In the sales world, there is a big focus on closing the deal. Tips and techniques for effective closing are taught by sales trainers of all types. Yet closing alone does not win many deals. Opening with the prospective client is a bigger factor on whether you win the deal or not. By taking a look at this essential part of the sales process, you can learn something about being a better leader.
The inability to close is really a symptom rather than a problem. The true problem may be in the way you open.
From the Sales Point of View
The way you open the relationship determines the likelihood of success. You need to set a vision to establish the right agenda and anchor three key areas to earn the right to close:
- Establish trust and rapport with your target (by being authentic and transparent).
- Agree about compelling business value.
- Understand their sense of priorities (and their process for evaluation and selection).
Once these three things are in place, the date for purchasing commitment becomes clear to both buyer and seller. Contracting or finalizing the purchase becomes a ‘next step’ rather than a white knuckle adventure. For many in sales they feel like they need to lock their customer in a room or go sit in their lobby for days on end until the purchase order is secured… desperation is the worst way to attempt a close. You cannot water board a client to a close.
Closing must be earned. Objections from the buyer usually suggest the seller has made mistakes by pushing before trust and value has been established. It also indicates an absence of the necessary understanding of the buyer’s timing, priorities and processes.
Making the Shift
These same principles hold true in management and leadership. You cannot push an employee to success, at least not for the long term. Some degree of trust must be established before an employee openly follows the guidance of the manager.
For managers; remember that you cannot manage by results; only by activities and actions. Ask the right questions of your people at the beginning of the quarter and help them identify and execute the right actions that create progression throughout the quarter. Firing-up the blow torch with just days to go in the quarter after neglecting the inputs that create success is a sure-fire way to damage relationships and drive-down performance.
Begin with a Strong Opening
As a leader, building a team takes hard work. We are too often “quick to hire and slow to fire”. It should be the other way around. Talent selection must be a well orchestrated effort driven by specific attributes necessary to fill a job. The considerations include:
- Alignment with company vision and goals
- Applicable technical skills or experience
- Cultural fit
- Personality compatibility
- And many more…
In Jim Collins’ watershed book “”, he introduces the concept of identifying your “hedgehog” focus; the thing your company does best. Then he adds “getting the right people on the bus”.
Doing more to achieve better selection and placement can set the stage for better success.
Once a candidate is selected, you must have an effective on-boarding process to begin building that opening argument for why the person is here and what opportunities you have for them. When someone joins your team, they have taken the first step to say “yes, I think I see what can be done here”. As the leader, you must build on that, reinforcing the values and reasons. These steps add to the proper and effective “opening” with a new hire, thus improving the odds for a strong “closing” in their performance.
The Simple But Elegant Solution
For better management and leadership of your team, you need to have an ability to set priorities, assess the “what can I do to help you” factors, and keep momentum gaining steam. There’s an old manager’s line that says:
You must inspect what you expect.
In all my years on the front line, I have seen no better system that the Big 5 Performance Management model. The simplicity of this idea is elegant.
You ask your team to each prepare a monthly report. List five accomplishments for the prior month and add five priorities for the next month; just bulleted lists, no long text/paragraphs.
Once the employee prepares this report, they share it with the manager. The manager can use the report as a coaching moment. Setting alignment and agreement or making slight adjustments to the priorities.
Companies who have adopted Big 5 have eliminated annual employee appraisals. Why would you need them? With Big 5 you have 12 months of actual data. More importantly, if there was a need for slight correction or coaching with an employee, the manager can handle it real-time, thus reducing extended failures and missteps. This improves effectiveness of the team as a whole.
Finally, with Big 5, the employee engagement is improved. As the employee feels more connected with the boss through the routine coaching moments (monthly remember?), there is a greater sense of accomplishment and purpose.
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Closing Is Not the Problem
Getting employees to perform better (closing) is not about cracking a whip near the end of a reporting cycle or as a deadline approaches. Finishing strong is achieved by opening with the employee through more effective means. Better hiring practices, improved on-boarding, and effective leadership nurture the employee to better performance and better results.
Through effective leadership, you can build trust and lead your team toward the right goals.
[reminder]Let us know how you do more to ‘open’ with your employees.[/reminder]