There are only four outcomes to any sales situation: a sale, no sale, a continuance and an advance.
The first two outcomes are easy to grasp. But the line between continuance and advance is often hard to discern. It is, however, this line that divides mediocre reps from immensely successful reps. If you’re interested in reducing the sales cycle, working on better qualified leads and generating more sales, it’s important to be able to tell continuances and advances apart.
In a continuance, it appears that the sale cycle is moving toward a close, but in reality it is only being extended – perhaps indefinitely. Some examples:
- “I’ll mail you some product brochures.”
- “Give the sample a try and we’ll review it later on.”
- “I’ll e-mail you the material and we’ll go over it.”
- “Let’s meet next month and we’ll assess your needs in detail.”
On the surface, these statements would suggest that the sale is moving forward. Not so. Did you notice the two common denominators?
- There’s no firm commitment for the buyer to take specific action.
- There’s no firm follow-up date.
Here’s how you know when the sale is being continued, not advanced: After the meeting, conversation or phone call, you’re right where you were before.
Eventually some of these sales will move ahead on their own, but you’ll close more sales in less time, and disqualify prospects buyers who are not actually interested, if you take active steps to “advance” the sale.
In an advance, you ask the client to take a specific action within a given time frame. Here’s how the previous examples would sound like with an advance:
- “I’ll send you a product brochure and what I would like to recommend is that we review these together next Thursday. How does 10:15 look to you?”
- “I’ll be glad to provide you with a sample. Specifically when will you use it? What are your criteria for evaluation? What I would like to recommend is that we set up an appointment for Friday, at 8:30 a.m. to review your evaluation. How does that sound?”
- “I’ll e-mail the material now. Can you review it so that we go over the documents together in a half hour?”
- “Let’s set up an appointment for next month, say the 15th at 2:45. At that time we can reassess your situation. Is that date okay?”
Each example suggests a specific action that must or should be taken by the buyer. This creates active participation, which moves the sale further through the cycle. Next, each example has a specific time frame for the accomplishment of the action, which creates commitment.
If not, then …
If prospects will NOT commit to any action or follow up, it suggests that perhaps their interest isn’t particularly strong. Consider withdrawing the advance. For example:
“Ms. Finn, I get the impression that this is not something you’re interested in right now. Perhaps it would be best if I called you at a later date.”
It takes guts to do this but what it really does is allow you to focus only on genuine sales opportunities. You don’t waste time “watering dead plants.”
Source: Jim Domanski, www.teleconceptsconsulting.com
photo credit: iagoarchangel
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