Continuing the posting about the tools that can be used to help you have a Successful Construction Business, this time we will talk about Sales. As we said initially, the overriding premise for these posts is strategizing, operating and monitoring a business that you want to last and grow. This post, as was the last, is about getting and retaining customers.
As it is in all facets of life and your business plans without goals or goals with plans are just well-intentioned daydreams and the results are the same without the motivation and actions to achieve those goals. Establish more elaborate, aggressive goals and achieve even greater heights. Goals without measurements is an extension of that daydream so, you need tools to record and monitor the outcomes against your goals and software is the way to do it.
As in the other chapters, one of the goals is to find the software that will assist in making the process easier, more accurate and less of a job. Hints or things to look for will be interspersed in the text so you will know the software when you see it.
The sales process is a combination of calls, visits and other communication. A Customer Relation Management (CRM) software capability will give you the power to handle the tasks of the process and also the measurement against your goals. Appointment schedule, letter writing, reporting and tracking are all part of the CRM.
Courses on goal setting exist but they generally discuss taking the pie-in-the-sky goal and breaking it down into its lowest level goal, i.e.: make x amount of calls every day because, If you don’t make your calls you won’t make any sales. If you stay disciplined to the numbers success will follow you. That being said, there are behaviors that will make the process more successful.
There are some basics that all the courses stress.
- Know your product
- Know your competition
- Know the unique characteristics of your audience
Be able to break the information down by as many specific characteristics. CRM software will assist in this process. e.g.; how you acquired the lead, their need timeframe, their budget, income category, type of work requested, personality traits, etc. This will give you the capability, as you progress through the process, of delineating your customer base so there is efficient use of your time.
The next group of concepts are generally recognized but discussed differently in each course. This is also the part that is most difficult to do on as a regular basis. Make sure your software allows you to keep all the notes you can and sorts them by date and time. All the components are used continually to open the door as well as for the rest of the process.
- Establish rapport
Throughout the sales process you will need to retain and re-establish rapport
- Use non-threatening and ‘safe topics’ for initial small talk. Talk about established shared experiences, the weather, how you travelled to where you are. Avoid talking too much about yourself and avoid asking direct questions about the other person.
- Listen to what the other person is saying and look for shared experiences or circumstances – this will give you more to talk about in the initial stages of communication
- Try to inject an element of humor. Laughing together creates harmony, make a joke about yourself or the situation/circumstances you are in but avoid making jokes about other people.
- Be conscious of your body language and other non-verbal signals you are sending. Try to maintain eye contact for approximately 60% of the time. Relax and lean slightly towards them to indicate listening, mirror their body-language if appropriate. Even if you are on the phone these can be heard in you approach.
- Show some empathy. Demonstrate that you can see the other person’s point of view. Remember rapport is all about finding similarities and ‘being on the same wavelength’ as somebody else – so being empathic will help to achieve this.Make sure that your software gives you the capability to, easily and quickly; record the traits that are necessary about each prospect so the notes are very visible while you are communicating with the prospect. This should allow you to select or write to them also as part of any specific group (subset).
- Get you customer’s pain – what is the decision really about?
Example: They are not able to afford a new house so they must make this one due even though they have run out of space. Therefore, their pain is affordability so, budget is important to acquire as soon as you can. Ask the questions that will sift through the “desires” to what they are really talking about and that is what they feel is missing or what is causing problems. At each stage of the sales process there will be pain that must be ferreted out and addressed.
- Ask open-ended questions
Open-ended questions are great for many reasons. The first is that it gets your customer to open up more–a simple yes or no answer won’t get you far. The second is that it helps to stop you from asking questions that will seem biased toward your hypothesis. When you speak to customers, you want to make sure they don’t know your opinion. This is one of the greatest mistakes sales people make when talking to customers. They interpret the interview as validation for their hypothesis, ignoring the real message. Make sure your questions are neutral and get your customer talking.
- Center in on body language
A lot can be discovered by analyzing someone’s body language. You just don’t get the same value when all you see is the responses on paper. To make the most out of these interviews, pay close attention to the movements your interviewee is making. Does the person’s body tense up? Can you see anger in the interviewee’s eyes? Always look for facial expression. On occasion, customers will try to hide the real problem because of insecurity. Or they might give shallow responses because they haven’t really taken time to reflect on the answer. To prevent this, look at the changes in their smile and eyes. You’ll notice that when their body language changes there is a shift in emotional response. This is the best way to tell if the information you’re getting is what you need. People say to find out if someone’s telling you the truth, look right into his or her eyes. It’s a powerful statement: Remember it when performing a customer interview.
