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The Sales Process: The Foundation you need; Regardless of the Size of the Prize

Modern society is so quick – life speeds by – and many people will tell you that there are not enough hours in a day. For salespeople, this rush sometimes manifests in a disregard for pertinent details. It’s definitely not deliberate but instead, an intense focus on the goal – the prize. The following points are key points in any sales process. Often people believe that there is more to a sale worth $150,000 than there is to a sale worth $5. Any good salesperson will know however, that the price of the deal doesn’t change the process – and remaining diligent and consistent is what will reward you will the higher number of sales in the long run.

 

Qualifying your Prospect

 

There’s a colloquial saying “keep your eye on the prize” – but as you’ll find below, sometimes the details of the journey are really what help you arrive at the prize. This could be the case if you find yourself continuing to talk to potential customers or prospects, and you are rarely getting the sale. How do you get through this? Well, by focusing on the beginning of the sales process you’ll greatly increase your chances of closing the deal and obtaining the prize. If you focus on qualifying the right prospects from the beginning, you will spend your valuable time speaking with the right people; and ultimately evolving prospects into customers. The sale, although the ultimate goal, is dependent on your preparation, and the beginning of the sales process itself. As an added bonus, you’ll spend less time on cold prospects and more time on those that will actually result in a sale.


Knowledge is Power

 

The next step in the process, after you’ve found a qualified prospect, is learning about them. Selling is all about knowledge. You will seldom succeed in a sale if you just called a person out of the blue – with no background on their business, their products, or their needs. This is where it is integral to become acquainted with your prospect – it instantly builds a level of rapport, and commands a level of respect and professionalism from the prospect. Doing your due diligence will also contribute to a smooth conversation and assist you, the salesperson, with your confidence. Another important point is knowing when to access that prospect. If you’ve done your research on the right prospect then you’ll know when they are in the position to buy – and chances are that you’ll be ready to sell!


Build the Relationship

 

I’m sure we can all agree that there are few things more irritating than a person who calls you out of the blue and tries and sell you something – be it office supplies, a copy machine, etc. Oftentimes, whatever they’re trying to sell isn’t even something you need (or want!). To avoid being that salesperson, ensure that you are warming up to them and building rapport. Don’t make the sale right away. You will likely hear the term “touches” in sales, and the number of touches a prospect needs before truly closing the deal – too many touches means you’re wasting your time, but too few touches means that you’re rushing the conversation and are not likely to make a strong sale or even close the deal at all. This is where positioning and rapport come in. Build your relationship with the prospect and you will know when they are ready to buy. This is also a key part of the process where you need to be focused on the prospect and not necessarily the prize.

 Obtain a Commitment

 

Getting a buy in from the prospect prior to the sale is key. As humans, we like to know that we’re needed and that we are helping others – its human nature. A good way to position yourself at the end of your first discussion with your qualified prospect is to have them commit to a follow up. I’ve heard some salespeople who like to give their prospect homework – as a way to engage them in the sales process and ultimately build rapport. This is also a good way to show their level of interest in what you are offering and the process itself – to allow you to gauge your next steps appropriately. A good way to do this is to confirm the next conversation prior to ending the current one – this gives a solid date and a simple timeline. Additionally, if you’ve given the prospect ‘homework,’ then he/she knows exactly when to have the task completed by and ultimately takes the stress out of the process. There is nothing worse than the unknown, and any anxiety that is introduced into the sales process can very often be a deal breaker.


Don’t Hound Them

 

Hounding is desperate, childish, and unprofessional. Personally, if someone calls me back more than once after I’ve said no – or told them that I’m not ready to make a decision – I almost always write them off; regardless of how badly I wanted or needed, their product. I don’t like to be pressured. Earlier on, we talked about the rush of life, the pressure, the fact that there are not enough hours in the day; between families, friends, hobbies, work, and education – we often have very little time to add in other things, like purchases. So, although a salesperson is focused on that task daily, it might take a regular person weeks or even months to come to the ultimate decision to buy.
As a salesperson – the best thing you can do is respect the time it takes for a person to come to a decision. To be honest, if you have already done the legwork in qualifying your prospect, building the relationship, and pitching when they are ready to buy – you shouldn’t worry about the decision making time at all. If they haven’t responded to you, or you’ve already called once – leave a message. Let them know you’re ready when they are, and passively give them the time to decide. They will know to get ahold of you when they’ve come to a decision or need assistance moving forward. Try being creative as well – start their offices day off with a tray of donuts, your business card, and a cute and quirky note. That kind of impression will be everlasting and may just be the edge you need to make the sale.

