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by Peter C. Rathmann on August 4th, 2015

​In the previous post: 5 Necessary Sales Ingredients 90% of Sales Teams Don't Identify, I told you that I would give you the sales questions that you need to identify and score the five sales ingredients every sales opportunity must have. 

The five sales ingredients for every sales are Budget, Authority, Need, Timing, and Trust and they each  have a possible score of 1-20 for a total of 100 points.  This score then becomes your probability to close the sales. This process should replace any automated probability settings in your CRM system and should provide you with a much more accurate sales forecast.

Here are three simple questions to help you find each of the five sales ingredients and determine their score. Each of these questions are open ended which allows your prospect to talk about their need and allows you to identify each ingredient and assign a score of 1-20.

You can just print out this blog and use it as a scoring sheet or you can request a copy of our our FREE  "Torque" Sales Funnel Tool here as well.

  1. What have you budgeted for this to happen?
  2. What are you paying now?
  3. What have you paid in the past?                                                 (SCORE_____________)
  1. Who are all the stakeholders involved with this decision?
  2. What is your decision process like?
  3. Who are all of the people that need to see the proposal?     (SCORE_____________)
  1. What does success look like to you?
  2. How have you tried to fix this before?
  3. What are your expectations?                                                       (SCORE_____________)
  1. When are you looking to start?
  2. When do you want this to be completed?
  3. How serious are you about making a change?                        (SCORE_____________)
  1. What happens if you don't fix this problem?
  2. What are you not able to do because you need this fixed?
  3. What needs to happen for me to help you with this?             (SCORE_____________)

You should develop a list questions that is relevant to the opportunities you are working on and work on using them for every opportunity you find.

One last item. Don't forget to total the scores from above  to ask for the order if the score is 100! 

For a list of soft close questions and three easy steps that you can use to accelerate the sales process, please see our post ​3 Easy Steps Your Sales Team Probably Does Not Use to Drive The Sales Funnel

by Peter C. Rathmann on July 31st, 2015

"The Soup Nazi" was the 116th episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld on November 2, 1995 and the classic spoken words became part of pop-culture instantly.  A little known fact is that actor Larry Thomas perfected his portrayal of the Soup Nazi by studying Omar Sharif's accent in Lawrence of Arabia.

Question: How does this translate to sales?
Answer: It is a great example of not understanding the buying/selling process.  Making assumptions, asking the wrong questions, not knowing the roles and needs of the players, and not having the relationship you need.  All of these combined will earn a "No Sale For You!" from your prospect and be reiterated from your Sales Manager when you have to explain what happened.

How would you like to have a sales funnel full of higher value opportunities that have a shorter sales cycle?

​This post has to do with the 5 ingredients of a sale that determines the probability of you closing the deal.  Most sales people do not ask the right questions and do not understand all of the moving parts that have to align for a sale to happen. They rely too much on their "gut" feeling and it is usually wrong.

Question: How many opportunities in the funnel get lost at the negotiation phase with a 90% probability rating?
Answer: Too many!

The first part of the problem exists inherently in CRM systems and their sales funnel stages.  Most CRM systems automatically assign a probability based on the assigned sales stage.  This is a terrible link and it should be removed if you can edit the system you are using.  Probability should have it's own stand alone data field that you can manually enter.

Question: How do you take the "gut feeling" out of the probability figure?
Answer: The probability to close should be based on an objective score that everyone uses the same way.

The second part of the problem exists from sales people using different criteria about how their sale is progressing compared to the what is really happening.  As sales people, we believe we can land all of the opportunities. The fact is that we will only close 10% of the sales and waste valuable time on the other 90%.  That time could be used to pursue higher rated business that had a greater probability to close had you only understood what the actual probability was.

Question: What are the five sales ingredients that we need to use for probability?
Answer: Budget, Authority, Need, Timing, and Trust.  Each one of these ingredients has a 1-20 point potential with 20 being the highest.  If each ingredient is identified and exists, then you should have 100 points or a 100% chance to close the deal. This process is known as "BANTT"  

​Let's look at these five sales ingredients individually.  In the next blog, we will give you the questions you need to ask that will help you assign them a score.

