Many consultative salespersons never consider that their clients often enter meetings feeling anxious, vulnerable and guarded— and need recurring reassurance that what lies ahead will be safe, comfortable and beneficial. As the meeting shifts from one phase to the next, four key “transition steps” can provide this reassurance:
- Transition #1: Preparing the client for questions. Here, we’re moving from the opening, stage-setting part of the meeting (“positioning”) to the fact-finding, needs-driven questioning phase (“situation analysis”). Our goal is to signal the client that questions will follow, and that they’ll be appropriate, supportive and non-threatening— so that he/she will be comfortable and fully-responsive in helping us conduct an effective needs determination. Indeed, we can often accomplish this transition simply by stating that our questions’ sole purpose is to assure that we’ll be precisely on-target when we present our recommendations later on.
- Transition #2: Reviewing our understanding of the client’s needs. Now, having completed the Q & A phase, this transition accomplishes two things. First, it assures and demonstrates that our needs-determination was accurate and complete. Second, it signals that the questioning phase is over; next, it’s our turn to tell the client what we can do to help achieve his/her goals.
- Transition #3: Asking for feedback. Here, having completed our recommendations, we signal that it’s the client’s turn to respond— and that we’ll be objective, supportive and open-minded when he/she does. This is accomplished by asking a neutral, open-ended feedback question like, “How does that sound?” or “What do you think?”— rather than a closed, positively or negatively-directed question like, “Will that do the job for you? or “Do you have any problems with this?”
- Transition #4: Inviting other objections. This step is necessary because the client probably offered one or more objections to our recommendations, and we needed to use our 5-step “objection resolution model” to resolve them. This transition signals that we believe that all obstacles have now been successfully cleared, and we want to be absolutely sure of this before moving forward to the project’s next steps. (This “assumptive close” presumes that if there are no remaining objections, our recommendations have implicitly been accepted.) Technique is important in this transition, too: use neutral language by asking for “comments,” “questions,” or “other things you’d like to talk about,” rather than fishing for negatives by asking about possible “problems,” “concerns,” or “additional objections.”
Taken together, these dialog “transition steps” are an important process element in assuring that our client is comfortable in his/her understanding of where we’re going next, why we’re going there, and what benefits will accrue from accompanying us there, wholeheartedly.
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