In today's high tech selling market, the key for most IT and professional services salespeople is not just finding prospects to talk with, but also finding prospects that will buy. George S. Patton once said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking." So, assuming that a prospect is in a buying cycle because they will talk with you is an incorrect assumption on your part. To sell more IT and services, as salespeople we need to value our time more than the prospect does.
Let's be honest - prospects will waste your time!
IT prospects do not get paid a commission on how many vendors they meet with. Yet, you as an IT salesperson are only paid a fraction of your total income as a salary. Your goal is to double, triple or quadruple your base salary based on your commissions. That means every time you meet with a non-buying prospect, you are wasting your time and reducing your opportunity to increase your income.
You Are on a Time Clock Called............a Sales Quota!
Have you ever noticed how your IT selling cycle is always shorter than your prospects' buying cycle?
The goal is not to meet qualified prospects - the goal is to meet qualified buyers. Just because a prospect has the budget and the need does not mean they are a buyer.
Selling Is Not a Numbers Game!
This is a sales myth perpetuated by antiquated generic sales training books and training seminars from the 90's. The philosophy is that if you meet with enough prospects, they will become buyers. This makes no sense when selling IT. Technology or professional services sales is a complex, integrated transactional selling process that takes multiple steps to complete.
Believing the above sales myth some IT account managers assume that meeting with a designated department head who has funding means that they are meeting with a qualified buyer.
This Is Totally False.
Qualified prospects are really unqualified buyers until they do something that demonstrates to you that they are prepared to buy now.
In IT Sales, We Only Want to Meet with Qualified Buyers!
The key to increasing IT sales is to only work with qualified buyers and to postpone all interactions with qualified prospects until they become qualified buyers.
So, let's define the four types of IT sales opportunities that are available to you and then find out how to interact with them.
1. Unqualified Prospects: Any company who has a business need for your technology or professional service where you are interacting with a manager with a title lower than a Vice President.
Many IT salespeople focus on IT sales opportunities in this category based on their dealings with prospects who have the title of manager or director. These are professional lookers who will waste your time. They should be by-passed for senior management.
Action Step: Avoid Them!
2. Prospects: Any company who has a business need for your technology or professional service where you are interacting with a manager with a title of Vice President or above.
These are business opportunities with identified companies where you meet with Vice Presidents and above, and where they can use your technology or professional services. You should spend minimal time with them until they say they have a budget and a timeline.
Action Step: Avoid Them!
3. Qualified Prospects: Any company who has a business need for your technology or professional service where you are interacting with a manager with a title of Vice President or above, and who has a stated a public budget to pay for it.
Many times this foreshadows the accuracy of the IT sales team's forecast, so this category of IT sales opportunities must be managed. Most IT salespeople spend too much time with this targeted sales opportunity, believing that they are making forward momentum in their sales cycle by just meeting with qualified prospects. Prospects who are qualified but are not buying today are wasting your valuable sales time.
Action Step: If you cannot get the qualified prospect to show you an action-buying step, move on and come back to them later!
4. Qualified Buyers: Any company who has a business need for your technology or professional service where you are interacting with a manager with a title of Vice President or above, who has a stated public budget, and who has shown buying actions.
This is the IT sales opportunity you need to spend most of your selling time on. Qualified buyers use action steps to confirm their qualification and move your sales cycle forward. Action steps like having you meet with other executives to discuss their business pains, setting up demos and executive briefings, and asking for proposals are indications of a senior executive seeking to buy.
Action Step: Focus on these accounts and you will sell more.
So, How Do You Determine If a Qualified Prospect Can Become a Qualified Buyer?
Give the senior executive you meet with the first time in person or in a scheduled conference call the 20 Minute Sales Test. I have used this method over and over again, throughout my own IT sales career and with the students and technology firms we teach.
When meeting with a Qualified Prospect, you need to get a commitment of at least four out of the five of the following points to turn them into a Qualified Buyer candidate. Additionally, they must respond to these business variables within the first twenty minutes of your meeting.
This only works with VP's and above.
1. Are they looking to buy your type of technology or professional services during the next 120 days?
2. Do they have a budget with dollars assigned?
3. Does the person who is making the decision for the IT purchase have a title of Vice President or above?
4. Does the executive tell you exactly the business pain that your technology or service will fix and how it will help their firm?
5. Does the executive ask you to do something next (i.e., take an action, set up a new meeting, etc.)
• Why twenty minutes?
• Why do they have to describe their business pain to buy my IT?
• Why should I not consider them a Qualified Buyer if they are buying in 180 days or longer?
• Why can't I just convince them they have a business pain so they will buy from me?
The key to effectively selling more IT and professional services today is managing your prospects that are buying now, not buying six months from now or next year.
Yes, many IT sales cycles are six months or longer. Selling IT is a changing sales cycle where prospects move up and down on the IT sales opportunity pyramid.
Also, it is always possible to educate a prospect on why they should buy your IT product or service, but in this economy, that could take longer than your sales quota will allow. To sell more, run with those who want to buy and walk from those who want to look.
If a Qualified Prospect is a Qualified Buyer then they will quickly tell you in your first meeting why they need to buy your IT product or service and what business pain it will fix.
If after twenty minutes these questions have not been answered, more than likely the client's business pain is not strong enough for them take an action step and to move your sales cycle forward.
At this point (after twenty minutes), thank them, leave the meeting and move them to a passive marketing follow-up position.
You can always hang on to this account (and many IT sales reps will) and hope that they will buy soon…. but more than likely their buying cycle is longer than your selling cycle.
Remember, you have an annual sales quota that is reviewed monthly. To sell more.........sell only to buyers!
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