Do customers seem highly interested in your product, yet sales don’t materialize?

Are you unsure why you aren’t closing more sales? Is the problem the sales person, is the product a poor fit for the market, or are you targeting the wrong set of customers?

If your company has no sales, then you clearly missed the mark. If you are overwhelmed with sales, you’ve struck the mother lode. The worst sales situation is when you have enough sales to make your business marginal and to conclude there is potential, but not enough to thrive – and the business lingers on forever.

Many entrepreneurs have a deep rooted feeling that sales is mystical. That it simply requires them to find that right sales person, who is just a natural at convincing anyone to buy their product or service. Sales doesn’t need the perfect sales person and many entrepreneurs are fooling themselves that they need and can find this mythical and elusive person. What is required is a sales process, not black magic.

The first step to define a sales process is to understand your current customers from a selling perspective.

If you have existing customers, and I mean this in a loose sense because a customer could be someone with a free version of your product or a free email subscriber, determine which customers are your best and most promising and which are the unhappy ones.  You only need to do this with 15 to 20 customers. For each customer, discuss the customer with the sales team and write down the answers to the following questions: What problem was each customer trying to solve? What goal or accomplishment were they trying to achieve when the bought the product? What specific features did they want in the product? Why did they buy your product and not someone else’s?  Why did they buy the product when they did? How much is not fixing this problem costing the customer?

Next, actually interview these customers. Contact them with an email and ask if you could speak with them on the phone for a short time to discuss your product and organization, with an emphasis on how you may better serve their needs.  I found customers respond better if you focus on meeting their next goals and helping them solve their upcoming problems. I ask for 15 to 20 minutes of their time, but prepare to spend an hour with each interviewee on the phone. I rarely end the conversation in less than 45 minutes. I usually acknowledge the 20 minute mark and ask if they’d like to continue, and I have never been turned down.  I would highly suggest these interviews be conducted by the sales manager, the entrepreneur, or someone other than the sale person on the company.

Now, I have had the staff contact prospects that didn’t buy and ask for a similar conversation. You need to directly inform them that the phone conversation isn’t a sales call in disguise, that’s it truly is a fact finding mission. This makes former prospects more receptive. This will tell you want is missing from your product or what was wrong with the sales experience.

So what are some typical questions to ask:

What problem were you trying to solve when you bought our product? What was the bigger goal you were trying to accomplish?

How did our product help you solve your problem? How are you using our product today?

What do you think of our product?

What was your post sales experience like with our company?

What concerns did you having when you were going through the buying process?

What do you think of our competitors and is there anything we should learn from them?

If you were searching for a solution today, and you didn’t have our product and our company didn’t exist, where and how would you look for the solution?

What are the top challenges facing your company?

This is golden information. At one time, most of us were job seekers. Wouldn’t it have been invaluable to know why your resume was selected or rejected for every position applied for? Wouldn’t you have reworked your resume and your approach because of this feedback? This is no different.

It doesn’t take many customer interviews before a pattern starts to develop. So talking to hundreds of customers isn’t going to do you any good. Compiling and summarizing this information will give you great insights into how, why and when your customers buy from your company, as well as who they actual are.

At the end of this first step, you should be able to create a customer profile and persona, along with the answers to what, when, where, how, and why.

Small businesses and start-ups can’t afford to sell to everyone. They must target their efforts to only the most promising prospects. Sales is mostly a search for the right customer. The difficult dilemma created in the minds of entrepreneurs is that targeting their sales effort in this manner will mean that they will have to walk away from deals they know they could have gotten, but didn’t fit the profile.

Many entrepreneurs dread sales because they themselves have been the customer where the sales person was lying or using high pressure tactics. This is a sales person using the shotgun method of selling something to someone who doesn’t need or want the product. Instead, entrepreneurs should picture a time when they had a difficult problem that wasn’t being solved. If someone had the solution to your problem, wouldn’t you want someone to tell about it? This is more of what sales should be – a well-orchestrated and thought out process that brings the customer a planned sale experience for a product that the customer desires to buy.