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Take Action For Success
Finishing Starts With Beginning
The Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins with the First Step
I know there are dozens of axioms and old sayings about getting started. Another one of them I like other than the subtitle above includes "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." As a salesperson, I was motivated in feeling that I had a big role in a company I once worked for when the president of the company, at a national sales convention, stood in front of the top 30% of their salespeople and said, "Nothing happens until somebody sells something." The inventor/researcher may take issue with this, suggesting that the salesperson wouldn't have had anything to sell if they hadn't invented it. I'm also sure there are others who may have their own perspective. But financial actions still do not occur until somebody sells something!
Procrastination is one trait that can be corrected. Using the motto of a large sports company, Just Do It! However, depending on the motivation for the delay in action, the driver for the procrastinator may present itself in more or less threatening ways.
Why someone doesn't take action varies by the person and the action needed. In business it is your daily objective to remove obstacles from the path of those you need to take action so something you want to happen will happen. In sales you are often looking both within your own company and at your prospects - and at yourself - in order to close a sale.
Decide What Must Happen
If you are facing a situation right now, you must take a moment and decide what must happen in order for your efforts to move forward. Think it all the way through. What is missing in the decision and what do you have in your arsenal to clear that path - without causing unexpected consequences by disturbing the outlined process?
Determining what is missing in the decision can be difficult to know if part of the decision making process is kept from you. Not knowing how far up the decision making ladder a request for something you are selling must go can preclude your achieving the sale. The application of the product or service you are selling - if it is having to be extended in any way to meet the demands of the end user, may be delaying the commitment. Previous experience by a buying manager with your company or a similar product may be preventing that buyer from pulling a trigger. Other family or business relationships you aren't aware of can be playing into the decision.
It is up to you - not someone else - to do the evaluation, make the determination as to what is in the way of a deal and clear it. If you can, what are you waiting on? If you can't, just as important, what are you waiting on?
If You Can
Obviously there are situations that present themselves that you may have a limited opportunity to make something happen. But if you can make it happen, what is keeping you from acting? What is keeping you from picking up the phone or typing the email or texting the person that needs to get off their duff and make a decision?
You want to stay on the front of the decision line with your prospect. Falling behind can happen when you least expect it and put you further from a decision - or worst yet allowing your proposal to fall through the proverbial cracks.
A decision maker at any level isn't just hearing from you. That means you are competing for a space in their decision process. You may not have the priority over the next decision so you have to help your decision maker with his or her own procrastination. Help, without badgering them to make a decision - make it a positive that they get something off their plate that they will still have later on. Minimize the pain as much as you can.
I have a current situation that is the most complicated sale I believe I have ever been involved in. It should be, it is worth a lot of money to all parties concerned. Since March of last year I have been moving the process forward. The company I represent hasn't always been working in the same direction as I have which causes delays on our side of the equation. The company we are selling to has decided to divide into two more purchasing areas and in addition has contracted much of the same kind of products with competitors on a much larger scale than what my first proposal was. Throw into the equation, my contact there is now getting a promotion to a higher level job that isn't connected to what we have been working on for almost 18 months. His successor will require a total re-sale to get me on the radar depending on how he leaves his job and introduces me into their equation.
How I handle this is constant communication. I now know who his replacement is and where they are coming from. I know where he is going and if he can still play a support role in keeping me in the circle of consideration. I am working with the peripheral support people as if I have the deal in hand so when it does happen it isn't all surprises for all concerned. Is this easy? Heck no, but it is a part of the business. Would I have given up and moved on 25 years ago as a new salesman? Heck yes. This is by no means low hanging fruit! It could be a whole orchard so I know it is worth hanging in there. But consider this too. I don't spend but 10-15 minutes a week on this project making sure everyone in the decision line is still informed and up to date. Eventually a decision will be made and I hope to be in the mix.
In other, shorter sales cycle decisions you should just be making something happen. How long is your standard sales cycle? If you are selling products, maybe retail, where the customer already has made the decision they need to buy something - you must be game on to take the order on demand. Too often, a person walks into a sales floor with money (credit card) in hand, ready to be swayed between this or that product. The salesperson stays at the register ready to ring up the sale rather than walking over asking if they could help. The one that walks over offering to help not only sells the new XXX product, but also the two add-on high margin peripherals that management really likes seeing going out the door. This applies to the traveling salesperson walking into a prospect meeting and upon hearing the prospect mention having problems with something else they need - not what the original intent of the meeting was - and the salesperson not acting on what is a red hot opportunity handed to them. Solve the big problem for your customer - which is the one most important to them at the time - and your other opportunities will stay on the decision platter ahead of others.
If You Can Not
Depending on how complicated an opportunity is will determine how deep you can do anything that will influence the decision. If you are one on one with the person who makes the decision not only on what to buy but actually to make the purchase, and nothing is happening, something is happening. You are being shut down for some reason. You have to step back and figure this out. Is it you, something you did, something you didn't do? Is it your product or service? Does it meet their needs or are they having to stretch to make it fit? If you are sure you have met their needs, found your product meets their requirements, your price is fair and competitive to your knowledge - and you still are not getting anywhere you have to decide between three actions.
- Let it sit and wait, but move on to your next prospect. Don't wait around on this person making a decision unless this decision is key to your next sale. Keep it on their agenda by dropping an email on occasion, or leave a note when you are in the area. Even a phone message once a week or two is fine. Just don't use up your own time trying to push this past go when it should have gone there right away. You are being used in some manner that isn't helping your efforts so be careful how much you share unless you get assurances a decision is coming your way.
- Step up the pressure by a large magnitude. Make yourself known as the expert and ask what is holding up the sale. You have an interest in getting a result for your efforts. Your time is worth something too - and if you don't show you have a value in your time, the buyer will value your time less and less. Ask for a decision on at least a part of the proposal, possibly one that doesn't require and actual purchase. An example of this may be filling out the "New Customer" form your company needs to set up a new customer for billing. One step out of the way may lead to a second bite of the elephant.
- Walk Away. For any solid, good salesperson, walking away is probably the toughest thing to do. You were already counting the money you were going to make from the sale and it is not moving forward. You have done all you can to find out what is holding it up and keep hitting solid walls that are not penetrable. You have considered all of your network support and yet, no one gets past go. You know your competition, that they are getting in but you are still not getting in. Take a deep breath, bring flowers or candy or something to the buyer and tell them it has been a pleasure working with them but that you are going to have to move on. Always be sure to tell them when they want to do business, you will be there for them but until then you don't want to waste any more of their time (or yours).
Taking action is the best advice I can offer anyone in sales. "Nothing happens until someone sells something" should be your mantra too. As the salesperson, you are on the front line keeping your company in business. If you aren't taking action, why should accounting, manufacturing or any other department move forward? Step up - and do it!