How to shorten the time from “Send” to Yes (or No!)
Thu, 07/05/2012 - 09:46 — Drew Mitchell
Like most sales professionals, you probably find yourself constantly asking “How can I get these people to make a decision!” You just spent a month trying to get a prospect together for an initial meeting. You performed, by industry standards, what you consider a flawless needs analysis to determine what the company needs. You put together a proposal with all the pretty photos and illustrated how this package will help them accomplish those goals and objectives you identified.
Then, you hit “Send” to deliver the proposal as promised. Now what? It’s been weeks and you still haven’t received any productive feedback, other than “Not yet, I was at a conference in Vegas the past few days so I honestly haven’t even had a chance to discuss with my team”. (Note: This is an actual e-mail response received today by a co-worker.)
I know I personally find myself in this situation more often than I care to be. But, there is good news if you truly understand what it takes to get a company to make a decision. With some helpful hints to follow along the way, we can shorten the time from “Send” to getting an answer.
1. Deadline Expectations – Are you and your prospective client on the same page when it comes to deadlines? It may not be a deadline to have a yes or no decision but it is important to set a deadline for next steps before ending any conversation. You may have had an initial needs analysis meeting and the customer asks you to send a proposal. Great, you go back to the office, put together a proposal and send it back or deliver it the next day. You follow up a week later only to find he hasn’t even looked at the proposal yet.
Well, what did you think would happen? Did you set a deadline? Chances are the prospect took the proposal and set it on the desk, which an hour later was covered by another proposal or project that hit the desk. Where do you think you stand on the priority list? Probably at the bottom or close to the bottom. If there was no deadline set for next steps then why would it be a priority when other deadlines are approaching?
Set a deadline. It may be a deadline to review and get back together in a week. Think about the steps they must take internally to make a decision. The worst case is they ask for a couple weeks, in which case you then have a decision and follow up deadline. Remind them a few days before, thanking them for reviewing the proposal and offering to answer any questions before you get back together. When you get back together again, set another deadline. This may be to get a final decision or take you to another follow up conversation in a week or two. The point is, keep the conversations moving. It may be $100 you are asking for or $1 million, but it doesn’t matter. Deadlines are an important part of decision-making regardless of size of dollars we are talking.
2. Decision Maker – Are you talking to the right person at the company that can make the decision? In a lot of cases, there are multiple decision makers. Do you have them all in the room together? Getting in front of the decision maker(s) will speed up the time it takes to get from “Send” to a yes or no. You want to deal directly with the person that will make the final decision. If you are dealing with someone else, the process will naturally take longer. There is more risk involved for that person. They have to present it to the decision maker and then their performance or reputation is on the line. When dealing with the boss, s/he can take direct responsibility and make the decision with less personal risk.
3. Rejection- Everyone is afraid of rejection. But don’t let rejection sit in your way of getting a decision. The decision may be no, but as we all know, a no is not no indefinitely, it’s just a no for now. When you are following up to get a decision, ask, “Is two weeks enough time for you to make a decision one way or the other?” This lets your prospect know that you don’t mind hearing no if that ends up being a decision. No one likes to say no and no one likes to be told no, so help speed up the “no” decision and move on. If the decision is yes, then there is a good chance it is not dragging on and you would hear back regarding next steps.
4. Urgency – You may be selling a season ticket package or sponsorship package for next season when the team is still playing in this season. But, there are still ways to create urgency. If they are interested in your offer for next season, maybe they would be interested in sampling now. For instance, the team can offer a deal where if you buy for next season you can enjoy your seats during the final games this season. “You better hurry, because the sooner you buy, the more games you get to come to this season.” Most teams create events during the off season to help create value for those willing to sign on before season arrives. There are other ways to create urgency. The point is buyers respond to scarcity and urgency in order to feel in control of the situation.
5. Knowledge = Negotiation skills – This is a given, but it should be noted because in any sales job there is going to be negotiation. It’s important to know what to expect and to be ready for any feedback or objections you receive. Be prepared with the materials and information you may need so you aren’t the cause of delays in the process. If you are ready to handle issues or objections directly, you can address immediately when they come up and from there set the next deadline, keeping the conversations moving.
6.Match Expectations – Present what they want, not what you want them to want.
How many times do we finish a meeting with big eyes staring back at us in bewilderment? You just had what you thought was “10” presentation meeting with a prospect but have no idea what their budget is. They may think you are coming back with a $10,000 proposal and you came back with a $100,000 proposal. This will obviously result in a slow decision making process as you have to reconfigure your entire presentation, if you ever get the chance to do so. Having an effective and productive presentation meeting based on their needs and expectations will only help you speed up the decision making process.
So, these are a few helpful hints that I have used along the way to ensure that from the minute I hit “Send” I know what to expect and when to hear back from the prospect. There is nothing worse than having a great deal pending, but then it just sits there and there is nothing you can do because you didn’t set expectations of a deadline, didn’t create any urgency, weren’t ready to handle an objection or feedback head on and your presentation doesn’t match what they needed.