Ask All to Buy!
You might be familiar with Arthur "Red" Motley, who was one of the first nationally-recognized motivational speakers and sales experts. He’s also well-known for a number of pithy quotes, one of which is the following fifteen-word definition of the selling process:
“Know your customer, know your product, call a lot of people, ask all to buy."
This article's focus is on the ending of the quote, "Ask all to buy."
Clearly this part of the definition is all about closing the sale; but might there be more to it than just asking for the order?
If we consider the various steps in today's consultative selling models and extended business development processes, the "close" might be better described as a "call to action." Further, if one is to maximize effectiveness, then every prospecting call, selling appointment or business development interaction should include a call to action.
Since many of these conversations with customers and prospects are not transactional — i.e., they do not involve the execution of an order — the "call to action" frequently does not take the form of asking for an order but rather asking for a next step; some type of action step that keeps the overall process moving forward.
These next steps might include a follow-up meeting, an exchange of additional information, a time to present a proposal, a subsequent appointment or conference call involving higher-level managers, or a follow-up telephone call. Of course there will hopefully be instances when the next step will involve the completion of an order! As a general rule, we typically suggest a next step based on the relative success of the interaction; in other words, we ask for whatever it is we believe we have earned the right to request.
Fore-armed for Success!
To enhance the quality and execution of sales or business development calls, it's best to anticipate the possible calls-to-action or next steps that we might request during upcoming calls, as pre-call planning is a best practice shared by the most successful sales people!
Here are a few guidelines you might consider when crafting your list of possible outcomes and when proposing them to your customers and prospects:
- When considering the possibilities, think beyond the sales call itself… consider the customer's evaluation process, your organization's order processing protocols and other priorities your customer might have. Be prepared to suggest one or more of the interim steps that might be prerequisites to completing the sale.
- An ideal call to action will be specific — "…let's get together again in a few weeks" is a commonly-agreed-upon next step, but it is NOT specific and most often leads to inaction.
- Try to structure next steps so that you are in the proactive position. Many people weaken at the end of selling conversations and leave the ball in the prospect's court by closing with a statement such as, "Thanks again for your time today. I look forward to hearing from you!" This may seem polite but it too tends to lead to inaction; or, even worse, this reactive approach can result in a more proactive competitor getting the business!
- Make it easier for your customer or prospect to go along with your suggestions by offering a range of options or an either-or choice. "Can we meet again next Wednesday or Thursday, or would the following week be better?"
- After suggesting or asking for a next step, be quiet. (Calvin Coolidge offered excellent perspective on this when he said, "No man ever listened himself out of a job!")