As 2014 draws near, it's time to evaluate where new business will come from in the next year, and how you can avoid past mistakes.
November is coming to a close, which means every solution provider already should have gone through the sales and budgeting forecasting process for next year. This should include not just top-line revenue growth projections but also strategic decisions regarding areas where new business will come—through new accounts or new offerings—how much renewable business is realistic and what opportunities were missed this year that should not fall through the cracks next year.
Although new accounts and renewable business usually are the main focus, solution providers also need to make sure they don’t repeat past mistakes and leave money on the table. They should evaluate in detail why certain business didn’t come through or wasn’t maximized to the fullest extent.
Here are the top five mistakes many sales professionals make through the course of doing business that needs to be avoided:
1. Not Calling On The Right Decision Maker: Relationships are critical, especially in the technology industry. Business associates have many opportunities to spend a lot of time together and get to know each other at various industry events. However, is the person you are spending so much time with empowered to make business decisions, either for a specific department or across the entire organization? Are there other executives inside your customer base that have spending authority? Many sales professionals get too comfortable with the same contact and are fearful of asking to be introduced to other purse-string holders, shutting themselves out of potential opportunities companywide. Stop wasting your time and leverage the contacts you have to make more contacts.
2. Don’t Undervalue Your Services: Believe it or not, some sales professionals start believing they are working for their customers and not the actual company that pays them. They resist charging for the value being provided and instead out price projects based on cost. But solution providers are in the value business, and sales professionals working for solution providers need to be able to communicate the competitive advantage and efficiencies their services provide. Once a customer knows your costs and is conditioned to paying a certain amount for a certain service, upselling can be tough. Don’t cannibalize your own business. There is always room for negation, but think big from the start.
3. Don’t Overpromise: In most cases, potential buyers don't think like children. They are probably not going to get wowed at the products and services you are offering at "Crazy Eddy" prices. They are businesspeople and have been around the block a few times. They probably have already spoken to a handful of your competitors and have a pretty good idea of what they want and at about what price. Promising the world will send off alarm bells. Don’t guarantee something that you know cannot be achieved. It doesn’t end up in closed business and if it does, it will likely fail.
4. Not Knowing Your Customer’s Objectives: Equally as important as knowing your products and services is knowing your customer’s objectives. This is a business partnership you are entering into, not a line of sale. Do your research and know your customer’s industry, position and challenges. The more you know about their business, the better you can customize a program to meet their needs. Be a good listener—instead of going in there hell-bent on selling a particular item, approach your initial dialogue as an exchange of ideas. Only by having a discovery conversation can you really get to understand your customer’s objectives. There is no excuse trying to sell products and services your customers don’t need. Do your homework and don’t be sloppy. Your customers will appreciate the effort.
5. Not Asking for the Business: Probably the biggest culprit to losing a sale is actually not asking for the sale to begin with. After the discovery meeting, put together a comprehensive proposal and ask for their business—close the deal. So many sales professionals spend a lot of time and effort meeting with potential customers but don’t ask them for any money at the end. It’s baffling. They say either the mood wasn’t right or the conversation didn’t go as planned. That’s garbage—If potential customers meet with you they are expecting at some point to be sold. So sell. The days of insertion orders coming through the fax machine unsolicited are long gone.
Solution providers, much like any other professionals, will face some challenges in 2014. With the economy still sputtering and businesses still unsure how the new healthcare law will affect them, spending is bound to be tight. The good news is, most IT surveys show a continued increase in spending next year—specifically around cloud computing, managed services, mobile integration and security. But no sale is easy.