A Plan to Finish (Issue 541)

In which we are reminded to prepare a plan to finish our sales processes.

“So, are we going ahead, then?”

This question asked of me by Kyle, a bank residential mortgage specialist. I had called him for information about his bank’s lending procedures, closing costs, time frames, etc. etc. etc. and rates. I’d called him, specifically, because (1) I use one product from his bank and (2) their rates are among the best in the market at this point. My other option was to apply for the loan with Bob, a specialist who has assisted me with multiple refinancings during the 30 years I’ve lived in Massachusetts. His rates and terms weren’t quite as good. I’d called Bob first, then Kyle.

“So, are we going ahead, then?”  Kyle had heard a pause – the slightest waffle in my voice as he finished sharing his information.  I was feeling the impact of some loyalty to Bob.  I was thinking, “I want to think about it.”

The tone of Kyle’s question, voiced with a noticeable Irish brogue, conveyed a sense of certainty, as in, “well, we’ve covered all of the details, you wouldn’t have called me if you weren’t interested, I know my rates are good, we’re burning daylight, let’s move this forward.”

“Yes,” I replied.  He closed me.

Last week, my son’s club soccer team lost 5 – 0 to a very strong club from a nearby college.  It could easily have been 5 – 4, but his team really struggled to finish the opportunities they created.  After the game, as the team sat in circle vigorously discussing the game, one of the team said: “We need a plan to finish.  We do well at the back, we do well in the midfield, and we’re creating opportunities, but once we get the ball to the top, I don’t know what the plan is. We’re all over the place.  I’ve played on a lot of teams, and they all had plans – some like to take the ball to the outside and cross in to the middle, others like to take the ball right up the middle.  What do we do?  I have no idea. We need a plan to finish.”

And so it would be in our sales conversations.  When we begin developing an opportunity with a client or prospect, we need a plan or method to develop the opportunity; wee need a plan or method to prepare and deliver a proposal; and, we need a plan or method to finish, to bring things to a head, to ask for the business – to gain the prospect or client’s commitment to accept our proposal and advance.

Kyle’s question was good. The method can be as simple as:

(1) Reviewing our proposal with our prospect or client, something like, “We heard you say X, the data you shared is consistent with that, so we’re proposing to provide (benefit, benefit, benefit) by (action, action, action).  Does that seem right?  Does that make sense? How would you change that?”

(2) Asking, “What do you think?” (with the tone, “I think we’ve nailed this and we should be ready to move forward now”) after completing the review.

(3) Asking, “Ready to move forward?” after clearing up questions we hear following step (2).

Inducing or supporting someone to make a decision and move forward involves both art (reading people, really understanding their motivations and decision styles) and science (a series of steps leading to an outcome).  The MAIN point is:  Think it through, have a plan and method to finish that’s as clear and strong as our plans and methods to develop proposals, rather than kicking our proposals toward our clients and hoping they go into the net.

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