When trying to make a sale, when you're at the point where you sold yourself and built rapport with your prospect, you probably qualified him or her by asking questions about what the prospect is looking for, need, budget and authority to buy.
This helps you understand how best to assist them.
The next step to take is one I call an agreement on need statement, which goes something like this: "As I understand it, you are looking for a transportation company that can provide overnight service from San Francisco to Vancouver, British Columbia, with an air-cushion ride truck and then service from your warehouse in Vancouver to other points throughout Canada with an automatic tracking service and competitive pricing. Is that correct?"
This is a capsule summary of the needs you uncovered in previous steps.
Again, after you have summarized your understanding in your agreement on need statement, you close it with the Million Dollar Question: "Is that correct?"
The answer to this question determines how you will proceed. If the prospect agrees, you can move to the next step - sell the company. If the prospect disagrees or says something like, "I'm already getting that from my current supplier," this tells you that you must continue the qualification process to determine if there are needs you can meet that are not being met by the current supplier.
Suppose on a long sales cycle, after you make two or three sales calls, you decide to put together a proposal for your next sales call. On that call, re-establish rapport, do any additional qualification necessary and then restate the agreement on need, adding this question, "Has anything changed since our last meeting?"
You might say, "Joe, in our last meeting you were looking for a video conferencing system that connects your home office with company managers and distributors across the country. You wanted this system to be interactive with all parties able to talk and view each other, with first-rate technical support and at a price that fits your budget. Has anything changed since our last meeting?"
Unfortunately, most salespeople assume everything is exactly the same as it was when they last met and then proceed with their presentation only to find out everything has changed and there no longer is any interest or need. As we know, things change rapidly in business, every hour on the hour.
Now you're ready for the next step, which I call, sell the company.
You might think it doesn't make sense as the next step: Since you've just finished reviewing the problems and needs that exist, isn't it a logical next step to show your prospect how your product or service solves the problems and fills the needs?
All prospects make the same buying decisions in a precise, psychological order. So far you have helped your prospect decide positively about you, the salesperson. This addresses the prospect's first buying decision.
Next is the prospect's second buying decision, about the company. The prospect makes this decision before deciding about the value of your product or service. There's little chance you can fill the need without satisfying the second buying decision.
In this step you will help your prospect make a positive decision about your company. You are the company to your prospect. The prospect wants to know, even if he or she never gives any indication, whether your company operates with integrity, will deliver on the promises you've made and is capable of performing as promised.
To move smoothly into selling the company, use the following transition question.
"May I ask how much information you have about (your company's name)?"
Your prospect may know a lot, very little or nothing about your company. He or she may have positive, neutral or even negative feelings about it. This question is so important to the success of your sale that you should memorize it.
The exact wording is important. It's an open-ended question that encourages the prospect to freely express whatever facts and feelings he or she may have about your company. Whatever your prospect's knowledge or feelings, it is important that you provide an opportunity to express them.
What about calls you make on long-established clients?
They already know how long your company has been in business, its policies, its track record and that it delivers on its promises. Is it necessary to sell your company to them again?
Because if you take a customer for granted, you've taken the first step toward losing that customer.
Remember: If you're not in there selling your company, you can be assured others will be in there selling theirs. Always assume you are counterbalancing the input your clients get from your competitors.
Your competition wants your clients' business every bit as much as you do and will make every effort to get it. Even with a long-established client, always address the "sell the company" step.
The feedback we get from salespeople who work for household name companies such as Microsoft, IBM, and Hewlett Packard is shock at how little their clients know about their company.
Salespeople think customers remember all the information they have dished out over the past several months or years but, actually, customers retain very little of it.
There are no shortcuts for the sales professional because each step must be handled in its entirety, and in the right sequence, to satisfy the buyer's hidden agenda - their buying decisions.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.