Chinedum Ucheoma is a technology sales expert currently focusing on using cloud technology to drive digital transformation and business growth. Based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, he spoke with PAUL ADUNWOKE on how to improve businesses in Nigeria and unlock the economy through sales.
What is the unique sales approach?
Sales processes are, in essence, a scientific endeavour. They are meticulously designed sequences that demand discipline and keen observation. When executed with precision and dedication, these processes yield tangible results. The foundation of a successful sales venture rests on the willingness to put in the work.
What is the universal nature of sales?
Contrary to popular belief, salesmanship is not a realm reserved for a select few; it’s an integral part of our lives. We are all constantly being sold to, whether we realise it or not. Even those who pride themselves on being “hard nuts to crack” will eventually succumb to the persuasive charm of a skilled salesperson. It’s the very essence of their craft to win us over, to make us believe in the product or service they offer.
This belief may fade, as buyer’s remorse sometimes sets in, leaving us questioning our purchases. “Why did I even buy this thing?” we might lament. Yet, this fleeting doubt doesn’t diminish the power of sales; it merely underscores its omnipresence in our lives.
How can one embrace the sales mindset?
The truth is that we are all participants in the grand symphony of sales, either as sellers or buyers. Therefore, it is essential to recognise that sales are not the exclusive domain of a select few; they are for everyone. We are all born with the ability to sell, and the only obstacle standing in our way is the limiting mindset that suggests otherwise.
Therefore, limiting mindsets and excuses that claim sales are too difficult for us to embark on should be cast aside. We all have the potential to become successful salespeople if we approach the process with the right mindset and determination. Sales, it turns out, is a universal skill waiting to be unlocked within each of us.
What are the steps in the sales process?
Now that we have laid the groundwork, let’s delve into the essential steps of the sales process. These steps are remarkably straightforward. For instance, prospecting.
This is the initial phase where potential customers are identified and nurtured. Prospecting represents the fiery passion and enthusiasm required to unearth new opportunities.
Prospecting is the foundation upon which successful sales are built. When thinking about prospecting, the salesperson should keep these two powerful sayings in mind. These include “prospect as though you are going to live forever” and the flip side, “close the sale as though today is your only last day to close the sale.”
But what exactly is prospecting, and why is it so vital? Prospecting is the process of identifying potential customers or the ideal individuals you are meant to sell to. Prospecting is an integral part of the broader marketing process.
To facilitate the prospecting process, a good salesperson considers these main approaches. Reach out to friends and family who might be interested in your product or service. Leverage your existing network to identify potential customers. Extend your reach to friends and family of those you already know.
Utilise platforms like LinkedIn to connect with potential clients. Target specific organisations or individuals who could benefit from your offering. Reach out to key decision-makers and stakeholders within the organisations you target.
For example, if you are selling human resources information technology (HR-IT) software, you can identify prospects by targeting every organisation as human resource function and needs exist across all industry types. By leveraging LinkedIn, you can extract valuable information and connect with key personas like the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the human resource manager (HRM), performance manager, training director, COO or CEO as they play pivotal roles as decision makers and will rely on such solution for operational effectiveness while driving efficiency and profitability.
Even if you are selling footwear, you can identify potential buyers in social settings like your places of worship or other social gatherings. The key is to be observant and recognise those who show a particular interest in your product from whom you can elicit such need. The process of determining your ideal customers, regardless of your product or service, falls under the umbrella of prospecting.
Prospecting is not a one-time task but an ongoing commitment. Prospecting should be carried out as if it were a never-ending endeavour. This mindset shift signifies the need to consistently reach out to potential customers, believing that each day brings new opportunities for sales.
Without a doubt, prospecting is the lifeblood of the sales process. If you fail to generate a sufficient pool of prospects, the subsequent stages of sales will falter. Here’s the mathematics of prospecting: if you aim to sell to one person, you should strive to engage with at least five or even 10, potential customers. It is a numbers game, and increasing your outreach increases your chances of success.
In practice, this means that if your goal is to secure a hundred customers for your app, project, product or service, you need to target at least a thousand potential clients. This ensures that you have an adequate pool from which to draw your hundred customers. In the best-case scenario, you may even surpass your target. However, if you aim for a hundred customers and only encounter 50 potential clients, no matter how hard you work, you can’t achieve more than 50 sales. It’s a mathematical equation, and the numbers are unequivocal.
To succeed in prospecting, you must be methodical and realistic in your approach. Set a target for the number of customers you want to reach and ensure you have a pool of prospects that is several times larger. By doing so, you maximise your chances of achieving your sales goals.
Moving on to the next critical phase in the sales process, we arrive at approach and contact. Often, this is where many individuals express reservations, citing timidity or an inability to engage with people. However, this step is of paramount importance and should not be underestimated. Once you have identified your potential customers, the next crucial task is to approach them and establish contact.
