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5 sales lessons I learned in 2013

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Wow! I can’t believe another year has come and gone. I don’t know about you, but I found this past year to be an interesting one. As I reflect back on the last 12 months, I think about the lessons I learned working with my clients. Here are five of them:

1. The decision-making process is getting more complicated. If you sell an enterprise solution or software as a service, your prospects’ decision-making process is complicated. It’s rare that one person makes the final buying decision. In fact, several people are often involved even in smaller buying decisions. Plus, in some situations, your prospects may not even know who else needs to be involved, which means you may need to help them figure that out. If you disregard or ignore this, you could end up spinning your wheels and wasting your time.

2. They can find the budget. This past year, I worked with a company that had not originally budgeted for the training initiative we eventually embarked upon. When they saw the need and opportunity to improve their business, however, they found the money to fund the project. From this, I learned three key lessons:

  1. It is critical to uncover the true impact of your prospect’s pain and the implications of not taking action.
  2. You must position your solution in such a manner that the outcome outweighs the cost.
  3. You must deal with the right people (preferably from the start).

3. Take the elevator to the executive suite. The only people who can approve unbudgeted expenditures are senior executives. I always knew this, at least theoretically, but I had it confirmed working on the above-mentioned project. My key contact person was a midlevel manager, who I convinced to connect me with the VP of sales. After a face-to-face meeting and several telephone conversations, the VP was able to make the deal happen.

4. One champion is not enough. I watched a few deals go sideways this past year because the salesperson decided to rely on a single contact at a company. In one situation, the key champion left the company just before the contract was signed, which left the salesperson grasping to close the deal. In another case, a sale went to a competitor because the competitor’s salesperson enlisted the support of multiple contacts, while my client had developed only one.

5. You can’t take shortcuts. In a recent post, I described a deal I lost because I tried shortcutting the discovery process. I should have known better! It’s our responsibility as sales professionals to control the sales process. If we take shortcuts or try to fast-track a deal, we end up shortchanging ourselves and our prospects. It’s critical to invest the necessary amount of time at each stage of the process and if your prospect is unwilling to give you this time, it may make sense to move on to another opportunity.

So, how about you? What lessons did you learn this past year?

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