There is a lot to be said for taking a long-term perspective in sales. Deals can often take a long time to come to fruition as you work with the prospect to provide the information they require to move through their buying process and make an informed purchase decision. But if you are too focused on winning the order you may end up losing the sale.
Here is something that most sales training doesn’t teach you: your prospects make up their minds which seller they are going to buy from fairly early in their buying process, often long before they hand out an order. That seller has won the sale. If they can shepherd the prospect through the rest of their buying process without tripping over their tongues or making some obvious error the order will be theirs. To use the old sales cliche, the business is theirs to lose.
Unfortunately, short of the prospect telling you, there is no way to know with 100% certainty whether you have won the sale or not. Over time your experiences and expertise will blend to give you a reliable intuitive indicator of where you stand. But even then the only way to proceed is to act as if every prospect were going to make up their mind on the first call.
How would you win the sale on the first call?
The treasure trove of information available on the Internet means that prospects are now largely pre-educated and somewhat self-qualified before they ever contact a seller. Experts estimate that prospects have progressed through 50%-75% of their buying cycle before they contact you for the first time. This means that your prospects have a narrower range of information they need answered when you finally connect and their need for information in order to make the best purchased decision is urgent.
The key to winning the sale on the first call is to create a powerful first perception with the prospect. You might be wondering if I meant to say “first impression” instead of “first perception” and my answer is no. To me a first impression means the prospect has some vague notion of who you are, what you do and how you do it. A first perception, on the other hand, is an immediate recognition and appreciation on the part of the prospect of the value that you can create for them. Impressions are fleeting. Perceptions are sticky. Perception is reality. Create a compelling first perception with the prospect and they immediately begin to associate their pre-sales experience with you to what it would be like to work with you and your company after the order. Once the prospect takes that mental step then you have won the sale.
How Can You Create a Powerful First Perception?
1. Sell with Maximum Impact in the Least Time. Plan each sales interaction with the prospect to create value for the prospect and to maximize the return they receive from the time they invest in you.
2. Be Completely Responsive. The race doesn’t go to the swift. It goes to the responsive. If you assume your prospect is pre-educated before you talk with them, then being completely responsive means quickly providing complete answers to the remaining questions they have. Being fast without content is not responsive. Your prospects have questions and the first seller with the answers wins.
It can take a long time to get an order. But it doesn’t take long at all to win the sale.