Closing New Business in a Recession

The other day I let you in on my response to a discussion question on LinkedIn: How has the recession changed the way you look for and close new business? What I posted yesterday was part one of my answer to this two part question. As promised, here is part two, dealing with closing new business. And, when you are finished reading, please tell us what think. Tell us your response to the question.

Part 2- Closing New Business

As for closing new business, my experiences have somewhat remained the same. The current economic climate has actually helped us close new business with the type of clients we like to work with.

If you go for the close at the right time, your chances of landing the business increase dramatically. When is the right time, you may ask? Well, there are many sales books which will provide a theory, including mine, Closing the Deal; Hot Sales Strategies That Make Money. While I always appreciate adding another person to the growing list of people who are the answers to the question I posed when asked to write the book, “who would ever buy a book authored by me?” I will give you my Cliff’s Notes version of knowing when is the right time to close a sale.

While some sales take years to close and others take minutes, every deal is closed when you have been able to find out the following:

Do you know who the decision maker is for what you are trying to sell, and any people who influence his decision?

Do you have a good understanding of the client’s need and does he/she/they have a good understanding of your solution and how it will help them?

Do you have a good understanding of the budget process? Do they have the money to implement your solution?

And last but certainly not least…do you know when they are able/willing to implement your solution?

Many people think that most deals are won and lost over price. However it is my contention that very few are lost over price. I see more deals lost because the decision maker does not feel a level of comfort in the fact that the salesperson can do what they say they are going to do (often because they tried to close too soon) and a remarkable amount because they simply did not realize the process needed to implement the solution and because it was taking longer than expected, they simply gave up and moved on to another deal, leaving money on the table.

Think of it this way. I have a client who sells rather large manufacturing equipment and another that is a mid sized accounting firm. The clients for the manufacturing equipment company will plan out projects 12-18 months in advance, allocating funds to equipment, manpower, etc. Do they want to spend $300,000 for a piece of equipment today, only to have it sit idle for 17 more months? Of course not! They still need the product, but will wait until they are closer to purchase the equipment, allowing that $300,000 to gain interest in their account rather than risk a piece of equipment losing value on their shop floor (or heaven forbid, have a change in work scope during planning that would render that piece of equipment obsolete.) Speaking of interest, unfortunately many sales reps will lose interest during that time and when it is time to buy, maybe the prospect calls him and maybe some other company happens to call at the right time and get the business.

As for the accounting firm, it is even simpler. One of the services this firm provides is audits for proprietary schools (trade schools.) Many times, they will meet a school at a trade show and they have just had their audit completed. While they are not 100% happy or another reason comes up that they have decided to find a new firm, it may be another full year until my client does work for them. Again, if they do not stay in touch, they will risk losing a perfectly good opportunity, not to another firm but to impatience.

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