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Overcoming Sales Challenges (Part 2)

Sales Challenges are an inevitable part of the sale process. To gain control of sales challenges, you need to identify and tackle them early on.

This article is part two of a two-part series. For part one, read Overcoming Sales Challenges (Part 1) here.

If it weren’t challenging enough getting the client lead to begin with, you are now faced with any number of additional sales challenges during your sales process. The more you are aware of them upfront and address them as early as you can in the process, you will have more control over the situation than you would otherwise.

Scope and Schedule Creep

Many clients are so happy to finally be talking to someone of your caliber and expertise, the more you two talk, the more open they are with problems, issues or opportunities and the scope begins to expand. Part of your role is to help focus the discussions and assist the client in getting clarity and prioritization on what needs to be accomplished. Help them understand the flow of your process and that it is better to accomplish a few things than fail at a lot of things. Being challenged with this is likely one of the reasons the client contacted you in the first place.

One of my favorites is when a client calls with an immediate need and wants to know how quickly an executive can get started. Two months later, we are challenged with scheduling discussions, finalizing scope, significant delays in responsiveness or start date delays. Including the timeline information in your initial debate and recapping it in writing can serve as a basis for continual communication on the topic. For example, “In our first discussion, you mentioned wanting to have x,y,z in place by the beginning of Q1. It is November 1st, and it will take at least 8-10 weeks to accomplish this. Have your plans or priorities changes?” Often, it is a matter of going back to the initial intentions and asking the question.

Too Many Discussions and No Action

How many times have you met with a potential client and three meetings later you feel like you are no closer to moving forward with a SOW than you were at your first meeting? A number of the suggestions already mentioned can help avoid this. Use your intuition and common sense. You will quickly start to identify those clients who love to meet and have discussions with you but will likely never move forward with a contract. This is your business. You decide how much time you are willing to invest and why. You should stay in control and make this decision, not the client.

The Back & Forth

In general, there should not be a lot of back and forth since you have been formulating the SOW with the client during your conversations and recapped each in writing. In most cases, adjustments to the SOW will fall into two categories: Scope & Fees. We often see clients either request the scope to be more detailed, adjust the priorities or include a few more things that recently came up. Be sure to step back and read through it all carefully with each adjustment to ensure it is still consistent with the original intentions and that you can deliver.

Get The Information As Early As Possible

Three of the most important questions to get clarification on up front are budget, process, and timeline. Too often, these are left undiscussed until the end where too many surprises can arise creating sales challenges.

  1. Budget – Even though most of the time, your client won’t reveal (or know) their budget up front, always ask. Ask at each point of the process and in each conversation. If they don’t know it, ask how they will be determining it. Do your best to understand what their thought process is here and keep this as part of the conversation.
  2. Process – Most clients do not have a process in mind and appreciate talking it through with you since that is likely the first time they have thought about it. This includes who else they would like you to meet with, who are the decision makers and who are the influences (who will have input).
  3. Timeline – There is often a timeline, though not exact, they have an idea. Find out about any potential time delays in the process, i.e., Vacations or conferences that could delay getting meetings scheduled. If they are unable to answer with a general timeframe, ask “How soon do you want to get what we have discussed accomplished?” and work the timeline with them backward from there.

Keeping clear communication and don’t hesitate to ask the difficult questions which will put you further ahead in the process you would expect and overcomes any sales challenges along the way. Look at is building a partnership with the client, not a sales process.

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