So you have the buyer wanting your product and you have made his decision as risk free as possible. You have worked through what needs to happen to close the deal and by now you have a good feeling that the deal is going to happen because your buyer is actively trying to make it happen as well as you. But you still need to cross the line and there is a lot of work left to do. There are too many variables to give exact specifics on precisely what to do to close the deal, but there are common scenarios we can take a look at.
It took me a long time to truly understand the role that risk plays across the sales process. For many years I had considered how risk played a role in the decisions I was making. I worked hard to ensure I was investing the appropriate level of effort in deals. I had seen numerous otherwise talented sales people ruin entire quarters because of investing too much time and too many company resources in a deal that just didn’t have enough upside. They usually did this because they had some emotional investment in the deal and wanted to ‘see it through’, unwilling to let go of a losing stock.
Wherever you are in your sales process, you will need to present or pitch your solution to an audience. Earlier on in the sales process your job is to get the relevant people interested enough to get a decision to move forward. Early on that decision might be ‘yes, I’m interested, let’s set up some time for a deeper discussion’. Towards the end of the process you want that decision to be ‘I’m all in, send me the contract’. Each pitch you deliver will vary based on your audience but the further along you are the more involved it needs to be. You need to build up to your big pitch that gets the buyer to want what you have.
So you have found your prospective buyer and got a bite after some initial outreach. Before you do anything, take a step back, breathe and consult where you are in the selling framework.
A common mistake I made, even after some time running multimillion-dollar sales, was getting too excited as soon as a buyer showed any interest. As I’ve stated several times now, this only achieves two outcomes:
1. Makes you seem needy: which kills deals
2. Forces the buyer out of his or her buying pattern: which kills deals
You have a defined selling framework with known transition points for a reason and you know how to finely tune yourself to the state of mind of the buyer by now, so make sure you stick with it.
Once you know whom you are going to try to reach, you need to decide how to actually do it. You need to get in touch with someone and get him or her to display an interest in what you have to say.
This can be the most challenging part of the sales process – and potentially the most rewarding. After all your hard work through the previous parts of the cycle, you should now know who it is you want to reach, why you want to reach them and very roughly what it is you want to sell to them – and why. So you actually need to do it. But how do you ‘do’ it?
Your next job is to determine precisely where you can have the biggest impact and where the maximum return on investment will be for you, your product and your business. Remember your time and effort is as much an investment as any financial input. Break this down into the following sections:
1. Prospect list (with sub-sectors if possible)
- Revenue potential
- Appropriate timing
- Cultural/Business/Strategic fit
The combination of these will help prioritise prospects, enabling you to truly focus on the buyers that are going to be most receptive, have active challenges and can generate the most revenue for you.
Before you sell, you need to decide to whom you are selling, what are you going to sell them and why they should listen to you. This is actually a tougher job than it sounds and some companies have teams or individuals dedicated to this role entirely. The nature of your product and business strengths tend to determine the type of company (enterprise, channel or small- to medium-sized enterprises, also known as SMEs, for example) and the industry or sector (FMCG, High-Tech, Travel etc.), what you need to do is determine the specific companies you will target and how you will target them. This is no easy task but doing it well makes your job an awful lot more straightforward later on. As a counterpoint, doing it poorly can mean you burn an incredible amount of time and money trying to catch up later.
I eventually, after many years of work, determined that in order to sell successfully, I needed a framework within which to plan and execute my sales. There are two elements to this. The first is the buyer and what she does. The other is the seller and what he does. Misunderstanding either element will result in deals taking longer to close than they should, deals not closing at all or deals closing for a much lower value than they should be worth.
The term ‘putting the customer first’ is one of retail’s clichés. While it’s quite likely that you think of yourself as being customer-focused, does your company structure support that? Is the mindset of the business all about what you want to say and do? Do you dictate how customers shop with you by not providing them with the tools to shop in the way they want?
Serving your own needs ahead of the customer’s means that they are having put in the work to get what they want out of the shopping experience. But with so many options around how and where to shop available to them, increasingly they can just go elsewhere if you can’t provide them with what they need.
Now savvy retailers are shifting their thinking in order to move away from this pushy approach and start pulling customers in. By removing the bad or boring parts of the shopping experience they are making the customer’s life better. These retailers understand that they may not get something back for every single thing they do, but by making the customer happy they will both benefit in the long run.
Here are some ways that you can make sure your mindset is truly customer-first:
1. Create a dialogue with your customers
Often retail marketing can seem like a one-sided conversation. Your advertising pushes your messaging onto anyone and everyone indiscriminately, but your brand doesn’t mean one thing to all people. In fact increasingly you can’t even control the way customers see your brand, no matter how hard you try, as highlighted by Scott Cook, Co-founder of Intuit: “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.”
Your customers are looking to you to solve their problems or answer their needs, not just to be sold to. You should be listening to them as much as you are talking at them. With so many channels of communication available to you – social media, websites, emails, face-to-face and more, you have the opportunity to invite them into your world where you can show them the value you can bring to their lives.
