What a great movie! What a great scene! Alec Baldwin laying down the law. But for those of us in Sales, it’s not really that funny. The conclusions that most people draw from this scene are actually…completely false. Yet it does strike a chord with many of us- it’s time to close…
I’ve sat through some of the most painful meetings at the end of a quarter or the end of the year. The folks in senior management have threatened, reasoned, rationalized, and even pleaded for their salespeople to make things happen. Their most common question is “why not now?” and most salespeople answer…”budget cuts, challenging conditions…” We’ll leave the details of forecasting and pipeline vitals for future posts, but for now I’d like to focus on what brother Alec calls his “ABCs” or “always, be, closing”
Anyone who’s been involved in Sales knows that it’s a lengthy process with alot of preparation, many steps (or phases), and a long timeline. Even though I don’t have as much experience as many “closers”, I will share the simple questions I was taught to determine if, how, when, and why a purchase would take place. It’s not important in which order they’re answered, only that they’re answered honestly:
- Need– Why would the prospect want your product, service, solution? Is it mission critical for their business, i.e. will they shut down tomorrow without it, or is it nice to have? Ninety nine percent of what’s sold falls in the latter category, so you better move on to the next questions…
- Time-frame– When are they going to pull the trigger, ring the bell, or “sign on the line that is dotted…?” This is the most difficult question for most salespeople and/or senior management because it relates to forecasting and also accountability. It should be addressed earlier rather than later and any dates given should be treated with extreme skepticism. I remember a former boss, Mike, who drove home the importance of this question to me. He’d stare at me with his merciless Irish-eyes and say “you promised me $35K…I rolled it up to the Board! Get out your checkbook Pablo…”
- Authority– Who are you speaking with and selling to? Does this person have the “juice” to make it happen? All too often salespeople do a great job of selling…to the wrong person. I was taught to ask this question in many ways…repeatedly- “who else needs to be involved in making this decision with you..???’ Hey! Let’s get them involved now!
- Money– I purposely avoided saying the word “budget” here because it makes me grind my teeth and get the shakes. This is one of the toughest questions to ask, confirm, and believe. I’ve seen alot of prospects be “mistaken” about where their budget(s) were for the year. It’s here that a salesperson needs to get creative and add measurable value to the potential engagement / sale, not panic and start discounting. They’re no easy solutions for this question, but that’s why we’re in Sales…
- Willingness– Many sales engagements end in..”no decision”. The prospect gradually grows colder and eventually stops communicating. The opportunity sits on the pipeline until senior management forces it off. I say you’ve got to be direct- Are they buying…now? Why not next quarter or next year? Have all the other questions be answered? Pick up that coffee and start closing people! Happy Hunting!