It was late on a Friday afternoon and I was still stuck behind my desk. It had been a hectic day. You’ve probably experienced one of those days, too – endless phone calls, multiple meetings, important emails to reply to, followed by more phone calls. I was expecting one last call. My bags were already loaded into the car trunk, and just one more call was standing in the way of me and the relaxing three-day weekend getaway I had been looking forward to all week.
The call I was anticipating was with Patrice, a prospect I met a couple of months earlier, who had expressed a keen interest in our Door Opener® Service. Her goal was to double their rate of new client acquisition over the next 2 years. She needed a solution for her recent sales slump. She had said, “Caryn, we know how to close a deal as long as we are in front of the right prospects. The problem is, we can’t seem to get access to the decision-makers! We need help!" I reassured her that we could help her get in front of her hard to reach prospects and gave her our proposal to review.
At 5pm she called.
After some initial small talk, I turned to the topic of our proposal, and asked Patrice what she thought. She replied, “Caryn, this is exactly the type of service we need. It is a perfect fit for us.” I was feeling very positive about the direction the conversation was going, and it felt like it was going to be an easy close.
Until she said, “However...” Oh, no. Maybe with wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought!
She continued, “We just made a large financial commitment for a software system to help us streamline processes. We need to finish the integration of the system before we take on another initiative and financial commitment. I’d like to come back to this idea in a few months. Let’s continue this discussion then.”
Have you ever had that happen? A prospect claims you are the answer to their prayers, but then says right now isn’t a good time?
It would be understandable for me to say, “No problem. I get it. I’m a business owner as well, and I understand the need to update systems and the financial commitments that go along with that. I’ll check back with you in a few months and we’ll continue our discussion.”
But, I didn’t do that. That wouldn’t help her achieve her goal of doubling her rate of adding new clients. It wouldn’t get her out of her sales slump. It also wouldn’t have flipped her “Not now” into a “Yes! Let’s Get Started!” on that phone call, which was my goal.
Instead, I said, “Patrice, when we first started talking, you told me your goal was to accelerate new client acquisition. You said you needed to turn around your existing sales slowdown.” She agreed.
I continued, “You also said that you had tried various methods to grow sales, without success. You even resorted to trying to do the prospecting yourself but you found that your time was more productive focusing on the business rather than locating new prospects.” Again, she agreed.
At that point I said, “Here’s my question…If we don’t work together on this new business initiative to increase net new clients now, how will you be able to turn sales around and achieve your goals?”
There was a pause. The silence lasted a long time. I waited without speaking. I heard a big sigh, and then she spoke. “You’re right. If we don’t do this initiative, nothing will change about our pipeline, increasing sales will be delayed and we will miss our goals. Let’s move forward. What are the next steps?”
After I closed the sale I got in my car and headed toward my much-deserved mini-vacation destination. I thought to myself, “Waiting in the office for that conversation was worth making the time to have that discussion.”
There are several lessons about business development to take from this personal story.
- Slow down. It takes more time to roll up your sleeves and have the conversation to uncover your prospect’s real objections and overcome them, but that time is well worth it.
- Ask what we call “High Gain” questions early on. Getting that information at the start of the sales process provides valuable ammunition to address objections later on. It can also help prevent the sale from stalling. Remember to listen carefully and take notes. These are critical skills that will help you leverage the information you learn.
- Get organized. Keep all of your notes and future strategies in one place, such as your CRM. Review your notes before any call, meeting, or email.
- Plan, Plan, Plan. Identify your objectives, your prospect’s objectives, questions your prospect may ask, as well as answers to your prospects’ objections before you walk into the meeting, get on the phone or write the email. It was NO accident that I knew the answer to Patrice’s objection. I had previously identified the objection and had prepared an effective response before our call.
- Remember. The most important factor in any sales equation is the prospect.
I always say that closing a sale is the simple executional detail of business development well done. Think about the executional details of what went right during this process with Patrice and how that contributed to me achieving my desired outcome.
It is important to note that what happened resulted from several purposeful and strategic steps that anyone, whether you are a seller or non-seller, can take. It is possible to flip a prospect’s answer from a “No” to a “Yes!” You can do it too! If you commit to the process and stay focused on your goal, success will follow.
Caryn Kopp is the Chief Door Opener® at Kopp Consulting, LLC, whose Door Opener Service helps clients secure initial meetings with high-level, hard-to-reach prospect decision makers. Caryn is the author of the best seller Biz Dev Done Right and The Path To The Cash! The Words You NEED To Bypass Those Darned Prospect Objections. She is also a faculty member of Gazelles Growth Institute. Reach her at www.koppconsultingusa.com.