Sales Process – Managing the Sale: Keeping Your Prospect Moving Towards a Purchase Decision
Sales Process: Jul 9, 2011, by Paul McCord, [Editor’s Note: This sales process article was originally published November 5, 2008.]
One question I hear from salespeople on a regular basis is: “what do I do after the initial meeting with the prospect to maintain contact and increase their interest?”
The question from their point of view is, “what do I say when I call them back?”
In reality their question is an admission of a lack of preparation and planning. Not just a lack of preparation for calling an individual prospect, but a total lack of sales process preparation for meeting with prospects.
Sales Process: Unless you are engaged in a one-time close sale, you know going into the initial meeting with a prospect that your sales cycle will require you to maintain contact with them over an extended period of time before the sale is consummated, whether that be a week, a month, or a year.
Since you know you will have to follow-up with additional information, more meetings, a proposal, a committee presentation, and/or a formal needs analysis, you should be fully prepared to carry the relationship forward, knowing exactly what your next move will be in the sales process before you ever enter the initial meeting with the prospect.
After only a short exposure to meetings with prospects you have seen virtually all of the variances your meetings can take, from the prospect that shows a great deal of interest, to those who show no interest at all, and everything in-between. Once exposed, you have no reason not to be fully prepared to take control of the sales process situation when exposed to that type of prospect again.
Since you will see the same basic sales process situations over and over again with your prospects, you should know exactly what the next step in your sales process will be before you wrap the initial meeting with your prospect.
Instead of going back to your office and wondering what to do next, you should have already agreed with your prospect on the next step to take, whether that be another meeting, sending follow-up information, or simply putting the prospect on your long-term touch program.
Think of the sale as a staircase with a number of alternate stairways branching off of the main staircase. If you are familiar with the drawings of M.C. Escher, think of his etchings of stairways where there are myriad branches but all stairways eventually lead to the same location. That’s your sales process stairway with all of the branches eventually leading to your central location–the sale. Some stairways are short and direct, others take a very circuitous route.
Your job is to have planned each route and to know exactly what you must do to guide your prospect through the sales process stairway he or she has chosen. To do that you must have a well defined plan, knowing exactly what your moves will be well ahead of time.
The first step in your sales process staircase is, of course, setting the initial appointment. That step naturally leads to your second step–the appointment itself. Unfortunately, that is where the staircase ends for many salespeople. Don’t allow yourself to ever be put in that position.
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