To Improve Sign Sales Productivity, Restore the Lost Art of Qualifying Sales Leads

Hanson Sign Company Jamestown NY Production Floor

Wholesale Sign Sales

After leading a national consumer packaged goods sales team for many years, the sign industry has presented several exciting new challenges.  Recently, I asked my senior account executives here at Hanson Sign Companies why we generate so many quotes but relatively few orders by comparison.  They advised that the customer’s close ratio affects ours.  If we could improve our customer’s close ratio even a small percentage, by extension our own sales would skyrocket.

So why do our customers have a low close rate? The response was, “The great recession resulted in a long-lasting erosion of capabilities among our client base.  The retail sign centers and franchisees we serve, saw sales drop off as advertising spending was cut during the recession. Many of these clients were forced to lay off their experienced sales reps and manage sales alone.  As the economy recovered these sales people did not return and were replaced by new and inexperienced reps who are eager to jump at every opportunity but are not trained in how to qualify their leads.”

This results in a low win, no win situation. Why does it take so long to get an order? Why are we quoting multiple revisions for the same job? Why does someone else get the order? Why does no one get the order? Why does a buyer tell us we have the order, and then the deal evaporates?

Sales productivity is a function of the number of leads, the quality of the leads, turning more leads into true prospects, and increasing the odds of getting orders.

Successful selling is driven by the productivity of sales people who understand how to maximize their time and get orders as efficiently as possible.

Qualifying Sign Sales: A Game of Odds

Train your Sales People how to Organize the odds and work with them until it becomes habit. Sales is a game of odds, so keep the odds in your favor. This can be done effectively through a series of simple, constructive questions to your intended buyers – and to yourself. First, let’s clarify a few terms.

A lead is a person or organization that might be a candidate to purchase products and services from your company. The odds at this point are zero.

A prospect is a lead that has been qualified as one that is worth pursuing. Actually, let’s say pre-qualified.

Then do it again?

Somewhere you got the impression that prospect qualification is a one-time event. Ask a few questions in the first contact with a sales lead, and the lead becomes a prospect. Think again.

Things change: the prospect’s needs change, your primary contact is reorganized or moves, the prospect’s financial situation shifts, there is new management, the prospect is acquired. Your prospect is a moving target.

Therefore, keep qualifying throughout the sales cycle until the prospects pay you for the sign(s). Afterward, qualify them for more business. Never stop qualifying. Ever.

Qualification Questions

In the uninitiated sales rep’s mind asking questions is likened to entering a store at the local mall and being descended upon by an overly aggressive sales person.  They often become self-conscious and may feel awkward asking more than a few short questions.  You can help your reps to understand that this is a professional consultation where the customer often has no experience and needs help.  They can set it up as an exploratory conversation to understand the customer’s needs.  Here are some powerful, popular, and proven qualification questions to ask during your sales cycle:

  • What is the product that best fits their need? Do they have a new location that needs signage, is this an existing site that needs a change-out, what are they using today that you might replace? How many signs are needed and what types of signs?
  • Do they know what they need or do they need guidance? If they expect you to do the leg work, will they commit to buying from you if they like your solution? If they want to shop your solution, are they willing to pay a consulting or concept development fee that you will apply to the order if they end up buying from you?
  • What is their budget? Does the product/service pricing you want to sell fit within the buyer’s budget?
  • What is their level of maturity, knowledge, and expertise in signage?
  • Who are the competitors; their strengths their weaknesses?
  • Are there any issues with how they would adopt or install your signs? Building codes, restrictions, zoning issues, permitting or landlord concerns, structural or soil conditions, engineering requirements?
Hugely important
  • Who are the influencers?
  • Who is the decision maker?
  • Who is the order signer?
  • Do they have the budgeted funds? Avoid developing detailed quotes on three or more widely different cost options. If you understand the needs and the budget, sell them on the right solution for them
  • When do they need the signs installed, is the date critical, why?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 what is the urgency of this project? Spend time on those who answer 7 or higher.
Most important

All things considered, will this prospect really purchase from you?

Any time that too many of the answers are not in your favor, consider bailing out of the situation. Instead, spend your time wisely and find better prospects.

The bottom line

Qualify. Do not waste time selling into an impossible situation, especially to prove how good you are. Sell to real prospects where you can succeed. Constant qualification is critical. Ask a lot of questions, often. Keep qualifying. Win.

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