Closing a sale used to mean taking an order, filling a customer request, and moving on to the next opportunity. As the nature of a “sale” has become more complex, the nature of “closing” the sale has also changed. Typically, a sales professional in today’s business environment can expect the “close” to mean agreement has been reached to buy, but by no means does it mean the sale has concluded. Still ahead is the long process of gaining acceptance throughout the buying organization, reaching across various functional areas within the organization for input, and gaining support from key influencers. This is the trail the buyer must blaze inside their organization before implementing a solution.
Today’s sales professional can help with this “internal selling” process; first, by recognizing that much “selling” will take place without him/her present. Next, arming the buyer with a “case” for making the sale internally is imperative to progressing further in the sales process. This requires the sales professional to establish a deep and broad understanding of the customer’s business situation as well as defining and solidifying the decision-making process.
Ideally the path to understanding involves the sales professional working with the buyer to surface the business drivers which outline the strategic direction of the organization, as well as bringing to light the current conditions and implications that define the customer’s marketplace and what is potentially at stake in realizing the success or failure of achieving those business drivers. This process is a significant investment of time and effort, but will pay off handsomely when it enables the sales professional to establish a compelling need for his/her solution. As a sales professional explores this operating reality with the customer, their distinctive views become aligned and more easily understood.
Another step in this strategic approach is to explore the decision-making process and the criteria to be used for judging success. With this knowledge, a sales professional can be of help and navigate/influence the direction for internally selling the solution without really being present.
Collecting and assembling customer information in this manner offers the advantages of setting a direction for effective execution, ensuring a more complete understanding of customer readiness, and accelerating long-term customer relationships and business success. Taking the lead in making our case positions us to set the standard by which our competitors will be judged.