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The Secret to Establishing Next Steps

Closing is important. That’s the ultimate objective of the sales process, of course. But we rarely close during our calls – instead, we get next steps.

We believe that the only time you fail on a sales call is when you don’t get a next step. Even if the action plan you develop is long-term, and even if you don’t plan to make contact for months, as long as you get that next step and the momentum continues, the call was worthwhile.

One of our guiding principles for next steps is what we call the “4 W’s”:

Who will do what by when with help from whom.

Here is a step-by-step breakdown:

Who– First and foremost, identify who is responsible for these next steps. Usually the person who manages the relationship plays the lead role, but it never hurts to get the client involved as well. Ask them to send you some information or review a piece of collateral material. If they participate in establishing the next steps, they demonstrate some commitment and become a more active participant.

What– Be very specific about what needs to be done. Next steps could include reviewing the meeting, providing referrals, sending some information, or even submitting a proposal. You need to be as clear as possible about what will happen next.

When– An action plan without target dates rarely yields desired results. If you can assign specific deliverables and associated due dates, the likelihood of things getting done increases significantly. Attach a date to every action item, again, being as specific as possible.

(Help from) Whom– Clarify who else will be involved and get their commitment as the action plan is developed. Knowing what additional resources are available to help (on both sides) is important to assigning realistic deliverables.

This doesn’t have to be overcomplicated – two or three next steps are more than enough. But if you clarify them by highlighting who will do what by when, with help from whom, you will end your sales call with an action plan that will ensure that you are moving forward. As a result, what we call “little c” (the next steps) will eventually become “Big C” (the close) and the business will be yours.

What next steps do you strive for at the end of your sales calls? Is there a specific type of follow-up action that has helped you close more deals? Leave a comment below and share your expertise.