By Cary McGovern
This article discusses the most important element of the selling process: the close. All is lost if you get to the point of the close and discover the customer isn't buying. The sales cycle is indeed a process. Getting through that process with a sale is the goal. Without it, you have wasted your time and your customer's time. You should be confident early on in the cycle that you will close the sale.
Selling Records-Management Solutions
There is nothing mysterious about closing the sale. It should be the culmination of a series of events that ensure you will sell the customer your services. Nothing happens until the sale is made. To be certain of success, there must be both a method and management system within the sales cycle. The method should contain several steps, depending on the product or services you are selling. Selling records- management services involves a "solution-sales method" that will ensure you close sales with 75 percent of your qualified prospects.
Some commercial records centers sell records storage rather than records management. Selling storage as a commodity reduces the impact and depth of the records-management sale. The sale becomes an event rather than a solution. Remember that records management services represent a long-term service--and solution--to your customer. It is not like making a one-time sale of an object or finite service. Records-management companies are outsourcers that become resource partners to their long-term customers. After the sale, you will provide a valuable administrative service that becomes an annuity to you and a resource to them--forever.
Seven Sure Steps
There are seven identifiable and very specific steps in the solution-sales method. Converting a prospect into a records-management solution sale is a diligent process. If you do it right, you should know if the sale will close by the time you have completed step three of the process. So, the close begins with step three. Let's briefly identify the seven steps.
Identify Prospects and Make Initial Contact
Create the prospect list from the resources available (i.e., Yellow Pages, chambers of commerce, local business guides and the Internet). Establish rapport with your customers and create an environment amenable to them accepting you as a preferred provider of records-management services.
Qualify Customer Interest
Gain an understanding of your prospects' organization, identify key decision-makers and influencers, and develop an interest in your services by explaining the customer-needs assessment (CNA) method. Get permission to perform the CNA.
Understand Customer Requirements
Conduct the CNA, analyze the data and verify it with your client. This is the most important step because it is here that you make sure all client needs are met--especially those of the process owner and decision-maker. If there is little or no interest after this step, you may decide to discontinue the sales process. You must do everything possible to get concurrence of the decision-maker at this point if you hope to sign the agreement later in the process. This is critical in the sales cycle--for the customer to be in agreement with the results of the CNA.
Determine Client Solutions
You should not have presumed any solutions until this point. You have just uncovered the problem that causes the customer pain. Step four is for developing the solution to alleviate the customer's pain.
Present Proposal and Justification
The purpose of this step is to develop and begin the implementation of a work plan, prepare the proposal documents and cost justification. The work plan forms a logical basis for presenting the proposal based on the customer's needs and stated requirements.
Negotiate to Close Contract
The purpose of this step is to negotiate the terms of the agreement, clarify any issues and time frames, have the customer sign the contract and process the order.
The purpose of this step is to make sure all of the customer's requirements are met. The customer must be trained on the systems. The initial batch of records is reconciled and business begins.
Next month's column will focus on the "Fast-Start Sales Event: The Customer Educational Symposium."
Regular columnist Cary McGovern, CRM, is the principal of FileMan and FIRMS (FileMan Internet Records Management Services), which offer full-service records-management assistance for commercial records-storage start-ups in self-storage operations. For assistance in feasibility determination, operational implementation or marketing support, or for questions on the FIRMS Sales Manager, call 877.FILEMAN, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.fileman.com.