You're Only As Good As Your Proposition

Philip Lund

If your customer wants your product and needs it, it’s your sales rep's job to find a way for him to have it.

It can happen that a rep has set the right sales objective, the customer basically accepts the proposal, yet refuses to take the steps that will initiate action. Although he accepts the sales argument, he does not see the road ahead of him clearly enough to get the ball rolling. The rep must understand his problem. If he can understand his problem fully through questioning, the salesperson can find the solution. A salesperson can sell the decision to buy successfully but failed to make the decision to act easy enough.

For example, if you are selling capital goods, the problem could well be finance and timing.  Rent, lease, hire or time to pay, or a blend of these, could provide the solution. If the trade-in price is not high enough, perhaps you can help him find a buyer for his second-hand equipment, with time-to-pay to bridge the finance. Alternatively, free maintenance for a period may cover a price differential at low cost to your company, or at least reduce the gap sufficiently for him to re-approach his Board.

Once the ball is rolling, say with a lease proposal, it is your rep's job to keep it rolling. This requires timed call back with helpful suggestions until the deal is tied up. If the salesperson lets it go cold, it will lead to another sales proposition with perhaps a diminished chance of success.

Whatever the customer issue, it can usually be handled from within the range of alternatives open to you if you make your thinking inventive enough. If your customer wants your product, then he must have it. It is the rep's job to put forward successive propositions until he finds the one on which the customer is able to proceed. There is no point banging away with the same old “are you ready to act yet?” Two or three times at the most, and then a sales rep should seek propositions that will fit theproposal more closely to his needs and circumstance. If a rep cannot do this, he will lose good customers who would also have become good friends.

Before closing the sale, it is essential the seller summarizes to confirm the agreements he has reached with the customer on the match between his product benefits and the customer's requirements.

Salesman: “If I may summarize, you said what you want in the new product is… You have agreed that my product gives you these features... Are you happy that my product can satisfy your requirements?”

Similarly, it is vital that the salesman confirms with the customer that he has successfully answered his sincere objections, including questions of price.

Salesman: “I estimate savings of $250 per week or $10,000 annually. Do you agree this meets your financial requirement?”

Salesman: “Are you happy our lease terms provide you with the solution to fund your project, while reducing operating cost rather than capital expenditure?”

Confirming these agreements is essential to ensure that:

  • Nothing has been omitted.
  • There are no outstanding misunderstandings.
  • There is nothing left to do but close the sale.

The questions at this stage are direct leading questions. They expect a yes answer and nothing else, not even a comment from the customer. The ground has been covered. The customer has heard all of the evidence. The conclusions of the evidence have been met. Now all that remains is the verdict. So close.

Philip Lund’s most recent book, “Keynotes for Compelling Sellers,” is designed to rejuvenate the professional seller after a hard day in the field. Lund’s frontline sales experience over 40 years covers a huge market area from office products (Xerox top salesman 1966-67), to engineered products such as truck washing machines, vehicle recovery systems and stainless steel drainage, to financial services and credit cards, to outsourced services and management consultancy.