Lots of founders come to me for advice on big deals that they’re trying to close.
A lot of times they describe how they met with a buyer from a huge corporation, demoed their products, answered all initial questions, and seem to be getting some good buying signals.
They just finished their first really good initial meetings and then send follow-up emails to schedule the next face-to-face—and now they enter uncharted territory.
- Is this deal really realistic?
- What do I need to do next to make this happen?
- Are they really interested or just being nice to us?
- How long will this take?
- When and how should I follow up? Should I wait until they get back to me or be proactive? If so how much?
At that point, I ask them if they took the chance to actually have the potential customer describe to them in detail what it will take for them to become a customer. Most salespeople don’t. And that’s the problem.
The solution to this is something I call the “virtual close.”
This sales tactic will help you accomplish these objectives:
- Figure out the roadmap of all the steps its going to take to close the deal
- Discover major red flags and issues that will slow the deal down or prevent it from happening
- Guide your prospects or their internal champion—someone within a prospect’s company that’s on board but needs to convince others—through all the steps he or she will have to take to make the deal happen
- Make your prospect imagine and visualize a future where he or she has become a customer of your product or service
- Uncover whether there is no real buying intent
How? Simply ask this question:
“Dear potential customer. Now that you know what we do and we answered all your questions, it seems to me that we are a perfect fit. What are all the steps we have to take to help make this happen?
If the prospect says something to the effect of:
“Well, not sure…” or “Well, we wouldn’t buy before 2023 since we are locked in the current contract…”
You’re in trouble. This means there is no real buying intent. Move on with life.
In all other cases, you have to put on your investigative hat and actually keep following up with questions until you both reach a point where a deal can happen.
Here’s what a typical conversation should look like:
You: “Dear customer. What will it take for you to buy our product?”
Customer: “Well, I would have to show it to my boss and some colleagues and see what they think.”
You: “Great. How do you typically get feedback? Scheduling a meeting? This week? Next week? Do you make a presentation or how does this typically work?”
Customer: “Well, we have a weekly standup meeting and that’s when I will present this.”
You: “Awesome. What happens when your boss and teammates really like the idea and want to move forward?”
Customer: “Then we would schedule a follow up call with you and all stakeholders to answer all questions.”
You: “Makes sense. Let’s assume we have a great call and I can answer all questions to the teams satisfaction and we’re all happy to move forward. What happens next?”
Customer: “Well, then it would have to go through legal.”
This is the point where most people would stop asking questions and feel happy about what they have learned. That’s a mistake. Keep asking questions until you’ve arrived at the virtual close. Like this:
You: “Of course. How does this process typically work for you? Have you purchased something similar to our product in the past six months and can you describe to me what we’ll have to do to make the process as smooth as possible?”
Customer: “Yes, we’d have to run through a few higher-ups, then the purchasing department and ethics committee.”
You: “Oh interesting. Could you describe this process a little more?”
Customer: “Well, purchasing usually takes a couple weeks to review, and if it looks good, then
they move it on to ethics, who has the final sign off.”
You: “Great. But THEN we’re in business right?!?”
Now you know what it will take to make this happen. You have a roadmap to:
- Forecast accordingly
- Start preparing all steps and run some of them in parallel to save time
- Decide if you really want to pursue this deal
On top of that, you’ve made them create a world where they are customers and have already made a small mental commitment to it.
After this conversation, you’ll have all the information you need, the customer has thought through the deal—and you have everything you need to make good decisions and make every deal happen.
Editors Note: Steli Efti is the Co-founder and CEO of Close.io, a sales communication platform to helps salespeople to manage their customers better. This post was first published on the Close.io blog and is being republished with permission.