Selling More - Completing the Sale - Part 3
By Craig Elias of InnerSell
[Review Part 2]
How many times have you invested your time, energy and money chasing an opportunity only to lose the sale right before closing the deal? In the last two articles, I talked about establishing yourself as the emotional favourite to get your customer to call you first and using first call effectiveness to prevent your customer from calling the competition. Now, I will discuss maintaining your preferred supplier status and completing the sale.
Losing the Sale - After everything you've invested in that customer, your first priority should be completing the sale. Getting the customer to call you first and using first call effectiveness to prevent them from calling your competition, puts you one step ahead. At this point, the sale is yours to lose. I say yours to lose because you still have an opportunity to lose the sale. The customer could decide not to buy, find a different solution, or call your competition. Whatever the reason, many sales are lost as a result of one simple principle: urgency.
When was the last time you neglected a small sale that was about to close in order to chase a larger deal? The temptation to abandon everything to chase the big sale is overwhelming. Managing sales priorities is a challenge for sales professionals. Unless a new opportunity has a short sales cycle and you're the emotional favourite, stay the course and complete your other opportunities first.
Completing the sale seems to be a pretty obvious priority, but we all know of other sales professionals (it never happens to us - wink, wink) that skip the critical last step only to wind up back at square one or worse, losing the sale to a more attentive sales professional.
Urgency and Competing Priorities - Let's talk about customer behaviour for a second. Every day customers manage competing priorities: customer service, order fulfilment, operations, sales, product development, etc. Priorities are addressed according to urgency - number one or two on the priority list puts the customer in an urgent problem-solving position, and very often a buying mode. Obviously, the best time to complete the sale is when the customer is in the urgent problem-solving mode.
The Law of Diminishing Intent - The Law of Diminishing Intent is a principle of urgency and action: as the time between decision and action increases, the likelihood of follow-through decreases to the point where action is extremely unlikely. In sales, the Law of Diminishing Intent means completing the sale while your customer is still in the buying mode because the longer you take to fulfill your promises, the likelihood of completing the sale decreases.
It's simple: customers make decisions quicker and talk to fewer suppliers when they're in an urgent state. If you give the customer too much time to act, he will become distracted with other urgent priorities and lose focus or even worse, connect with a competitor. We do it all the time, ignore the should do tasks for the "must dos"; that are causing us the most inconvenience or pain.
Imagine you discover the release valve on your hot water is broken and hot water is pouring down the basement drain. When you first discover it, it's your top priority and you say to yourself, "I need to get this fixed right away"; If at that moment, a plumber knocked on your door, you would hire him immediately. Instead, the phone rings and it' your spouse asking you to pick up the car before the shop closes. The car is now your first priority. A month later when you get the gas bill and its twice what it usually is, then fixing the valve is your top priority.
In sales, acting with urgency is critical. If you act with urgency while your customer is in the problem-solving mode, you will increase your close ratio, shorten your sales cycle and increase your selling price. Every time you lose a day, you increase the likelihood of losing the sale.
Using Urgency to Complete the Sale - Understanding the Law of Diminishing Intent will help you focus on priority opportunities. In general, focus on the opportunities closest to completion, the ones you've invested the most effort in building the relationship and crafting a solution. Then move down the list in order of probability of completion.
Using urgency goes beyond prioritizing opportunities; it means working diligently within your customers timelines and getting a commitment from your customers by asking questions like "what happens next?"; and "when should I expect an answer?"
If the answer is Monday, call Tuesday. Even better, ask the customer when you should call to follow-up if you haven't heard back from them. If the customer says Tuesday, you call first thing Tuesday morning. Sales are lost if the customer perceives a lack of interest in winning their business or an inability to deliver within their timelines. So, failing to meet a deadline, even if it will not impact the project timelines, sends your customer the message: "I have customers that are more important than you".
If you irritate your customer at this point in the sale, you will have to double your efforts to win them back. The reason is simple; when your customer emotionally commits to buying from you, he considers the problem solved (and breathes an internal sigh of relief). Failing to deliver means the customer now has to worry about you delivering the solution and the dissatisfaction directed at the problem is now directed at you for prolonging his suffering. Your customer may give you one more chance in the form of a phone call, but after that, he'll move on.