In every complex sales opportunity there are points where even a seasoned sales professional asks: “What do I do next?” And that question leads to yet other questions? Do I pitch to another stakeholder? Do I wait until I hear back? Do I send a reminder email? Do I send more information?
These are the wrong questions to ask. Every deal has a natural order of events, but that order differs according to the individual customer. To understand what to do next, you must assess what’s supposed to happen — at the customer end — and understand what you’ve done, and still can do, in order to influence those events.
With that in mind, here are six key questions that, when answered, tell you exactly where you should be putting your selling energy:
- QUESTION #1 of 6. What do I understand about the customer’s buying process? You can’t possibly know what to do next if you don’t know what’s supposed to happen next. For example, if the customer’s buying process requires that you meet with the CFO to get initial buy-in, you are wasting time if you’re negotiating installation dates.
- QUESTION #2. How have my selling activities helped the customer commit to taking action? If the customer is driving the buying process — and you’re just there to take the order — it really doesn’t matter what you do. However, if you’re driving the sale forward, you need to identify (and leverage) what you’ve done to help it forward.
- QUESTION #3. What actions has the customer already committed to? A big commitment (i.e. to buy) is always preceded by a dozen smaller commitments. What had the customer already said or done that lets you know the customer is serious? Which of those commitments are leading towards an eventual purchasing decision.
- QUESTION #4. What actions has the customer not yet committed to?What still needs to happen in the customers decision-making process before a final decision can be made? Is there a key meeting that needs to take place? Are there pending decision about budget priorities? Are there business issues to be resolved before buying?
- QUESTION #5. What can I do now that might help the customer make the next commitment? You assessed where you are in the customer’s buying process, how you helped them get there, and what commitments still need to be made. Now figure out what you must do to help the customer commit to the next step.
- QUESTION #6. What am I prepared to do if the customer refuses to commit? If there’s a pending commitment that’s reasonable and appropriate, given previous commitments, but the customer won’t commit, you need a backup plan. You’ve invested your time; don’t let the deal to be needlessly scuttled because you won’t walk the extra mile.
The above is based on a conversation with Mark Sellers, author of the excellent selling book “The Funnel Principle”.