Hands down the easiest way to increase your sales is to drive a higher average invoice. Add products, add users, add years. Undeniably, we’d all rather find 20% more dollars in each sale than 20% more buyers.

So…..why aren’t reps maximizing sales opportunities all the time? Sure a lot of you ask your prospects if they’d be interested in additional products and you always remember to quote multiple years, but most reps won’t really push the envelope on up-selling. Is the fear of losing the bird in the hand holding us back?

My top reps over the years have all been fearless. They ignore the fear that stops them from acting in a way others consider too “something.” Too many calls, too many questions, too much follow up, or when it comes to maximizing a sale, too pushy. Today I’m going to make the argument for the risks top reps are willing to exchange for increasing their average invoice.

1.  Risk moving up the ladder.

When the decision maker you are working with is limited in their control, you have a choice to make. You can close the smaller sale for fewer subjects or end users, or you can try to move up the decision-making ladder. One of my past top reps had a rule about this which he called the “courtesy call.” He always called on the top decision maker in curriculum to let that person know he was working on a small implementation in the district and as a courtesy he would like to show them his solution in order for them to have full knowledge of all the tools at work for their students. You can also leverage district level reporting tools, or the advantages of continuity across district and longitudinally through grade levels. Reps that don’t want to try this fear the big cheese will use that courtesy information to make a power play that halts their smaller sale. If that’s true, then isn’t your long-term success at that district tenuous at best? If you must, you can hedge your risk by simply asking your prospect if they think it would be beneficial (or OK with them) to speak to that ultimate decision maker, but sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.

2.  Risk lengthening the sales cycle.

I know you are often up against a time-specific sales quota and the thought of waiting for a wider group to evaluate your product sounds insane, but ask yourself which prospect is more motivated? The one organizing a group meeting to achieve economies of scale on his product and training services, or the one that just settled in with a new implementation? It’s often worth the risk of delaying the buy just a bit longer and secure the bigger pilot, the invite to the county-wide meeting, or the district level needs analysis.

A technique that will help you is to talk about other large implementations. When you have a small implementation all but locked up, it’s a great time to share how another district is benefitting from a full scale implementation of your product. It sure works for Amazon to tell you what “other people bought.” Of course you can always grow the account to a larger implementation over time, but a bigger sale in July beats a smaller sale in March with a “chance” for a full implementation down the road.

3.  Risk a next step.

It’s fun to get the in-bound quote request, the harried Title 1 director or school secretary calling out of nowhere to say, “I have a teacher that asked for X so can you send me a quote in the next hour?” You can surely close that order up by sundown. But is it smart to let it go at that? If you ask a few questions, will it shut down the entire sale? Right now you have proof there’s a need somewhere in that school or district, and that there is money available for the purchase. Make up any excuse you have to, but try to speak to the end user.  If money is expiring that day, there should be a sense of urgency on their part to get on the phone with you.  Then you can work your magic to expose need and offer a full scale solution from there. You may want to brainstorm a question or two just for this situation, like “Did the teacher want option A or B?” The purchasing people won’t know, so they’ll ask you to explain those which you can offer to do directly with the end user and get her a quick answer.

If it’s too easy to get your pricing from your website or customer support line, you’ll get inbound purchase orders from people you never had a chance to ask one need question to. That is something you should lobby to change, but ha, I’ve been stuck with that situation before and know it can be beyond your control. Contact those orders before fulfilling them just to clarify a few things “so we made sure you get exactly what you need.” Again, your goal is to stump the buyer into a question that they don’t know how to answer so you’ll have the chance to explore your solution more fully.  Often, a little consultative selling will open a real sales dialogue that can end in a larger invoice.

In sales we are always hedging risks – I mean the downside of playing it safe is missing your sales goal; what bigger risk is there than that? When you are both confident in and knowledgeable about your solution these three will feel a lot less like risks and a lot more like standard operating procedure. And if your fears tend to hold you back, just remember that to get the best fruit you’re going to have to go out on a limb once in a while!

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