 

Always Keep Selling

 

Many salespeople close their deal, earn their commission check, and move on to the next. This is the worst way to build your sales career. Ultimately, any good salesperson will tell you that the sale never ends. So, the prospect has become a customer, now what? Repeat business is what builds a company’s reputation – a client could be a fabulous reference for you, and will often continue to be a client. Maintaining a client relationship is almost as difficult as earning their business initially. Ensure you continue to build/maintain the rapport long after the client has become a customer. This will make future sales easier, and increase your company’s revenue (hello bonus!).

 

Don’t Fear Rejection

 

You got rejected – it happens! As a salesperson, how you handle rejection is what sets you apart from the rest. Many will take the rejection, slump down, and walk away from the prospect. A better salesperson will sit down and ask the prospect what went wrong – then use that information to become a better salesperson in the future. If the prospect says that they really just don’t need what you’re selling – then you’ll know that you need to focus on qualifying your prospects better in the future. If they mention that they are not currently ready to buy – you can focus on your timing of the pitch for your next sale. Being able to ask the hard questions will make you stronger, more resilient, and more prepared for the future. I’ve even seen situations where the prospect is surprised at the salespersons tenacity and honesty and they are ultimately earned as a customer.

 

In a Nutshell

 

The sales process is always evolving – but there has been a historical foundation built that lends itself to customer service, professionalism, and creativity. Qualifying a prospect, confidence, and building rapport will ultimately assist you in landing the sale and the commission. This process is the same for selling a $2 chocolate bar as it is for landing a $50 million dollar software contract. The cost of the prize should never dictate the sales process. Ensure you are following a foundation to qualify your prospect, educate yourself, build the rapport, and sell when the time is right, in order to land whatever sale it is your working toward.

 

Authored by: Jennifer Dodds, Implementation Specialist

Corporate Culture, Change Management, and an ERP Implementation

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Picture this: a new project, a corporate environment, a lot of technology, and a big budget.

 

Where does culture fit into this equation?

 

Company culture is embedded within your employees, and believe it or not, projects and business depend on positive company culture. Negative culture arises when there are ‘detractors’ within your company – these are people who often complain about their tasks or duties, are not receptive of change, and bring down the overall morale of the office. These people, and the overall ‘people management’ of a project are handled via change management. This can be done with internal change management personnel, or through a consultant involved with the project. The key is to ensure company culture and change management are organized and attended to during the life of any project; having the company and its employees on board is of the utmost importance.

 

When the overall culture is: stressed, nervous, anxious, worried, or fearful, it can cause issues among employees and increase the resistance to change. If this occurs, it makes a successful implementation much more difficult. Any sort of project can cause anxiety when duties are changing, people may become concerned about job security, nervous about learning new skills, and performing well in a new role. This is where the change management coordinator is concerned; he/she is responsible for reviewing processes and ensuring that the corporate culture remains motivated and positive.

 

There are three distinct concepts that will enable you, as a company, to ensure that your corporate culture is in check and allows for a smooth transition to your new ERP software.

 

  1. Leadership

    The most important part! It is difficult for change to be implemented from the bottom up so, it’s key for the executive team/leaders to initiate the changes and exemplify the proper behavior. If those in a leadership position are being positive, flexible, and open, during the ERP project – it’s more likely that the employees beneath them will be the same. Similarly, ensure that everyone is aware of who is in charge. It’s easier to follow the leader when everyone is aware of who is at the helm. So, make it clear who is steering the ship!

    Consider creating a culture checklist – and hanging it up throughout the office. Repetition is by far the best tool for adopting a new set of beliefs; in addition, it will hold employees accountable for their actions and the culture they exude.

    Here is an example of a company culture poster:

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  2. Recognition

    Once you’ve identified the values of your company, and/or a company culture checklist, you can reward those who follow it. As humans, we naturally want to be recognized for the work that we do – we strive to achieve our goals and be patted on the back for them in one or another. Recognition can be as simple as a thank you email or as extravagant as a celebration. The key is to recognize the actions of your employees who have positive corporate culture – this will show other’s that the organization values those who adhere to the culture. 

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  3. Positivity

    It’s important to ensure that everyone is on board when it comes to change. Maintaining positivity throughout the business is crucial for multiple reasons. First, and the most basic, it helps with the aura and allows people to enjoy coming to work every day. No one likes to sit next to a ‘negative Nancy’. Second, it creates a more fluid culture, in that, the employees ability to react to change is much more successful and allows the business to flow smoothly. Finally, positivity and good reaction to changes (i.e. the ability to successfully flow throughout company changes) reflects well in the eyes of your customers; when you have happy employees, that attitude is transferred to your customers.

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It’s a pretty simple concept. Happy employees mean a positive work environment, which leads to successful projects, increases in sales, and happy customers. This can truly only be achieved successfully when people management is a priority. So, when planning the aspects of your next project – ensure that change management is involved and rest assured that the company culture will increase productivity instead of detracting from it!

