updated - January 23, 2020 Thursday EST
"Nothing happens until something gets sold." This statement, posted on the Web site of Sales Engine, is something any small business plan should adhere to.
Indeed, sales is "where the rubber meets the road," said Craig Wortmann, CEO of Sales Engine and Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Chicago Booth School of Business.
Wortmann spoke to IBTimes about his template for making small business sales.
What is missing in most small business plans is an adequate answer to the questions "who are you?" or "what do you do?" said Wortmann. (Small businesses with no established name are often asked these questions.)
Most salespeople respond with either an ultra-short answer (e.g. "I run a consulting firm") or drone on for 20 minutes about every aspect of their businesses.
The correct response, however, should be a one sentence statement that captures the core of what the small business does.
For Wortmann on his company Sales Engine, that sentence is "I run a company called Sales Engine; what we do is help firms build and tune their sales engine."
This statement should be used in any introductory setting, whether it is in-person at a conference or on the phone in a cold call.
A salesperson should also have a second, expanded statement in mind that is ready to be used in a follow-up.
For Wortmann on Sales Engine, it is "we look at the sales process companies use, the tools they use to support the sales team and the knowledge, skills and discipline of the sales team itself."
In between the first "sales trailer" statement and the second statement, Wortmann, interestingly, recommends a "long, awkward" pause.
He said they let a potential client into the conversation, which is important because the sales process is ultimately more about the needs and problems of the potential client, not the salesperson.
Wortmann also thinks pauses demonstrate confidence.
A person who is willing to take the pauses will seem "unafraid of letting the other person in with their challenges and questions," he said.
As the conversation continues, a small business salesperson needs to qualify the person he is speaking with as a potential buying customer.
Three questions that need to be answered are authority (are they the decision maker?), budget (can they afford the product?) and timeline (will they be interested in the product sometime in the near future?).
If the answer is no to any of these questions, a small business salesperson should not waste his time with this person.
Wortmann went so far to say that a salesperson should never leave a first meeting without these questions answered.
As talks deepen, objections will almost always come up.
One of the most common objections is regarding budget, said Wortmann. That is, the potential client would say he cannot afford the project (e.g. "I don't have $30,000 left in my budget").
A common mistake a small business salesperson makes in response is immediately rejecting the objection (e.g. "but $30,000 isn't that much money considering your revenues").
Instead, what they should do is ease into the objection (e.g. "I completely understand. So under what circumstances would you spend $30,000 on a project?").
Then, once the objection is understood, the salesperson would respond (e.g. "is this project possibly more important than another project you currently plan to spend more than $30,000 on?").
If the potential client accepts the response, then the small business salesperson would likely have overcome the objection.
In most sales processes, a potential client will likely have multiple objections that must be overcome before he closes.
Wortmann does not believe in closing tactics like the "hard close" or "puppy dog close."
He believes the only way to properly close is a natural progression after a sales process is done right.
That is, once a potential client understands the service or product and has no remaining objections, he would naturally close.
When that time comes, Wortmann uses a simple, direct line like "is it time to move forward?"
"I've closed multi-million dollar deals this way. This is the only way to close sales, in my opinion, and I love helping businesses achieve it with their own sales engine," he said.
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