December 2008 | Volume 27 / Number 7
How to close the deal during tough economic times
By Rick Lawson, Vice President of New Business Development
There are many resources available to you at this stage of the cycle, including the prospect’s Web site, annual reports, recent press and public statements made by the CEO or board of directors. Scour the Web for everything you can find, and you will gain invaluable insight into the prospect.
At the end of this research you should understand and be able to explain in detail how your services can enhance the prospect’s brand and market position. At this point, you should also identify the highest level executive who would be open to your approach. Don’t waste your time on low-level people– regardless of how receptive they might be to your proposal, if you’re not engaging a decision maker your efforts are futile.
Now that you know who you want to speak to, the next step is to obtain an interview. Approach this meeting as a dialogue. All too often, inexperienced salespeople load up a PowerPoint presentation and spout off a seemingly endless stream of facts about their capabilities without ever truly listening to the prospect.
One method for ensuring two-way communication during the initial meeting is to start with a blank piece of paper, with an imaginary line drawn vertically down the center. On the left side, take notes about the prospect’s current business state. On the right, jot down the prospect’s desired state, starting with global goals and honing in on specific tactics.
When it’s done right, this interview allows you to see where the prospect’s business is going and how your services fit into that plan. Most importantly, the prospect – not you – has outlined his or her objectives in terms of what you have to offer.
Craft a proposal
You’ve researched the prospect. You’ve met with a high-level executive and listened to him or her. Now it’s time to write a proposal that satisfies the prospect’s goals within one, three or five years. Instead of writing about manufacturing credibility or ISO approvals, build a relationship and establish credibility.
Show that you understand the nuances of the prospect’s business by crafting a proposal that is aligned with the objectives he or she established in the initial meeting. Instead of recycling the same, standard proposal you use for every client, write an original proposal that explicitly states how the products or services you are selling meet those needs. Leave prospects with an actionable document that they can take to their CEO for approval.
There are many ways a prospect can say “no” and your response will make or break the relationship. He or she might ask you, “Is this your best deal?” or just flat-out state “You’re too expensive,” but don’t back down. Your rebuttal is the perfect opportunity to smooth over the rough edges, so respond from a position of strength and relate back to your prospect’s strategic plans.
After you overcome the objection, ask for the business and close the deal. Don’t be afraid to make assumptive statements like, “Can we start in 10 days?” or, “Where can I send the contract?”
The sales process is a continuous cycle, and closing the deal is not the end. Remember to measure, monitor and platform once the program is up and running. If you want to keep the business, you have to keep your promises.
If you show the value of the partnership, you will be in an ideal position for future sales. Look for add-on services that can help reach the objectives faster. See if you can offer the same services to a different division. Use this successful relationship to get referrals, because it’s much easier to use a reference to get another job than it is to try to find a new prospect on your own.
If you continuously build a relationship with a client, the value of your products and services will transcend the ups and downs of the markets and prove valuable for many years to come.