By Harsimran Julka
While working in Singapore with India’s largest software outsourcing company Tata Consultancy Services, Shankar G discovered that there was no proper mechanism that rookie sales executives in the tech industry followed to qualify leads.
The sales executives would often pursue unqualified leads, missing out on those that might clinch deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars for companies. Often, new sales guys found it difficult to even connect with a prospective client.
While at TCS, Shankar was responsible for deal management and revenue forecast for the region. Every deal clinched or lost helped him learn more about the sales process.
That’s how he thought of a startup that would help the ordinary salesman.
In 2014, along with his friends Eddie Chau and Chong-Kian Soh, Shankar started working on GetSpini, a platform that incentivizes the public to share leads online. This makes it easier for salespeople who sell insurance, real estate, automobiles, loans, or even education courses. Lead givers get a cut (between US$5 to US$10) from salespeople.
In a conversation with Tech in Asia, Shankar shared the secret sauce of qualifying a lead and closing a sale for newbie salesmen in startups.
In today’s sales context, a “lead” is thought of as just the name and number of a person. “If you start with this premise, it will simply lead to cold calling your customer. Instead start your sales after qualifying your lead,” advises Shankar.
He listed four factors that determine a qualified lead:
The customer has an imminent need
The customer has a budget
The customer is the decision maker and has the authority to spend or buy
The need is clear with details
10 tips to utilize a lead and succeed in sales
1. Qualify: This is the first and foremost step. Collect as much information as possible to qualify and know your customer, including insights from their professional and personal lives.
Shan says it’s important to utilize the massive amounts of personal data available on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other websites.
“This will give you an idea of how to engage with this customer. Information is wealth in salesmanship!” he adds.
2. Focus on the 80-20 rule: Focusing on 20 percent of your customers who can deliver 80 percent of results will multiply productivity, especially if the sales team is limited.
“Do not go after too many prospects. Select and focus on the few who you can convert quickly,” advises Shankar.
3. Network is your net worth: Shan gives an example of a US$30 million deal with the Singapore government where a tech sales executive was not able to break through.
“Later, the senior management found that the secretary of that department was attending an event which was being organized by the company itself,” says Shankar.
He advises not to cold call. Instead, an introduction or referral by a common friend or acquaintance can help complete up to 50 percent of the sales process.
4. Building Trust: Often pushy salesmen are focused on closing sales rather than educating and understanding the customer. Instead, one should try to act like an expert consultant instead of a sales executive.
“Advise the right thing to your customer, even if it means saying that your product or service may not fit his need. That gets you more respect and builds trust, which will result in future business,” he adds.
5. Avoid desperation: Do not ever be desperate to sell. The right mantra is to make your customer feel comfortable.
“In your first meeting ensure that you listen more and understand your customer. The more desperate you are the further away your customer goes,” says Shankar.
6. The art of follow-ups: After your first meeting, make sure to follow up with your customer regularly. Each follow-up should not involve selling again.
“This does not mean you repeatedly call and irritate your customer,” cautions Shankar. It has to be more about understanding concerns and sharing information that will help the customer move closer to decision-making.
7. Dealing with competition: More often than not, the same lead is pursued by rival salesmen. Often, the rivals may pitch a clever deal to the customer.
“Speak both the positive and negatives of competition, so that the customer does not get the feeling that you are trying to sell, but understands that you are well informed and you are not biased,” he advises.
8. Be informed: Customers are often more informed about your product and alternatives than you think. A salesman should be ready to answer queries on why another customer wrote a negative review about the product online.
“So be up to date on news related to your product or service,” says Shankar.
Analyzing negative comments on social media about your product or service is time well spent for a salesman.
9. Spend time wisely: Not every customer is going to make a purchase. Salesmen tend to waste a lot of time if they haven’t figured out whether the customer has the right budget or is authorized to purchase.
Gauging prospects, prioritizing, and then engaging is the best path to follow.
“Learn from your mistakes. When you fail to convert, go back and reflect what went wrong. This will help you sharpen your pitch next time,” he advises.
10. Get an influencer: A lot of big deals in the world get cracked because of human relationships and connections. Big companies hire senior and retired government bureaucrats or former CEOs as directors on boards. They have great connections and respect within the industry and a single call by them can close a deal.
“Startups should leverage experts, opinion makers, even existing customers,
who can influence the decision making of the potential customer to crack a deal,” advises Shankar.
The article was published in techniasia