New sales will be slow as organizations review their cash flow based on the new environment and reallocate budgets. I am posting three short blog posts on how to grow revenue in this environment.
Part 2- How to close outstanding business
Part 3- Future opportunity for growth
In part 1, I suggested the best way to utilize unused current contract value with your clients. In part 2, I will discuss how to address opportunities that were in the final stages of closing before the quarantine. Pandemic or not, the longer an opportunity stays open, the lower the probability of closing it.
Inevitability, some organizations have a legitimate reason why they can no longer work with you. For the most part, many organizations decide not to work with you because of the fear of the unknown. Several factors make selling against the unknown decisively harder. Therefore, you need to find common ground, eliminate as many unknowns as possible, and agree on the best path forward. Below are the four steps to use when having this conversation with your prospect.
Step 1: Agree on the environment when you first started talking
The world is radically different now for a lot of organizations. You need to understand the environment, and the situation the operator was working within before the pandemic existed.
This conversation is hard to control. They will go on tangents and derail you by saying things are not the same, which we know. Try to stay in the box. The wording of your questions steers the conversation to get the information you need.
Example questions of what to ask:
- Why did you initially start looking into the offering?
- How was business growth before?
- If up or down, what was the cause?
- Is your sales team a group of great sellers?
- What environmental factors were in play?
- Was it the product?
- Before was your organization’s cash flow eradicate, seasonal, or pretty steady-state?
Establish how the business was operating in the previous environment and determine what drivers impact their business.
Step 2: Establish the value of your offering
Although it seems odd to revisit a value proposition, it is essential for the buyer to re-establish the value in your offering. They may start by stating this is a different time, and they are not sure the original value still holds. That is fine, but keep pushing.
Get them to remember the reason they were making the purchase. Questions in this part of the conversation are for them to review the evaluation of your program and why they moved forward. Make sure to determine the expected return on the offering, even if it is evident, make them state it. For example, if you mow lawns, ask them what was the expected result of getting their lawn mowed? The buyer restating the value reaffirms the positive attributes of your program.
- What were your expectations for this product?
- What did you consider a win?
- What were your concerns?
- What were you most looking forward to?
- What were you most concerned about?
Establish the value along with the criteria they used to make the decision and the intended goal.
Step 3: Agree on the future
This part of the conversation focuses on establishing the knowns and steering away from the unknowns. These questions determine what factors changed and what factors remain. Discuss with them the steps they are taking to compete in this new environment. You need to learn the difference between a personal feeling and a business decision.
If you did an excellent job with the first two questions, their answers will guide them through the next set of questions. The default answer here is to say, “I don’t know.” To drive better responses, ask specific questions based on their answers from your first two questions.
- You said that the reporting on the old system was the biggest reason you were looking at switching?
- Will those reports be needed in the future?
- You said the biggest driver of business was x, do you see x changing?
- What do you see the drivers forward?
- How is the biz going to change based on the new environment?
- What is the most significant risk you see coming?
- What is the constant?
- How long before your business returns to your previous pace?
Establish what factors are different and start creating a framework for what is the same. Take time to learn what needs your product was addressing and how they were going to leverage your product to address these needs.
Step 4: Discuss your product in the new environment
After you established the environmental changes, and determine the value of your products, start a new dialogue. Discuss how your offering fits in this new environment. If the same end goal exists, can your product still bring the value in this new environment? If the answer is yes, great, you can get fancy with paperwork, billing terms so on. If the answer is no, and legitimate, find a new prospect.
Everyone is going to be cash conscience right now. Making decisions with unknown data points creates anxiety and fear. Therefore, create the context of knowns while matching your product values. Odds are you know why they are not working with you now, so you need to have something to help the sell along, like extended billing periods, or use now pay later, something to alleviate short term concerns and install long term commitments.
Thank you for your insights:
- Do you see a reason we will not work in the new environment?
- Do you see a way my product can make life easier now?
- What is the biggest risk of us doing the deal now?
You need to start eliminating factors that are creating fears. By narrowing down the answers to clear concerns, you can now manage the close process.
The key to making any of this work is recognizing businesses are hurting. You need to re-establish your value, provide a solution to help them improve and drive business, and mitigate risk along the way.