Where is my sales process failing?
I am a professional headhunter specialising in middle and top management search in advertising and marketing. Now there is a problem with new clients. I find a new client (company), we meet and negotiate rates and staff needs. Then the client says: "I have to think" and disappears OR we can't approve a contract (client begins to impose its conditions of work). No client as a result OR pointless negotiations.
It might be your process, but my guess it is actually your strategy. To check that I'll ask you 3 very uncomplicated, straight forward questions. You should be able to answer each one with one (or at most 2) easily understood, not complex answers.
If you can't then you don't have a, or don't understand your, strategy. Here goes:
1] Who is your buyer, who makes the decisions on who to work with to deliver what you sell and who decides who gets paid?
2] What do you say (the specific words and phrases) to THE person from question number one that immediately makes it clear why your service if DIFFERENT, BETTER, UNIQUE from all the competitors in your market? (keep in mind here that things like "family business", "passion for the work", "been in business since 2700 BC..." are not useful).
3] How do you say it?...In person, over the phone, email, website, newsletter, radio, TV, webinar, newspaper, Facebook, Twitter, CD, thumb drive, special printed report with terrific graphics, seminar at the local Holiday Inn, over dinner/breakfast/lunch banner ads pulled behind a plane down at the beach...etc.?
Now that you answered each of these questions...how many have you tried and which ones worked better? Don't know? We'll need to talk.
Read over these two lessons/articles and see if this helps with your thinking process:
Hi Alexey, you're closing, but to be your client's Plan B.
The biggest competitor for a headhunter is the client's HR department - who often think they can find job candidates cheaper or faster via ads and postings. They can nix your services at negotiation, but also at the time any position needs to be filled. They will then try to fill the position on their own.
I suggest bringing HR deeper into your sales process and helping them to see you as a better tool for hiring top executive talent. Demonstrate that you will multiply their effectiveness instead of reducing their control or impact. Allow them to see that their top management is completely onboard with spending the money for professional executive recruitment services to get the top talent, not just the top talent that might be looking at ads and postings.
As many others have indicated, you may have a problem in closing the deal. I would ask if you have already assessed the competition and worked into your sales strategy the added value and must have portion of your services which lift you from the pack. If you do not have these, then take a step back and find what they are, and if they are lacking, beef up your added value and make sure it is up front and center. You and your staff should be able to quickly state what makes you exceptional up front.
You also are indicating a front heavy negotiation without the commitment. I would address this issue, Do you have a letter of intent prior to the detailed negotiations? Are you negotiating with a soft agreement or worse, no agreement at all? If you are wasting your time, you are wasting your resources. It is worthwhile to have someone evaluate your sales strategies, your competition and value, and your contract process. Good luck! Contact me if I may be of assistance.
I think your question should be: What process should I use to see where my sales process is failing?
This is because there is not enough info right now for anyone of us to know where your sales process is failing. To do this, I suggest a multi-prong approach:
1. Clients: Ask clients for feedback. Or, put yourself in their shoes.
For example, one thing I have seen: Risk aversion is an unwritten rule - buyers don't want to do something that could cause them issues. If you are smaller than your competitors or a sole proprietor - what is the value of your offering compared to someone that is more well-known? Do you offer a lower price, faster staffing, etc. ? Some kind of guarantee? Etc.
2. Competitors: How does your offer compare to competitors?
3. Your Internal sales processes and information - what is hindering a close?
4. Decision-making - If you can't approve a contract, why not? Can you take some risk to get some early business?
I think you are not completing your sales process in the meeting and trying to close by skipping steps. In partcular, you must make sure the value is clearly defined. If you push to close without creating value, you get the "non-close." If they have to think about it, you haven't sold them on the value. sell them on value before you negotiate rates. Clearly define your sales process in steps, understand the value, and follow the steps, don't "wing it."
You probably won't like this. Your comment "Now there is a problem with new clients" sounds to me like you expect their business just because you showed up. Your new client (company) is a prospect until you actually get the business. Are you asking questions about their needs or just telling them how great you are? If you are asking the right questions and lot's of them about their needs and their business you are just another sales guy. Your product is people. It's a relationship situation that you need to build by learning all you can about your prospect. Why do they need to fill the position? Ask the hard questions to get to the real problem.
