All sales people have, at some point, found themselves in the following situation, where a deal is going cold:
You’ve had a great conversation with a prospect, spent time putting a proposal together, sent it out and……nothing. Radio silence. Follow-up voicemails and emails elicit no response and you’re left not knowing whether the prospect went with another supplier, chose not to pursue any of the proposed solutions, or has simply failed to make a decision yet, either because there’s no immediate need, or because of an unexpected delay.
In this week’s blog, I’ll run you through my 7-point deal checklist, which will not only help you avoid the pitfalls which lead to this kind of uncertainty, but will actually help you accelerate your buyers through the process to a faster close.
- Be clear on timelines
From the point at which a need is identified, you need to gain absolute clarity over your buyer’s timeline, ie; the last submission date for proposals, when these proposals will be reviewed, when a solution is required by, etc. As part of this process, you should also seek to understand the level of urgency and if there are any possible challenges that might slow the process down.
- Know what you’re up against
The better your relationship with your buyer, the more information you’re likely to be able to gain from them here. Ideally, you want to know exactly who you’re up against and how their offers differ to yours. Of course, buyers are not always prepared to share this information, so you’ll need to have a plan B. Often this is the kind of information that comes from having strong relationships with other key stakeholders within the business, who are prepared to share this insight with you. As an absolute minimum, you’ll need an in-depth understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your solution compared to those of your biggest competitors.
A key thing to remember, that is often forgotten or disregarded by sales people, is that your buyer doesn’t have to choose any of the solutions proposed, they can in fact choose to do nothing. It never ceases to amaze me how many ‘urgent requests for proposal‘ result in absolutely no action whatsoever. The effective sales person accelerates commitment to a solution by clearly articulating the value that is added by their solution. Which brings me on to:
- Value, Value, Value
Buyers make buying decisions based on their perceived value of the particular solutions offered to them and it is perception that is the key here. That perception comes principally from the way in which the sales person has articulated and communicated the value that their specific solution brings. Failure to communicate any area in which your solution adds value to your buyer, only serves to lessen their perceived value of that solution. It would be like trying to sell a car, without telling the buyer that it has air-conditioning, parking distance sensors, anti-lock brakes, side airbags, rear-seat DVD players, etc. All of these features bring additional value to the buyer, but they won’t want to pay for them if they don’t know they’re there and what value it is that each brings.
There is huge scope here for the majority of sales people, you need to think outside of normal parameters and your buyer’s brief. Consider how your solution impacts other parts of the business. Work with your buyer to attach a monetary value to each element. If your competitors are not doing the same (which, in my experience, they probably aren’t), this instantly places you in the more favourable position.
- Build the Business Case
Identifying and clearly communicating the value your solution brings has the knock-on effect of strengthening the buyer’s business case to present to other stakeholders within the business. It therefore also decreases the chances of them taking the ‘do nothing’ option. In many cases, when you begin a conversation with a buyer regarding an identified need, you’ll need to consider not just how your solution stacks up, but how you can help your buyer to gain the ‘go ahead’ from the wider business. Looking at how your solution delivers value in all areas of the business will heighten the chances of gaining buy-in, but you need to go further. Do your homework – find out who makes up the DMU (Decision Making Unit), what their level of influence is and consider how your solution might appeal to each of them.
- Address objections early on
Contrary to popular belief, negotiations are not the place for objections. Any possible objections to your solution should be identified, and countered, by you early on in the process. This prevents long drawn-out, back-and-forth negotiations, in which your buyer uses these objections simply to bring down the price.
- Prepare for negotiations
In addition to addressing objections early on, negotiations can be accelerated by preparing in advance. Before entering into negotiations, you should be clear on what you’re prepared to give away and in exchange for what. I see so many sales people observing only the first half of this last sentence, ie; they think about how much discount they’re prepared to give, without considering what they want in return. Your solution delivers real value to your buyer, so don’t discredit yourself and devalue your solution by giving some of that value away without taking anything in return.
- Create follow-up actions
Instead of just submitting a proposal, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, before proposal submission, put a date in the calendar for a follow-up call or meeting. You can position this as an opportunity for you to walk through the proposal and answer any questions the buyer may have.
If you’d like to learn more about our Growth Accelerator Deal Clinics, where a Salestrong coach will work with your sales people on live deals, to create additional value and improve negotiated outcomes, take a look here.