… but timing is crucial when selling!
Other than with the most-simple proposition, selling will involve the sales person in multiple touches or points of contact with a number of different people in the prospect’s organisation. Touches could involve, for example; phone calls, e-mail, texts, social media messaging, meetings, demonstrations or presentations.
Which people you speak to and the sequence and timing of the steps is crucial to achieving a successful outcome within an optimum timescale.
This is partly about increasing your chances of success but also about shortening the elapsed time taken to get to the point of decision. This is somewhat of a virtuous circle as getting to the decision point quickly usually increases your chances of winning as you wrong foot the competition.
Here are a few simple techniques to ensure an engagement cycle with a prospect stands the very best chance of producing a successful outcome; successful both for the prospect and the hopeful supplier.
- Keep in mind your own ideal engagement process that you have created to give you the best chance of winning deals the; events & actions, steps & milestones, timing for each, and overall elapsed time required to get to the decision point.
- As soon as you start meetings with the prospect test your engagement process to see if it works for them and if it doesn’t, agree to an amended process and timetable that works for both of you.
- If the prospect wants to skip steps that are important to you negotiate; seek their agreement to include the events and activities you really need in the process.
Be flexible in your process; one size may not be the appropriate fit in all circumstances. The philosophy revolves around risk management and required outcomes.
- Continually be mindful of the stage you are at and behave appropriately. A simple example; if you are calling someone to arrange the first meeting, focus purely on that objective; don’t try selling them anything other than the meeting.
- Allow time for the two separate functions of relationship building and opportunity identification & pursuit.
- Plan time to nurture each separate contact and don’t assume because you know one person well the good karma will automatically transfer to others; account engagement is actually a series of new business encounters.
- Be clear in your mind as to what you want to achieve at each touch point and focus on that.
- Be sincere; don’t pretend you are trying to become best buddies when all parties know your sole objective is to secure a deal for your company. No one minds this but what people don’t like is pretence.
- Identify or create requirements? If the prospect says “I need/want ….” then of course you respond to that in a positive manner but there could be hidden opportunities that the prospect may not have recognised.
- When talking about a stated requirement always look for opportunities to upsell or cross sell.
- Be ready to be pushed back; explore the objection politely and positively and if the prospect is adamant then revert to dealing with the requirement as stated, but don’t forget, the additional opportunity you spotted is something for the future.
If you consider applying just one new technique to your own engagement approach then make it this one.
- NEVER consider a step in your agreed engagement process to be complete until you have agreed a date and time for the next step; don’t leave a meeting having agreed to produce a proposal without putting a date in the prospect’s diary for the meeting when you present your proposal.
This is all about keeping things simple; I see a lot of situations where the tendency is to over-complicate the processes of customer engagement and opportunity pursuit. This often leads to protracted timescales and an increased risk that the prospect will do nothing or they will go ahead with a supplier who is willing and able to move quickly. Make sure it’s you that moves quickly and you will win more business.
First published on LinkedIn Pulse