2. Remove obstacles
Even today there are still a number of moments within the shopping journey that offer no value to customers. These include queuing, waiting for payments to go through, finding out an item is out of stock in store, or needing to tell the retailer what they looked at online last night. None of these things benefit the customer and there’s no reason why they should still exist today.
By removing as many of these moments as possible retailers can make things better for the customer. You should also remain as flexible as possible to be able to respond to changes in customer expectations in the future.
This culture of flexibility should extend right through your business, so that you can put new ideas into practice and experiment. Changes shouldn’t only be made through large, expensive programmes delivered every few years. Often customer improvements come through smaller actions such as deploying staff more effectively, using existing investments and tech in new ways and introducing new services. Having a mindset that embraces change means you can make cost-effective improvements whenever the opportunity arises.
3. Be open to external input
The pace of development in technology is one thing. The public’s uptake of it is another. Smartphones are now commonplace and your customers are already familiar with how mobile can be used to provide great service and experiences.
If you’re a retail business, rather than a tech one, then it can be hard to stay on top of new developments or to plan ahead for them in your strategy. This is where pulling in ideas from outside the business can help you to innovate more quickly, whether its access to experts you wouldn’t have otherwise, teaming up with start-ups or tech companies, or even calling on your customers and staff to help with new ideas for products and services.
By not getting stuck in a mindset that is closed off to outside influences you can ensure you’re always making use of the best expertise and solutions. External collaborators can also be a more cost effective way to stay ahead of the curve.
It’s never been more important to bring your customers and partners close to you. The good news is that a change in mindset costs nothing, but could be just what you need.
By Cate Trotter, Founder and Head of Trends at Insider Trends, a leading London-based retail futures agency that helps global brands create world-leading and profitable retail spaces. It does this by clarifying what’s coming next in the world of retail, and what clients can do to get ahead of their competitors.
Boosting economic growth with behavioural insights
The first story we look at is from the UK’s behavioural insight team, commonly known as the “nudge unit.” In it, David Halpern talks about how behavioural economics has not had a huge impact on economic policy, however, that could be about to change. He mentions that economic policy, at least in the macro-sense, still holds on to the view that humans are rational utility maximisers. However, the UK’s new Industrial Strategy seems to demonstrate a shift in thinking, with the idea being that markets are actually filled with “behaviour based failures”. If governments can help to prevent some of those behaviour based failures then growth rates may see a boost (and may be more evenly spread). But how?
There is a focus on four potential areas where governments may be able to provide some help:
What is most interesting to me about this story is the seriousness with which governments (in this case the UK government) are taking the application of behavioural science to their wider industrial strategy. Should businesses do the same? I think so.
Using behaviour to help nudge consumers towards smarter, more environmentally-friendly food choices
Kristof Rubens discusses how, despite the best intentions of Flemish citizens, there is often a gap between desired environmentally friendly behaviour and reality (“the intention-behavior gap”). In this article, an experiment at Colruyt supermarkets studies if some of the guiding principles of behavioural science can nudge people in the right direction in terms of their buying habits. Three experiments were put in place:
These experiments clearly underline how relatively straightforward experiments can provide meaningful results.
We should also remember that unconscious behaviour impacts those looking at unconscious behaviour
In our third article, Helen Edwards looks at how marketers need to be aware of how their own behaviour can be irrational, not just the customers they are targeting. She discusses five principles of behavioural economics and how marketers maybe aren’t quite as logical as they think they are. Examples include:
Tennis and risk aversion
With Federer’s epic victory in the Australian Open still fresh, Bri Williams provided an interesting connection between behaviour on the court and customer behaviour. As humans have a tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains, tennis-playing humans tend to hit their second-serve much more conservatively. The link with customer behaviour is that minimising perceived risk can be hugely helpful if you are looking to drive certain types of behaviour.
The idea discussed is that you should break down the potential risks your customer might face into four categories:
Ways to help make your office a little greener
And finally, we take a look at this article on making your business greener by changing social norms, via Will Hanmer-Lloyd from Total Media. As the article begins, “71 per cent of UK citizens are “very or fairly concerned” about climate change, while nearly the same percentage believe that climate change poses a high level of risk to people’s health and wellbeing.” As with Flemish citizens earlier however, action rarely matches the concern, particularly around something as large as “global warming”, where any single action can feel like a drop in the ocean, and the impact is probably some way off into the future.
Will goes on to talk about three techniques that can be implemented in your office that make it easier to nudge people in the right direction. I’ll touch on two of them. The first one I found particularly interesting: rename the “bin” to “landfill” - reminding people of what actually happens when it gets taken away.
The second reminds us that we are usually more conscious of what those around us are doing (we are attuned to social norms), so focusing any messaging towards what other people are doing with regards to reducing their carbon footprint are likely to be more effective than high-level environmental benefits.
When communicating a message, internally or externally, to clients or to investors and partners, be aware of the power of social norms to motivate action.
That wraps it up for January, my thanks to the authors of all five articles! If you have any questions on the topics raised or want to discuss how the principles may be applied across your business, connect directly and let’s chat.