By Candace Wentling
If you have spent any time in a sales leadership position, you are probably familiar with comments that insinuate that a sales professional is not getting enough leads, that the leads are not high-quality, or they request funds for some advertising or marketing campaign to gain more leads. While I support a plethora of high-quality leads be made available to sales professionals, I think we need to clarify what a high-quality lead really is. To some, quality leads would be classified as qualified, easy or one-call closable. I would argue that high-quality leads are potential customers that have an interest in meeting a need that I can solve whether now or in the foreseeable future. In other words, if they are willing to let me in their home, there is a good chance I can make a sale, either now or in the near future. With this in mind, how many quality leads are being left under-worked and unsold?
In my opinion, the best stage of the sales process to combat this obstacle is in the planning stage, before a sales representative even enters the home. Is it possible, that with proper planning, a sales professional can increase their closing rates, shorten their sales cycle and effectively move potential customers through the sales funnel? Speaking of a sales funnel: a sales funnel is not a one-and-done concept. While most would agree with this statement, it rarely shows in action. Generally, if a customer does not set an appointment or buy on the first meeting, we tend to disregard it moving forward. Or, we may not be disregarding it, but we are not handling it properly to set us up for success. For example, calling and leaving a voicemail every other day would not be considered effective; I would argue it is the opposite of effective.
The first step in purposeful planning is to consider existing booked appointments. To fill in your weekly calendar by increasing scheduled appointments, the sales professional should research recent service calls, upgradable equipment and unsold leads that are nearby booked appointments. This can include scheduling courtesy calls for existing customers, schedule retests to newer customers to ensure satisfaction or fill in any gaps in a customer’s water-treatment solution (like adding an RO system or a whole-home carbon filter). As most of you know, the best time to get in contact with working people is between the hours of three and seven p.m.; therefore, this will require evening call-block sessions as customers rarely return voicemails or email solicitations. I would even recommend trying to communicate with customers through your company’s social-media pages.
Now that you have your schedule strategically laid out for the week, we need to properly execute our goal, which is to make a sale. This may seem a little elementary, but I can only speak from experience; are you prepared to make a sale? Is your mini-softener regenerated and working properly? Do you have the proper paperwork and testing supplies? What install openings are available? Have you researched this customer and the water-quality reports in their area? What information do you already know about them? It’s amazing what we can find out about a home or a neighborhood with today’s online capabilities. The worst thing we can do is enter into a home completely unprepared or seemingly unprofessional or unknowledgeable. First impressions do make a difference.
The successful process
Next, what is your process? Do you have your questions planned in advance? Are you prepared to handle any objections or the “I want to think about its”? I cannot stress enough how important it is to be prepared, in advance, for all aspects of the sales call. Now you may be thinking that this may not apply to you, but I would guess that it does in some way. Have you ever gone into a home and realized there was already equipment in there and you didn’t know about it? Have you ever walked into a home and the first question you asked was: “So what can I do for you?” or “Tell me what’s been going on with your water?” Have you ever had to go back out to your car because you forgot something? Have you ever asked to borrow a piece of paper from a customer to write a quote on? I could keep going but I think you get the point. These are examples of poor planning that play a large role in losing business because you lost value. How can I ask for an $8,000 job from a customer if I didn’t do my best work? My last customer of the day still deserves my very best.
So let’s wrap up by talking a little more about your sale’s pipeline: how are you tracking it? How do you remind yourself to follow up with someone in three months? A pipeline can be as simple as how well you move a customer from a lead to an appointment, to an order and how well you plan and strategically execute that plan will play a very large role in that process. Take time during your week to incorporate old leads or possible leads (like service calls or older equipment) into your schedule. Research your accounts, set an objective and make sure you are prepared and fully stocked for the day to build trust, become an accepted vendor in the neighborhood and will build value through professionalism that will increase closing rates, increase average ticket orders and shorten your sales cycle.
About the author
Candice Wentling is Sales Trainer and Distributor of Action Selling™ and Director of Certified Action, a business consulting firm. She has been conducting sales training seminars, field coaching and leadership accountability for the last 13 years. Wentling began her sales career in the supplemental insurance industry and was quickly promoted into a management role. She became the youngest District Manager in the organization, going on to win their top sales award 18 times. Wentling then transferred her skills and began working in the water treatment industry as a Sales Manager with an industry-leading company, reorganizing and developing training programs. In addition, she has conducted regional workshops, worked directly with on-boarding and training of new sales representatives and consulted for leaders in multiple organizations.