THE HARDEST PART ABOUT SWIMMING isn’t the stroke, the dive, or squeezing back into the swimsuit after a winter hiatus; it’s jumping into the cold water. Even when the pool is heated, the water causes a shock – if only for a few seconds. Why else do you think they use a gun to start a race!
And so over the many years that we go swimming we gain a reluctance to immediately plunge in; instead, standing on the edge, dipping our toes in and out, counting to five, and even then, retreating back from the edge.
But then, without warning, a parent, friend or bully, pushes us in. SPLASH! *Shock* Splatter. We resurface, turning as we take our first breath of air, to see the culprit, who has essentially helped us over our hesitation. Do we have praise? Do we thank them for helping us through that tough decision? No. Instead we shout, splash and plan revenge.
This is my analogy for the sales process. A customer is someone who, in many cases, wants to ‘jump into’ the deal. They called you up, walked through your front door, or sent you an e-mail requesting to know more about your product or service. You then led them, closer and closer, to the edge of the metaphorical swimming pool, until their toes were inline with the edge. Push now, and your customer will turn, splattering and accuse you of being unethical, unfair or simply too forceful. Instead, you have to let the customer make their own decision to jump, and that might mean that they count to five and retreat slightly. This doesn’t mean that you are helpless, however. I teach six ways to encourage your customer to ‘jump’ and they are:
1. Via a minor issue
2. Via an alternative question
3. Via an assumptive statement
4. Via checking availability
5. Via a conditional question
6. Via an invitational statement
I’ll explain each at length.
Via a Minor Issue
“Ok, John. Before we move forward,” you say, “I’ll need to send over my colleague to meet with your Systems Administrator. That should only take about a day or so. How does that sound?”
If the customer says “Sure!”, then they have ‘jumped’. If they say, “Hold on! We haven’t decided if we are going to use you yet”, then they have stepped away from the edge. Continue building that relationship.
Via an Alternative Question
“Ok, John. We can start work on this project on August 15 or August 22. Which date is best for your?”
If the customer says, “Ah, let me see. August 22 is best”, then they have ‘jumped’. Alternatively, they could again say “Hold on!”, which means you need to continue building that relationship.
Via an Assumptive Statement
This technique is used by very confident sales professionals. Elderly and those with heart conditions beware.
“Ok, John. It looks like everything is in order. I’ll go back to my office now and draft up the contract.”
Again, if the customer nods in approval then they have ‘jumped’. If they contest the statement, then you need to continue building the relationship, and funnel their needs. Don’t try this technique too early in the sales process.
Via Checking Availability
“Ok, John. Let me me see if we have a technician free that month that you are interested in installing the system.” (You call Bill, or check his calendar on your computer).
“Good news; Bill is available,” you continue.
If the customer is as pleased as you are, then they have ‘jumped’. If they don’t appear to be bothered in the slightest, then they are not interested in jumping – just yet. Continue building goodwill.
Via a Conditional Question
“John, we are happy to move forward in August, if you are okay with 15 day payment terms. How does that sound?” you ask.
If the customer agrees, then they have jumped. If they disagree, then they are not ready to jump. You know what to do.
Via an Invitational Statement
“John, we’re having an event next week where we will be demonstrating the system and qualifying staff as Help Desk personnel. It’s completely free training, and I welcome you to send two or three staff along.
It might be no obligation, however, the cultural habit of reciprocity will kick in, and what’s more, those trained will assume that your firm is the chosen vendor, and influence the decision maker (as long as they like you). Again, if the customer agrees, then they are ‘jumping’ into the deal. If they decline, you need to continue building that relationship.
Being an ‘aggressive’ sales professional doesn’t mean you need to push. Like the saying goes, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’, you can ‘lead a customer to the edge, but you can’t make them jump’. Try pushing, and you’ll end up with insults, or worse, being pulled in – fully clothed.