Most companies know what they sell, because the cash register receipts tell them. What they don't know is what they miss or turned away, too often because of unexceptional performance by members of the sales team. The numbers can be huge.
Imagine that one of your sales reps rarely makes the effort to solve problems for potential customers who call and never tries to get them into the store. Now imagine the message that sends to the rest of your team. It's clear that the success of your business depends on high-level performance from every member of your sales team. Are you leaving money on the table because the calls that are not handled properly are slipping through the cracks?
Identifying second-rate performance can be difficult; often missed sales opportunities are lost among other calls. Savvy business leaders recognize “improved sales conversations” as the number-one thing they can do to increase results. A study published earlier this year by a leading technology and services company ranked sales conversations above improvements in technology, sales process training, and presentations.
So what makes a great sales conversation? It begins with understanding the historical nature of communication and how it affects individuals and communities. Sales professionals must learn to listen carefully for subtle cues about how an individual expects to be treated during a negotiation, and what will prompt him or her to make a decision, either to do business with you or walk away. Interaction with a customer can be affected by things over which the sales professional has no control, including the customer's previous interactions with sales people. Learning as much as possible about a customer can help avoid a misunderstanding that could easily lead to a missed opportunity. Effective communication allows you to serve as an “expert-in-your-industry” on whom the customer comes to depend. But you can't gain a customer's trust until you demonstrate that you're a problem solver. And nothing matters if you don't first connect – rationally and physically – with the customer.
Sadly, we have found that a concerning number of incoming telephone calls in some sales organizations go unanswered (either the call is never picked up, the caller is put on hold and forgotten, or the call goes to voicemail and the caller hangs up). Worse though is that even more opportunities are missed when the individual who does answer fails to either make a commitment to the potential customer or never attempts to elicit a commitment. Each one of these fails leaves money on the table!
Having tools to measure performance, catch missed opportunities, and recover lost sales can mean the difference between success and failure. It all starts with the ability to benchmark performance. Not knowing the sales opportunities you've missed is like playing baseball without batting averages. When you have a firm understanding of what's being said to your customers, what's not being said, and how it undermines sales opportunities, then your business benefits in a significant and profound way.