To close a sale…
To close a sale you first have to open it. That’s the theme of my latest Q&A at Top-Consultant.com. People often talk about closing deals, but in a complex sale like consultancy closing is not the critical element. The real obstacle to going ahead may be something that has been overlooked at an earlier stage of the buying process.
For a detailed description of the situation read the original article. Here, I’m going to summarise the situation in terms of 12boxes.
If you are not familiar with the 12boxes framework, the left hand column is about the client’s perception of their situation. The middle column is about their perception of the problems associated with it. The right hand column is about their perception of the solution. Reading from the bottom of each column, the sequence follows the AIDA sequence: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
The diagram on the left shows what the consultant in the article thinks should have happened. He has submitted a proposal and hoped it would prompt the client to express the desire to implement his solution. (This buying effect is represented by the yellow box.) But the client seems to be reluctant to give the go-ahead.
A proposal rarely creates the desire for a solution on its own. The client should have expressed the desire to solve the problem and demonstrated clear interest in the solution before the consultant agreed to write the proposal. The proposal reassures the client by addressing the issues that would otherwise inhibit them from going ahead.
It is easy to be seduced into writing a proposal. Partly this is because clients think the proposal will somehow give them all the information they need to make a decision. But many proposals are written prematurely, before clients are ready for them. This is because the client may need to shift their perception of the situation before they can fully grasp what the proposal is about.
In our Q&A example, at least one of the directors has not really been convinced that their organisation’s current productivity can be changed for the better. This means that they are not ready to express the desire to change their situation.
Before they he can do so, the reluctant director may need to be exposed to similar organisations where productivity improvements have been achieved. Such exposure will not convince him that the solution will work in his own organisation, but it will show him that ‘things can be different’. The result will probably be a set of questions that can be translated into criteria for purchase, which the proposal should address.