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Close More Sales By Creating Fewer Proposals
by Jeffrey J. Mayer

It was early in the morning on a cold January day. The phone rang. I picked it up. Said Hello. Cheryl was calling.

Cheryl has been selling electrical equipment for a company in Evansville IN, for the past three years, and has been having a tough time.

She was upset, distraught - and about to begin looking for a new job - because for the past few months she had been sending out proposal after proposal and hadn't closed any sales.

She would talk to prospects on the phone and have a good conversation. They would say "Send me a proposal." Which she did. Then she would call them a week later and when they weren't in she would leave a message. The call wasn't returned. A few days later she would call again, and after a week or two would eventually track the person down. At which time the prospect would say something like: "Thanks for sending the proposal, but we're not 'really' in the market at this time. We'll call you when we are."

The results of her face-to-face meetings weren't any better. The interviews would go rather well - or so she thought - and when she would ask if they would like to see a proposal, everybody always said, "Sure, send it to me."

So she put the proposal together, sent it out, and ended up having the same follow-up problems. Nobody returned her phone calls, and nobody wanted to schedule another meeting.

As we analyzed her selling process this is what we discovered:

1. Need to Ask Better Questions in Order to Identify a Problem. Cheryl wasn't probing enough. When she would discover a 'potential' or 'possible' problem, she immediately jumped into her close. She didn't take the time to find out the financial impact of the problem, nor did she ask additional questions to determine if the problem was something the prospect wanted to do something about. Cheryl started asking questions like this: "How often do you have to shut down your assembly line because one of your machines overheats and stops working?"

Then she asked some 'Financial Impact' questions:

"How often does this happen?"
"How much does it cost you in lost production?"
"How much does it cost you to have 35 people standingaround and not working?"

Much to her surprise, she quickly learned that these were $100,000 to $1,000,000+ problems.

Once she got into the habit of asking these types of questions, her prospects started paying attention to her and began listening to what she had to say.

2. Meet with Decision Makers, Not Gatekeepers or Screeners. Many of the people Cheryl was speaking with weren't the ultimate decision makers. She was talking with plant managers and plant foreman, but didn't know who the 'real' decision makers were or how the company went about making decisions.

We solved this problem with two questions:

1.) "In addition to yourself, who else is involved in the decision making process?"
2.) "Could you please describe how your company goes about making decisions to purchase electrical equipment?"

SalesTip: She DIDN'T ask if they wanted to buy the equipment, just how they go about making their decision.

Now Cheryl is discovering who the decision makers were and is getting meetings with them. 

3. Get Commitment. Once Cheryl discovered the full extent of her prospect's problems, how much these problems were costing them in lost production and wasted man hours, and how they went about making decisions; she insisted upon getting commitments from the decision makers that this was a problem they really wanted to fix 'before' she put her proposals together.

It's been about three months since Cheryl and I started working together and she's creating far fewer proposals, but is selling about 80% of them. Today she's among her company's top 5 sales people.

So if you want to close more sales and make more money, do these three things:

1. Ask better questions.
2. Find out the decision making process.
3. Get commitments.

Reprinted with permission from "Jeffrey Mayer's Succeeding In Business Newsletter. (Copyright, 2001, Jeffrey J. Mayer, Succeeding In Business, Inc.)


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