Budget: How many times have you presented a proposal only to have the prospect choke or have a small seizure? How much time did you spend developing that proposal?

Does the prospect have the money to purchase what you are offering? Are they actually looking for a solution or just window shopping? Are they going to make you their vendor or just hold their current one accountable with the price you provide? Have you made a legitimate case that would help them justify the spend on your product or service?

If they don't know their budget or what they spend now on a similar solution, it scores a zero. If they know the cost and understand the price of not integrating your solution, then it is a 20.

Authority: How many times have you presented a proposal only to hear "I'll give this to my boss to look at"?

Are you speaking with the decision maker? Are you talking to the person that can give you money or is the person you are talking to just a messenger?  Do they have any stake in the process at all besides making you go through the motions?

If you are dealing the person that can hand you a sack of cash, it scores a 20.

Need: We hate saying "no" as sales people but at the end of the day, you need to be able to identify if this future client is a the right fit for your business.

Is this client in your "wheelhouse"? Can you deliver the solution they need without any customization that drives the operations team nuts and hurts the profit margin? Can you deliver what you are promising without making excuses later?

If this is an ideal client that will have a long lifetime value, it scores a 20.

Timing: What is your targeted sales cycle.  If it is 3 months, then you need to focus on those prospects who have a 3 months buying window.  If your prospect is not looking to buy for 24 months but you "think" they will close because you like the same sports team, guess what, the line for the crazy train just got one person longer.

Is this prospect looking to make a purchase in the next 90 days or are they trying to plan for 24 months out to prepare the CFO for the check he might have to write? Will this opportunity make an impact on your bonus this year or is it a something that might never happen.  Don't make any major purchases yet.

If they are going to make a decision in your targeted sales cycle, it scores a 20.​ If they are just shopping, it is a one.

Trust: What have you done to make yourself the obvious choice? Do you have a seat at the table or is your competition in the seat?  I guarantee you are not the only option the prospect has.  If you were, you would not be reading this and I would be reading your book that you wrote on the island you own. 

By identifying these five sales ingredients earlier in the sales process, your sales funnel will be filled with higher value opportunities that have a shorter sales cycle.  How can that not be good for your wallet and the company profit and loss statement?

Need help developing open ended questions that help you identify these five sales ingredients?  Stay tuned for our next post or contact us to help you better identify your ingredients.

by Peter C. Rathmann on July 7th, 2015

Sales Lead Sources
This is the time of the year when most organizations realize their sales teams are not going to make that revenue number on the white board that seemed achievable 6 months ago.  They actually start looking at what is missing in their sales pipelines and start hearing excuses about the market and customers.  They start trying to figure out what favors they can call in and the weekly meetings just go put back on the calendar but now with the involvement of senior leadership.

Before you buy a list, send your team to the out of town speaker that is here for the week, make your team read a book that they won't use, or spend time in the war room trying to think outside the box, try these four inside-the-box sources of sales leads that most teams overlook. They could just save your year!

Sell more to current clients 

We get so focused on "new" that we forget to look at "current" customers to see how much more they could buy.  When was the last time you looked at the customer rank report or a distribution report? I guarantee that you have overlooked some easy sales within you existing account base.  What would your sales look like if you sold just one more product line or item to each of your current clients? Start making appointments with your current clients to conduct a mid-year business review and make a quick top ten hit list to take with you when make your next sales call.

Get current clients to recommend you

If you can identify what customers are good for business from the reports you ran, then you will be able to figure out which ones to ask for referrals from.  Most industries have associations that your top customers are involved in.  Either as board members or as a sponsor for the annual conference. This means that you potentially could have access to future customers but only if you ask your current customers for help. If your current clients like you and could recommend you, then you need to ask them for referrals to other people that can potentially do business with you.

