August 27, 2014

Column from Florida Trend's Business Coach

Three tips to get your prospect to say yes

Ron Stein | 6/4/2012

Can you define the primary purpose of marketing and sales people? How about the key objective of a web page? It's the first step in the sales process, and when done consistently, it almost always leads to a sale.

Each contact with a prospect needs to have a commitment objective. A sales call should never be made, an e-mail should never be sent, and a webpage should never be posted that doesn't have a planned commitment. Never!

A commitment objective is the particular action you'd like the prospect to take that's related to your goal. It's not always to get an order, but it does move the sales process forward. Have it firmly established in your mind ahead of time.

Your job is to move the prospect through the marketing and sales cycle, step-by-step. This might be a commitment to sign up for your e-mail newsletter, schedule the next meeting with the real decision-maker, or attend a presentation and demo at your office. What ever it is, plan your action carefully in advance and design it to bring the prospect closer to your ultimate goal.

At least 80% of the business people I work with never have commitment objectives planned. If you don't have a prepared commitment objective when you're in front of a likely customer, how in the world will you be ready to ask for and get a commitment to go to the next stage of the relationship?

Here are 3 tips to help you plan and get commitments from your prospects:

  • Have an objective that is specific and bold. Goals should be clear-cut and obtainable. Strike a balance between pushy and being too wimpy. If you're overly aggressive for the sales cycle stage you're in, then you risk losing credibility and possibly the deal. On the other hand, asking for permission to send a piece of sales literature when you really need to set up the next meeting with the key decision-makers will stall the sale. When your goal is to capture qualified leads from your website, ask for their name and e-mail address, but not too much more -- and promise to send something that your perfect targeted prospect will value. Any contact with your audience that doesn't have a commitment objective will result in nobody knowing what comes next and what to expect.
  • Know exactly where your prospect is in the buying cycle. There are five steps in the marketing and sales cycle -- visibility, lead generation, relationship development, conversion, and retention. At each and every one of these, your principle mission is to gain a commitment for an action that moves your prospect to the next step. For instance, imagine you're speaking on the phone with a prospect for the first time and they ask you to send a brochure so that they can share it with another decision-maker. Instead of saying OK and then following up afterwards, take advantage of their interest by setting up a face-to-face meeting as the next step. Say, "I suggest that we schedule a meeting that includes your associate. At that time we'll present a proposal with a recommendation for you that provides the solution we discussed. Can we plan for next week?" This way you maintain momentum.
  • Be flexible, make it measurable. Normally your goal will be a logical next step such as in the example above -- moving from an initial phone call to a next meeting with a proposal in hand. In a "live" situation (on the phone, in a meeting, or during a networking event) you have the luxury of flexibility and can adjust your goal as you learn new information or get a reaction from the prospect that wasn't expected. But on your website or in an e-mail, you can't do that. In both cases, be prepared for different scenarios based on what worked in the past. Do that by constantly reviewing what commitment objectives are successful and in which situations. When you fall short, determine if the goal you set was appropriate for the stage of the buying cycle the prospect was in.

The key is preparation. Have a pre-defined commitment objective for every interaction with prospects. If you're having a phone call or meeting, replay it in your mind ahead of time.

Once you get into the habit of planning commitment objectives in everything you do, it'll be much easier to ask for it every time!

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