What’s the Next Stage?
How many times have you walked out of a sales presentation or ended a sales call and not asked this question?
Probably there have been a few times where you haven’t specifically asked, times when the question had already been answered.
But it this question enough? Is this question sufficiently all-encompassing to give you all the information you need as a sales person.
I think not.
Most sales people will ask this question as a means of bringing the meeting to a close, gaining some (supposed) insight into the level of interest from the prospect before they decide how long they will spend on writing the proposal and how quickly they will respond.
I have a very real problem with sales people thinking that just because the prospect has told them what the next stage is, that this indicates a sign of commitment from the prospect.
In reality, the answer fails to give commitment because the question fails to ask for commitment.
So how about we try another question:
Having discussed your needs, and having explored how we can assist you, can I ask if you can see any reasons why we won’t be able to work together moving forward?
I like this question because it’s a direct question, it’s designed for both parties to further their understanding and air any concerns and it gives the opportunity for honest and open exchange.
Of course, not every prospect wants that degree of openness and an experienced sales person can deal with that appropriately.
Only when this question has been asked should the sales person seek to understand the next stage in the sales process and what part they and their organisation can play in that sales process.
The nest question may be along the lines of:
Excellent, I’m glad we have the opportunity to work together…can you map out for me how the process moves on from here, what’s the sign off process after our meeting today?
Why ask this?
One of the biggest killers for great sales performance, smashing sales targets and creating solid and stable sales pipelines is that the sales person is acting on information they believe to be valid, without having thoroughly checked out the facts.
In sales time really is money, so it’s best to welcome the objections early on, test commitment at every stage, explore plausible and implausible solutions with the buyer to fully understand their commitment and engagement, before assuming the business is in the bag just because they are answering your calls and returning your emails.
I have no hard facts on how many sales proposals sent by email remain unopened because the deal was dead on the floor before the sales person ended the call or before the sales rep had left the car park.
And conversely, how much time was wasted by sales people chasing deals that never existed.
Don’t do it to yourself….you’re worth more than that. So much more.
The nature of sales means that rejection rates can be high at times…no-one gets every deal and that’s understood. The real damage – loss of profit, time and sanity(!) when you don’t know which deals are in the bag and which are still flying free, or have gone to the competition.
Don’t blame your prospects for this either since more often than not – sales people don’t get the information they need because they don’t ask the questions they should.
Wouldn’t it be great if a sales person could exist in a state of total certainty about their sales pipeline and sales forecast?
It’s possible – very possible – just ask the right questions!
For more information on how to smash your sales targets by asking ALL of the right questions – take a look over here Being Brilliant at the Sales Basics
Carol Griffiths – Director and Lead Consultant
Morton Kyle Limited
0779 002 1885