By Tibor Shanto – firstname.lastname@example.org
Not long ago I posted a piece about the positive side of “closed ended” questions, and their place in the sale cycle. As with many things it is rarely the case of one versus the other but more of which is more appropriate for the scenario, and in sales for achieving the objective you set out to accomplish.
Sellers can and should take the concept of open ended and closed ended, and apply it to actual sales meetings. What you’ll find is that sales meeting properly executed should be more of a closed ended event, but all too often they end up being an open ended, in fact too open-ended, often becoming ever meandering affairs. The kind meeting which seem like they may never end, especially when you add a torturous layer of PowerPoint; or they end without a specific conclusion or direction. The meetings which follow frequently seem to be another try at getting it right, instead of moving things forward.
The problem usually comes down to what the objective is going into the meeting. I have written in the past about sales people not having a handle on the length of their sales cycle, saying things like “It depends”, or offering an unrealistic “oh 3 – 6 months”; that’s a big variable given that time is your most precious resources, and non-renewable to boot. Taken a step further and asking them how many meetings it may take to close the deal, they answer with less confidence and more ambiguity.
Well if you don’t know how many meetings it may take, (live or by phone, webinar, smoke signals), it becomes really hard to have specific outcomes or objectives for each meeting. This is why sellers at time lose control of meetings, leaving the client to take the meeting to a conclusion, one with no real next step.
Knowing what you want out of each meeting allows you to plan objectives, primary and secondary, plan next steps, and build a structure for the meeting, including questions, that will help you and the buyer meet mutual objectives. Absent that, it begins to look like an experience with the “Be found” camp, having abdicate their role as sellers, they are hoping the buyer will find something to continue for, something to buy. I propose they are hoping the client has a need, hoping they can strike a relationship based on something other than the buyer’s objective, hoping for the order.
Having clear objectives, measures and next steps defined and planned in advance will also allow you to do one other thing with great confidence, that is disqualify buyers. If you cannot achieve your stated objective, having executed your plan, you have to seriously consider that you are not dealing with a real buyer, real like the ones who buy when you achieve your mutually stated objectives.
I remember working with a “rock star” in Boston, he confidently told me his deals on average take four meetings, great, what was his measure of success for the first meeting, his objective? With expected bravado, he proclaimed “to close the deal man!” He did not have an answers as to why he bothered going back three other times if he was going to close the sale during the first meeting. Although there is a prospect I have, who will never buy from me, but he loves the same bands I do, and makes a great espresso, I love going there, but I leave my order pad in the car.
What’s in Your Pipeline?