The Fourth-Quarter Close

Need a quick boost in sales before the end of the year? Our sales coach tells you how to get them.

By Tony Parinello

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

So you need to make up for lost time. It's the fourth quarter, and you're trying to boost revenues and contain costs--at all costs! Guess what? VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, wants to do the exact same thing at his company. Here's the good news: Putting this all important commonality to work is certain to catapult your sales figures into the stratosphere and, in the process, help you win a customer for life.

If you have some sales in your forecast that are ready to close but seem to be taking too long, take this single, most important thought, put it in your mind, and then perform the three tasks I'll outline below for each of the pending sales.

Here's the thought:

Right now, VITO wants to buy what you have to sell and the results it can deliver just as fast as you want to sell it.

Here are the steps:

Step #1. Take a realistic look at your sales forecast. Select the top 50 percent of deals you've been working on during the past quarter that have the greatest revenue potential and highlight them with a bright yellow marker. These are the sales that are ready to happen but, for whatever reason, seem to be stuck just waiting for the approver's approval.

Step #2. Find out VITO's name. Get the name of the CEO, president or owner and give them a call. When you've got them on the phone, find out the answers to the following questions. (I'll get to the actual words you'll be using in a paragraph or two.)

1. What's this approver's level of loyalty to their organization's current source of supply that you're wanting to replace? (Caution: Their current source of supply may be an internal department or division!)

2. What's the approver's timeframe for each strategic initiative you can help with?

3. Who in the approver's inner circle is held responsible for implementing the tactical plans to accomplish #2 above?

Step #3. Talk the talk. Here are some examples of what you can factor into your phone conversation with VITO. I strongly suggest you use some variation of one or more of the following statements or questions. (Note: All bracketed text must be tailored to your specific sales situation.)

"Ms. Importanta, your [Regional Marketing Manager Jackie Jackson] sees the tremendous value in our [cost containment] ideas [for use before the end of November] in your [national new product release]. Before we take another step forward, we'd like to know how you personally decide on selecting a business partner and if you're predisposed in any way toward any particular provider of [internet-based marketing and consulting firms]."

Here's what you just did:

You dropped the name of the decision maker you've been working with, and you asked the all-important qualifying question of how VITO selects a business partner. By the way, this question won't go unanswered, because you've used the key operative word "personally." And you wrapped it up with asking if VITO has an unspoken loyalty to anyone else.

"Mr. Benefito, you're hearing from me today to thank you in advance for supporting our [rush to revenue] initiatives that we've been presenting to [Ima Tightwad, your CFO]. Our current readiness target is for the end of the [first quarter next year]. Will this satisfy your current [revenue and profit margin plans]?"

Here's what you just did:

You stated in a positive way that you totally expect to get the "order." You took whatever it is you're selling to VITO and stated the result/benefit. You set the timeframe (which, as you and I both know, will never be soon enough for VITO), and you asked if that current timeframe would satisfy VITO (which, as you and I also know, won't).

"Ms.Importanta, [Buggs Mahoney], your [head scientist in the infectious disease laboratory], and I have been working for the past [six months] on an idea that will [increase revenues, contain costs and improve the accuracy of each test in the lab]. Our current path will take us about [four months] to realize these results. Does our current schedule comply with your goals, or is there someone else in your organization we should be also working with?"

Here's what you just did:

You gave a soft accolade for Buggs--you never want to overstate or inflate anything you say to VITO. You also stated that you've done your due diligence and put the results in terms of benefits that VITO can easily understand. Then you asked the all-important question of compliance with VITO's needs and timeframe.

Reality check: If you're saying to yourself, "This sounds too risky! I might peeve my current contact and lose the deal," you're right--it is a bit scary. However, you'll never, ever lose any sale that you were going to win by using any technique I'll ever suggest. You'll simply get the result you want sooner. And that's just what you and VITO want and deserve.

Tony Parinello

Tony Parinello has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program,Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.

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