Closing the deal requires some advance preparation.

Companies often train their salespeople in all the techniques to “close the deal” and frequently skip over the hard work that needs to get done upfront before the salesman goes a calling. There are three pieces of this advance work that needs to be done to achieve success with the actual sales call.

1) Know your customers.

There are two kinds of customers - existing and new. When creating your profile of the perfect customer, the first place to look is at your existing customers. It is time to do an analysis of your customers in terms of revenue, profits, payment times, etc. This will begin to flesh out the perfect customer profile.

Remember to always think about the perfect customer from the point of view of the customer. You want to see the world, and specifically how they think of their suppliers, the way they do. (Trust me - they don’t think of themselves as high revenue generators for your business the way you do!) This point of view is the only way you will begin to understand what these customers want. With this insight you will be able to see the match between what you are offering and what they need.

You also have to know who the customer really is. For example, you may think your perfect customer is a big high-end golf course - they want excellent service, excellent products and a total hands off “no fuss, no muss” service package. Yet, the folks who own it aren’t the same people who manage the course. The owners are off site, yet make all the buying decisions. So selling to the grounds maintenance guy isn’t going to work. He is a user of your products but he isn’t the customer. On the other hand, the head of maintenance at a food processing plant probably procures his PVF products directly, he’s the decision maker.

How do you determine who the real customer is? Techniques include:
  • Informational interviews - you can get a lot of information about what customers want if you ask them. Don’t try to sell during one of these interviews. That may be a waste of time if it’s the wrong person, and you won’t have enough information in hand to properly prepare for a worthwhile sales call.

  • Lost customer inquiry. Why did we lose you? These post mortems can be very telling - and former customers will often be very open with a third party - telling them exactly why they dropped you as a supplier.

  • Brainstorming session - two, five or more heads are better than one. Get your guys together. Tell them that anything goes and see what as a group they can come up with as some perfect customer profiles.

  • 2) The market landscape.

    You have to know what the current trends are out there. What are competitors doing? What new technology is changing the market dynamics? Is the new technology a threat or a good thing? Keep your eyes open for new laws, new requirements, new activity on the foreign front.

    You can offer the best products and the most fantastic service in the world, but if what you do and what you sell become obsolete, you will have a very hard time finding your perfect customers among a dwindling population.

    Hire someone to perform a market study every now and again. The market study should include:
  • What are your major competitors doing?

  • What are your high-end (and middle-end) customers requesting?

  • What do you (and your team) notice when visiting your existing customers, when driving by construction sites, when???

  • 3) Product service offering.

    Sales guys are notoriously product focused. And for good reason - products are tangible, easy to describe, easy to price, easy to deliver. Yet customers don’t just want products - they want a product / service package. They can buy their PVF elsewhere. But they don’t. You need to know WHY. Your sales guys HAVE to know why.

  • Educate - the sales guys must know your total product service offering.

  • Sales materials - they need brochures, info packets, etc., to aid in selling the total product service offering. (I prefer quick one pagers with a description and the benefits of the service.)

  • Training - the sales guys have to “probe” the customer to learn which service package is the right one for them. It’s a subtler and more sophisticated sell - and the only way they will get better at this is practice. Training, role-play, organize sales buddy teams.

    It isn’t how many sales calls they make that counts. It’s how many good calls they make. Do your homework. Educate and train your guys, and you will see the good call percentage go up.