“One of my salespeople is personable, has great relationships with our clients and appears to be close to signing deals with several of them. But he can’t seem to bring many deals to completion. I’m reluctant to fire him, because I don’t want to throw away the relationships he’s built and the potential sales. Any advice on how to get him to close more deals?”
Les Faber, Faber & Associates
The first question that comes to mind is whether or not your salesperson has too good of a relationship with his clients. A sales manager always wants their salespeople to cultivate customer relationships. However, it’s very easy for the salesperson to become friends with their clients and lose the objectivity required to act on the company’s behalf. The next question is more straightforward. Has the salesperson actually asked the customer for the business? ‘Mr. Smith (or Bill since they have such a great relationship), you and I have had significant and positive conversations about our line of widgets. I think we both agree that you see the benefits of moving forward with the contract we discussed. I have the paperwork drawn up and ready for your signature. Is there anything stopping us from moving forward?’ Wow, what a mouthful! It’s surprising how many salespeople find this step the most difficult! It’s even more surprising how many clients are waiting for ‘the close’, but don’t get it. Many salespeople (especially younger ones) are intimidated by asking the ‘right’ questions. And those who have built up great personal relationships are often fearful of rejection from their customer (friend). So they simply delay ‘the close.
I’ll bet it’s because he’s afraid to ask his ‘friends’ those tough questions that will identify whether they feel enough of a need to buy what he has to offer. ‘Finding the pain’ that makes people buy (and buy now) can be an uncomfortable exercise, as can hearing the concerns the prospect has about the deal and then fully addressing each one. And, asking when they can get started on delivery of the product or service may make him feel like he may get shut out of the relationship he’s established, if they choose not to move forward with a business relationship. There’s a time to ask the serious questions, to know whether he should be investing further time and energy in pursuit of a business relationship, and it sounds like that’s not a natural strength. He needs to ‘flex’ his preferred style out of his comfort zone to risk the challenge he may encounter with tougher questions. And then he will close more deals.
Your rep is everybody’s friend but it seems he doesn’t ask for the sale. He needs to learn to close those deals by always and persistently asking for the sale — this should be easy if a rapport has been established. ABC: Always-Be-Closing.
Sounds like the salesperson in question has the panache or charisma to endear himself to his clients — a valuable characteristic to any firm, to be sure, and one worth nurturing. Teaming him up with another salesperson to close the nearly-done deals might serve well as a coaching exercise both ways. The other salesperson can learn the finer points of building and maintaining relationships with clients while the one in question can learn to close deals. Another incentive could be to dangle a bonus for each closing.
Paula Neill, Sandley Sales Institute
Building relationships with prospects is very important but can also impede the sales process. When a salesperson has a high need for approval they tend to take the ‘put off’s’ from the prospects. There is a fine line to having a buddy-buddy relationship. Don’t let it stop you from asking hard questions and getting commitment from your prospects to either buy from you or close the file. Your rep could try going back to these opportunities to review the reasons they wanted a solution (requalify) in the first place and then he will have to put it on the line. Tell the prospects that they either need to decide if this solution solves a problem for them and clearly define next steps or close the file. If the prospects are real, they will pull you back into the process. Remember to have them clearly define what is to happen next and when. Be sure that your rep is talking to the decision-maker, this is also an area that can slow the sales cycle down.
If your fear of letting him go is because you may lose these opportunities, you need to go on an appointment with him and start building rapport yourself or simply let him go and take your losses now.”
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