How to boost your sales in a short period of time?
Any potential opportunity starts with qualification aka the art of figuring out if you have a real potential customer in front of you. I see many forecasts filled with a lot of promises but when you dig deeper they become quickly very subjective and that is exactly what you want to change. You need to have a methodology so that everybody in your company speaks the same language when converting a lead to an opportunity. Once you have objectivized this you can control the parameters, add scale and speed to your sales. In essence: try, measure, copy what works and do a lot more of it.
Use the BANT Criteria
BANT is a qualifying matrix methodology. The BANT letters stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline
When you have leads that come in either via Inbound (generated via the website, google AdWords…) or via Outbound (you have met the company) you will use the BANT criteria to decide if they are a real opportunity that you will add to your pipeline. The moment you have met these criteria you will move the potential opportunity from a lead to an opportunity in your pipeline and add an amount to it. This transition is a very important learning point to draw further conclusions:
- You figure out which leads actually work & matter (aka from now one you talk to more of these type of customers)
- You have the start of a real pipeline on which you can build a proper pipeline (and get rid of the hope factor)
Let’s walk through the qualifying steps:
What is the company’s budget for your type of product or services? It makes no sense to sell a 50k product to a company that has only 5k to spend. Most sales have issues asking this question and it is the most important one. So either you are afraid of the confrontation OR you face the discussion upfront and ask the budget question. If you don’t you’ll walk out feeling all happy as you had a good conversation but you wasted your time and will have no business.
My advice would be to ask the question near the end of the conversation but in a generic way: ‘what would your budget be for such services?’ or ‘is this budgeted in this fiscal year? If so, for how much’. They will try to avoid the question or bounce back and ask how much your product cost and if you can give a ball park price. Forget all these sales theories that you should never mention price as it just does not make sense. Think how you would buy a car, ignoring the emotional part, you first check what fits your budget before you dig in more detail of a brand. So there is no problem with giving a high level budget.
TIP 1: Be proud when you have to mention the price of your product. I have seen so many sales being afraid of saying it, mumbling almost, avoiding eye contact or stating immediately: ‘BUT we can discount’. Typically, these are the more technical oriented people that have this behavior. So let me be very clear: be proud of the amount, you know more than the average customer in front of you and in order to get your great product with great value to the customer there is a price to pay. If you hesitate a customer will sense it and will go for a discount. So be proud, look into their eyes and be sure of your price (even if you are not sure yet – don’t forget you are the expert). A lot more in a next blogpost.
Are you talking to the decision maker, the person with authority? Or are you talking to somebody that influences that person? Most people will always say they have the authority but actually they have no decision power. Let’s say that most people want to feel important. Just make sure you let them feel that way so you can use this to your advantage.
TIP 2: Most of the time the person in front of you is not the decision maker. He needs to go this manager to get the budget approved so in essence he will be selling for you. So have this in mind = make it easy for him to explain, to sell, to present your product. Ask them if you can help with this, with ROI calculations or with presentations…make him your ally. Ask when the meeting with his manager takes place, how can you help, what is needed to get this decision through… if this person allows you in his circle of trust, make sure you deliver and follow up properly.
Does the company really need your product or is it a nice to have? What is the impact of your product on their business? You only have 2 options here:
- You cut cost (Bottom line)
- You add revenue (Top line)
And you need to know how much this would be as that is your value pitch. If it is a nice to have you will never have a way of putting pressure on them in your sales process. Need is the one thing that can cut corners of your sales cycle. A classic example of a nice to have would be the following: Company X just invested a lot in a CRM and your offering is an extra module for CRM systems. Company X will not buy your product as they already have spent their entire budget on the CRM and they are in roll-out phase. So in this case you need to talk to them in 1 year when they will have budget again to optimise their CRM.
My favorite question to ask to see if an enterprise sales rep knows his customer is: ‘what is the end of the fiscal year of your customer X’. Not many sales know this and yet it is a very important question as this drives most budget questions. In essence budgets for next year are fixed mostly 3 to 4 months before of the end of their fiscal year. Knowing this timing is very important to either be within the budget for next year or to know if there is budget left this year. Small companies will need less time for this preparation as there are less stakeholders. Timeline is key for a well build pipeline and you can put pressure by asking when they want to be in production.
TIP 3: Ask your customer when they want to have your product or service fully installed/implemented. For example: customer X states that in 2 months they want it in production. You then ask: ‘how long does your procurement cycle take’ they will give you an answer ex. 3 weeks. Then you say:’ I need 3 weeks to implement, test and train your people before going live. Conclusion: 2 months to go production – 3 weeks of procurement – 3 weeks of implementation = around 2 weeks to decide’. This way you can push a sense of urgency and put realism around timing.
BANT is a common way of qualifying and an easy one to use on a daily basis. Over time you need to figure out which is the most important component of your discovery process and tune it to your sales process.
An alternative is GPCT used by Hubspot. Their most important component was Need so they tuned their qualifying criteria based on this:
Goal : the business goals around which the prospect’s company is rallying
Plan: The business plan to achieve the goal
Challenges: the challenges associated with implementing the buyer’s plan
Timeline: the date by which the prospective buyer needs to achieve their goal
With any prospect start asking the BANT question. It will not only give you good quality sales information but you will also be perceived as a professional and a trusted partner. I am confident this will boost your sales in a short period of time. Next step is how do you build and measure your pipeline once you have done a proper qualification. That is for our next blog.
More on Bant: click here.
A deep dive into Bant and several other methods: click here.