What's Holding You Back from Advancing the Sale?

By Michelle Davidson, Editor

Mad Men's Roger Sterling knows how to advance a sale

You would never call the men in TV's Mad Men the most moral people, but they know a thing or two about sales and client relationships. Roger Sterling might not know how to fix his relationship with his wife, but when partner Lane Price struggles to connect with a potential new client and advance the sale (Episode 505), he knows exactly how to fix the problem. (How that client handled the solution is another story.)

Myriad reasons can prevent a sale from moving forward. For Price, the client didn't feel comfortable with him and so wouldn't discuss his real concerns and needs. Price was ineffective at asking questions and holding a conversation.

Here's a look a few other things that can hold you back from advancing the sale:

1. Sales and Marketing Aren't Aligned

When sales and marketing aren't aligned, leads handed over to sales might be considered worthless. They aren't on the same page about who the ideal client is, and time and resources are wasted.

Further, misalignment can prevent firms from selling into additional departments within a client firms, writes Ed Thompson in his article How to Grow Existing Client Accounts and Drive Revenue. Firms need, therefore, a system that helps "farmer" sales teams grow client relationships and generate more revenue from the client organization.

Firms need a process that clearly identifies prospects at client accounts, details how to communicate with the different types of prospects, enables communication between sales and marketing, and clearly defines a qualified lead, he says.

"When marketing and sales clearly understand and agree to these processes they can work together towards the same goal: closing business. The key is making sure marketing and sales clearly understand their roles in the revenue generation process so that they can be successful," Thompson says.

2. Buyers Don't See the Value in What You Offer

When buyers don't see the value in what you offer, chances are great they will say your price is too high. Why should they pay that amount when they don't think they'll get anything of value from it?

The easiest way to prevent this problem is to get the buyer's input at the beginning of the conversation and encourage them to share their wants and needs, writes Mark Hunter in his article Why Your Customer Doesn't Like Your Price.

"Your objective is to get the customer to share with you at least three reasons they need what you offer. One of the three should be time-sensitive. The customer's time-sensitive need will allow you to close the sale now. The other two reasons will allow the customer to see why they need to buy," he says.

When they share those things, you can help them to see the value of what you offer. But if you try to close the deal before the buyer shares those three things (note, those three things are a minimum), you will not succeed, Hunter says.

3. You Don't Understand what the Buyer Expects from You

You can't expect the service you offer to remain relevant over the years. Buyers' needs change, particularly during tough economic times. Where once they would pay for things that were more fluff, so to speak, now everything purchased has a direct correlation to growing the business.

That is particularly true in the speaking circuit. Not long ago, conferences were held for the sake of simply gathering people to network, and the keynote speakers provided more entertainment than business value. Heck, I attended an IT conference at which William Shatner was the keynote speaker. Do you think he provided advice on how to best secure your company's servers? No. But he's a big name in the geeky world of IT, and he helped attract attendees.

These days conferences must address strategic issues, and if you want to speak at those conferences, you must align with that agenda, writes Vickie K. Sullivan in her article What High-Paying Buyers Expect from Keynote Speakers.

"The meeting is either responding to outside market forces or implementing an initiative," she says. "What they are really saying is, 'Hey, we have a real agenda now, and the speakers have to either personify that message or provide an experience that will implement our agenda.'"

It's important, therefore, to know what your buyer expects from you and what they need you to deliver.

4. Bad Client Reviews

When you are ready to make a purchase, chances are you look online for customer reviews. Your prospects do the same thing. And if there are any negative reviews out there, they'll quickly cross you off their list, says Jeff Quipp in his podcast interview Online Marketing Tools that Give You a Lead over Competitors.

In fact, a recent study found 21% of people would change their minds about buying from a particular brand if there are two negative reviews, and 37% would change their mind if there are three negative reviews, he says.

When buyers go looking for reviews, "they've made the decision that they want to deal with your company, but they're looking for a reason not to deal with it," Quipp says. "They're looking for any negative reviews that are going to change their mind about dealing with you."

If you have any damaging reviews out that, that can hinder your ability to get leads, he adds. And it's something companies have to pay close attention to.

Your thoughts: What else can prevent a sale from advancing?

Michelle Davidson is Editor of RainToday. As such, she oversees all of the articles published on the website and publishes the weekly newsletter, the Rainmaker Report. She also produces the site's weekly podcast series, Marketing & Selling Professional Services, and the site's webinars. You may contact her via email at mdavidson@raintoday.com and via Twitter at @michedav.

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