As we reach this next step in the meeting with the prospect, we should have begun establishing rapport and agreed on some basic ground rules. Our next step is to uncover the prospect’s issue(s) and determine if our solutions can work for them.
We begin this process by dealing with known issues first and then by uncovering unknown issues. To help the prospect identify unknown issues, I like to ask this question — “Imagine you have a magic wand and you can change any one thing in your operation. What would that look like?” Then sit back and listen carefully while the prospect elaborates. While the prospect is sharing with you their vision of a “better operation” it is up to you to identify the problems that your products and services can provide a solution to.
Assuming that the offerings I’m selling can present a solution to the problem being discussed, I then need to ask the following questions to cement the expectations for the next meeting. The answers will determine how I’m going to respond in order to earn the client’s business.
Question 2 (Q1 being the “magic wand”): What have you (or your company) done in the past to deal with this issue?
Question 3: If they’ve tried something in the past, what happened?
Question 4: How does this problem affect your business?
Question 5: What does that cost your business?
Question 6: How does this problem affect you? (or what happens to you if the problem isn’t fixed?)
Question 7: What were you hoping I could do for you?
Question 8: What would you need to see from me in order to be 100% confident that I (my company) can provide a solution to you (your company)?
Question 9: Assuming I can (do the answer to Q7 & Q8), what would our next step be?
As you can see, this is a very specific series of questions that brings the prospect to the point of telling you what they need, what they expect from you, and what you need to do in order to earn their business. As a follow up to Q9, I would recommend asking who else would need to be involved in the process before we could begin providing our solution. I would use the answer to determine who needs to be in the next meeting, or at a minimum, understand who the true decision makers are related to this opportunity.
At the conclusion of the meeting – after having identified as least one problem (perhaps more) you can solve for the prospect, it’s time for you to establish an agreement as to when the next meeting will take place, what you will be “proving” to the client in that meeting, and what the prospect’s next steps will be if you successfully “prove” that you have a solution that fits their needs. Be careful that in the midst of the excitement of having identified the problem and your solution that you don’t run off without a carefully crafted and agreed upon plan with the prospect. Clearly identifying the next steps in the process for both you and the prospect is critical to shortening your selling cycle and achieving success in your sales process with this prospect.
Finally at the conclusion of the meeting, just prior to thanking the prospect for their time and information, ask them once again if there is anything else that they would need from you, other than what you’ve already discussed, to move forward and make a commitment to your solution. You should have ample rapport with the prospect at this point in the meeting that you can be frank with them about your intentions and receive a frank response back from them. After all, you are there to solve a problem for them by selling them something. When you and the prospect are both in agreement on the next steps in the sales process you will both be more confident in working with each other.
Next time – your presentation, and why you should only do a presentation to the client when it’s time to close the sale.