Picture this: You’re nearing the end of your meeting. Up to this point, things have gone pretty well. The business owner on the other side of the desk has been engaged; you feel like you’ve nailed it. Then it happens…time for the “next step” part of the discussion.
“So, it sounds like what we have to offer will be a great fit for your situation,” you declare confidently. “Are you ready to get started?”
But, Mr. Business Owner hesitates, “Maybe. It all sounds good; I just need some time to think this over; can you give me a proposal?”
SMACK! What just happened?
Don’t get mad. You’re not allowed. How can you expect someone to do what you want if you don’t tell him what you expect?
The Up-Front Contract
In Sandler, we call this the “Up-Front Contract.” After the intros and bonding back and forth, it’s your responsibility to provide a foundation for the meeting, set some ground rules and make sure you’re both on the same page.
It looks something like this:
- TIME: Confirm how much time you have. (Hopefully, this was set prior to the meeting, and you’re just reiterating.)
- HIS AGENDA: Find out what’s on his mind – when your time is up, what does he need in order to feel like it was a good meeting?
- YOUR AGENDA: Share your agenda – what do you hope will come of the meeting?
- OUTCOME: Discuss next steps – there are three options that could happen at the end of your time together: Yes, no or a clear next step (The idea is for your prospect to understand that some kind of decision will need to be made today. It might be that there’s a good fit and moving forward is logical. It’s also possible there will NOT be a fit, and that’s okay. Or it may be best to take some other step – schedule a follow up meeting, etc.)
That last point is the most important. If there’s no definition of what happens at the end of the meeting, you have no right to complain when a decision isn’t made.
Instead, be very clear as to what the possible outcomes are – and a YES is not the only “good” outcome.
- NO – a “no” is 100% okay. Many salespeople feel like “no” is not an option. To them it means rejection or failure. Actually, a “no” is no different than a “yes” – it’s a decision, an answer, a confirmed next step. Sometimes your product or service isn’t a good fit, for whatever reason. And, that’s okay. If it’s not a “yes,” it’s a heck of a lot better than “maybe.”
- YES – a “yes” is clear. It means you’re ready to get started down the path to fulfillment.
- CLEAR FUTURE – if you’re not in a situation where a “one-call close” is the norm, then sometimes the outcome is just a definition of what happens next. But, it’s not acceptable to just get a, “Give me a call next week sometime.” The decision here is a specific action, including date and time: “Let’s get our calendars out and schedule a time for next Tuesday.” If you can’t nail down a specific next step, then you should revert back to “no” – or what Sandler calls “no for now.” You might say, “If we can’t get something on the calendar right now, this just might not be a priority for you right now. Let’s just call it a ‘no for now’ and you can let me know when you’re ready to get back together.”
That last statement is a lot easier to write than it is to say in person. But, once you get comfortable with it, that statement will have a huge impact on your business. It gives you (and your prospect) the freedom to say “no.” Most people want to be nice, so they don’t want to tell you “no.” But, addressing it like this gives them an out. And, it removes the pressure on you to follow up for 17 weeks because you said you’d give them a call in a couple weeks to check in.
There is no “maybe” in sales. It’s a “no” or a “yes” or a clear next step. But, you have to establish the foundation of these outcomes before the meeting starts. Bringing this up at the end of the meeting is useless.