To your success!
I think the problem is that your sales process is to simple, or "optimistic". Almost of companies or their sales representative have to hear : "I have to think" after the first appointment or the first proposal.
First, you have to consider the current economic / business situation today : a lot of competitors, difficulties to approach the good interlocutor (or he needs the approval of its management), little budjet, and if you are a small or medium business, the apprehension ... all of this do that a simple approach of your client and some negociation paralyze your development.
I think, the first step is to provide (maybe it's already done) a good brand, doing it attractive.
Then, you shall attract your client thanks some referrals (important business, maybe competitors to provide some jealousy ... ) and case studies.
This 2 points will do your clients more interested and confident.
But the most important step is the third one, you have to develop an effective sales process, with sales representatives and sales manager or use some outsourcing to keep in touch with your new clients, remmenber them the asset you can be, your services, maybe some special offers, try to share with them thanks to social networks ...
To be attractive and always stay in touch with them, it's the secret ...
Easy problem to solve-
You have not identified and eliminated all possible objections prior to attempting your close.
If you had, you would not be encountering, as you put it, "Then the client says: "I have to think" and disappears OR we can't approve a contract (client begins to impose its conditions of work).
More probing and use of open ended questions such as "Looks like we've covered everything but just to be sure, Mr. Prospect, are there any other issues that would prevent you from accepting an offer from company A?"
The next words from the prospects mouth will tell you what you need to do next - resolve that issue or close the sale.
Have you checked out your pricing structure versus the competitors. Is there a way to change your price structure so the client feels they are getting better value from you rather than your competitors. Also are there any value added services you can put into the mix that makes you stand out from your competitors. If the answer is "we can't approve a contract" then you need to find out who in the client organization can approve or whether you need to adjust the contract to meet the client's need (if possible).
I'd like to reiterate what Dave stated - get a professional salesperson. OR train up to it. Given you're soliciting middle and top management "deals," the quickest time to improvement is very likely bringing in a closer. They aren't cheap, but good salespeople command good salaries for a reason - the produce.
We had an arrangement some time ago. Sales I and II personnel would do the "leg work" with supervision and get up to the point of closing, then bring in a closer. Be careful to avoid it looking this way, but the point is not arm twisting and cajoling into a deal, it's just the skill of getting the deal. That's what you're bringing in - skill.
If the deals you're working on aren't closing then the mostly likely problem is that you're talking to the wrong people. Take a hard look at how you're finding these "prospects" and what truly "qualifies" a prospect. Think of the best clients you have. What objective criteria about them did you notice before they became clients. How can you find prospects that match those same criteria?
Clients will always suggest their conditions of work. Recruitment is a buyer's market, all the power is with the buyer. Contract negotiations are about how much risk you will accept for what you are getting out of the agreement. The client is king - they are the boss. Some other commenters already mentioned price and I could not agree more, but consider also your approach to contractual terms. If you are being pushy with your conditions, then for sure a potential client will walk away. Listen to your client and try to understand what they are looking for in terms of their risk/reward. If they are asking for something that is too risky for you, frame it in that way back to them (what they are asking of you is too much risk).
Why did the client agree to meet in the first place, if not to hire someone? To me there seems to be a lack of a compelling reason - so first perhaps identify those clients who need someone rather than want something.
Their terms or yours, does it matter?
Great question, some good answers.
I have a different approach.
You should be working backwards. .... Now that's got your attention.
To start with you need to consider your self as a contractor and not an employee.
It seems that you have little problem in getting clients. (companies) and you have little problem in obtaining suitable candidates.
If you were have such issues the question would be how do I attract .........
I an sure that you do offer something unique along with the usual placement guarantees and reimbursements. (that would be industry standards.)
So this kind of leaves the sales process.
My suggestion is to review how you are doing in this part.
To help you let me ask a few questions. which may provide some steps.
1) Do you receive a "Brief" from your client. (the company)
2) Do you prepare a submission for approval to engage in accordance to the Brief.
3) If not you may want to draft your own Brief and acknowledgement to proceed.
4) In this document do you
a) Have a 3 mth exclusivity clause.
b) An outline of your procedure. Pre listing, short list Pre selection. Presentation of short list, Attendance at Interview and or followup.
c) Scale of fee's.
d) % of payments (which are due at say final listing) which are offset final selection. (This covers cost of advertising and your time up to date.)
e) % of payment against final selection. + time line guarantee / free replacement if candidate fails within .......months.
