Our February 5 blog, “Closing the Sale,” examined techniques for taking that last big step which secures the client’s commitment to accepting our recommendation. This week, we’ll backtrack the sales process and consider the path that brought us right up to the goal line. Along the way, we’ll discover a potential positive consequence of failing to win a new business competition: maybe it wasn’t as devastating as it seemed?
Selling skills researchers have confirmed that it becomes increasingly uncomfortable for a potential buyer to say “no” if he/she has consistently agreed with the salesperson early in the dialog. Unfortunately, some telemarketers trivialized and misunderstood this truth. The result: scripted selling pseudo-dialogs which posed a sequence of superficial, “no-brainer” questions designed to force “yes” responses. (A pitch for an educational toy begins with: “Do you love your children?” “Do you want them to be successful?” “Do you believe that a good education contributes to success?” etc., etc.) Not surprisingly, such manipulative, “toxic questioning” was usually transparent and self-defeating.
The consultative salesperson knows that every action-generating, relationship-strengthening, meaningful “yes” from our client or prospect can, indeed, advance us toward an eventual sale.
Eric Baron, founder and CEO of The Baron Group, likes to make the distinction between “the Big C” (closing the sale) and “the little c” — an interim close. If a client agreement or action involves a specific next-step that keeps us in the game and maintains an on-going relationship, it’s a “little c.” Some examples:
- Although a live, face-to-face (or telephone) dialog is far more potent, even a one-way communication such as an email, voicemail message or letter (remember those?) has potential “little c” value— especially if it seeks a future interaction with the client.
- Obviously, getting the client’s or prospect’s “yes” to meet with us and hear our story is an important “little c.”
- If we’re now talking with a “gate keeper,” a “yes” that moves us toward the ultimate decision-maker becomes a critically important “little c.”
- Offering and having the client say “yes” to something beneficial to her/his business is a “little c”; could having her/him ask us for it first actually be a bigger stride forward?
- Any interaction that results in the client committing to do something him/herself in response to our counsel is a very big (sorry!) “little c.”
- Failing to win a new business “finals presentation” could be a momentous “little c”: we may now have inserted ourselves into what advertising people call the “considered set”— a select, short-list group which will define the prospect’s universe of potential choices for future projects.
Every one of these events involves a genuine, meaningful, leverageable “yes.” Our planning question: how do we structure each client contact as yet another “little c” step in the progression toward that coveted “Big C”?
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