Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Can You Satisfy My Concerns?

When sales employees have a choice between working with an existing charter customer, or working with a prospective new customer, most employees will choose the existing customer. That's because they seldom push back, raise concerns, offer objections, and generally make employees uneasy.

But where's the fun in that? Anyone can generate a quote or book a trip from a happy, satisfied, repeat customer. It's pleasant and rewarding to work with such folks, but it's not challenging. And you won't drive home with that glow of satisfaction having overcome objections and gained a new customer!

The most exciting step in the sales process is inquiring about concerns, drawing them out of the prospect, and then converting the concerns into benefits from flying with you.

"Inquiring about concerns," you say. "Do you mean you actually want us to ask if the customer has objections? Why on earth would we do that? We've been crossing our fingers hoping we could get right from our presentation to booking their first trip!"

Unless and until the prospect raises concerns or objections, it's unlikely you will get the sale. That's because of a very well-established fact. Customers make the buying decision emotionally, then justify their decision rationally.

Objections and concerns are almost exclusively about what "they" will say to the emotional decision. "What will my boss, or the CFO, accounts payable, the Board, my colleagues down the hall, our employees, and maybe even our customers say when they find out I'm chartering a plane"?  That's what your prospects are thinking when they raise objections and concerns.

Your prospects already have said to themselves, "I want it, I need it, I've got to have it." Prospects need you to arm them with facts so "they" will agree that the prospect has made a sound business decision.

If you read my posts, you know I like to quote Jay Abraham. He would tell you that when customers object, they are silently begging to be lead. I've always liked that phrase and the image in conjures. Objections are simply a prospect's way of saying, "I really want to fly with you. Now give me some excellent business reasons to do so."

In the AirPSG Learning Library, we have the six most common objections to using air charter for the first time. The materials explain precisely how to handle each objection. For your company, you should sit down with your sales team and list  your most common objections. Try to pull that list together soon, because in next week's post, I'll give you a formula and template for handling common objections.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Should I Buy From You?

The single most important question everyone in sales must be able to answer is, "Why should I buy from you instead of your competition?"  The answer to that question is your Unique Selling Proposition or USP. (A tip of the hat to Jay Abraham who first taught me this term.)

The key is the word 'unique.' What sets you apart from your competitors? What are you doing that your competitors aren't? What will the customer get from you and not the others? The USP does not have to be difficult, time consuming, or costly. It doesn't need to be an could be passive such as advice, knowledge or experience your competitors lack. 

A client recently asked me to help them think through their USP for a jet card program. It was challenging because their product proposal read just like a dozen other jet card programs.

To help them figure out a USP, we analyzed the competing jet cards, looking solely at publicly available information on their competitors' websites. We constructed a table listing every feature and everything identified in writing as a benefit. It was easy to see where the client's proposal matched one or more competitors' programs.

As we worked on our USP, we constantly referred to the table to see if we had found something unique. After many false starts, I asked the client's team to stop thinking about the features, and instead focus on the unwritten benefits to the customer. (My assumption was that if a benefit wasn't listed on a competitor's website, it probably wasn't being mentioned in their sales presentation.)

We finally discovered a powerful benefit that could be obtained combining a common set of features. What made this unique was that, as far as we could tell by comparing websites, none of the competitors had discovered, or hadn't mentioned, this hidden benefit.

Although your USP starts out being unique, there are very few things that cannot be copied. At least annually, your team should revisit the competitors' websites, build a new table, and see if your Selling Proposition is still unique, or if it's been copied.

If copied, make a decision whether or not to continue using your USP or whether to generate a new one. Base your decision on how well the current USP is working. If you are pleased with your sales results, and the prospects aren't pushing back and saying, "That's the same as brand X," keep using the current USP. Once it stops working, it's time to change it.

A final note of caution. If your USP is tied to a person, such as Billy Bob's personal experience or career accomplishments, start thinking of what you're going to use for a USP when Billy Bob leaves. Hopefully, he'll be leaving for something nice like a planned retirement. But suppose he gets hit by the proverbial bus; or takes a job with a competitor? Can you start grooming someone else today for similar experiences or training? Or will you need an entirely new USP?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Not Training Is Costly

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with the CEO of one of the 40 largest U.S. air charter companies. We were discussing whether or not his company would benefit from a review of the end-to-end sales process: basically every step from “Hello” to “How Did You Enjoy The Flight.”

He didn’t think there would be much benefit because 95% of his business was from repeat customers. The CEO was confident that his sales staff had those processes and procedures down pat.

I pointed out that 5% of his business is from new customers and prospects. Looked at from a different angle, that means 100% of the new customer calls and quotes are following an exception, or non-standard process. The sales folks individually are not  getting much practice at handling new customers. That’s why every new customer call is an exception.

Let’s relate this to recurrent pilot training. When your pilots are on the simulators, would you expect them to spend 95% of the training time practicing normal operations? Or would you expect them to spend most of the simulator time training and practicing for exceptions?

Once you decide to do refresher sales training, what do you need to teach? One option is to do a review of the end-to-end process for whatever exception applies to your company. Another approach is to retrain just the parts that are different from the standard process.

I prefer a third method. I would start by role playing a new customer with each sales person, and having the sales person take me through the end-to-end process. After doing so with each member of the sales team, we’d know two things: 1) where does any individual need personal coaching; and 2) what are the areas in common where the team needs some refresher training?

Is it worthwhile spending time and money on refresher sales training? Answer these few questions: a) what is the average lifetime value of a new customer; b) how many new customer quotes did not turn into trips in the past six months; c) what’s the opportunity cost from those lost sales?