5) Have the agreement signed by the person who can authorize the job placement and the finance.
6) This way your brief acknowledgement also becomes your order and authorization to proceed.
If they are genuine they will sign. If not you have not wasted a lot of time and energy.
You can easily state your case of being burnt by companies who have used your time and skills and have not honored their agreement, as the reason you are working this way.
Jim Rohn was an amazing person to listen to when it came to getting the leads and getting the sale. I remember a seminar he said. I was so good at selling when I left the room, I was amazed at how well I sold my service. I was also amazed that no one was buying. You clients need to not only hear what you are saying they need to see it through your words. I wont go on the normal tangent like I normally do. Best of success! Gil
Here is an excerpt of Jim Rohn. I wish I heard of him when I was younger.
The Art Of Persuasion For Online Business
HI Alexey, sounds like you do great at prospecting but may need to look at your consultative approach. I do not know your approach and I will not assume I'll just relate the areas where I see individuals disconnect them selves from there prospects.
Sales is a profession of relationships not clinical rates, charts and bullet pointed benefits,its truly being interested in helping there business, and truly wanting to be of service. Most sales people go in with a pitch book and/or are waiting for the moment they can just express how their service or product will benefit the customer (customers do not care about your business, how can you help them). Honestly you do not know if your product or service can do that until you find out about how there company works and what does your prospect sitting directly in front of you need.
Don't worry about making the sale, go into your prospect and listen, do not automatically answer their issue keep asking and developing the situation they are dealing with, if you develop the situations they have appropriately and apply your solutions in the appropriate manner your customer will close themselves, actually it will just be agreement that they need you. Then when you get to the end you can simply ask "whats the next step" that will lead you to your prospects process to bring you on as a new vendor or if there is maybe more objections, constraints to their ability to make a decision, people they need to speak with, etc.. You can continue asking whats the next step through out the process that will help direct you to uncover many things.
Dovetailing on prior responses:
1. You don't have a client until they sign the contract. They are a prospect, lead, whatever.
2. are you meeting with the decision maker or surrogates?
3. When you meet who does most of the talking? Based on synopsis I would guess it is you. If you are talking more than 50% of the time then there is a problem. Ask questions: when they ask a question answer it then follow that answer with a question.
4. Assuming your inquiries define the problem. Replay or mirror the problem and requirements to solve the problem. Have them agree with your scope of work...adjust accordingly. Then pre-close, Qualify if we come back with a solution to the problem at an acceptable and at a competitive price will you be prepared to commit. If no, ask them what is required to reach agreement...2nd meeting, presentation to board, etc. Take control of the road map and understand their expectations. If you don't you end up lost and with unfulfilled expectations. I suggest it is a communication problem on your side...that is the only thing you control.
From your writing, I observed that there is no problem with new clients. Your clients are benefitting from your experience. They are laughing all the way to the bank. If I am permitted to say so, the problem is you! You are the business problem to your own business. Believe it or not, from what I have read in your writing, you are acting in a consultancy role sharing all of your knowledge and expertise with your potential customers before you get a single dime from them. You need to change the way you do business. If you need additional help, please contact me.
Without knowing more, you may be positioning your services wrong or ineffectively. Sometimes using the wrong terminology or wording can cause mistrust, uncertainty or other reactions that you might not notice - especially if you use the same approach over and over and are too close to it.
At the end of the conversation, the other side should be so compelled, interested and motivated, that they ask, "How do we get started working with you?". If that's not happening, review your presentation in detail and test various changes to it.
A big mistake is in telling prospects what YOU want them to hear instead of what THEY want to hear and what they NEED to hear. Those are 3 very different elements in a presentation, they all play a part in advancing your value throughout the communication, and all need to be used correctly in a specific sequence according to who you are presenting to and their needs/wants/priorities.
Are you a professional salesperson? It sound like you're not having difficulties in finding clients but in closing the deal, just keep in mind that recruitment is essentially sales. So my advice would be to read up on progressive sales techniques and extrapolate the information for your field.
Secrets of closing the sale by Zig Zigler is a read I'd recommend.