You grab a cup of coffee while sitting down with a group of prospects. You finish making the best pitch you’ve ever made in your life and then … they say, “We will talk it over and let you know.”
Time passes and you learn they bought elsewhere because your sale was dead on arrival. Your sale can be DOA if you do not implement the right techniques. Here are three techniques to reach all of the decision-makers effectively when selling to a group.
· Ask the right questions to get to the right decision-maker.
· Get everyone to agree in unison immediately.
· Move the deal quickly to take advantage of the momentum.
Getting To The Right Decision-Maker
The best way to ensure you are reaching all the decision-makers in a group is to find out who they are in the first place. I remember scheduling a big sales presentation two months in advance only to arrive and discover only one of the three decision-makers I needed was there. You can pretty much guess that the deal didn’t happen, because that one person who was there relayed my entire presentation incorrectly to the others who were absent.
The inability to present to all decision-makers at the same time marks the beginning of your failure to close a deal. Therefore, finding the group members who are the “trigger-pullers” is critical, but you should do this in a considerate manner to avoid hurting the other group members’ feelings.
How do you do this? Keep in mind that the odds of securing a second meeting with those key people are low. This means you must think of every appointment as your last.
You can avoid insulting the group by asking direct questions. For instance, when I worked in technology sales, I would pose a question such as “Who handles that for the company?” By asking a question in that manner, you get to know the vital information without hurting anyone’s feelings.
Asking questions that embarrass your prospects can hinder your efforts and relay the wrong picture of what you are offering. This happened to me during my early days in sales, when I used to ask, “Are you the decision-maker?” Trust me, I never received a reply.
Identifying the decision-makers also can help facilitate arranging any subsequent meeting needed to close the sale.
Agreeing In Unison
Getting everyone to agree in unison is crucial to closing a sale in a timely manner. You need to understand closing obstacles and listen to the buying signs.
I remember experiencing a lot of resistance when I first attempted to make a sale to a group. I tried to call for a meeting to talk to all of them but would be able to get in touch with only a few of them. And sometimes no one in the group was interested. I had to re-evaluate myself and find out the best approach. I started approaching groups by going through the influential leaders, and that was my breakthrough in selling to a group.
Selling to the top influencers on down allowed me to sell an entire group.
Always start with the small “yes” questions/statements to guide prospects through the sales process. Remember, people like to remain consistent in what they say. This means that if they start off saying no, then they will end with saying no, and vice versa.
For example, in my IT selling days, small yeses helped me sell to a family-owned car dealership. I went to the main office and talked to six people. I started off with yes statements until I closed the sale.
The statements went like this:
· We can all agree that customer service is the key to any successful car business.
· Car dealerships depend on a good IT system to keep profits and losses in check.
· A good staff of IT professionals and customer service reps would really help your company.
· OK, authorize this, sign here and we will put that together for you.
The small yeses made the big yes so easy. The agreement was signed in 30 minutes. Every meeting won’t be this way, but you certainly can make sales presentations a lot easier with small yeses. Small yeses leading to a big yes can make closing a sale as easy as cutting a cold stick of butter with a hot knife.
Move the Deal Quickly
Moving a group to sign a deal quickly is like trying to push a herd of cattle through a farm gate. It can be done, but it takes skill.
Time is not your friend in sales. Time may heal all wounds, as the saying goes, but time also kills all deals.
A group of people can be moved to a decision quickly, but it will take some effort to get them to make that decision expeditiously. It’s hard enough for a group to reach a decision, but the slow pace of getting to that decision can be painful, if not unbearable. Developing a sense of urgency helps the salesperson invest their time appropriately and avoids wasting the “prospective period” of the sales cycle that could be used to make more sales elsewhere. That may sound easy, but in reality it can be difficult.
You must understand the prospect’s priorities and convince them that obtaining coverage not only is necessary but also that it must be done as soon as possible. People hold off on making decisions for various reasons. Some of these reasons have to do with you and some don’t.
Also, giving your prospects too many choices holds them back in making a decision because of analysis paralysis.
One of the major reasons prospects fail to make a buying decision is a fear of the uncertain. A good way to handle this fear is to bring in a person who is on board with what you want to offer them already. In other words, try to get at least one person in the group agreeing with you before the big meeting.
All of this sounds good in theory, but how does it all work out in real life? I’m glad you asked.
I had a major life insurance business contract signed with a large manufacturing company because I made it almost impossible for them to say no. The administrative assistant told me the company had to change coverage plans in two months. She and I teamed up to find a perfect time for me to speak with the company executives.
I made sure to schedule the meeting close enough to the deadline to ensure no one tried to “wait it out.” I examined the company’s current coverage to ensure the company wouldn’t lose anything they already had. In the meeting, the administrative assistant talked the executives into the coverage while I acted as an advisor to explain why it made sense.
I gave the executives only three choices and a hard deadline. Giving the group a hard deadline made it easier for them to move forward with my offer. The executives thought about the benefits of the coverage coupled with the deadline. This made it easier for them to say yes. If I had given them too much time, then the executives would have had time to think their way out of the deal.
The extra time would have halted the deal. Giving the executives just enough time helped close the sale appropriately.
Pitching to a group can lead to a big sale, but the process can be painful if you don’t know how to do it effectively. Selling to a group can take time, but these techniques will help expedite the process.
Isadore Barefield is a sales professional and the owner of Consistent Copywriting, Houston. Isadore may be contacted at [email protected]