Contrary to popular belief, the secret to successful sales isn’t necessarily the “close.” While asking for the business is an important step, sales is a process that requires careful strategic planning as well as a succinct tactical approach.
The strategy is the overall plan in developing your business and gaining new customers, while the tactics are the specific steps you take within the overall strategy to walk your prospects through the sales process to the close.
The “close” should be a natural next step in the sales process, not a question you ask your prospect out of the blue, such as “Are you ready to place your order?”
Here are a couple of ideas to consider when walking your customers through the sales process so that closing is seamless–the natural next step.
A philosophy I live by in my business is, “The purpose of a meeting is to get another meeting.” In other words, the purpose of a meeting is not necessarily to close the transaction, unless you’re in a business where “one-call closes” are common. If your business is like most, it will require more than one meeting, as well as other forms of communication such as phone conversations, e-mail exchanges and supplementary written correspondence before you actually close the sale. By ending the first meeting with an agreement to take the next step with your prospect, you are ensuring that the prospect is willing to move through the sales process with you.
Another key factor at the end of the first meeting, after agreeing to the follow-up, is to ask your prospects for a commitment that they will, in fact, respond to your follow-up contact. How many times have you followed up at a prospect’s request and received no response? Maddening, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but if the answer to doing business together is “no,” I’d rather know sooner than later so I don’t waste my time following up with someone who isn’t really a prospect.
One way to ensure that your prospects will respond to you when you follow up is to give them an “out” if they decide not to do business with you. To do this, after you’ve agreed to the follow-up step, say something like, “Can I ask you a favour? When I follow up with you in two weeks, if for some reason you’ve decided not to proceed, will you please let me know? There’s a saying in sales that ‘a fast no is better than a slow no,’ and if you’ve decided to go another way, that’s OK. Just let me know so I won’t waste your time or mine.”
Sounds a little bold, but most prospects will respond positively to this because, one, it gives them the out they need if they decide to go with another solution; and two, it shows your prospect that you are a busy professional and you don’t want to waste anyone’s time. This technique also works well because suddenly you’re not a desperate salesperson, but rather a confident consultant who has something of value to offer.
I’ve found it necessary to practice this technique over the years when I come across prospects who are too nice to say “no.” The funny thing is, more often than not when I use this technique, rather than hearing “no,” I end up closing the sale.
The next step is to prove that your solution not only shows a return on investment, or ROI, but actually creates a profit centre for your prospect. That is a persuasive reason for your prospect to continue to work with you through the sales process to the eventual close of the sale.
For example, if implementing the solution you provide costs your customer $10,000 but saves $15,000 in other operating costs within six months, that’s not only an ROI in six months, it’s an actual profit of $5,000. (Savings can be viewed as profit since they ultimately affect the bottom line, which is probably the thing your prospect cares about most.)
Finally, creating a sense of urgency will help move the sale through the process as well. Creating a sense of urgency requires your solution to be so compelling that it doesn’t make sense for your prospect to go another day without it. You create a sense of urgency by emphasising the pain your prospects are experiencing by not having your solution and showing that your solution will stop their pain.
Now all you have to do is show that the sooner your solution is implemented, the sooner their pain will go away–and the next logical step in the sales process will be the sale.
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