How to keep the sales cycle moving in the right direction
In the heat of the moment, emotions run high and it’s easy to get lost in the excitement that surrounds the sale. As a small business owner, time is money, and we never have enough time. This causes the frustrating paradox of wanting a customer to get to the decision quickly, but if we don’t slow down and build rapport, the chance of a decision falling in favor of the business drops dramatically.
Take Kathy, for example. Her customer, Jorge, has found her custom lighting store through the referral of his friend Ananda, and is looking to purchase ten personalized lamps for his new winery in Santiago, Chile. Even with a referral to verify the quality of the service and products provided, Kathy knows better than to assume Jorge would choose her company to do business with.
In order to optimize the time that Jorge and Kathy have together, she prepares for her phone meeting by familiarizing herself with his winery. They have a website, good reviews, and with Google Earth she is able to take a virtual drive around his neighborhood. This gives her artistic eye a visual reference for a client she may never get to meet in person.
Second, she remembers to use the Selling Advantage tool: Summarize, Bridge, Pull.
Focus & Intent Win The Day
Both Jorge and Kathy are small business owners. With the clock ticking, the good news is by using the Summarize, Bridge, Pull Tool, Kathy and Jorge can build rapport while getting important work done at the same time.
Kathy greets Jorge over the phone by summarizing her conversation with Ananda, and listens intently at his feedback for any additional needs. She keeps a fine ear tuned towards mutual interests, such as their a similar love for cabernet sauvignons, and shares her story of backpacking through Chile as a student in college. The point here, especially in a virtual relationship, is to establish common ground so the customer has a sense that you understand their lifestyle, needs, and can ultimately help them.
Once they are laughing and things are feeling positive, Kathy asks Jorge specific questions around what his needs are, his timeline for delivery, and what is motivating him. For a deeper look into the types of questions entrepreneurs ask customers, see our blog post “Customers Solve Problems” here.
While Jorge is explaining his needs and walking through his motivations, Kathy takes careful notes. Rather than provide him an immediate quote hastily in the moment, she knows that a follow up call will benefit both of them, for multiple reasons:
- Kathy will want to make sure his needs are still the same when they meet again
- She will want to present multiple custom lighting options so he can weigh the value against his budget, timeline, and aesthetic needs
- It will give Jorge a chance to agree or disagree with her solution
Set The Table for Success
As the call winds down, Kathy summarizes her notes back to Jorge to make sure she has heard his requests correctly. He would like 15 personalized lamps (not the ten that Ananda had originally stated), before the New Year with five different patterns depicting the types of grapes growing in his vineyard.
The critical step, known as the Bridge, serves both the business owner and customer. On the business owner side, Kathy is making sure that she captured Jorge’s needs correctly. On the customer side, she is giving him a chance to agree with her summary, or make revisions if necessary.
Psychologically, this is a powerful part of the phone conversation for both parties. Both Kathy and Jorge have just outlined what was accomplished during their time together. It was not time wasted, rather, they identified Jorge’s key needs, and Kathy has an action list to take back to her office.
At this point in the conversation, a young business owner may feel rushed to ask for the close. Rather than push Jorge to a decision, Kathy pulls him to the next stage in the sales cycle. She suggests a day and time that they can meet again on the phone. The intent of that call is to go deeper into the details of the material options available to him considering his timeline and Chile’s import laws.
Jorge happily obliges, and is eager for their next interaction. When done correctly, sales calls are not pushy, forced, or full of friction. At their best, they are a productive use of everyone’s time that result in a decision that is not rushed, or drawn out over months.