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The Ruby Group | Akron and Columbus, OH

The End. That’s not usually the way to start a story, blog, book, or just about anything. But, it might be the best way to start a sales call.

If you don’t start your sales calls with the end in mind, you should not be surprised when it doesn’t end up where you hoped. For example, at the end of a good presentation, your prospect leaves you with a Think-It-Over. After all, you can’t blame a prospect for doing something that you failed to emphasize is unacceptable. If you want to control what happens at the end of a sales call, focus on the beginning.

A simple tool any salesperson can use to gain control of a sales call is an Up-Front Contract (UFC). This contract is not a written document, rather it is a verbal agreement between two parties, stating what they intend to accomplish. A few simple goals for a good Up-Front Contract are:

  • Remove confusion by making sure you and your prospect have the same thing in mind.
  • Put your prospect at ease. People always feel better when they know what lies ahead.
  • Get your prospect to see you as an equal “partner” in the process. You’re there to diagnose and solve problems, which you can’t do if you prospect views you as a nuisance or somebody they can boss around.

Start your Up-Front Contract with some straight talk about the end of the meeting:

“I want to make sure we’re on the same page during our conversation today. How much time did you set aside for us? And, remind me about the purpose of today’s meeting as you see it.”

Here are some other points to make and questions to ask in your Up-Front Contract:

  • Prospect’s agenda: “In our phone call, we agreed to discuss your current software problems to see whether we can offer you a solution. It’s likely that you’ll have several questions for me. Beyond that, can you tell me specifically what you’re hoping we’ll accomplish in our hour together?”
     
  • Your agenda: “Likewise, I’ll need to ask you some questions to ensure that I understand the exact nature of your software problems and what you picture as the best outcome. If I think I can help you, there will be further questions about your budget and how you view the implementation process. Are you OK with my asking all these questions?”
     
  • Outcome: This is highly dependent on the nature of your product, process, and industry. It also depends on how many meetings it should take to close in your world, i.e. one call, two calls, etc. In any case, tell your prospect what outcomes are acceptable to you. In my opinion, there are only three acceptable outcomes:  yes, no, or a well-defined, scheduled next meeting. Emphasizing that you and your prospect might not be a fit and that no is an acceptable conclusion are important elements of any Up-Front Contract. That step alone will increase your credibility and your prospect’s comfort.

A well stated, well understood, well agreed upon Up-Front Contract will help you gain control of the sales process and allow both of you to take part in the qualification and decision process.

In the end, that’s all a sales person should really ask for, a decision. Yes means you can go to the bank; no means you can go on to your next prospect. Either way, you’re moving ahead and making progress in each meeting. 

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