Cross promote with your strategic partners

If you are in distribution or business services, then you probably have some relationships with suppliers or other complementary companies that you work side by side with in shared customers.....Why not work side by side with them in more shared customers?  Schedule a lunch or coffee meeting with your strategic partners and compare customers lists to understand where there are opportunities to cross promoted each others services and products.

Build a referral community

Get online and join those 50 LinkedIn groups to have discussions with people in your industry, get back on the networking circuit to see those strategic partners, and why not start your own referral group using Meetup or even the community room at your church.  The more people that know about what you do and who you want to work with the better.
The leads that are developed from these four sources will be higher qualified and have a shorter sales cycle because they will come from people you know. None of these sales lead sources are innovative or new.  Everyone has access to them but most of us do not take the time to think about them on a regular basis.

Next Steps

Need to turn around your year and increase your sales quickly? Here is a quick check list of activities to help get you focused on these sources of leads.
  1. Run a distribution and sales ranking report to understand which customer you can grow.
  2. Make top ten list of opportunities in your current clients for your next sales call.
  3. Conduct mid-year business reviews with your top clients and figure out who you can ask for recommendations and more business.
  4. Search for networking events that you can attend in the next month.
  5. Schedule coffee or lunch with as many strategic partners as you can to learn about who they are working with and who you can help them with.
  6. Start participating in discussions on LinkedIn and sharing your knowledge with people you can help.
  7. Join Meetup and find a new group or start your own group to build additional referral relationships in the market place.
There is a lot of low hanging fruit out there if you just take a little time to focus on it. That next sales meeting is coming up so what do you have to present as your plans to make that number?

You can request our FREE "Fuel" Sales Funnel Tool here to help you identify your long hanging fruit.

by Peter C. Rathmann on June 18th, 2015

Did any of the following happen in your last sales meeting or do any of these describe your last sales funnel review?
  • Close dates were moved further out
  • Opportunities listed as a 90% probability have no potential values or close dates are not listed
  • Opportunities are listed without contact names or the product/service being sold
  • There is nothing listed for next steps, sources of business, or even what the account is, however there is a dollar value
  • There are blank expressions on faces when questions are asked about the opportunities that disappeared
If you have experienced any of these during your weekly sales meetings, you may want to keep reading.

Having reviewed several sales funnels for friends and clients, it has become apparent that many sales people and sales managers have a lot of “hope” in their sales funnel and the last time I checked, “hope” is not very strategic.

Most sales funnels are full of opportunities that don’t have a clear closing date, have no rational probability, are not dealing with the decision maker, and have no idea about the prospect being able to afford what you are selling.  The sales funnel is full of grey matter and variables that do not allow you to accurately predict what your sales could be.

Don’t feel bad if this describes your sales funnel.  I would guess 90% of the companies that actually have a sales funnel have this lack of clarity.  This is most likely because there were no standards developed or processes institutionalized when new sales people started or the CRM system was set up.

To compound the problems that the lack of clarity in the sales funnel causes, sales people and sales managers are also allowing their futures to be controlled by their prospects.  They are not taking control of their opportunities.  They are allowing the prospects to control both the pace and the outcome of the sales.  There are no intentional or deliberate actions being taken to drive the sales.

I suggest the following three steps as the solution to cure the funnel grey matter and lack of control: focus on real opportunities, gain commitment early, and identify clear next steps at every stage of the sales process.

Focus on real opportunities as the first step
Real opportunities are those that come from an ideal prospect that has been fully qualified through proper questioning. 

Proper questions are those that focus on the prospect and their needs.  They are the questions that help you identify whether or not the opportunity is real. Too many sales people still “show up and throw up”. They start talking about their product or their company without even finding out the simplest information, such as if the person in front of them even works there.

Utilizing questions help you identify if the prospect is able to afford your product and service, help you identify who the decision maker is, help you determine if they have a problem that your product or service solves, and whether they are looking to purchase your solution in the next 90 days.  These are the questions that help you identify what I refer to as BANTT.  Budget, Authority, Need, Timing, and Trust. 

