Most salespeople would tell you that there are few better feelings in life than closing a deal. This is because guiding a customer through the sales process and coming out the other side with dollars committed isn’t a matter of blind luck. It’s a craft — based on equal parts data mining, psychology, intuition and other skills. Many sales staffs were under unprecedented pressure last year. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered changes to the economy that made many buyers cut back on spending. Now that the economy is slowly recovering, sales opportunities may be improving.
Here are four steps your salespeople can follow to improve the odds that those chances will come to fruition:
1. Qualify prospects. Time is an asset. Successful salespeople focus most or all their time on prospects who are most likely to buy. Viable prospects typically have certain things in common:
A clear need for the products or services in question
Sufficient knowledge of the products or services
An identifiable decision-maker who can approve the sale
Adequate financial standing
A need to buy right away or soon.
If any of these factors is missing, and certainly if several are, the salesperson will likely end up wasting his or her time trying to make a sale.
2. Ask the right questions. A salesperson must deeply understand a prospect’s motivation for needing your company’s products or services. To do so, inquiries are key. Salespeople who make great presentations but don’t ask effective questions tend to come up short. An old rule of thumb says: The most effective salespeople spend 80% of their time listening and 20% talking. Actual percentages may vary, but the point is that a substantial portion of a salesperson’s “talk time” should be spent asking intelligent, insightful questions that arise from pre-call research and specific points mentioned by the buyer.
3. Identify and overcome objections. A nightmare scenario for any salesperson is spending a huge amount of time on an opportunity, only to have an unknown issue come out of left field at closing and kill the entire deal. To guard against this, successful salespeople identify and address objections during their calls with prospects, thereby minimizing or eliminating unpleasant surprises at closing. They view objections as requests for information that, if handled correctly, will educate the prospect and strengthen the relationship.
4. Present a solution. The most eloquent sales presentation may be entertaining, but it will probably be unsuccessful if it doesn’t satisfy a buyer’s needs. Your product or service must fix a problem or help accomplish a goal. Without that, what motivation does a prospect have to spend money? Your salespeople must be not only careful researchers and charming conversationalists, but also problem-solvers. When you alleviate customers’ concerns and allow them to meet strategic objectives, you’ll increase the likelihood of making today’s sales and setting yourself up for tomorrow’s.
As we’re all aware, 2020 has been an extraordinarily complex year — that complexity is reflected in taxpayers’ tax situations, whether they’re businesses or individuals. While there is plenty of time before this year’s tax returns need to be filed, the constantly changing economic situation, the presidential election, and the host of COVID-19 legislative provisions mean that some tax moves will only be effective if they’re made before the end of the year.
We’ve brought together some of our best year-end tax-planning coverage, ranging from reminders of classic strategies to deep dives into rules specific to COVID-19 tax relief. For each article, we’ve highlighted a strategy or two, but they all offer a host of potential tax savings — for those who act fast.
For businesses and individuals:
In early October, Top 10 Firm Grant Thornton put together a list, a mix of strategies for both companies and individual taxpayers, including:
Making sure to use the above-the-line charitable deduction
Accelerating AMT refunds
Taking advantage of new bonus depreciation rules from the CARES Act
New for the end of the year:
In an interview, Wolters Kluwer’s Mark Luscombe dives into some of the most important new year-end planning issues, including:
Employee tax credits and deferrals related to payroll taxes that expire at the end of 2020
Tax provisions that offer retroactive relief
The implementing expiration of the expanded ability to make penalty-free withdrawals from retirement plans
With a number of COVID-19 related tax relief provisions, Laura Davison of Bloomberg News talks about how year-end planning has been turbocharged. Here are the provisions set to expire:
The removal of the cap on individuals’ business loss deductions
The one-time deduction for charitable gifts for taxpayers taking the standard deduction
Planning around the election:
Tax planners knew that the November election could have a major impact on year-end planning. Particularly, if a Biden win brought in a whole new approach to tax legislation. Accounting Today columnist Mark Luscombe, of Wolters Kluwer, offered strategies for both possible outcomes in Georgia, including:
With a Republic win, focusing more on tax-loss harvesting and less on Roth IRA conversions
With a Democratic win, preparing for the possibility of higher capital gains and income tax rates
Three-quarters of the way there:
In a column just before the election, Wolters Kluwer’s Mark Luscombe summarized the year-end planning developments thus far in the year including:
The restoration of NOL carrybacks for up to five years
A number of COVID related corrections and extensions to the Tax Cuts and Job Acts of 2017
COVID-19 sick leave and family leave, and employee retention provisions
Acceleration and declaration:
After a “year like no other” this early December list from AG FinTax’s Anil Grandhi included tips on lowering taxes by:
Accelerating business purchases
Adding children or spouses to the payroll
Deferring or accelerating income
From one year to another:
Not everything can be wrapped up by the end of the year. Accounting Today’s senior tax editor, Roger Russell, covers the issues from 2020 that will have an impact on 2021:
The tax impacts of remote work
How to handle emergency retirement plan withdrawals under the CARES Act
The taxability of unemployment benefits
In under the wire:
While many of them don’t need to be taken up by December 31st, the last-minute COVID relief legislation signed by President Trump included a number of tax provisions including:
Passage of a number of tax extenders
An extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit
Improvements to the Employee Retention Credit
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