The concept of “tipping points” became a hot topic nearly 20 years ago when Malcolm Gladwell originally wrote his best-selling work of the same name, The Tipping Point. Truth be told, this idea of key leverage points in any process fascinates me more than a little. (Yeah, I’m a bit of a process geek, partly the result of growing up on a small farm with lots of daily chores to be done. Why NOT find the most efficient way to do those tasks?)
My intrigue is based on the concept that if one is able to IDENTIFY the tipping points in any process, they can then focus their energies on improving those focal points, to achieve a significant positive result. And, when you bring this concept to the B2B sales table, a few process “points” jump out at you. But first, let’s officially define tipping point.
A tipping point is the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place. Merriam-Webster.com
In sales, Tipping Points are those times during the sales process which either a.) quickly bring you closer to the likelihood of making a sale, or b.) quickly diminish your chances of a sale. Those experienced in sales can actually listen to a sales call or meeting and hear exactly when these tipping points occur, as the prospect’s trust grows or wanes at key points depending on the interaction with the sales rep.
In professional B2B sales, the following five tipping points are each critical to making the sale and gaining repeat business and referrals.
Tipping Point #1: The Opportunity to Present
If you are going to have any chance of making a sale, you must first engage the prospect in a way that they WANT to hear about your offering. I call this “the Opportunity to Present.” This is the first critical tipping point.
- If your contact with a prospect is via the phone, there is an age-old trick that can help create a positive first impression. While it may sound corny, it does work. Keep a mirror on your desk and smile in the mirror before you make your call. When you smile, it changes the tone of your voice to sound happier, lighter and more excited about your offering. So, “smile out loud” before every call.
- When selling B2B professional services, take 1-2 minutes to visit the prospect’s website to quickly peruse their primary offering, target market, and recent news/press releases. Being armed with basic company information will increase trust and cooperation with the prospect.
- Remember, the goal of the first call is to simply: build trust and gain an “opportunity to present.” DO NOT pitch them your offering on the first call. They will usually run for the hills. Trust me on this.
Once you’ve leveraged this first tipping opportunity in your favor, you will have secured an opportunity “to present” — an opportunity to enter into the prospect’s world to discuss their needs and current reality. Only when you begin to understand their situation can you start to position how your solution may solve an issue they are experiencing.
Tipping Point #2: The Presentation
Now that you’ve secured the opportunity present, you are on to the next critical tipping point. The process of “presenting” should actually consist of probing questions and actively LISTENING to the client. The goal is to open them up to gain an understanding of their situation, build trust, and learn how your solution can help them.
- Prepare: Prior to the scheduled call, spend 5-10 minutes researching the company to learn about their service offerings, number of offices and employees, pricing model, etc. Peruse any recent press releases. Have there been any significant corporate developments you should be aware of? Are they in a period of obvious growth or decline? Quickly look up your contact’s info on LinkedIn – what is their background? Doing this prep work will demonstrate you have done your homework and are truly engaged in understanding their situation.
- Probe to Uncover the Need: During your discussion, ask strategically (and naturally) placed questions to continue to build trust. Engage the client in discussion about their business and challenges. (This process may extend to more than one call.) Ask open-ended questions to encourage the prospect to share more detail about their current reality. Have a set of questions designed in advance for this portion of the sales process. Asking such well-designed questions will allow you to quickly assess the prospect’s situation, need, and appetite for the kind of solution you represent.
Employ active listening throughout the process to be sure the prospect knows s/he is being heard. Once you understand their situation, you can begin to work into the educational component of the process – “meet the need.”
Tipping Point #3: Meet the Need
Once you have enough information about the prospect’s situation, you can begin to reveal ways your offering can help meet their need. This is the third critical tipping point in sales when you (finally) begin to provide education and information about the solution you represent.
- Clearly demonstrate you heard the prospect by providing related examples of how your offering can assist.
- Relate your solution back to their needs throughout the discussion. By effectively articulating how your offer will meet their needs, you will leverage a key element of the sales process in your favor. The prospect will feel heard.
- As trust goes up, barriers go down. The prospect begins to identify with your solution and how it will resolve their related business issues.
Tipping Point #4: Objection Deflection
As you move through the sales process, you may encounter buyer resistance. This is a critical tipping point! Buyer resistance is a clue demonstrating that a.) You are moving too quickly through the sales process (i.e. the client doesn’t feel they’ve been heard), or b.) The client has unresolved buying questions cloaked as objections.
- A well-trained, seasoned sales rep will be well-equipped to handle client objections and deflect them in a professional, educative manner. To make this easy for sales newbies, provide them with a prepared list of commonly encountered objections and correlating deflections. These should be learned and internalized, becoming second nature. (I can still remember “objection deflections” from my first sales job!)
- Knowing your objection deflections COLD is the only way you will be able to effectively manage this tipping opportunity in the sales process. Most of all, do not be intimidated by objections!! Objections are often buying signals. When a prospect offers up an objection, they are engaged in the buying process and looking for a reason to say yes. They need to feel as though they’ve done their homework so that when someone else asks them these similar objections, they will have the answers to know they have made an intelligent decision.
- Always remember, when a buyer throws up an objection, it is a positive sign. They are looking for a reason to buy. Give them that reason by effectively answering their objections and you will be one big step closer to closing the sale. But, you still have to ASK for the sale – see Tip #5!
Tipping Point #5: The Sales Proposal/Closing the Sale
In professional sales, once a prospect’s questions have been fully answered, the next step is probably to deliver a proposal. Do not move to this step too soon though! I once heard that offering a proposal and asking for the sale is like asking for a hand in marriage… Don’t do it unless you are 99% sure the answer will be YES!
- There should be no surprises in the proposal, so be sure you’ve answered all questions up until this point.
- When done correctly, the sales proposal should be a summary of the prospect’s current reality and need, your solution to their problem, key deliverables, timeframe, fees, and payment terms.
- Many sales organizations have sub-par proposals which can badly damage the sales process. A professional sales proposal should re-instill the value, professionalism, and trust you have developed throughout the sales process. It is the culminating document that summarizes key elements and confirms what was agreed upon through weeks/months of meetings and discussions.
- Don’t blow it! Make your proposals shine. If done correctly and at the right time in the process, the sales proposal should naturally result in a closed sale and is therefore a key tipping point in any professional B2B selling process. (We will discuss various closing techniques article.)
*BONUS TIP: Ongoing Account Management & Setting Expectations.
Properly satisfying your clients’ ongoing expectations and needs is imperative to receive testimonials and/or referrals – both of which are ongoing tipping points to build and grow your business.
- Repeat business is the key to growth. So, stay close to your customers and resolve any issues quickly. Provide clients with optimal customer service to secure repeat business and upsell/cross-selling opportunities.
- Continue to educate and consult with your clients about their expectations and results.
- Satisfied clients are happy to provide referrals and testimonials. Ask for them! Referrals are gold nuggets, as there is inherent trust built into a referred prospect. And, a testimonial from a brand-name client is hugely valuable in creating credibility for your organization!
Of course, each sales rep must add their own flair to the process, their own “sales fingerprint” that uniquely sets them apart from other reps and certainly from their competition. People buy from people they like. Provide prospects with your knowledge, professionalism, support, integrity, and dedication to making certain your prospects’ and clients’ needs and are met.
Remember, if you need further help with any of these tipping points, please contact me directly at [email protected]. Let’s discuss ways to improve your sales and marketing outcomes!