These questions should be strategically in order.  For instance, if they do not have the budget to afford your services, you really need to walk away early.  If they have the budget but the person in front of you is not the decision maker, then you need to find the correct person to talk to.  If they have the money and you have the right person but your product or service is not the right solution, then you need to find an opportunity where your product or service is a fit.  If they have the budget, you have the right person, your product or service is perfect, but they are looking to make a decision in preparation for next year, then the timing is not for now.  It’s not a “no”, it is just a “not yet” and hence you will have to find additional opportunities that will close sooner.  I think you get the picture and the “trust” part should be pretty clear.  If they have allowed you to ask all of the questions to find out the information you need up to this point, they probably trust you.  Of course, it helps to have a strong referral source and a credible reputation as well.

BANTT can  serve as a lighthouse for the probability of closing the sale.  If you assign a 20% figure to each of the letters in the acronym, you should have a pretty good idea of how qualified the opportunity really is.  An opportunity that has all of the BANTT identified should be at 100%. If they don’t trust you then you might be at 80% and so on. 

This can also serve as a great coaching tool for the sales manager or the person that is in charge of the sales people. If you have an opportunity that is supposed to close in 30 days but only has a 20% probability to close, you may want to ask a few questions about how qualified the opportunity really was to begin with.

Developing a full list of open-ended questions based on the budget the prospect has, the decision makers you need to talk to, the problem that you are looking to solve, and timing of their decision should be in your near future as well as using the probability rating scale. 

The goal is to focus on real opportunities with realistic solutions that you can provide and not to waste time on potential opportunities that are not in your wheelhouse, are obscure in details, or are not fully qualified

Gain commitment early as the second step
When you fully qualify an opportunity through proper questioning, there is always a moment when you realize that the particular opportunity would lead to a great partnership.  All of the parts are there. They have the Budget, you are dealing with the authority, you can fill the need as expected, they want to purchase within the next 90 days, and they trust you. There is an opportunity here to shorten the sales cycle by gaining commitment earlier in the sales process.

How did you leave your last sales conversation? Did the prospect tell you to send them something? Did they tell you that they would be in touch? Or, did you ask them if they would work with you if you spent time and resources on developing a solution that could meet their needs? If you are interested in shortening the sales cycle, why not close the sale earlier?

Try integrating these sales related questions into your sales conversation to gain commitment earlier:
  • When we show you how we will help you fix this situation, can we expect you to sign with us to move forward?
  • What do you need to see from us to gain your commitment?What else needs to happen for us to work with you?
  • When would you like us to come back to talk about integrating with you to on this?
Many sales opportunities are left uncommitted to by the buyer because you failed to ask for any kind of commitment even though you committed more time and energy to helping them.  How much time and resources did your sales team waste on the last sale they made because they failed to gain commitment early?

Identify clear next actions as the third step
When you do not fully qualify an opportunity through proper questioning, there is always a moment when you realize that the particular opportunity might lead to a great partnership but not of the parts are there. They might have the Budget, you might be dealing with the authority, you might be able to fill the need as expected, they might want to purchase within the next 90 days, and they might trust you.

So, how did you leave that sales conversation? Did they tell you to send them something? Did they tell you that they would be in touch? Did they tell you they would pass your information along? Or, did you ask them what else needs to happen or who else you might need to talk to keep this opportunity moving forward?

Try integrating these sales related questions into your sales conversation to identify a clear next action:
  • If we have shown you enough about how we might be able to help you, who else needs to see or talk to for this to work for you?
  • What else do you need to see and who else needs to see this us to work together?
  • If you are not comfortable with saying “yes” to this, who needs to see it to be able to do so?What is the next step with this?
Many sales opportunities are left uncommitted by the buyer because you failed to even ask for any kind of a next step.  Do you want the sale or do you want to leave that meeting feeling good about getting the meeting?

