that point.

Lee: Exactly, because they're not going to make a decision. If they haven't decided that they want to solve the problem and you give a proposal, even if it's the cheapest proposal there is, if they haven't decided they want to solve it, they're not going to spend the money.

Micalizzi: Absolutely.

Lee: See how it all comes back to qualification?

Micalizzi: Yeah, you haven't fully qualified.

Lee: Right.

Micalizzi: So, Kendra, one of the things I want to ask you that we had talked about a bit when we were prepping for this is really follow up strategies. I think, you know, we've talked about providing that guidance and really being prescriptive in what prospects need to do as well as when you'll be doing for them. But, the follow-up is a never-ending cycle. I'm curious, what advice do you give to your clients around the follow-up strategies with these prospects?

Lee: I think follow-up is critical, and I write about and talk about it and recommend it all the time. The more you can turn your follow-up into a prescriptive process, the better you will get at it. So, some very specific things that I would add to what we already talked about are that you should follow up with people, so, new prospects, every three days by voicemail and email until you're able to reach them.

Okay, so there's a very prescriptive way with your prospects. And I know some of  you don't believe in email, or don't believe in voicemail. I absolutely do. That's a whole other podcast we can have.

For prospects that are in the sales process, if you have left every meeting and every call with the next step, then you take that next step. So, when you leave, if you've set a meeting, then you'll have the meeting date or you'll have a time that you're supposed to talk again. Then you need to follow up on those dates or times as you committed.

If a prospect misses it, that's where you go back into the cycle of at a minimum every three days, calling and emailing until you've reached them and you've determined, well, what is our next step even if it's for them to say to you, you know, we've decided to go in a different direction. But it's being very intentional about your follow-up.

Micalizzi: Which makes sense. We've talked about a lot of areas to cover. What would be the most important starting point for somebody who's listening right now?

Lee: I'm going to give a couple of them.

Micalizzi: Okay.

Lee: One is commit to yourself that you will always end a conversation with a prospect with what the next step is for them and what the next step is for yourself. And if possible, put an agreed-to date on the calendar when you will meet or talk again. That's the first one and that's truly committing it to yourself, that you're going to do that, because it's just adding it to your conversation.

Micalizzi: Right.

Lee: The second is, the qualification is very important. You can get wrapped up with people who aren't qualified. So, I would suggest that you have some additional resources at the tips of your fingers that you could recommend people to go to.

And not even that you have to email to them, because that's extra work that you would do, but a place you could tell them to go, ideally on your own website. I will suggest to people that they go to our blog and download our email power prospecting e-book. It will give you more strategies on how to increase your email response rates, okay?

Micalizzi: Right.

Lee: So, something that's very simple that they can go do that doesn't require any of your time. That way, when you get somebody who's not qualified you can send them there.

Micalizzi: So, defining the next actions, and really gathering those resources you need for those prospects who aren't ready yet.

Lee: Exactly, yes.

Micalizzi: I think those are definitely great starting points. So, Kendra, I want to ask you our lightning round question. And that is, if you could take all the knowledge and experience you have now, go back to the beginning of your career and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?

Lee: If I were to start over again I would tell myself, don't be afraid of those prospects that you aren't certain are a fit. That you can have a conversation with them long enough to figure out if they are someone that you pursue versus having to qualify quickly and get off the phone.

A lot of times — and the reason I say that isn't a fear on, say, my part, or the salesperson's part — it's that you may think that a prospect wants an immediate decision, or wants an immediate answer and that they aren't willing to have a conversation.

So, I would say that you need to allow yourself the freedom to ask the questions and have a conversation, and recognize that a prospect will actually talk to you and have that conversation with you. They're not all trying to get you off the phone in five minutes like you learn and hear so many people say.

So, allow yourself to have a full conversation with the prospect so that you can both make a determination of should we be working together or shouldn't we?

Micalizzi: I like it.

Lee: Thank you.

Micalizzi: I like the fact that, for an impromptu question, that was a very deeply thought-out answer. I appreciate it.

Lee: Thank you.

Micalizzi: So, Kendra, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today.

Lee: It has been a lot of fun. Your questions were very thought-provoking, and we covered a lot of ground. So, I can see people going, oh my gosh, which thing shall I start first. So, thank you for that.

Micalizzi: Most definitely. And we definitely did go further afield, I think, than we had planned to when we first spoke, but I think it's absolutely worth it.

Learn from the best. Sell like the best.