Reaching agreement essential for success

This is the third article in my series analyzing the seven steps of the Track Selling System.

In previous articles, I analyzed Step One: Approach, and Step Two: Qualification of Track Selling, wherein you introduce yourself to your prospect, establish rapport and gather important information that allows you to serve your prospect's needs.

If your sales cycle is short, you may accomplish the first two steps in one call. If your sales cycle is long, you'll likely make numerous calls before gathering all necessary information.

Once you have the information, you are ready to move into Step Three: Agreement on Need.

This step is simple. Summarize all the input you received in steps one and two. You do this by presenting it in a capsule summary form, using the following statement: "As I understand it, you are looking for something that will [summarize the important information you gathered in the first two steps]. Is that correct?"

What do you include in the summary statement?

That depends on the specific information you gathered; it will be different on every call you make. However, this statement is so important, you should memorize the key words.

By summarizing the input from your prospect, you communicate you're tuned into that person, you care about their problems and you understand their needs. Moreover, it communicates the two of you are working as partners -- the essence of Track Selling.

Why ask the summary question? It gives you the opportunity to verify the information you've received, make sure you heard correctly and have the facts straight.

Why ask, "Is that correct?" It gives your prospect the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings. This question lets your prospect speak up and correct any disagreements.

Remember the dialogue between Gerri of Happiness is Hawaii Tours and her prospect Dick in my previous columns? Following is Gerri's agreement on need statement for Dick, whose family wants to take a winter vacation in Hawaii:

Salesperson (Gerri):

"As I understand it, you're looking for a vacation package that would allow for a variety of activities, ones that would allow you and your wife to take some preplanned tours of the native culture while your son goes snorkeling. Your younger daughter could do some touring on her own, while your older daughter enjoys the beach. And you're looking to build in some free time. All of this should be in a total package that would not exceed $5,000, including airfare. Is that correct?"

Prospect (Dick):

"Yes, that sounds like a dream vacation."

If your agreement on need statement is on target, your prospect will tell you. The response might be, "Yes, that's exactly what I'm looking for."

How many times in the past do you suppose this prospect has encountered a salesperson who listened to what he said and showed real understanding?

When the prospect concurs you're in complete agreement, you're ready to move directly to step four of the system, which we'll get to in an upcoming column. However, if your prospect doesn't agree with your agreement on need statement, that's fine.

Remember, one of the reasons you asked "Is that correct?" is so you can verify your understanding of the prospect's situation. Listen to the prospect clarify the facts and review the agreement on need statement a second time.

Continue to repeat this procedure and clarify the information until you and the prospect are in accord with his/her needs. In a longer sales cycle, you may make several sales calls and never go beyond the approach and qualification steps.

On each sales call, you start again with approach and work through qualification. When you reach the agreement on need step in one sales call, you must restate it in future calls, adding the sentence, "Has anything changed since our last meeting?"

Repeating the agreement on need statement helps you pin down whether any changes, large or small, have occurred. If things have changed, you'll be better able to revise your presentation at this point, keeping you in control.

Here's Gerri's abbreviated agreement on need statement with the question added:

Gerri: "Dick, has anything changed since our last conversation that would alter these plans?"

Repeating the agreement on need statement helps you pin down anything that might change the need.

In this example, Gerri could have assumed everything had remained the same and moved to the next step. She even may have tried closing the sale before Dick said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot to tell you. My son and oldest daughter are not coming with us because they are choosing to stay home and visit a close friend who's become ill."

This would dramatically affect the pricing, length and itinerary of the vacation, and may even put the entire trip in jeopardy.

Circumstances change frequently. Repeating the agreement on need statement keeps you in control and helps reduce the chance for future surprises which may terminate the sale.

Final thoughts: There's a possible response you should be prepared for, although it doesn't occur often. Suppose after you complete the agreement on need statement, the prospect says, "OK, where do I sign?"

Do you insist, "No, you can't do that now. I have four more Track Selling steps to cover?" Of course not.

Instead, take the order, then go through the last four steps. Why?

Finishing the process ensures the customer stays sold and ensures your product or service wears well.

There are no shortcuts for the sales professional, even when the prospect buys "too early."



Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.