Assuming the product or service you sell is a relatively high-priced item or takes a well thought-out decision by your prospect (and possibly others such as a committee) before buying, it’s seldom that you’ll make the sale on your first appointment. Sure, there are exceptions, but this is the general rule.
As such, you may want to take the advice of Neil Rackham, author of the bestseller, SPIN Selling (SPIN stands for “Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-Payoff”). He suggests that, instead of judging the success of your presentation by whether you make the sale or impress your prospect, that you judge its success by whether you cause an “advance.”
According to the author, “An advance is where an event takes place, either in the call or after it, that moves the sale forward toward a decision.” He cites typical advances as:
* A prospect’s agreement to attend an off-site demonstration
* A clearance that will get you in front of a higher level of decision-maker
* An agreement to run a trial or test of your product
* Access to parts of the account that were previously inaccessible to you
Again, depending upon your product or service, many more examples could be added to Mr. Rackham’s excellent list. One in particular would include simply setting up a return visit to your prospect’s office, for which you have a set date and time. That way you can bring back your updated or final ideas, learn of and answer any final questions and, either complete the sale or advance it even more toward a final conclusion.
Mr. Rackham adds that one characteristic of a successful advance is that the commitments proposed is the highest “realistic” commitment the prospect is able to give.
In other words, Successful salespeople never try and move the prospective customer beyond achievable limits.
How do you see Mr. Rackham’s advice working in your business?
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As a guy who got his first “sales training” as a time-share agent, I have a funny story about the book SPIN Selling. In 2000, I was working late our company HQ and saw this on the President’s bookshelf. I picked it up, assuming it would be am affirmation of the “move on” concept taught by most time-share trainers. Instead, I found a book that would forever change my way of thinking AND more importantly affirm a direction I had been on.
Even back in my days of selling time, I couldn’t get comfortable with the concepts if boxes and trial closes, so, I just got to know people and shared a vacation style that I believed in. Not much has changed over the years, but I have learned that as long as we are working in our craft to add value to others-asking for their business, is really very natural.
Thanks for sharing this. SPIN Selling is one of a short list of books I consider to be a must read, just below Go-Givers Sell More-:)!
Steve, that’s a beautiful (and hugely important) story about what selling is really about. Thank you for sharing. And, thank you for your kind compliment regarding Go-Givers Sell More, as SPIN-Selling is one of my all-time favorite sales books.
Just what I needed to hear today, Bob~ How did you know?!
A potential client who, I thought, was ready to engage, sent an email saying he’s decided to wait till after April 15 (he’s an accountant) to begin working with me. It would be easy for me to say “Oh shucks! He didn’t say yes…April 15 is a month away…He might change his mind…” However., after reading this post, it IS easy for me to say “YAY! I advanced the sale!!!” Completely different and much more beneficial vibration as a result of adopting this perspective. Thank you Bob!
I encourage my brides to go home and think about it, before choosing her gown, so I will definately use this idea of “advancement” by setting a return appointment, before they leave.
I’m learning so much from you Bob….forever grateful.
Super post, Bob. I totally believe Rackham was on point with his “Advancing The Sale”, method. It really shows that the salesperson is interested and not just trying to quickly push a sale. In my business, an additional meeting/follow up gives me more time to engage the client and prepare effectively. This extra time shows that I am patient, flexible and accommodating. Hopefully, that can ease my prospect while advancing the sale. Oh, totally going to use this method…this week! Keep up the sensational work!
Ah, correction, I meant to say, Rackham’s “SPIN Selling”. Thanks again!
Linda: That’s awesome. You might want to send him a gentle note suggesting a date for the two of you to once again meet. But, rather than saying, “April 16th” (which would be the natural temptation) you might want to low-key it by saying something like: You’ll need a few days for some R & R so let’s schedule to get together again on the __th.” Much success, my friend!
Amy: Great idea to take it to that next level and set the return appointment before they leave. Way to go, my friend. You continue to impress!
Chi Chi: Awesome. And I certainly agree with you all the way!
Excellent idea Bob.
we follow a similar if somewhat different system. Its part of the Sandler Selling system where we always strive to get what we define as an “Upfront Contract”. This is where we work to get the customer comfortable by getting him to agree to what exactly the next steps will be so expectations are set and there are no surprises or confusion when we communicate next either by phone or in a personal setting. There’s no”Mutual Mystification” as Sandler says. That way we can prevent missed meetings, as the customer has commited to put the event in his calendar and thus cannot easily get away from it as sometimes thay are inclined to do. They have agreed to the contract. We endeavor to do this on every call with the client or prospect where you revist the upfront contract. The contract can be to just agree to another meeting to discuss his “pains” or to get him to agree to purchasee the product or make the buying decsion!! In our system the customer “brings up the objections, overcomes them himself and generally closes” himself thereby relieving all the pressure on the sales professional. Its a revolutionary system and I love it!!!So in a way similar to SPIN Selling concept you talk about. Just thought I would put this across.
Hi Vikram, thank you for your note and for sharing your comments. The Sandler System has also helped numerous sales people. Thank you again!
Just revisiting to learn from those who share.
All sales books and systems to me boil down to one concept-who are we “selling” for? In other words, are we advancing the sale to add value to our check books or to add value in someone’s life. Interestingly, the more I work to add value in others-the more value I see in my check book!
Hi Bob. Thank you for sharing this information from the author and his SPIN technique. I noticed that in your book and in many of your blogs that you 99% attribute to other authors and resources when supporting your point. In the last two years in my writing, I noticed that I’ve been doing more and more attributions to other authors and organizations in my industry when supporting my messages–unconsciously. It seems like the right thing to do. This way you help the authors and with hope, the other authors will also attribute to you–or at least buy you coffee and a low-fat doughnut on a Sunday. 🙂
For the record, my chiropractor referred me one of his patients for the first time. It’s been about two weeks since I’ve been working with him, and it’s working pretty well so far. My chiropractor is definitely a great source of business and a resource.
Thank you for your teachings, Bob. We need more people like you!
Steve, could not agree with you more, my friend. Both, the “one concept” you mentioned, as well as your last sentence!
Nick, LOL too funny. Actually, the reason for the attribution is strictly your first point; it’s the right thing to do. Otherwise it’s stealing. And, not sure about that “low-fat doughnut” thing. I’ll have to find out more about those. 🙂 Great about the chiropractor. Let us know how things continue. And, thank you for your kind words, my friend!
Bob, thanks for sharing this. We are working on a presentation with sales reps about asking good questions. It’s important for them to be able to advance the sale and not get hung up on asking questions for the sake of asking questions.
My pleasure, Keith. I’m glad you found the article helpful. Best of success with the sales reps you’re working with. I know you’ll help them immeasurably!
YES. Creating and knowing the next step is crucial. And the more definative the next step is the better. When the next step is vague, shallow, or undefined then there’s no control over the sales process. And when you have no control over the sales process then you are HOPING that something positive happens rather than “driving” your business. When a sales manager asks, “So, where are we with XYZ prospect?” The sales reps who are struggling always have vague stories about previous conversations, while top sales performers answer with specific next steps: meeting with GM next Thursday, invited to intoduce myself and distribute literature at their managers meeting on Friday etc. I believe that letting go of the ultimate result and just getting laser-focused on the next step is key in almost every endeavor. Making love, scoring touchdowns, writing a book, building anything! Its about knowing the next step and making it count.