Thursday, 19 September 2013 13:07

Achieving Overnight Sales Success

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I remember the moment my former boss turned and asked me, “Do you think you would be interested in going into sales?” At the time I was young and in a very complex industry and simply trying to keep my head above water. To me the idea of going into sales was the equivalent of going to the front lines of a war. Since then I’ve had a change of heart as I have needed to rely on my own sales ability to move The Entrepreneur Café, LLC forward. For many sales can be intimidating consisting of the dreaded cold calls, sheer numbers, rejection, long sales processes, continuous pipeline management, and quotas. Recently I found myself trying to explain the sales process to a budding entrepreneur and wanted to make sure that the details of an extended sales process didn’t get lost in translation. So I decided to try and simplify the sales process with five easy steps.


To me listening has become somewhat of a lost art. We all have so much going on that at times it can be difficult to sit still and listen to what is going on with someone else. People may allow you to go on about yourself in other social settings, however, fail to hone in to what a potential customer is saying and you could be blowing a sale. All of us have amazing personal and professional accomplishments that we are all very proud of. Let’s be honest we all love talking about ourselves and if asked the right questions and given the opportunity, we will probably tell you everything that you want to know professionally. To become a ‘sales guru’ the first question you will need to ask is, “What is it that you do?” Try to avoid making this question a robotic sales response and take a genuine interest in what the other person does. It makes a difference and the potential client will recognize it as well. Get the client to tell you all about their business and you have accomplished the first step in reaching your sales goal.


Experience and research has shown that small businesses often face some of the same issues. The job of a salesman is to avoid the urge to be a mind reader and try and determine the needs of the client. If you were successful in gaining insight into the client’s business then you may be ready to take the next step. Depending on how much equity you have with the potential client your next question should be, “What’s the biggest obstacle your company is facing right now?” The right answer to this question will go a long way in helping you determine if the client has a legitimate need for what you do and what your response should be in order to move the sales process along.


Last month a contact called with a lead on a business planning project where the client said they had a budget of $10,000. The third question in moving the process along will let you know if you have a realistic chance of making the sale, “Do you have a budget in mind for this project?” Responses such as “whatever it takes” or “I really haven’t thought about it” rarely lead anywhere. An equally important question in the sales process is one that would most likely follow the budget question and that is, “What is your timeframe for completing this project?” Music to any salespersons ears is usually in the form of, ‘how soon can you start’ or ‘here’s a check’. It rarely happens that easily, but what you are looking for is an answer that expresses some sort of urgency. Without having a budget in mind or an expressed start or end date for addressing the client’s most pressing need, you could find yourself on a wild goose chase.


A successful sale has a lot to do with the quality of the business relationship. If you have been able to successfully move this relationship along you should know the following about the potential client. (1) What they do for a living and how their company operates. (2) What the client’s most pressing business needs are. (3) If they have an established budget for the project. (4) How soon they would like to see the project completed. With this information you should feel pretty confident as to whether or not you can assist the client and further the business relationship. If so your next question should be, “Do you mind if I follow-up with you?” Once you have received the green light, be sure to send information that will help the client better understand what you do and how you can help them.

Be sure to give the client a few days to review your information and don’t forget to provide them with a day and time that you intend to follow-up. At this point all of the work that you put in to the sales process is lost unless you ask for the business. Each question gets you closer to the coveted yes but it is important to remember the following. You may not be able to get all of the information you need from the client at one time-so stay committed to moving the sales process forward. Depending on the complexity of your industry, your sales process will likely need to be modified. Sales are a numbers game so the more interactions you have with potential new clients the greater your chances for success. Lastly, keep in mind that there could be a legitimate need for what you offer, but it could simply be the wrong time for the client. So be sure to keep your pipeline alive by checking in with the client at a future date as circumstances often change.

Cavanaugh L. Gray

Cavanaugh L. Gray ( is the Director of Business Development for The Entrepreneur Café, L.L.C (877) 511-4820.  For more information on what makes a great start-up or to read a chapter from his new book The Entrepreneurial Spirit Lives: 25 Tales to Help Entrepreneurs Start, Grow, and Succeed in Small Business log on to  For more information on how to start, grow and succeed in small business, ‘Like’ on Facebook, ‘Follow’ on Twitter @TheECafe or ‘Connect’ on LinkedIn.