By following these three steps, the sales funnel can be your crystal ball if you want it to be. By focusing on real opportunities, gaining commitment early, and identifying clear next steps at every stage of the sales process, your sales funnel will be filled with higher quality opportunities with a shorter sales cycle and a higher closing rate.

You can request our FREE "Torque" Sales Funnel Tool to help you identify where you might need to get better with identifying opportunities and feel free to contact us to talk about how you can integrate these practices to drive your sales funnel and ultimately your pay check.

by Peter Rathmann on March 28th, 2015

In Part 2 ​of this blog, we provided an explanation of the second set of four of the business trends. Here is a further explanation of the third set of four business trends to be integrated into your marketing and sales efforts.

9.    Build Repeatable Processes
Why re-create the wheel?  Doesn’t that work alright?  Business development is all about volume and velocity.  We’ll talk about keeping it simple in point #11 but I will ask a simple question: What if you could predict results based on what information you have and what activities you executed regularly?  Too good to be true?

How efficient would your business development efforts be if you were able to on-board new customers without having to do things differently every single time?  I am talking about pricing, contracting, delivering, billing, and even resolving complaints.  Did you know that the average person in a business development role is only able to “sell” about 10% to 20% of the time because they take it upon themselves to do everything else because there are no processes in place?  What would your sales look like and what would everyone’s paycheck look like if your business development team could “sell” 60% of the time?
10.    Business Skills
Have you read the book “The Challenger Sale” by Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson? If not, you should (link).  The book identifies the successful traits and skills of the business development people that have been exceeding expectation since the latest “recession.”  Equip your business development team with the tools to understand business, not just the products and services you offer. Give your business development team the ability to understand how your customers make money. Stop talking about your product and service and start talking about how your product and service can impact your customer’s revenues, efficiencies, and profits and add value to their customers.  Help your business development team become advisors to their customers and your business relationship with your customers will evolve from a supplier to a trusted partner.

11.  KISS
In a previous post, we talked about the four “F” words you should be using when talking about your efforts.  Those words are: focus, fill, forward, and finish (link).  Whatever your efforts may be, they should be focused on the right activities that are designed on filling the funnel, moving opportunities forward, and finishing (closing) the opportunities that you have been cultivating….keep it simple stupid……that’s it! How much “new” business can you find and how fast can you on-board “new” business and use your sales funnel metrics to help you get better?
However, you need to be aware of opportunity costs your current marketing and sales structure and processes may be producing.  Beware of “non-selling” activities delegated to the personnel that are responsible for your business development efforts because they will cost you money. These non-selling activities will impede new business development and should to be reviewed and be delegated to appropriate support personnel. Ask your team about what is keeping them from spending more time in front of their prospects and take the excuses away.

12.    Accountability and Transparency
Sales is a team sport.  Is everyone rowing in the same direction for the successful growth of your company?  The actual activities that are associated with business development transcends just the marketing and sales department.  Everyone in your company has an impact on your prospective customers and your current customers.  What are the customer touch points? What are the roles and activities that are needed at each touch point?  What needs to happen by whom and when to be successful?

Once you get everyone on board, determine what the goals are, determine the metrics to be measured, determine who is responsible for the appropriate activities, and make the results public so everyone holds each other accountable.  One of my favorite tools is a “war board” that is visible to everyone.  This single tool has aligned more efforts and generated more results than any other tool I have seen.  I don’t care if you use chalk, dry-erase, spray paint, oil paints, or even permanent ink.  Just make sure you are using something visible to all for documenting progress.

Integrating these 12 business trends into your marketing and selling efforts will make a positive impact on your results in a short amount of time when committed to.  If you want to grow your business or even just your individual marketing and sales business development efforts, prioritize which of these 12 business trends could make an impact your marketing and sales efforts and make a plan to integrate them over the next 30-60-90 days. 

Feel free to contact us if you would like some guidance and there is some additional guidance available in our other blog post: ​Developing Your Execution Plan for Next Year