Stay with me on this. At this point in B2B sales, we're way beyond the old "the customer is always right" adage. Today, we have partners. As salespeople, we provide valuable services or products that will help our partners achieve XYZ. I have my set of parameters to determine whether or not this client will work for my company, and my potential client is deciding whether or not what I have fits with them. Yeah, it's a bit more complicated than that, but those are the basics. However, even though it seems pretty straightforward, this part is still challenging because that old school sales guy still lives somewhere in the back of my brain, is always saying, "We have to get these guys. No matter what it takes. So, ignore ALL of those red flags, focus on them liking you as a person, and let's close this thing!"
That may sound good and all but, here's the catch, when you let that guy sell for you, you're going to have poor client relationships. You'll either get the business, and it will blow up in your face, or, more likely, you will waste precious minutes/hours/days/weeks/months of your time chasing after this deal that will likely never happen. I've seen this so many times. If you look closely enough at those accounts in the pipeline, you will notice that they have been sitting there at 50% for who knows how long. "But, they're just waiting until XYZ!" Or, "Once XYZ happens, they're in!" That's what I always used to think, but the reality of the situation is that they're not going to do it.
So, to avoid those issues, here are three rules I try to keep in mind as I sit down to do my prospecting:
This is where inbound marketing comes in and is one of the best services we offer at Watermark. Inbound leads aren't just another stream of warm leads to back up your current prospecting initiatives. Inbound marketing does much more. You can set your automated campaigns up to get the exact information you need and let them decide if they're interested. Here's an example: When you write or distribute an educational blog on your industry, or maybe as a part of a Pay Per Click campaign, add 4 or 5 qualifying questions. These could be the company's size, company goals, history with using your service/product, etc. Route these answered questions along with who answered them right to your CRM. This is a form of "Gated Content," and it works. This way, when you do make that first call, the discovery goes much easier, and since you already know some of the answers, you look even more pro than you already are because they can see that you've done your homework!
When you're on that first call or in-person meeting, make sure to dig more deeply. If you find out that they love to fly fish, then chat about fly fishing for a bit, but don't spend the next hour comparing each other's favorite stretch of water around the world! Concentrate, stay on task and stay professional. Control the call and get the information you need. The truth is this professional demeanor and discipline is what builds a strong personal and professional relationship. Also, give the information they need to make the best possible decision on whether or not your companies should continue this process.
At Watermark, almost all of our active, long term clients started with a small, one-off project. Think of this as a paid audition. Maybe it's a small order of your product or a one-month term of your service. For us, it's usually a small update or change to a website, like creating a carbon copy of their current site but moving it from an outdated CMS to a new one. Either way, during this lower impact relationship, you get to know each other personally and professionally. Both parties can decide whether a long term commitment would be a good idea.
I want to be clear that "Palling Around" is not a bad thing. This is always a touchy subject because I don't want to give the impression that you should treat your clients like you're the assistant principal. But, be aware of your time and the potential of creating a less than professional relationship by forcing a sale. Plain and simple. I've found that the three rules above help me quite often. I would love to hear what works for you!