I am constantly looking around, trying to identify the “selling” moments that happen in everyday transactions and interactions – big and small. Trying to articulate the good, the bad, and the really terrible, because most selling exchanges are not clearly defined moments that each party is privy to – rather, they are small, natural communications attached to persuasion, information, a timeline, or decisions.
Looking back at the past ten years of blogs, I’ve written about Earl from Home Depot, a stapler, my husband, the babysitter, a travel agent, cooking shows, hiking, and even my daughter’s volleyball team – all with stories that relate to sales and selling strategies.
This week, I happened upon two examples to share that are instances of “Moving Sales Forward” that helped shape this blog and to answer a common question I get from both professional sellers and business owners, “
“How do you close sales faster?”
I get that question almost as much as I get “How do I get prospects to listen to me?”
Once you have someone’s attention and have begun a relationship with them, if they are not urgently looking to make a switch or have an emergent problem to solve, it can seem like getting to “the close” is hanging out in some miserable sellers’ purgatory, “Will they, or won’t they? When will they? Why won’t they?”
Moving a buyer through your pipeline . . . that’s YOUR objective, not theirs. Chances are unless the buyer contacted you, you are at the mercy of THEIR timeline and THEIR decision-making process.
There is no magic formula, winning words, or silver bullet to compel a customer every time, but one-way sellers can potentially advance sales is to REMOVE ALL THE OBSTACLES for buyers.
I saw a great example of this when I stopped by my husband’s office earlier this week and a potential patient walked in the door to ask questions and make an appointment for an eye exam. They asked the receptionist if the Dr. was on her ABC insurance plan. The receptionist could have answered,
“Sorry, no, we don’t file that insurance, but you can pay for your exam and send your receipt to your insurance company for reimbursement”.
But, instead, she answered,
“We are not in-network with that plan, but we’ll help you file an out-of-network claim right here on the same day as your appointment.,” and then proceeded to pull the reimbursement form and stamped envelope from a file folder and said, “After your exam and payment, we fill this out with your receipt and drop it in the mail for you. Are you looking to get in within the next few days? Here’s our first opening . . . “
Then the patient scheduled her appointment. Seemingly not bothered that they would pay out of pocket first. The receptionist removed nearly all the obstacles for her – SHOWED her how easy it would be to make her visit and file the claim. It doesn’t convert every time, but it works much better than “Sorry, we don’t do XYZ” and leaving the customer (or patient, in this case) to overcome their own obstacles.
And to prove this point, earlier this week, I received a series of texts from my cleaning company that illustrated this point similarly. After our initial communication, I got busy, went out of town, and forgot to get back to her about setting up a regular date. She sent a few check-in messages to “See if I was ready” and asked “What day would you like to set up cleaning?” but I was too distracted to look at my calendar and plan ahead. Finally, she sent a text that said, “Hi Shawn, I have an open slot Tuesday at 8:30 am and we can start next week. Text ‘ok’ and I’ll take care of the rest of the details.” She made it easy for me, instead of trying to figure out what day worked best, I quickly checked my calendar and texted back, “ok”. She closed the deal by removing the obstacle for me – which was me being in a state of overwhelm.
These are relatively simple decisions but this works in more complex sales as well.
Look at what you can do for your potential customers. Are there any places in the sales process where you’re stalled and can perhaps remove the obstacles?
If you’ve established a relationship and your prospect is in some stage of your funnel, look for places you can advance the sale.
Get the green light to start the account process – set up accounts, credit checks, et cetera? You’re not pinning them down to place an order or make a final commitment but this opens the doors to making that first order faster and easier.
Participate in inventory or walk-through – record all products they use and you can also get a timeline on when they’re ready to order. Instead of asking the buyer to generate a list for you, offer a walk-through and you can gain the opportunity to provide added value through product suggestions or process improvements.
Acquire their logos or art files – do a mockup web page, presentation, product, et cetera. Helping your buyers visualize their end-product or result provided by you can remove some of their decision overwhelm.
Meet their team that is impacted by this change – get their concerns, and understand how change and your solution will impact each of them. Demonstrate how you’re going to lead change and address the concerns of each of the peripheral departments of users. Avoid being “single-threaded” with only one contact who understands your value – create advocates up and down the customers’ organization.
Introduce your team – expand your relationship threads throughout the customers’ organization. Bring in your team of A players to strengthen your roots in the account and the confidence that your buyers believe you can handle their business. Demonstrating how you lead the efforts, collaborate, and bring together resources can help you advance the sale more quickly.
Everyone is wearing too many hats and has full plates. Buyers are bombarded with hundreds of decisions to make each day. Many will live with the status quo as long as possible because they don’t feel they have the time to research the best vendors, start the process, or understand all the intricacies of the decision.
Instead of trying to get your prospects to have another meeting or go to another lunch – activities that they feel clearly benefit you – put forth the effort to create meaningful actions, and helpful, value-based events that benefit your customer.
Remove the obstacles hindering or slowing their decisions to choose you as their supplier.
Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!