1st Call Close – put your Deal on rails from day 1
Can a sales professional ‘close’ on the first call? Of course! …. The deal itself rarely closes that fast, however you can close a customer commitment to co-plan the solution project. So you may ask ‘Why would I want to do that?’ and ‘How is that done?’
First, the reasons. I’ll start with an observation that many deals stall or get delayed even though prospects love the demo and the product. So when setting a call objective for a first meeting, here a good trick: Set the private goal to be ‘Stall avoidance’, and be a believer that business issues will drive the decision, and there is a pattern we can see up front to identify all the stall reasons, and head them off before they derail our Deal.
So how can Stall avoidance be done? Amazingly, it is based on the simple concept that prospects have predictable, very generic reasons to NOT buy. Lucky for us, since in many cases this has nothing to do with product competition, but a lot to do with competition for internal funding – across many different ways a prospect’s company can improve their organization’s success.
In addition, customers will typically tell us that ‘the Product’ and ‘the Price’ are the main variables to discuss. In truth, however, when a champion presents your proposal to a senior executive for approval, product and price are only a small part of how approval is won – or lost. Champions also seem surprised when they come back from a failed presentation to report the reasons for a ‘no go’ or ‘no deal’ situation – need was not strong, ROI was not strong, and timing was not urgent. Seldom is ‘the product’ given as a reason to say no.
So in fact a prospect request for more product and price information needs to be deflected, and polite sales deflections are a critical part of what I am about to describe. Here is an example: “Mr. Prospect, you have raised some good questions about product and price, however we have many product options and possible configurations – may I first learn more about your business problems, needs and context? …OK, great, now let’s start with your user groups, and what they are trying to accomplish.”
Now recall the sub-title of this article – put your Deal on rails. Once you have deflected price and product, all of the first call will explore exactly three things:
– Pain Points (aka Needs) – a deeper perspective than ‘we need to reduce travel cost’
– Payback & Funding – ROI and sources of funding
– Plan of Implementation – timing & resources to BOTH install and get purchase paperwork
This memo won’t go into questioning techniques for these three points (that’s a future blog…) – use your sales instincts to get the conversation going, and the 80/20 rule that the prospect talks 80% of the time, with you just asking questions (open and closed) to get the solution selling info needed.
Summary time is key – your call summary needs to cover the 3 points above, plus the Product info request, roughly as follows:
“Let’s summarize, then we can close for the day and let you get back to other work. We have covered a lot of territory. In my notes I see 4 general topics:
– Pain points of the users and the company, and problems to solve
– Payback and ROI
– Product options and selection, with configuration
– Plan for a successful installation, that will be a credit to you and your team
Each topic needs a 1 to 2 page summary, and I can start by preparing a summary of pain points as draft…. In fact, we can work through each of these 4 points over the next 2 weeks, with phone conferences on Mondays and Thursdays. We should schedule all 4 conferences to be sure we are productive; however you can defer or take an off ramp at any time.
Does that approach meet with your approval?”
Now, hold your breath – you have just gone out for a ‘no stall’ close, and like any close you need to wait quietly for the answer. Interestingly, most real customers see this as a sensible way to co-plan a proposal, with no up-front cost, so they want to say ‘Yes’ – if they seem to hesitate, it usually means they are doing exactly what you needed when you deflected the Products discussion; they are thinking through what it will take to get a successful deal through preparing a decent project plan – and co-planning is a great way to use your assistance and expertise.
Often a prospect will say things like “we should get input from so-and-so in another department…” Start smiling because the prospect is identifying the people and dynamics of the approval committee; and helping you lay down rails for successful Deal management, and earlier Deal closing.