First of all, let me start this post by acknowledging how much of a dirty word ‘sales’ is. Most of us associate sales with sleazy, pushy suit-and-tie people trying to scam innocent customers of their money (think “snake oil salesman”, “Wolf of Wall Street” etc etc). But sales is, in fact, not a dirty thing. Sales is the number one most important element for your business and it’s development. Because at the end of the day, if you’re not making sales then you don’t have a business, full stop.
Making a choice to consciously focus on sales has been the biggest game-changer for us at Untapped Digital. When I first started the business, I saw sales as something I didn’t need to do – I was in a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality when it came to finding and securing clients. It’s true that at the start of launching a business you might have some buzz around it and be referred to new clients by friends, family and colleagues, but that buzz will only ever last so long. It’s vital to develop and refine your sales process so that you have a clear and consistent stream of new leads into your business – and you know how to convert and close them.
That’s exactly what we’ll run through in this blog. As I founded a social media agency, the sales process I’ll share is suited to B2B (business-to-business). We’re typically closing clients on high-value monthly retainer projects where they’ll be paying 4 figures per month and working with us for 6 months or more. If you run a B2C company (business-to-consumer) and you sell one-off, low-ticket items to customers (e.g. a £25 jumper) then your sales funnel will look a little different from this, but a lot of the principles of sales are applicable to both.
How to structure your sales process
To get started mastering sales for your business in 2021, define what your sales process looks like. Here’s a look at our prospect to client sales journey to help you think about yours (a ‘prospect’ being someone who’s never worked with us or perhaps even heard of us before; a ‘client’ being someone who’s signed a contract to work with us on a project).
At the awareness stage, we’re looking to get as many new people as possible to hear about what we do, otherwise known as filling the funnel with leads. You might do this by sending out cold emails to potential clients, running Facebook advertising to your ideal clients, guest starring on a podcast which shares the same audience you want to have, or speaking at conferences. Whatever methods you decide to try, constantly track which are working best for generating new leads and therefore where you should dedicate your time in the future.
Next in the funnel, we qualify our leads. For us, typically someone will email and say they’ve seen us online/at an event, they need help with their social media and they’d like to work together. We’ll chat via email and schedule a call to chat further (ideally a video call so we can connect better and screen share if needed). In advance of the call, we’ll do some online research about the company, using LinkedIn, Google and Companies House, to find out more about what they do, how many people are in the team, what their priorities are right now as a business, and anything else relevant for the conversation. More tips on how to run those calls coming later!
After our call, if there is scope to work together, we’ll send a proposal deck for the project. This will cover the brief that’s been discussed with us, ideas we have for meeting the brief, a timeline for the project and associated costs. Whilst we have the prospect on the phone in our first call, we will book in a follow up meeting to run through the proposal deck. Spoiler: if you end a sales call without doing this and just send your proposal via email with a soft “look forward to hearing from you” message, your email will go into inbox oblivion. Make sure you’ve got a clear follow up meeting in the diary and be prepared to chase and nudge the prospect to get back to you.
Lastly comes the time to answer any questions the prospect may have, handle any objections that crop up (e.g. “it seems too expensive for us”, “we might hire in-house instead rather than working with an agency”) and close the deal. At this stage you might negotiate a few of the details of the proposal, send across a contract and arrange for the project to begin. Do not count a deal as closed until the contract is signed – that is not money in your pocket yet.
Golden rules for running a sales call
Getting on a call with a potential client is the part of a sales process that most people I speak to find super scary. Here are some tips for making sure they run more smoothly for you in 2021 and get your sales process off to a great start.
1. Remember that everything in life is sales
If you have a business, you work in sales. Get your sales mindset right and realise that sales is a critical part of what you do, it’s nothing to shy away from. You’re providing a helpful service to your clients and the sales call is the first step to finding out if this project will be a good fit for you both. Think of it like a first date when starting a relationship, it’s a fact-finding exercise.
2. Listen more than you talk
Because the sales call is a fact-finding exercise, you should never be talking more than the prospect does. You need to be asking questions and then letting them be fully answered – they’re telling you all of the information you need to put a proposal together that perfectly solves their problem.