 

Authored by: Jennifer Dodds, Implementation Specialist

5 Ways an Implementation Can Go Sideways and How to Avoid Them

ERP implementation – some think of it as a frightening term. It can cause anxiety for those who have not experienced an ERP implementation before. ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning – systems are built to allow an integrative way to manage the business as well as backend functions: i.e. technology, financials, and human resources. There are a bunch of applications fueling and tracking different aspects of a business and are connecting to other facets at a rapid pace. Oftentimes, every piece of the ERP mechanism is affecting another – hence the fear during implementation. With all that said however, ERP implementations can – and often do – go very smoothly. There are many points within an implementation that can cause the project to “break” so to speak; however, by identifying the main points, we can define how to avoid those breakages and have a smooth and successful implementation.


Throughout this piece we will touch on 5 different ways an ERP implementation can go sideways and how to proactively avoid them.

  1. Project Champion
    Every project – regardless of what type it is – has a champion, that one person at the company that liaises with the software company, the third-party company, or the consultants. That person is the one who manages the project internally, appoints subject matter experts, and makes all of the (sometimes difficult) decisions as they arise. The project champion position requires a specific amount of time be devoted to the given project and an immense amount of responsibility on ensuring that the project itself runs smoothly. For these reasons, it is incredibly important to ensure that the right person is chosen to be the project champion – as it really sets the pace for the remainder of the project. So, ensure you choose the right person for the job to have a smooth implementation!

  2. Blueprinting
    This is the starting point of every implementation – it is situated right after the sales portion is complete and the goals and needs of the project are identified. Proper blueprinting is really the foundation for a successful implementation. By creating a blueprint document, you can identify any and all customizations needed, develop standards to be put in place, and state the names and positions of everyone who holds responsibility in the project. This document will become the bible of your project and will allow both the project manager and the project champion to outline expectations and have an appropriate sign off to keep all parties on track. Without proper blueprinting, the project can quickly derail – and oftentimes, costs and timelines can increase and cause incredible stress on everyone involved. You can avoid this by ensuring you and your company spend time on building the project foundation to set up for success in the rest of the project.

  3. Customizations
    Rarely does a company invest in an ERP system and get the standard only version (sometimes referred to as “out of the box”). Therefore, customizations or enhancements are common when trying to tailor the system to your specific company needs. It’s helpful to identify customizations within the blueprinting stage of a project. This allows all facets of the company to get a head start on working on the enhancements needed. It also allows the project manager and project champion to devise a reasonable schedule for the project and go-live timeline. Of course, there will always be times where customizations cannot properly be identified until later on in the project – try to keep these instances to a minimum. Surprises can cause tension and delays, so by being open and communicative from the beginning about your specific needs, you can have a smoother implementation.

  4. Change Orders
    It’s almost impossible to avoid change order requests within any sort of project. As the project progresses there will almost always be things that are identified that are different than the beginning. These changes can be minor, or they can be a large change in scope (which will be avoided by following these 5 steps!). It’s important to be open and honest when needing a change. Ensure that you are filing an official change order request (or proposal) with the correct people in order to have it reviewed quickly. Also, try to identify and change orders early on in the project to allow time for shuffling and re-allocation of resources and budgets.

  5. Communication
    This is the foundation of any project – and as you may have noticed, a recurring aspect of points one to four here. The gist is, without proper communication there will be no success. We, as humans, don’t read minds – so it’s important to share our ideas with others. Implementing proper communication from the get-go will allow you to seamlessly discuss issues as they arise later on. Along with good communication – the project manager and project champion should lead with good communication. Leading by example will allow others to follow and ensure that everyone is comfortable and open.

As you can see, there are many aspects of an implementation. These 5 points are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a project – but simply adjusting the expectations with regard to these five points will increase the successes in your project tenfold.


To summarize: communication is the foundation of any project – ensure that project managers and project champions are leading by example with good communication. Before the project begins – choose a project champion wisely; this individual will be the representative and the liaison for the business. Ensure that the person is smart, qualified, and well-spoken to ensure that the connection goes well. Start your project with a blueprinting phase; this will allow you to properly outline the project and identify any needs and customizations early on. In addition, blueprinting is a critical phase that enables the project manager to create a timeline for successful project completion and lessen the risk of headaches that come with issues arising. Next, try your best to identify customizations and enhancements early on to avoid having their completion affect the overall go-live date – or worse, having them denied due to timelines. Finally, use change orders wisely and keep communication open to ensure that change orders are submitted to the right individuals and in a timely manner to ensure a smooth adjustment to project timelines and expectations.


Pro Tip: Develop an internal methodology for your organization with regard to project management and implementation. By creating a process that works, you can take the headache and stress out of the planning and focus your resources on the execution of the actual project! This is a simple way to train new employees in the future and ensure that all team members are on the same page.

Authored by: Jennifer Dodds, Implementation Specialist

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