Playing All Four Quarters
Your dream clients worry at the end of their buying cycle. Right before they are ready to choose and commit, the doubts start to pile up. They wonder, “Am I making the right decision,” and “Is this really going to work for me,” or “Am I paying to much?”
These concerns are brought to life and they are attached to you and your offering. You told your story and presented your solution, and now your dream client is concerned about some part (or parts) of it. They have also heard some very different and conflicting stories from some of your competitors.
Winning means addressing these concerns.
You Can Assume They Have Concerns . . . Even If
You presented. You answered dozens of their questions during and after your presentation. You have verified that everything is understood and that your dream client doesn’t need any further evidence that you are the right choice. If they were concerned about anything, they would have told you, right?
No, they wouldn’t. You have to keep asking.
If the decision hasn’t been made, if your offering is still one of many being considered, if you haven’t been given a verbal commitment based on all of the work you have done before the boardroom, then your dream client has concerns about your offerings. They don’t strongly believe that you are the best choice, and there is something preventing them from awarding you their business.
You are not alone here, though. They have concerns about your competitors, too.
The sales cycle for a lot of salespeople ends here. But there is still a full quarter of game left to play.
Playing Until the Whistle Blows
The end of your sales process doesn’t occur when you take a bow after presenting in their boardroom. The end of your sales process isn’t the end of your dream client’s buying process either. You have to continue to sell until the final decision is made.
By assuming there are concerns that need to be resolved, you can take the actions necessary to continue selling and resolve your dream client’s concerns. First, you schedule the follow-up meetings to discover what those concerns are and how they can best be resolved. Then, you ask the really hard, yes-you-have-to-sound-like-a-salesperson question that goes something like this:
“If you haven’t committed to choosing us, then I have to believe that there is something that I haven’t done to ensure you that we are the best choice, that you are still concerned about something, or that you saw something from someone else that we didn’t address well enough. Can you share your concerns with me and give me an opportunity to try to resolve them?”
With their concerns in the open, you can take the necessary actions to resolve them. Without their concerns in the open, you can expect a letter thanking you for your participation in their process and providing some vagaries about your dream client “making the best choice possible for them and their business,” without any real information about why you lost.
We Both Rationalize the Decision
They buy, and then they rationalize the decision.
You either help to influence your dream client’s rationalization by continuing to sell all the way until the end, resolving concerns and modifying your offering, or you lose to someone who does the influencing, plain and simple.
We lose, and then we rationalize the loss.
You call and ask your dream client why you lost, and your dream client gives you five reasons, none of which make any sense now. You decide that it was really price all along, you lost for reasons that were beyond your control, and that there was nothing you could have done differently.
There are lots of contests in life where the game is won or lost in the last few minutes of play. Business-to-business sales is one of them. To win, you have to play all four quarters.
Have you ever lost an opportunity because you didn’t play all the way to the end of the game?
When does the sales process end? Is it always aligned with the end of the buying process? Why is it important to continue to sell all the way up until the final decision has been made?
Why do your buyers sometimes withhold their concerns instead of sharing them with you? Why is it critical that you find a way for your dream client to share their concerns with you? Whose responsibility is it to obtain and resolve your dream client’s concerns?
Do your dream clients tell you the truth as to why you won or lost? Or do they make their decision and then rationalize their decision and give you reasons that support their decision after the fact?
Are you any different? Do you accept the reasons as truth, absolving yourself of the responsibility for losing and cutting yourself off from the learning and improvement that you might make if you accepted that you lost because of something you did or didn’t do as a salesperson?