Imagine getting onto a plane, fastening your seatbelt and the Captain announcing, “Ladies and Gentlemen, no planwelcome aboard. Today we’re just going to wing it and see where we end up.”

Chances are you’d run screaming for the door.

I know this might be an absurd example, but exactly this happens every day in countless sales situations.

You’ve finally got the meeting with Mr Big Prospect. You’re sitting in his office. You’ve established rapport. He looks at you expectantly. Now what?

You’d better have a plan.

There is a golden rule that governs every sales meeting. You (the salesperson) control the structure while the prospect controls the content.

Let me explain.

Your role is to find out as much as you can about your prospect, their situation, what’s working or not and get a real sense of who they are.

You need to have a plan and structured questioning methodology which leads your prospect into giving you this information – the “content”.

Without a structure to follow, you will spend the allotted time having a nice conversation at the end of which you’ll walk out none the wiser – and likely poorer!

Given this, here is a simple structure you can follow. I should caution you though. Just because it appears simple, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Far from it. Use it as a base for whatever you’re selling.

Here are the steps:

Step 1: Frame the meeting and earn the right to be heard.

Start with the usual welcome pleasantries. Then say something along the lines of, “As we have an hour together, what I’d like to do is start by telling you a little about me (or our organisation), then I’ll ask about you and we’ll get into why we’re here and discuss your challenges and how we could help solve them”.

Now comes the critical bit. You have to “EARN THE RIGHT” to be heard by positioning yourself and establishing credibility. In other words, why should your prospect be listening to you?

Your goal is to establish yourself as the expert and have them take you and your recommendations seriously.

So how do you go about this? Well, there is a formula which we have written about here.

Step 2: The Prospect’s Situation

Your goal is to find out about the prospect, their situation, what’s working and not working and get a real sense of who they are.

Asking the right questions is key. You want to drill deep. At the end of this part you should know a lot about their business and how it works and all the issues that relate to your area of expertise.

As a guide remember people take action because they want to avoid pain or gain pleasure. Your aim is to uncover which of these exist and if they’re motivated enough to take action.

Here’s an article which details some of the pain drilling questions.

Step 3: The Prospect’s Desired Outcomes

Finding out where your prospect wants to go and why is a critical part of the process. You’re asking them to paint a picture of the future.

And the key is to go deep looking for an emotional response which will motivate them to take action and keep doing so when the going gets tough as it inevitably will.

Ultimately you are selling your prospect the future.

Step 4: The Impact Of Achieving These Outcomes

Once again you’re looking for an emotional response. How will they feel about achieving the outcomes.

Step 5: Challenges in the Way

What challenges could stop them getting their outcome? What could slow them down or stand in the way?

For example:

  • Lack of clarity
  • Lack of skill
  • No strategy or plan
  • A non-supportive environment
  • Psychological barriers

Remember, your goal is to deepen the pain. You’re not trying to solve their issues at this point. This is a sales call not delivery of a solution.

Step 6: The implications of not handling the challenges

Every action has consequences. And inaction is just an action you haven’t taken – which also has its own set of consequences.

So ask “What will happen if they don’t handle the challenge?” What are the likely results (or lack of) they’ll experience? And ultimately how will that affect them emotionally?

Step 7: Possibilities – Envisioning the future

You want to have them paint their own picture of the future where they have what they want.

“If you could overcome these challenges and achieve the results you want, what would that be like for you?”

This step is one of the most important you can take. Once again, we all buy on emotion and justify with logic. So getting your prospect to FEEL what success is like is critical to the process.

This concludes the investigation phase.

Next week we’ll cover:

Step 8: Presenting Your Services

Step 9: Answering questions and common objections

Step 10: Confirming commitment

Step 11: Final Close

Step 12: Final Payment and Next Steps

In the meantime think about how you can use the principles and steps presented so far in your business. Then plug in the right questions for your particular situation.

And yes, this strategy will work regardless of whether you’re in professional services – Financial Planners, Solicitors, Accountants, Business Coaches or Mortgage Brokers.

Or a Design & Construction company like a client of ours who refurbishes offices or even hospitals – where deals range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

Now, I also know most of you won’t actually take action and do this.

If this is you, I encourage you to pick up the phone and book in a sales coaching session or two.

Over a couple of hours we’ll drill and skill you in your particular sales situation so you’ll feel confident and comfortable with the process and find yourself closing deals faster.

Call us on (02) 9499-7958 to book in.

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