How to focus your sales team’s effort and what lessons we can learn from a typically B2C environment in terms of helping us improve our chances of hitting our true targets.
Yes, it should be Ready, Aim, Fire but sales people are always keen for “fresh meat” in the form of a new proposition or new prospects or both. So, the arrival of something new is a time of excitement and expectation which often leads to over eager behaviour. “Let’s get out there and sell it” will be their battle cry.
While I applaud the enthusiasm, there is a danger that all the hard work done during the product or service design stage could in part be wasted unless the same care and diligence is applied to the selling activities.
At some point the proposition must move out of the “laboratory” into the hands of those who must; engage prospects, turn them into customers, and actually sell them something. This implementation of the go-to-market strategy and tactics is typically the responsibility of the sales force, channel partners, re-sellers, agents, etc.
However, if those sales people rush out, ill prepared, “knocking on doors”, whipping up interest in the functions and features of the new offering it is likely that although prospects will show some interest, in some cases out of pure politeness, they will not go on to make a purchase. The reason is simple; good selling involves uncovering needs and wants and then proposing ways of satisfying both. Good selling also involves identifying suitable targets before expending too much effort.
In a classic B-2-B selling environment, but it could apply to any market type, this can be summarised as:
- Through a combination of desk research and questioning identify those suspects that have the potential to become prospects (and eventually actual customers). By this process of filtering you have reduced the potential prospect base to a more focused and manageable group. You are now READY.
- Having identified the potential prospects use structured questioning to qualify them and establish their real needs and wants and determine whether your proposition can actually satisfy both. The questions are used to further filter prospects against your “ideal” profile. You have now identified your potential customers and eliminated most of those that will ultimately say no to your proposition. You now know who to AIM at.
- Now you have your refined list of prospects that match your “ideal” you can commence FIRE. The make-up of the firing stage will vary according to your market and proposition but in a B-2-B environment could include activities such as; webinars, product trials or demonstrations, proposals, presentations, RFT responses, and site visits to existing customers. This can be a lot of work so it is important to ensure before you Fire that you take careful Aim having got yourself Ready.
The most common example that I see of Fire, Aim, Ready is the sales person who eagerly offers to provide a proposal having had a first meeting with someone who typically is not the decision maker. They do not refuse the offer, after all it is free consultancy, but the proposal is very likely to miss the target because not enough work has been done (getting Ready) to know what or even where the target is, so it is impossible to Aim with any accuracy. Such proposals clog up sales forecasts rolling over from month to month because no decision is being made.
If a company follows the process outlined below they stand a very good chance of being in the right place with the right product at the right time.