- Notice a change in tone
The worst downfall of doing customer interviews through cold calling is that you can’t see body language. That means you have to focus on tone. When does the customer sound stressed? When you ask how the problem manifests itself, do you notice an increase in passion and anger? Another thing to look for: What happens when you ask about a solution to the person’s problem. Does the idea that a product could reduce that problem make his or her tone upbeat? Once a customer’s voice sounds mad or annoyed, you’ve found the pain point. If the person all a sudden switches to a happy tone when you talk about a solution, you are on your way to finding an awesome business model.
- The uncomfortable pause
When you first start using this technique, it’ll seem awkward. To get your customer to dive past the shallow explanations, try pausing four to five seconds after he or she has finished. Many times, the person will feel the awkwardness from the pause and continue speaking. While this may seem a little outside of the box, it does wonders for customers who seem to be giving you surface-level feedback. The more you get the client to talk, the further you’ll get into the meat and bones of the pain point. Be careful that you don’t overuse this. But when you think your customer is about to provide you with valuable information, this will help nudge him or her to go the extra mile.
- Ask open-ended questions
The results should also be very visible, in you software, while you are communicating with the prospec
- Get their budget
Getting the budget is critical so you know what you can do that fits within their budget and the customer is not surprised with the answer you give at any point. The customer’s fear that you will use the budget knowledge against them is the major hurdle though. Some sales people are known to charge more because the budget is higher or skimp because it is not. Only if you can identify their real goal and pain and position yourself as part of the solution will they give you the budget. If you are constantly checking the rapport and your understanding of the pain this will be easier. At the point where you know the customer is comfortable you might say “There are several options we can present depending on the budget you have in mind. Is there a budget I should be aware of?” Another option might be to do a preliminary ball park estimate on what was requested and present it with ”A ballpark on what you have requested is $—. Is that within your budget?”. You, now, have the opening to discuss the makeup of the materials and labor that will be required to accomplish their desires. You will need to address this step over and over as specific work definitions come up to make sure that the final product still fits the budget.
- Get an upfront contract
The customer must be prepared for each step of the process so there are no surprises and the flow is comfortable. As you progress through the sales process each successive step must be approached with the customer’s consent. Each Up-Front Contract should include five elements.
- The purpose of the meeting, contact or future action.
- The prospect/client’s agenda for the meeting and his or her expectations of you before and during the meeting.
- Your agenda for the meeting, and your expectations of the customer before and during the meeting.
- The date, location and duration of the meeting.
- The expected outcome of the meeting or interaction.
- Ask questions and answer questions – be an information gatherer and not a teacher
- You are not getting paid to teach at this point only to sell
- More time spent teaching means less time gathering the information and emotions from the customer
- Make sure you know all there is to know about their desires, concerns and fears
- Have all information that might be requested handy to answer their questions
- Provide information they request and slant it to solving their pain
All that we discussed in the interviewing process creates a need for record keeping and facilities for, easily, executing the supporting tasks like appointment setting, letter writing and measurement. You need software that will supply these in a manner that alleviates work. It must be designed to make its operation provide the right capability at the right time and, as you progress in your understanding of your needs, the software should contain ways of making the process even easier.
A CRM system that contains Automated Processes be very helpful at that stage and make many things easy and labor free. Picture having the software executing processes for you, automatically, like producing letters and envelopes or emailing to the right people at the right time, placing tasks on the your schedule and reporting on the results . This kind of facility can also send out letters automatically on birthdays, anniversaries and when the sale is closed making your process touch the customer to make them feel that you care. Production of what is known as a call-mail-call process that automates and integrates the letter production and the tasks on the schedule of the sales person can make the sales person much more efficient and the entire operation run better. Tracking reports that are integrated into that process, as well, will tell you where you are relative to your goals
Estimating is part of the sales process including production of the estimate and quote that you will hand to the prospect and, therefore, should be part of the software.
All customer and prospect information will be in one place and easily accessible. All the people associated with the process will be able to see what they need.