Whether youve finally landed a date with that long-time crush or are courting an ideal customer, do you find that you usually do all the heavy lifting in progressing the relationship?
Theres a huge upside to getting the prospect to put skin in the game!
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A friend of mine had been dating a divorced mother for several months.
Everything seemed to be going well, but he wanted more commitment. While it felt mutual, he really wasnt certain what she wanted, especially in view of her family responsibilities.
One night after dinner at his place, he opened a conversation about her kids, and how they would see their mom with a committed boyfriend.
She smiled. She felt the years since the separation were enough, and that the kids would probably even welcome their mom having a partner.
So he suggested they find a way for the kids to meet him.
She laughed excitedly. I have the kids this weekend. Why don’t you come over Saturday for early dinner with us?"
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Whats this got to do with sales?
Everything! Romantic relationships and successful selling are all about trust.
My friend had earned his girlfriends trust, and she was motivated to invest heavily in the next step. She was putting skin in the game.
So often salespeople leave a first meeting with a new prospect feeling optimistic. "They walked us to the elevator, patted my chief engineer and me on the backs, and said, We like this a lot!"
While words like "send us a proposal" may lift your spirits, that could turn out to be like meeting someone at a bar who says, Sure, give me a call, but then never agreeing to a date or even taking your call.
When you leave a first meeting, what will the prospect do to actually contribute to those next steps?
Is the prospect putting skin in the game? Or is the prospect sitting on the sidelines by asking you to do a lot of follow-up work, with no commitment on their part?
If the prospect is simply going to wait for you to develop something, it doesnt mean that a deal is dead, but its not a great sign, either. Buyers are usually polite in that they don’t want to hurt your feelings face-to-face, or theyre not focused enough to solve the problem that you can solve.
All too often, after you send your key findings or, even worse, a full proposal, the prospect goes quiet. Ill be travelling; Ill get back to you in a couple of weeks.
And then youre in chase mode.
So how do you determine "success" in a first meeting, and how can you keep the prospect actively engaged? How do you gauge the prospect’s real interest, and how do you determine which opportunity to dedicate more of your time to?
It’s called an "advance."
The extent to which the prospect contributes to the next steps determines the quality of the advance. The extent to which the prospect dedicates resources to the next steps is a clear and strong indicator as to how motivated the prospect is to really work toward a deal.
Lets say Prospect A tells you at the end of a meeting on Monday, Send me key findings and recommendations by the end of next week, while not really being clear as to what shell do when she receives that proposal.
And lets say Prospect B agrees, at various stages of a meeting on Tuesday, to set up a phone call between you and their Head of IT, and to bring in three different people for a meeting next month, while also asking you, Send me key findings and recommendations by the end of next week.
Which meeting do you gauge to be more successful? Prospect B, because they have advanced. They are putting skin in the game and investing their resources in the next steps.
On which prospects key findings and recommendations will you work more diligently? Prospect B, of course.
Now, an advance is not only an indicator, a gauge, of a prospects motivation. It can also be a tactical tool for ensuring, or at the very least, encouraging, that an interested prospect stay engaged in that often difficult and uncertain period following a first or second meeting.
You can and should work possible advances into your meeting plan for each and every prospect (and even for up-selling existing clients.)
Define a successful meeting outcome by how the prospect could contribute to the next steps. As the meeting progresses, you dont have to wait until the end of the meeting to ask for these advances. Sometimes its simply more natural to ask for them if things are going well in the middle of the meeting.
And sometimes, prospects will offer advances as a natural part of the meeting. Take note of them and review them at the end of the meeting.
If the prospect does not agree to any specific advances, it is entirely within your right to ask for one (or more), especially if you have work to do as a result of this meeting.
Well be happy to prepare our key findings and recommendations, John, and send them at the end of the week. Could we arrange a meeting the following week with you and your IT infrastructure team?
By having your desired advances planned before the meeting, you can quickly suggest them, or even adjust to a new advance based on material youve discovered about the prospect during the meeting.
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My friend asked his girlfriend for an advance, and she accepted by arranging dinner with her kids.
After dinner, with the kids in bed and the two of them snuggling on the sofa, she offered another advance. Why dont we drive to my parents place next month?
The above is an excerpt from Jack Vincents upcoming book, A Sale Is A Love Affair Seduce, Engage & Win Customers Hearts Forever, which will be published in time for Valentines Day 2015. Jack is a sales advisor and trainer who divides his time between Woodstock, NY and Luzern, Switzerland. You can contact him and subscribe to his blog at www.JackVincent.com.