Many know that I am entrenched in lead generation and this is really my first love. If there is interest in your service out there, I will find it. While I stay homed in on this function it is hard for me to stay out of any discussion about the final stage, i.e. the close of the sale. Customers mistakenly think that the leads are a done deal. Further, many don’t realize that lead generation is an investment and a must-do that is just as equal to sales as a ball is to a bat for a home run.
I mentioned in my last blog that CEOs should ensure there is a sales strategy in place for the products and services and that a leaders needs to know the market that is the target to best use their products/services. Leads generated need to be reviewed and evaluated before sales gets on the phone picking up the baton from lead generation. Know who you are and your value to the lead first before diving in for the sales introduction. Being able to tell a lead that you can fulfill their need is just the icing on the cake after they hear just how powerful a company you are.
When in the closing stage of any deal a number of things can go wrong.
If you have ever watched the show Shark Tank on ABC you’ll know that on each episode, four groups of entrepreneurs come on to the show to pitch their ideas to well-known wealthy investors. It is their job to convince the five investors on the panel to invest in their company for a percentage of equity in return. The evaluation is based on questions from the investors which come fast and furious. If you’re not prepared or don’t have the answers they want to hear, they eat you alive; hence the name of the show. However, if you watch the show you note that the investors first decide if they (1) like you as a presenter and (2) like the offering.
Luckily for you, your presentation won’t be broadcasted on national television and you’ll probably have a friendlier environment to pitch your services. Being calm, humble, confident and collected are some of the keys to winning over your audience.
There are three main steps leading to any deal closing: the proposal, initial nod of acceptance and the most important, but challenging of the three, closing.
- Developing the proposal should be easy to pull together detailing what you offer plus tailoring it to the prospect’s need. The telephone call that follows the lead-in is where this information is pulled in, i.e., what is most important to them and where their major hurt is. No matter the situation, if the lead that was brought to you is a company you WANT to be doing business with, then you pull out the big-guns. You go beyond the question asked during prospecting by the lead about your service. You sell the big picture so you not only win the deal based on their immediate need but for future application of your services all over their company. Prepare your proposal and tweak it as though you were being evaluated to perform exactly what you know you could be doing or want to do for this company. Most of all remember to WIFM. Tell them the answer to the question they are asking… “What’s in it For Me?”
- The acceptance period is both nerve-racking and intriguing because you have to be sure you included all your points needed to be made. So more the reason to ensure the planning for the proposal was done well. It is a waiting period that doesn’t need to stop the conversation with the prospect. Be ready to have some materials you can send during the waiting/evaluation period; put forth valuable references, introductions, skilled colleagues or project manager’s resumes, and don’t give up. If you are in their town on business, ask for a meeting over coffee so you can better understand their procurement process. If you are in town with a colleague that has expertise in the services you are proposing, call and ask if you can make an introduction. Think about how to offer networking opportunities. Perhaps during your first call with the prospect you remember problems they were experiencing that were outside your immediate area of focus, but you know a colleague or partner you can introduce them to. Not only will they be able to help your prospect but they can promote your relationship. There is also the chance you may get a negative indication that the prospect may be looking at someone else for the job. This is when you really start selling! So pull out your big guns (senior management) to help identify value that needs to be shared immediately with the prospect.
I recall working for a CRO early in my career. I learned of my client needing a study to be done and they were already set on using one of the bigger players to do the work. I didn’t like it that we were seen as “too small” but we were and I accepted their decision, but also remembered a comment she made during my meeting. She said “we aren’t sure they (the big player) can even do the job as no one has done this before.” Behind the scenes, I went to our CSO and told him the situation. He offered me information that I could take back to my customer with a note that said, “just in case it doesn’t work out.” It didn’t and a month later my client and her CEO were in my CEO’s office discussing the project. We won the award and completed the project plus others of the same caliber. Being a good salesperson means listening to everything, and being genuinely interested in helping your client. You have to want to win and can do so with a combination of persistence, creativity, customer care and a love for the business you represent.
- Closing will always be a challenge no matter how comfortable you think you feel about it. For starters, you can never fully grasp how someone on the other end is thinking about the situation. In your mind, you can be thinking everything is fine and then out of nowhere, you’re left blindsided. Many times, you are making a sales pitch to someone you really don’t know for that long of a time. You have no emotional ties to them, so if they want to back out at the last second, they will. It is very important to engage with your prospect on points of interest to build a bridge that allows you to keep in touch with them at least once or twice a week depending on the amount of information that needs to be relayed.
You want to have some urgency in getting the deal done, but you also don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. If you have great rapport, you can keep up the constant contact and not only make a business partner, but a friend and someone you can confide in along the process.