3. Use qualifying questions as guidance
I wouldn’t recommend having a script on your sales calls, because it totally takes the authenticity out of it and I don’t think it grows your confidence as a salesperson (you’ll just end up over-reliant on a script and not able to think on your feet). Instead, start out with a list of questions you want to ask a prospect in each of your calls and have that in front of you when you’re speaking to them. These could be things like asking about their current situation, what they’re looking to achieve from the project, and any other information you want to gain from speaking to them.
4. Don’t avoid talking about price
It’s a waste of time to not discuss budget and costs at this stage of the process, to make sure both you and the client are on the same page before you go further. If you don’t want to commit to a precise cost yet because you need to time to properly scope the project after the call, offer a price range by saying something like “for this kind of project, we’d typically charge between £3000 and £7000” or “we worked on a similar project recently and that client’s project cost was X cost for Y deliverables”. If you ask for a client’s budget and they tell you they don’t know or they need to see your costs first to find a budget, don’t accept that as a final answer. It’s not at all helpful for you to put a proposal together if you don’t have any idea of a budget. Plus, no matter what a client says about “not having thought of a budget”, everyone has a price in mind they’d gawk at and say no to. Get a price range and a rough idea of numbers from them, and use humour a little if it makes you feel more comfortable while talking about money. For example…
Client: “I don’t know our budget”
You: “Okay no problem. I’m keen to put together a proposal for you that completely suits what you need, so if you did know, what would the budget be?”
This one sounds like it’s a cheeky ask, but I’m always amazed how many people actually give a budget just by being asked a second time in this way.
Client: “We can find a budget, we want to know your costs first.”
You: “Totally understand. When you say you’ll find a budget, how much have you roughly allocated in your mind for this project – would you be finding £50, £5,000, £50,000?”
Listen to how the client reacts and respond accordingly – if they laugh off £50,000 but say their budget is somewhere in the region of £5,000, you can hone in on that with your reply to get confirmation of a number (e.g. “great, so if I sent a proposal across for a few of our service options at around £5,000 that would be what you’d like to see?”)
5. Ask for the close
Once you’ve come to the end of the sales call, ask for their thoughts on what you’ve presented and sense-check how committed they are to moving forward. to the project. Grant Cardone, known as the world’s number one sales trainer, recommends a very simple word track for this: “Do you need any more information in order to make a decision?”
Sales principles to remember
There is so much I wish I’d known about sales when I started Untapped four years ago, and a lot of mistakes I’ve made to learn what we know now. These are a few points to keep in mind that will save you a lot of time and struggle along the way.
Money is exchanged at the point where the client knows the value they’ll be getting exceeds the money they’ll be spending. Identify what it is that will bring the client value. Are they keen to impress their boss and bring big results? Are they dying to save time each month and free their team up for other projects? Know exactly what it is that the decision-maker (the person you’re speaking to who can sign off on the deal) desires from the project and shape your pitch around that.
Follow up, follow up, follow up. The sales process rarely runs exactly as you want it to and can take many more touch-points than expected. Don’t be afraid to follow up with your prospect and be creative about how you get in touch.
Be logical, not emotional. Nobody likes rejection. But if a prospect says no to you (or, more often than not, doesn’t reply) remember that this is not a personal affront to you. They’re not saying that you’re a bad person or you did a bad job, it’s just not a fit to work together right now. Focus on getting in touch with prospects at scale rather than getting emotionally caught up in any one deal.
Fill your pipeline. Your pipeline is the number of prospects you’ve got lined up to speak to or work with in the future. A full pipeline means you’ve always got new leads entering the business and bringing you revenue. An empty pipeline means you’re stressing as soon as a client project ends because there’s no other work lined up to replace it (Oversubscribed by Daniel Priestley is a very useful book to read if you want to get better at this).
Practice and role play. You won’t be good at a sales call the first time you try it. Your proposal won’t be perfect the first time you send one. These things only get better because of practice and learning from what you practice. When it comes to sales though, you might not want to practice when real-life money is on the line, so try role playing some sales calls with your team or someone you trust to give you honest feedback first.
Where to find me
About your author
Corrie is the Founder of Untappd, the social media agency for ambitious brands. Based in London and working globally, they create disruptive social media content and advertising campaigns for businesses on a mission to grow.
You can find out more about Corrie and her business here.
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