Have you ever had what you thought was a for-sure sale unexpectedly die in the water? Things were going so well! The prospect was expressing sincere interest in your product and you were reviewing past meetings to prepare for the future. Then… nothing. The prospect did not move the sale forward. Why did this happen? Honestly, it’s probably because moving a sale forward is your job, not your prospective client’s.
David Brock, in a recent article for the Partners in EXCELLENCE Blog post, writes that, all too often, sales reps get caught up in what has happened instead of focusing on what the prospects need to move the sale forward. “We and our customer must always be asking what’s next,” Brock says, “We have to have a plan to get to the completion of the project. What has happened provides context. It informs us on what has happened and helps us to determine what’s next, how we move forward to a decision. But it doesn’t tell us what to do.”
In order to move the sale forward, sales reps need to collaborate with their prospective clients. The prospect probably has not done business with your company before. So they will be looking to you to lead the way. But you also need to know what the prospect needs to do next and how you can help them make their final decision and act on it. Brock says that sales reps need to work with prospective clients in order to formulate a collaborative action plan.
Building a Collaborative Action Plan to Move the Sale Forward
So, by this point in the sales process, you should have a solid grasp on what your prospect’s goals and objectives are. After all, they’re why you sought a meeting with this prospect to begin with, right? And your initial meetings should have given you all insight into how your product or service is a good fit for and how completely it will meet the prospect’s needs. If you do not have these answers yet, it’s time to back up a bit. You can’t move the sale forward unless you and your prospect are both confident in the fact that your product is the best fit for their company’s needs.
Once you get all of that sorted out, it’s finally time to move the sale forward to completion! First, Brock recommends asking the prospective client for their target buying date. Is now a good time to implement the change? Or do they need time to get their funds in order, get all the decision-makers in agreement, or make other changes? If there is a potential delay, you need to take action to ensure the sale can still be made. Inquire more about their budget needs and see if you can implement payments plans to make the process easier. Or if they mention deferring to other decision-makers, it’s time to organize a meeting that includes those people.
“As we move through the process,” writes Brock, “we continually update that plan with the customer–and we implement great project management processes, keeping the target decision date fixed, adjusting our work plan to achieve that date.”