As I mentioned in part 1 of this two part blog series, many sellers are experiencing longer sales cycles and stalled deals. In fact, there are probably more stalled deals in your CRM/ATS then you realize or care to admit. So what happens when deals stall out? Salespeople get emotional. We tend to act out, often irrationally. Naturally, we want action. But pressuring the prospect to make a decision before they’re ready is never a wise decision. Not only does it rarely work, it makes the salesperson look desperate and needy. It's just poor form. So hammering prospects for a commitment is a great way to turn stalled deals into dead deals. Instead, staffing professionals need to continue to sell value beyond the conclusion of the final candidate interview. Don’t box your customer into a corner with a yes or no ultimatum. You’re not selling $25 watches on the street corner, you're selling B2B professional services.
In this blog post, how to continue to sell value, close stalled deals, I'm going to offer a few ideas on how you can compel your customers to take action and get those deals over the finish line.
Disclaimer: This (in my opinion) gets into advanced selling tactics.
Sell the Quantitative Value of Your Solution
In our sales training programs we highlight how every corporate decision maker including hiring managers are trying to achieve one of three things:
- Increase Revenue
- Reduce Costs
- Improve Efficiency (improve asset utilization)
One way or another, your consultants who are working on client projects writing code, managing projects, etc. are helping your customer achieve one (or more) of these outcomes. Your customers (hiring managers) hire your candidates for the business outcomes they can help them achieve. Specifically, the salesperson needs to communicate to the customer how their solution (candidate) will help them achieve one or all of the following:
- Increase Revenue: “Jim's contributions in building this application drove a 33% increase in market share. Let me share with you how Jim did it for another employer.”
- Achieve Greater Efficiency: “It will take one employee to produce what two produce right now.”
- Reduce Costs: “Making this investment now will save you $X per quarter.”
It is the responsibility of the salesperson to articulate this value proposition to the customer. You might be thinking "I sell staffing, not a product, how can I quantify the impact my candidate will have on my customer's business?" Great question.
The first step is you need to get your customer to "admit pain." If you don't understand the problem or "pain" your candidate's are solving then quantifying your candidate's value will be difficult. Read my blog post, Prospecting and Getting Customers to Admit Pain to learn how you do this including the questions you need to ask. The good news is, you can always go back to your customer and ask these questions even after you took the job order. Next, if you properly structured and sequenced your discovery and qualifying questions than you should have uncovered your customer's compelling event, not to mention the consequences of taking no action (letting the seat remain empty).
A compelling event is a direct response to moving away from a business pressure or problem that has an economic value associated with taking no action. The action taken to resolve the compelling event is expected to deliver a significant business result that is quantifiable either in money saved or an increase in revenue, or profitability and is time-bound. In my opinion, qualifying the compelling event is the most important aspect of qualifying any sales opportunity.
By the way, everything I have shared up to this point is nothing new or novel. It's all part of following a consultative sales approach and being rigorous in our qualification process.
You can leverage this information to remind your customer of the impact your candidate is going to have on their business including the specific project or role your candidate is being considered for. Additionally, when you screen and qualify your candidate and conduct candidate reference checks, you must qualify and quantify the impact your candidate made on their past projects. You need to uncover to what degree they helped their prior employers (or clients) increase revenue, reduce costs, improve efficiency or reduce risk. You can do this by simply asking their references. If you haven't done this that is O.K. GO BACK AND DO IT. Then, call you customer.
To summarize, you need to understand your customer's admitted pain and compelling event and the business outcomes they expect from your candidate. When conducting candidate reference checks, uncover when, where and how your candidate delivered those results on recent and relevant or similar projects and share the story. How you share the story is another topic for another blog post.
Use Social Proof
Buyers get skittish during the decision stage of their buying process. They become far more price sensitive and they become far more concerned with risk. They think about things like:
- "Is this candidate and his or her solution/approach feasible? Will it work with my team or in my department?"
- "What could go wrong if we move forward with this project and this candidate?"
- "How confident am I in this solution/candidate?"
- "Has this candidate solved this problem before? If so, what were the results?"
- "What are the odds of success vs. failure?"
