Have you ever felt that when attending client meetings everyone has a concise and well thought out plan… except the sales team! Most salespeople seem so confident in their ‘skills’ that their whole plan is to “See how it goes” & “Ad-lib”. Once they are in the meeting and don’t have much of a plan past showing the client the presentation and then hoping beyond hope that the presentation will do their job and sell for them.
During internal meetings the sales team are usually desperate to finish up quickly as they have “more important clients to call” and they complain if the agenda isn’t planned, concise and effective as possible. Conversely when it comes to meeting clients, the clear agenda is rarely laid out and both the client and the salesperson must deal with surprises that they weren’t expecting that can easily interrupt or stop the sales process.
Personally, I am huge fan of most of the Sandler sales techniques and use the UFC. No, I don’t cage fight my clients and hold them in submission until they buy from me, I’m talking about an Up-Front Contract’. The ‘Up-Front Contract’ is an agreement between two parties where exactly what you intend to accomplish is stated, up-front, at the beginning of each meeting & sales stage.
The reason I love using a UFC is that it gets the prospect to see you as an equal! Essentially, we are all in business for the same reason: to make money, pay our bills and keep a roof over our heads. No matter where you are in your career we all deserve the exact same level of respect in business. By asking your client if they agree or disagree with the agenda you have set, you are creating an environment of equality. You are both busy people with a lot of goals to achieve so why not be up-front and honest with each other and not play games.
If they didn’t really want to take this meeting and aren’t interested in buying from you then you give them the chance to say so at the beginning of the meeting and neither you nor they waste an hour of your time while you pitch.
On the other hand, when you have created this environment of equality the prospective customer can ‘cut to the chase’ and tell you they want to buy from you just as easily.
The Sandler Up-Front Contract also puts your client at ease in the sense that they know that there aren’t any surprises and it removes any confusion as you both know that you want to accomplish the same thing in this meeting.
Here is one way of setting up an Up-Front Contract:
“I want to make sure we’re on the same page during our conversation today. Can you tell me how much time you set aside for this meeting? Also, what do you see the purpose of today’s meeting being?”
Ask these questions for an effective Up-Front Contract:
- Client’s agenda: “When we arranged this meeting we agreed to discuss your current problems to see whether we are able to offer a solution. I’m sure once we’ve discussed this you’ll have several more questions for me. Outside of this can you tell me specifically what you’re hoping to accomplish in this meeting?”
- Your agenda: “To ensure that I understand the exact nature of your problems and what you picture as the best outcome, I’ll need to ask you some questions. If I think I can help you, there will be more questions about your budget and how you view the implementation process. Are you OK with my asking these?”
- Outcome: Tell your prospect which outcomes are acceptable to you. There are only three acceptable outcomes: yes, no, or a well-defined (and scheduled) next meeting. Making it clear that your service or product might not be the right fit and saying ‘no’ is a perfectly acceptable conclusion and an essential element of any Up-Front Contract.
A well understood and agreed upon Up-Front Contract will help explain the sales process to your customer, remove surprises and allow both of you to take part in the qualification and final decision which will speed up the sales process and allow for a more painless experience for everyone involved.
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