Does it often feel as if your prospects have the upper hand? Far too frequently ending up on the short end of the stick? All give and no get? Below are typical warning signs that your prospect is in control of the sale:
- You sent over pricing, and now the prospect won’t return your phone calls
- You spent a lot of time educating the prospect only to find they aren’t willing to schedule a follow up meeting
- Your prospect requested references, but never got around to calling them or following up with you
- You scheduled a meeting involving 2-3 of your company’s experts, and the prospect no-showed the conference call
It has happened to every salesperson. Thus, sales professionals are always striving to find the key to successfully qualifying, advancing, and closing the sale. They want to know how to get that “edge” during a sale—what they can do to give themselves the best chance of winning the deal. What is that extra thing that increases the odds of winning? In a word, it is LEVERAGE. LEVERAGE is the element that determines whether the sales professional or the prospect will be in control of the sale.
When we teach our Negotiating class at SELLect Sales Development, we talk about the 10 Commandments of Negotiating. Let’s borrow two of the Texas sales training negotiating principles to teach you how to maximize your leverage during the sale.
- Understand Leverage and Use It
- No Unilateral Concessions
Understand Leverage and Use It
First, we need to look at the meaning of leverage: It is situational advantage or the power to influence results. Leverage affects buyers and sellers. It can either increase your situational advantage or increase your vulnerability. Your ability to effectively use leverage during the sale is directly related to the quality of your Discovery questions.
Anything that the prospect finds highly valuable during the sale can be used as leverage. Too often sales people don’t recognize that many of the things they provide during the sale can be effectively leveraged. Instead they assume it is just part of the job. Let’s list some things that are of high value to the prospect:
- Audits or Assessments
- Access to your Colleagues, SMEs or Company Executives
- Initial Scope of Work
So, here’s the question, after you invest your time in providing these things to the prospect, what do you have in return? For many salespeople, the answer is either “nothing” or unlimited access to the prospect’s voicemail. This is not acceptable in an adult-to-adult interaction. Nor should it be in sales.
No Unilateral Concessions
A unilateral concession means one party agrees to a concession, while the other party does not. There is no faster way to lose control of your sale than to agree to an unending stream of requests from your prospects without expecting anything in return. In other words, if you agree to provide something valuable to the prospect, you must get something of equal or greater value in return. Your “concession” to provide something for your prospect, should include an associated condition that is equally valuable for you.
For some reason, sales people have the belief that they have to do everything the prospect asks unconditionally. My belief is that sales should be a peer-to-peer interaction, and both parties have responsibilities to make commitments and keep them. Learning to ask the prospect for something in return is an essential skill in maximizing your leverage during the sale.
Combine the Principles
Putting these two negotiating principles together is done easily by learning one simple phrase: “Yes, we can ____________, if you can ____________.” This phrase allows you to set an expectation and get an agreement with the prospect that both of you have responsibilities. Let’s look at some examples.
1. The Prospect has requested a proposal
Caution: If you agree to provide a proposal for the prospect and send it over unconditionally, what is your predictable outcome? In many cases, your predictable outcome is the prospect will go dark. So, if you agree to create a proposal, what would you like to get back that is of equal or greater value? I believe it is reasonable to expect the prospect to schedule a meeting with you to walk through the proposal and then make a timely decision about whether or not they are going to do business with you. If the prospect won’t agree to this, you should not create the proposal.
Words That Work
“Thanks for the opportunity to create a proposal for you. I’ll get started on it. We also need to find a time on the calendar for me to come back and walk through the proposal, review the pricing and have a Q & A session. Then your organization can decide whether or not you would like our help. It usually takes about __ minutes, and we need to make sure all the people involved in the decision will be available. Is there a time in the next week that works for you?”
2. The Prospect wants a demo
If you agree to provide a demo for a prospect, what do you want back that is of equal or greater value? Most of us want the right decision makers to be in the room or on the webinar when the demo is run. We also want a clear next step to be established following the demo that advances the sale. Without requiring this, you will likely will waste your time on a demo with people who don’t have the organizational influence to make a decision. One more word of caution: Never do a demo without qualifying the prospect first. Otherwise you may demo EVERYTHING in an attempt to dazzle the prospect, but not spend your time on the features and functionality that have the most impact. Instead of being convinced, prospects are often overwhelmed.
Words That Work
“Sure, we can run a demo for your company. We just need to make sure all the people who will be involved in the evaluation/decision process are available. If for some reason they can’t be available for the time we select, we will need to pick another time that accommodates everyone. Also, at the end of the demo, we can determine what next steps are appropriate. I’ll send out the calendar invites.”
3. Prospect would like access to a company executive or SME
This one is simple. If you are bringing your SME or company executive to the meeting, you should expect their executive(s) to be there as well. (Of course, if you are working directly with the Final Decision Maker, this problem won’t occur.) If the prospect won’t agree to this, you will waste your company’s valuable resources and time. Also, your boss will not be happy!
Words That Work
“Since I’m including our CEO in the meeting, we need to make sure that __________ will also be in the meeting. Is there any reason we can’t make that happen?”
I know we can expect better from our prospects, and the reality is that good prospects are very open to meeting you halfway. If you’re doing all the giving in the sales interaction, it might not be the prospect’s fault. Consider leveraging sales process consulting to find and correct weaknesses in your system.
SELLect Sales Tip: You (the sales professional) should control the sale, not the prospect.
SELLect Sales Tip: Learn to use nurturing, yet assertive language to establish mutual commitments throughout the sale. Assertiveness is not aggressiveness!
SELLect Sales Tip: Leverage the good work you are doing into activities and agreements that advance the sale.
Contact SELLect Sales today for more information about our leverage and negotiation training.