The Trail: blog post for June 2015
by Jeff Cartwright
Sometimes when you’re trying to close a sale, the ideal scenario doesn’t quite go down the way you’d like it to. The first time you attempt to close the sale and it turns out that it’s not a mutual thing, that the client isn’t quite as ready as you are to make a commitment, you should consider a few important things.
Take a breath
The first thing you need to understand is that if you freak out or get upset, it will only make things worse. Remember, to take a breath and center yourself. The client may be on a different path than you at the moment, and it’s important not to fret or feel too concerned.
Take a pause, then give the client an option to speak by asking questions like: Mr. Smith, is there a concern you have that I haven’t addressed? Or: Is there a reason you don’t want to confirm today, on the day that we agreed?
Approach the situation with an inquisitive sense. Even though you feel that you’ve gotten your ducks in a row, so to speak, now your ducks have roamed a bit. However, you can get them realigned with a little patience.
Take the brunt of the blame on yourself so your client doesn’t become defensive. Perhaps say something like: I’m in error, I thought we were ready, you were ready, to confirm. Or: I apologize that I’m in error. Please let me know where am I in the process? If we’re not in the same place, how can we get there?
Understand that it is okay to ask why. At this point you need to really dig into the validity of your recommendation and let them know that you are in it for the long haul. Also, let your client know that you’re willing to bend a little, that way they’re more open to discussing what’s really the reason for their pushback.
Listen then Learn
Now is the time to listen. Allow the customer to open up to you and tell you, they may even say they need to think your apology over, just make sure you’re listening. Really consider their side of the story and ask follow up questions. Be cordial and professional, but also be blunt if you’re genuinely confused about their reasoning. You can say something like I’m surprised you’re not wanting to commit. Where did I go wrong? Is it me? Is it the price? The company?
Go through 4 or 5 options that could possibly be dissatisfying to the client and if one of them strikes a chord, follow up. If they hold a grudge against the business you hadn’t thought of, explain that this relationship is different, separate from past issues. Fall back into the process of the sale and let the client know that you’re in it for the duration, for the long term. You aren’t a temporary partner or a part-time employee, you’re ready to dig in and stay around.
Something I truly believe in is “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. Think about that for a second, nothing ventured, nothing gained. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. In this scenario, ironically, you need to venture by staying put. Whatever relationship you and your client have built so far, will displace the anxiety you have about making the sale in that moment. However the worst thing you can do after your client confides in you is to leave.
If you leave and have to set-up another meeting, your client will see it as a different scenario and a new negotiation. You’ve worked hard by keeping calm, apologizing, listening and learning, so don’t let those moments disappear by leaving too soon. You are much better off staying and thoroughly figuring out the issue. Now that’s not to say you have to make the sale that instant; however, reaching an understanding before leaving is paramount. Also, make sure you set-up a specific agenda for that next meeting, one where you both understand what’s to be expected.