To give your customers confidence in moving forward you must share with them social proof. That might translate into sharing any of the following:
In order to reinvigorate your customer's desire to buy, you have to present the value of your solution in new ways and in multiple ways. For example, applying the above bullet points, I might share a customer case study with my customer on Monday. On Thursday I might share a different case study. The following Monday I share a video of a customer endorsement. On Thursday I share an endorsement from an industry thought leader. The week after that I share a video endorsement from the candidate's references and so forth. By doing this I'm continuing to sell the value of my candidate over a period of time. And I'm selling the different elements of value of my solution. I don't want to share all of this information with my customer at once. I want to demonstrate value over time. It gives me a reason to reach out.
- Customer case studies (a good case study uses metrics or statistics to quantify the value of your solution)
- A video endorsement from another customer (you can do a quick video interview of your customers endorsing you and how you have helped them on similar projects. It doesn't need be fancy.)
- A video endorsement from the candidate's reference (you can do a quick video interview of the candidate's references and put the interviews into a playlist for your customers to watch. Again, nothing fancy, just direct and to the point.)
- Introduce and connect the customer with the candidate references (set up a conference call and let the candidate's references "sell" the candidate and speak to the value and impact your candidate made on their project)
- An endorsement from an industry influencer (if you're candidate is a project manager see if they can get an endorsement from a leader from PMI or another thought leader in the field of project management)
Demonstrate the ROI of Your Solution
As mentioned previously, buyers get skittish when trying to make a final decision and close a deal. To help customers address and overcome their fears and to continue to sell the value of your solution, sellers should focus on demonstrating the ROI of their solution. You can build an ROI calculator like the one we built to demonstrate the ROI of Menemsha Group's training programs. There are many ways in which you can demonstrate the ROI of your staffing solution which means you could (and should) build multiple ROI calculators. For example, you might build an ROI calculator that demonstrates how quickly the customer will see a return on their investment in hiring your consultant vs. letting the seat remain empty. To do this may require you collecting historical data from working with your other customers as well as possessing a good understanding of your client's project goals and objectives. At its most basic level though, an ROI calculator usually requires a simple calculation along the lines of:
ROI (%) = Net Gain ($) / Total Cost of Investment ($) * 100
When building your ROI calculator keep in mind that most clients will not be able to estimate the forward-looking net gain off the top of their mind. So you will have to structure your calculator questions in a way that the client can easily answer them. From my experience, ROI calculators can be a powerful tool for a salespeople because it enables them to change the dynamics of the conversation. Remember, your customers buy from you (and hire your candidates) so that they can achieve their desired business results. Instead of discussing a candidates skill set and background, you can now engage in a business conversation about:
- Expected ROI
- Cost Savings
- Increase in Revenue
- Improved Efficiency
And by doing this the customer now perceives you as a true business partner. Most important of all, having an ROI calculator gives salespeople confidence.
Check out smartsheet's free ROI templates and calculators to help you get started. And ask your CFO or controller for help in creating your own ROI calculator.
Reduce or Eliminate Customer Risk
Another element of customer value is to reduce or even remove the client's perceived risk. In fact, research from Gong showed that using “risk-reversal” language increases win rates by 32%. I was taught early in my career (and have found this to be true) that the customer will also chose the least risky solution.
To get your stalled deals over the finish line you can remind your customers how easily they can opt out, get a refund, or request support.
You might say:
- “Let's establish very specific work deliverables for each week the consultant works. And if you are not happy with the quality and timeliness in the delivery of each deliverable you can....."
- "If it doesn't work out we can cancel at any time. We're the employer of record."
- "You have "X days" to cancel and get a 100% refund if you’re not seeing the results you’d like"
- "We stand by our consultant and the due diligence we have conducted internally which is why we offer a "X" week guarantee. We will give you a 100% refund up to week "X" if you are not happy with the performance of our candidate"
If, after reading all of this you're saying to yourself, "my customer isn't even taking my calls or responding to my emails," than you had a different issue. Either the opportunity was never fully qualified in the first place or you simply lack consideration from the manager. But if your customer has genuine interest, they will get on the phone and hear you out. These strategies turn stalled deals into promising deals. They turn frustration into excitement. Start applying these strategies today and you will be surprised just how many deals you can still close.
Want more tips on how to close deals? Check out this blog, Why Sales Reps Can't Close next.