Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sealing The Deal – Part 1

How Do You Ask For The Engagement?

Everything you have been doing during your meeting with the prospect has been designed to eventually convert the opportunity into an engagement.

We are at that point in then proceedings when the challenge is simply stated: How do you get them to sign on the dotted line?

Yes, we are speaking about business development to engage a prospect for the purposes of providing professional services, but, when you get down to it the underlying elements are exactly the same as every day, garden variety “sales,” The same forces are at work and the same hurdles must be overcome. In the end the goal is for them to hire you. And if that is going to happen you must a) make a winning presentation and, b) seal the deal.

All the prior posts have been about making a winning presentation, now it’s about the end game. Getting someone to formally commit to your services is a highly fluid dynamic. It is undeniable that while there may be only one destination there are many paths to choose from. What will work for you? It needs to feel right so you will actually do it, and it has to be effective.

There are no magic words. No “speech” will work all the time. Consider Joe, who’s at his favorite watering hole and spots an attractive lady who appears to be alone. He approaches her, preparing to deliver his favorite ice breaker. If Joe has successfully used a particular opening line in the past) with success (“Hi, I’m Joe. Heaven should take a quick count; obviously they’re missing an angel.”), you can bet – especially with this lame spiel – that Joe’s fortunes won’t always be so rosy. It’s not the words, it is how you go about it and, as noted above, it has to feel comfortable for you.

In a perfect world, the meeting would begin with you preparing well and arriving on time. You would do the things that help you connect with the prospect and use body language to keep them relaxed and connected throughout the hour you are together. You successfully determine their priorities and discover any accounting-related problems they are having and then provide a summary of how you will provide the desired solutions. At some point you got into price and when you did so you connected the projected fees with specific tasks the prospect places value upon. If objections were raised you addressed them effectively, recognizing they can arise from both emotional and rational bases.

When you answered their last question they say, “OK, Bill, what do we have to do to get started?” Outstanding! You obviously conducted the meeting very, very effectively. The prospect made up their mind to go with you sometime earlier in the process and has now expressed their decision.

If only it were always so easy!

More typically, you get to the meeting’s conclusion and the prospect hasn’t expressed which way they are leaning. You glance at your wristwatch and see there are just a few minutes left before the scheduled end of the meeting. What should you do? What should you say?

If neither of you say anything, the meeting will conclude with platitudes, e.g. the prospect says: “Great to meet you Bill. I appreciate your time and coming over and talking with me. I know I’ll have to do something one of these days. I’ll give you a call.” You dutifully shake her hand; offer some cheery words of departure, e.g. “You have quite an operation here, Ann. I’ve enjoyed meeting you and learning about your business. I hope we have a chance to talk again.” And then you leave, wondering silently as you walk out to your car “What the hell just happened? It seemed we were doing great! Where did it go wrong?”

Obviously, this alternative – saying nothing – isn’t the answer. So, what do you say? We’ll begin getting into that in Part 2.

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