On the downside of the first quarter of the 21st century, it is apparent that humans are serial addicts. The ubiquitous and passionate dinner conversation starts with the words, “You gotta watch…!” Of course, you are informed your life is incomplete if you haven’t binged on “Breaking Bad,” “Ozark,” or “Game of Thrones,” none of which I have watched past the third episode while miraculously finding a way to hold down a conversation.
Older people remember the first prime time sequel. It was “Batman”! POW! BAM! It showed every Wednesday and Thursday night, the former ending in a cliffhanger that brought in dramatic questions from a satirical voice over. “Can the dynamic duo escape? Will the Riddler have the last laugh?!? Tune in tomorrow. Same bat time. Same bat channel.”
So, you ask, what could this concept possibly have to do with a sales column? My answer is, everything. We work in an industry in which business relationships evolve over time. The first order comes only after a journey of introduction, discovery, business rapport, an introductory transaction, and so on, all leading towards an ongoing relationship. In other words, you are the serial to be watched!
In my second book, “The Sales Secret,” I asserted that the “close” of the deal is not an all-or-nothing pinnacle moment of confrontation where you suddenly hitch up your bootstraps, pose confidently, and ask for the order. Instead, the close is a series of little victories. By the time you take the first order, there is no tension. The first order is a casual finalization of details that confirm you’ve done everything properly leading up the first order.
Closing, therefore, is incremental. Everyone knows that an order that comes too easily is a sign that something is amiss. An easy, early order from a new prospect is a sign the buyer might be disloyal and leave you as casually as they left their previous supplier. An easy order might indicate a sign of bad credit or perhaps a mistake in your pricing. Yes, there are a lot of reasons to believe a first order should only come after a series of quality interactions.
Closing is also about timing. Most business leaders agree that the best time to pick up a new, loyal customer is when the buyer, previously loyal to another supplier, is now experiencing real problems with that supplier. Getting the first order from a buyer satisfied with their current supplier leaves you in a position to use the one weapon you least want to leverage, a lower price. Therefore, getting a new buyer on favorable terms means keeping the relationship alive with a series of meetings—your serial of quality interactions—that lead you to being the first choice when something goes wrong with an existing supplier.
Closing is ultimately creating a reason for the next step. Just like “Ozark,” “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad,” and every other addictive serial, you want to end each meeting with a compelling reason for the next one. “We should at least meet so I can share with you upcoming business trends you might be missing.” “If we don’t meet, I won’t be able to share with you some great ideas your competitors have leveraged to sell effectively in these times of economic pressure.” And so on. These are the ways to end meetings with a compelling reason for the next ones.
Will you, as the sales hero, come up with a way to create more value in yourself above and beyond products that buyers can get anywhere in your market? Are you positioning yourself as the first choice when thing go wrong with an existing supplier? Do you have enough relationships building to secure your future?
Stay tuned to you. End each episode and interaction with a compelling reason for the next one. It might not be at the next dinner conversation, but instead at future business conversation when a buyer says to herself, or perhaps to another buyer, “You gotta watch… YOU!” KAPLOWEE!