So, you’re in charge of a sales program – a consultative selling one. You’ve got targets, a resource plan, a budget. You’re ready to go. You just need to start prospecting.
Or do you?
Before you start doing anything you should ask yourself a question. Is what you’re about to do worth doing at all?
The reason for asking yourself this question is that the answer you give will decide how you spend your time. And the results you get will come from doing those things hour after hour, day after day.
You reach your goals as a result of all that work you put in over time. So, it makes sense to just check whether it’s the right work for you to be doing.
Let’s start with an example. You’ve just started a new sales role. What does your manager expect you to do?
You’re probably expected to do the modern day equivalent of knocking on doors. Pick up the phone, send emails, connect on social media. Be active. Be busy. More importantly, look busy.
You need to ask yourself whether that is the best use of your time. Let’s say that you’re not actually a professional salesperson. You’re a professional that has now been asked to get some sales in.
You’re actually good at doing something like accounting or law or working with technology. Now you need to go out and get business and the easiest, most obvious way is to “smile and dial”.
The thing that you miss by doing that is the cost of sales.
When your customer buys anything from you they pay a price. Let’s say that price is one hundred dollars. After you do everything you do in your business, you’ll end up (hopefully) with some cash in your pocket. Let’s say that’s 7 dollars.
Not really. The stuff that eats up the money in the middle is operating costs – everything you need to do to actually deliver what you’ve promised the customer.
Then, at the front end is your cost of sales, the cost of actually getting to your customer and getting them to part with the money in their pocked for what you do.
Why does understanding the cost of sales matter? It matters because you can’t decide what activities are the best use of your time if you don’t price them correctly.
What are your options for bringing in business? Some of these might be on your list:
- Personal selling – you pick up the phone.
- Hire a salesperson
- Pay an introducer’s commission
Options 2, 3 and 4 have a defined cost associated with them. Option 1 seems free. It’s only free, however, if you value your time at zero. If you place any value on your time whatsoever, you need to decide whether it’s cheaper to go for one of the other options.
The problem is that in consultative sales, 2 and 3 have problems. You can’t easily advertise a product or service when you don’t even know what problem you’re going to solve. Perhaps you haven’t built the product yet.
Then, hiring a professional salesperson has the problems that come with an expensive resource that probably doesn’t have the deep domain knowledge you need to do a decent consultative sell. Your ideal consultative salesperson is someone who knows how to do the job as well, probably one of your operational folk.
These people, however, don’t want to pick up the phone and harass people. They aren’t good at playing the numbers game and just hammering on. They want to do good work and, if they can get in front of someone, they can explain what they do and probably get some business signed. It’s the getting in front of people that’s the problem.
Which leaves the last option – pay an introducer’s commission.
The chances are that there are people out there who spend all their time getting to know people. That’s their thing. If they’re confident that they can get you in front of the right people – and you’re confident that when you’re in front of the right people you can close a deal – then you’ve got a sweet thing going.
You should be happy to pay an introducer’s commission in this situation. You’ve saved hours of time that you can now spend on your business. The introducer makes some money and can carry on partying and meeting people. Everybody wins.
Unless someone gets greedy.
There’s an element of fairness involved. If you try and set your introducer commission too low, then you won’t get any takers. If they want too much or try and grab a slice of ongoing business, then you’re going to have to deal with that.
The best way is to have a number of introducers and negotiate a fair commission, say 20% of the first deal carried out as a result of an introduction. That will keep them bringing you new customers and you’ve got the opportunity to sell more to them later. Logically, you should be willing to pay the introducer whatever it takes – even if your profit on that first deal is zero – as long as you can make it up on the back end – the follow on sales.
It’s only when you decide that there is no way you can set up an arrangement where you pay for sales that you should do it yourself. That’s when you need to sit at your desk and start making calls and sending emails.
If you’re smart, however, you’ll spend your time finding people that can introduce you to the people you need to meet and get a commission agreement in place with them.
Then, you’re actually going to get some real traction in your sales campaign.
So, in summary, the first thing you should do when starting a new sales campaign is not to try and find prospects, but try and find people who can introduce you to prospects. Start building your referral network. That will free you up to focus on selling.
As a reminder, this is the fourth post in a series that I’m planning on eventually collecting into a book on Consultative Selling. If you are reading this and are interested in this topic, please let me have any feedback, good or bad, so I can make this as useful and easy to read for you as possible.