Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Follow Up: 5 Steps to Closing the Deal

An entrepreneur I know recently asked me for assistance with his marketing messages. Frustrated after months of meeting with key corporate decision-makers in the effort to sell his service, he contacted me in hopes that I could craft the magic words that would close the deal.

“They understand what I’m offering,” he told me. “And they don’t disagree with the numbers I have that show the ROI they’ll get after bringing on my services. But where the rubber should be hitting the road, it’s not. When it comes time to find the money to contract with me, nothing happens.”

“How do you follow up with them after you meet?” I asked.

“Well, I don’t really,” he admitted.

Therein lies the problem, I told him.

This entrepreneur doesn’t need me or any other marketing firm to help communicate the value of his services or how they work. He’s been out doing that all along, and, by his own admission, he’s able to speak with, reach and obtain agreement from his audience.

What’s missing isn’t a positioning statement or magic marketing slogan. What’s missing is the close.

Every business owner has to be a salesperson. No matter how groundbreaking your idea, how unique your product or how valuable your service, it’s a dangerous fallacy to wish or believe that it will sell itself.

It’s not enough to advertise your business and hope people will buy from you.

It’s not enough to meet with prospects and then wait for them to pick up the phone and volunteer to pay you.

It’s not enough to call potential new partners and expect that they will team up with you.

To make things happen—really make things happen—you have to follow up and make them happen.

5 Steps to Closing the Deal

1. Contact the decision-makers you’ve met with and ask if they’re ready to _____ (fill in the blank to close the deal).

1a. If they say yes, great! Ask them how you can help, thank them and now you can watch it happen!

1b. But if they say no—which is usually the case—you have more work to do.

2. Ask them what they need to be able to take the next step. Make them answer you specifically. Press them for the name of the person who has to approve the next step, ask them to tell you when you can expect them to be ready to take the next step, and ask if there’s any information or assistance you can provide in helping them take the next step.

3. Mark their responses in your calendar or contact management system. Following your conversations, follow up with a thank you and a summary of what they said they would do and by what date.

4. Schedule a trigger in your electronic calendar or contact management system so you remember to follow up on the date when they said they’d be ready for the next step.

5. Then begin at Step 1 again.

If, at that date, they continue to be unable to take the next step, repeat the process.

Sometimes, it can take months to years to push through a new contract, depending on the size and scope of your product or service. Don’t be afraid to keep in touch in between those milestones. Personal notes of congratulations if you see your contact or their company in the news, and invitations to events or networking opportunities make a genuine positive impression to your prospect. Be present. Be visible. Be non-pushy but clear in what you want.

Wishing for new contracts or new clients isn’t going to make it so. And being nice and polite isn’t enough to make people want to do business with you. You have to show them the benefit you provide, coax them along the process, and make the ask to land the deal.

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