In today’s interconnected world, there are various methods to reach out to prospects. Email is a powerful tool that offers a convenient way to initiate contact. Crafting a well-thought-out email to introduce your solution is essential. Phone calls, messages via any of the social media platforms or request for meetings are all possible means of contact. However, regardless of the communication method you choose, a few fundamental principles remain consistent. The content of messaging should prompt a response from your prospect.
What should be the solution to overcome business challenges?
One cardinal rule is to understand the pain point of your potential customer and present your solution clearly. Imagine receiving an email about fantastic bootcamps for kids during school holidays when you don’t have children. The message is clear, but it targets the wrong person. This misalignment is akin to attempting to sell hair extensions to someone who prefers a low haircut or, in the tech context, pitching a tech solution to a user with a basic USSD phone instead of a smartphone.
In essence, your approach and contact strategy should revolve around identifying the pain your solution addresses and conveying your solution as a remedy. It is essential to ensure that your approach is subtle and not overly pushy, making it more appealing to your prospects.
Whether through email or in-person interaction, your contact should be tailored to the individual. You can approach potential customers within your community, social and business gatherings and online creating a potential personalised connection. Engage in conversation, express your interest in their needs and introduce your product or service as a potential solution. A simple word-of-mouth recommendation, an email or a broader broadcast message can all be effective if targeted correctly.
What is the unique way to present products?
As we delve into the presentation phase, please remember that presentation is an uncomplicated and straightforward aspect of the sales process. Anyone can present a solution with the right materials in hand. In many cases, someone else can create the presentation materials for you, and all you have to do is present.
However, the key take away from this phase is that during the presentation, less time should be dedicated to singing the praises of your product or your company’s achievements. Instead, it is recommended to spend more time asking questions. This inquiry-driven approach helps uncover the challenges your prospect faces and allows you to provide tailored solutions.
Take for example you are selling a time and attendance solution to a large business. Initially, you may describe the product, but to truly understand their needs, you must ask questions. For instance, inquiring about the number of employees in their head office, their use of computers and how they envision implementing the solution allows you to tailor your presentation effectively. This method of asking questions is a valuable tool that uncovers crucial information to guide your follow-up strategy.
What is the importance of follow-up in business?
The follow-up is a pivotal phase, often challenging and sometimes overlooked. Yet, it is the linchpin that determines whether you will successfully close the deal. During the follow-up, you use the personalised feedback gained from the questions asked during the presentation.
In a follow-up, you confirm and solidify the prospect’s interest and their readiness to move forward. If a prospect requests time to think and decide, ensure they specify a specific timeframe for the follow-up. This commitment helps in managing expectations.
For instance, if a prospect mentions they need two weeks for the board to make a decision, schedule a follow-up in exactly two weeks. When you make the follow-up call, politely remind them of the previous conversation and inquire about the decision-making process. This commitment to follow-up demonstrates your dedication and respect for the prospect’s time. It is important to enquire from your prospect what the decision-making criteria will be within these two weeks. This will help you further win should you ace these criteria.
What are the guiding principles in business?
There are many sales processes out there, one of which is budget. Does the prospect have the budget to make the purchase? This is a critical factor to consider. If a potential client cannot afford your product or service, it is very important to recognise this early in the process and make realistic judgments.
Another sales process is authority. Is the person you are dealing with authorised to make purchasing decisions? Understanding the decision-making structure within a company is vital. If the person you are speaking with lacks authority, you may need to connect with the right decision-maker.
Other sales process is need. Does the prospect have a genuine need for your solution known to them or uncovered by you? Ensuring that your product or service addresses a specific pain point or need is essential.
Another sales process is timeframe. What is the prospect’s timeline for making a decision or implementing a solution? Knowing the timeframe helps in managing your follow-up and aligning expectations.
The budget, authority, need and timeframe (BANT), framework provides a structured approach to qualifying prospects and gauging their readiness for purchase.
In the world of sales, referrals are golden opportunities. When a satisfied customer refers your product or service to others, it is a powerful endorsement of your offerings. Referrals are an organic way to expand your customer base and build trust. Nurturing referrals means encouraging your existing customers to become your brand advocates. You can incentivise referrals through loyalty programmes or discounts, recognising the role they play in your business’s growth. By tapping into the potential of referrals, you can extend your reach and leverage the positive experiences of your current customers to win over new ones.
How can one maintain customer relationships?
Once a sale is made, it’s not the end but the beginning of a relationship. Maintaining customer relationships is the lifeline of sales. It involves consistent communication, personalised support and an unwavering commitment to fulfilling the evolving needs of your customers. It’s not just about selling a product; it’s about building long-term connections. By keeping the lines of communication open, addressing concerns promptly and ensuring customer satisfaction, you create a loyal customer base that not only returns for repeat business but also becomes your most potent marketing tool. The success of a salesperson lies in their ability to maintain and nurture these vital relationships.