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As Easy as 1-2-3

Sales calls are simple when you know what to do before, during and after.

Life is complicated enough--why make it more difficult when it comes to the sales process? I don't claim to have all the answers or one magic method; there's never just one way. Over time, though, I've found some simple strategies that make calls smoother and improve your chances of closing the deal. These three steps can be done before, during and after each call to increase your closing ratio.

1. Prepare: Mental preparation is the key to a great sales call. What result do you project in your mind's eye before the call? What do you want to accomplish? Have you played out the call in your mind beforehand? It really works. Many top athletes do the same thing.

I once interviewed world champion motorcycle racer Niall Mackenzie, who told me he walks the entire racetrack before each event. He makes mental notes, like where he might be able to pass or where someone might pass him. This kind of preparation sets up an initial road map that not only allows the call to run more smoothly, but also gives you the confidence that comes from knowing your steps in advance. Does everything always go as planned? No. But that doesn't matter when you actually have a plan to fall back on. Sometimes my plan is as simple as writing down the five key points I want to discuss during each call.

2. Position: How do you best position who you are and what you're selling on that first call? I can guarantee that 4 out of 5 salespeople will start telling what they're selling before listening to the position of the customer. For example, let's say a customer says to a sales rep, "Tell me why I should buy your product over your competitor's." Many salespeople will go right into their product pitch, value-added proposition and so on.

Here's what to do instead: Simply turn the conversation around. I recently had a call that went just like that. One of the five managers on the call asked me to describe the two-hour training program I would design for their company. I said, "What I'd like to do first is find out from each of you what content you're looking for and what specific action you would like each participant to take after the program." In other words, I'm conducting reverse engineering. I ask what the desired outcome is and then design accordingly.

3. Propose: When it comes time to propose my plan, I make sure it is developed from the customer's point of view. Here are some simple points to keep in mind when you propose to close:

  • Let the solution be the customer's idea (or at least look like it is).
  • Make sure you believe it's the right solution.
  • Have additional sales opportunities in your pipeline so you close with confidence and have the ability to walk away if the deal doesn't make sense.
  • Earn their trust and their business by doing more than the competition.
  • Let them call your satisfied customers.
  • Follow up on everything you said you'd do.
  • Ask for the business. Yes, I said ask for the business: "Why don't we go ahead with this?" No fancy closing techniques needed here--just ask with confidence. If you've done everything right, closing should be the easiest step of all.

Barry Farber is the author of 11 books on sales, management and peak performance. His latest release, "Diamond in the Rough" CD program, is based on his book, radio and television show. Visit him at www.BarryFarber.com, or email him at barry@barryfarber.com.

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This article was originally published in the January 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: As Easy as 1-2-3.

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