Transparancy with prospects

A few weeks ago, Josh Kopelman wrote a great post on entrepreneurs having transparancy with their board.  Within the post, he spoke about how several of his portfolio companies give him full access to their sales data so he knows where they are at any moment.  That struck me as genius – to provide the board with full access to the pipeline, and I’ve been thinking since then about a response to that – how it benefits the VP of Sales.  As I thought about it, I began thinking more deeply about transparancy in the sales process.   I realized in my own discussions with salespeople, I was advocating transparancy with prospects, and thought that instead I would write about that.

I got a call from one of the salespeople I work with and he asked me, “Mark, I want to close this account by Tuesday so that I don’t walk into the board meeting without this deal closed.  What should I say to the customer to get them to close by Tuesday.”  My answer?  “Tell the customer you want to close the deal by Tuesday so you don’t walk into the board meeting without the deal closed – and you want to know if there is any way to make that happen.” Complete honesty… what a concept, right?   Guess what?  He closed the deal.  He had to give a little on price, but he got his deal.

Another salesperson asked me, “Mark, a client just told me they wouldn’t buy my product because they don’t use services like ours in their process.  I’m embarassed that I didn’t do better market research to know not everybody does this.”  My response, “Tell them that you assumed that they would use services like yours because their competition does.”  Result?  The customer became intrigued enough to find out more about why their competition used services like theirs, and ultimately decided that this product needed to be part of their process.

Yet another salesperson asked me, “What do I do when a customer wants to know who I see as my competition?”  I say, “tell them exactly who your competition is and how you are better AND how you are worse.”

Total transparancy is something that prospects will respect you for – and something that will build trust in you and your company.

Once you have that trust, you will find that in general, people like to help people.  So, when you call and ask for that deal, and you are honest about why you want to close that deal by a certain time, prospects who trust and respect you will generally do what they can to make that happen.  Its not a guarantee for a sale, but it certainly is something that may help you get the deal sooner.

There was an instance where I had developed rapport with a prospect, and the deal was dragging out for a very long time before being closed.  I had a trusted relationship with the prospect, and I called one day to find the status of the deal.  When the prospect told me that it was going to take another week to get the deal done, without really thinking, I said, “John, I know that closing this deal next week is no different to you, but if I bring this in before the end of the quarter its about a $5,000 difference in commission to me.  Another week delay is just killer to me.  Is there ANYTHING we can do on this.”  I didn’t expect anything, but my reationship with the prospect was so good, that he made it happen.  He respected my honesty, my transparancy on why I was pushing, and he wanted to help make it happen.  And, I’ll tell you that I made sure he was a happy customer thoughout his experience with that company.

Clearly (pun intended), there are times when you cannot be completely transparant in the sales cycle, but in terms of determining the close, I am a huge proponent of explaining to the prospect exactly wht you need/want to get the deal done.  They will respect you for it – and may even reward you with the sale for it.

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