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The Lost Art of Closing

Lesson 4 of 16

What is a Sales Process

Anthony Iannarino

The Lost Art of Closing

Anthony Iannarino

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Lesson Info

4. What is a Sales Process

Lesson Info

What is a Sales Process

Especially for people at home, even if you're here and you're B2B and you know what a sales process is, I want to spend a little bit of time talking about what this looks like from our side. We looked at if from the buyer's side and I want to talk about the commitments that we want to make. I'm going to go to this big chart. There's a lot of confusion in the world of sales about what we're doing and we're targeting our prospective clients we're marketing to them, we're engaging with them on social like LinkedIn for sure. We're nurturing them, we're networking and we're prospecting. This is not the sales process. This is all opportunity creation. This is above the funnel and so right now there are a lot of people telling you that this above the funnel action is selling but it's not selling. It's actually nurturing the relationship and developing relationships that you need and awareness so that you can move someone into the funnel. So on LinkedIn right now there are probably 8 to 12 peo...

ple writing something today that says never cold call again, just right good content because that's what they say. They talk about social selling as if you can actually make an ask over social channels, which you can't. It's too clumsy and it's not the right environment to make an ask and we have a representative from LinkedIn here and you know this because I've already complained. Somebody connects with me and within four seconds I've got a two page in-mail describing their services to me and asking me to schedule an appointment with them proactively. That is not how we sell. It just doesn't work. It's not the right medium to have that conversation but all of this work is necessary because it's what gets people into the funnel. This is where the sales process begins. I want to line up these commitments for you so you understand where you are because when I get a chance to look at a SalesForce and their pipeline or what a salesperson's doing, what tends to happen in one section is they're missing some of the commitments they needed during that stage. When they find out later on that they lost and they wonder why they lost when we go back and we look at it we say did you get the commitment to collaborate for instance. They said, "We just gave them a proposal." Okay well now I know why, it wasn't the right proposal because you didn't send enough time collaborating with them so that they owned it and they had part of this. So in this stage what we're doing is discovery and diagnosis. We're exploring why we should change. We're looking at needs and we're helping them develop a vision of a better future. What does that look like? That's what we're trying to do in this stage. What this means is that this commitments over here all matter. I need you to give me time, that's the most difficult commitment for most of us to gain now, just give me time. Everybody's time starved, we're doing more with less and it becomes more difficult to say yes to sales people. Why are we so difficult to say yes? Because we have a horrible pitch for the commitment for time most of the time. It's let me tell you me and my services. That's an easy no. Once we get there we get to explore change which means we have to have some theory of what needs to change and why it needs to change and we have to have a line of questions that allows us to either capture that dissatisfaction that we talked out or create it. One of those two things will be true. We've got to be able to do both because you don't know what you're sitting down in front of. If they're already satisfied you have to have some storyline that helps them be compelled to change and if they're already dissatisfied you have to be able to pull that out and frame it up for them so they can use it. That's the commitment to explore and if you don't have that exploration and someone says here give me a quote you're almost guaranteed to lose because you don't know enough to do anything. You've gotta have these conversations, then we have to ask people to change. This is a tough one. You'll have a lot of people that are willing to explore with you who aren't really committed to changing. They're just committed to exploring. I'm interested in learning more but I'm not yes dissatisfied enough or compelled enough to change. So we have a lot of conversations and these end up in a pipeline like this and somebody comes to you and says, "Yeah I'm working on this deal" and they'll get all the way through this deal to figure out there was no commitment to change and they said, "You know what we're going "to look at it again some point in the future." So if you miss this commitment then you're not really going to do a good job with the rest of the process because they aren't really committed to going through the process with the intention of changing. That's okay, maybe it's an early conversation, maybe you need to nurture them over time but you do need to know where you are in the process. Then there's a couple other things. You do have to collaborate. It's important to figure out what the right answer looks like for people and we'll talk about how to do that later on. You'll also have to build consensus now. You do have to figure out who the players are and you have to be able to get them into the conversation. I'll give you some language for that later on today on how to have that conversation. All of this tends to happen before we get to this and you're all nodding. Here you're nodding. I don't know what you're doing at home but here they're nodding because we know that this is true. The reason why there's a sort of uncomfortable smile on some people's faces right now because it's like yeah but I don't always do that. Sometimes I jump forward a little bit because they ask me can you give me a proposal. After we've developed that solution we get to the stage where we definitely have to talk about money which can be uncomfortable and in some of your cases you should probably talk about money even earlier if you have the highest price on the market it makes better since to talk about it early as a qualifying question. Can you really invest this much to get what you want? And it's important to get that conversation. Then we review solutions and we resolve concerns and this is the proof that we do this is where we're giving people references. We're asking them to come on site with us and look at a site that we already have up and operational. This is the solution, the presentation, pricing, and proof. That's where this conversation normally happens. Where it goes off the rails for most of us in a sales process and if you're at home you're having the same process even though you my do it in fewer sales calls then we do. In a complex sale like yours there might be hundreds of sales calls and a simple sale there might be two or three calls and that's what in a simple sale probably is right but what you have to do is notice where you are and if I'm supposed to be developing that solution, giving them a presentation in pricing this commitment to invest needs to occur. Is it right because I don't want to hand it off until it's right. If the investments wrong and the solutions wrong I want a chance to do something about it and we'll talk about how to do that today too. I also want them to review it. I don't want to hand off something that someone can say no to. You look at it before I say this is the final answer and then at the end of that process we have to resolve concerns and what tends to happen to salespeople and we'll talk about this later on to is that they hand over their pricing, their proposal, their solution and the client says we'll get back to you in two weeks and you're still waiting for those calls aren't you? It's been longer than two weeks. In some cases it's been longer than two years and you're still waiting like I hope they call. They're never calling. You let them have control of the process, they went away and they're not coming back. You have to work really hard. After all of that we end up having to negotiate because that's normal and we're going to talk about that when we talk about money. Everybody's supposed to ask you for a discount. That's what they're supposed to be doing. You can't be offended by it and we'll talk about that. We ask them to buy. We have to ask them and this we'll cover this in the shortest of all the segments today because this is the easiest of all commitments provided you followed the process and you have these commitments that's along the way. If you skip the commitments than this can get tricky and you can start sounded really weird when you ask the question and I'll share some ideas there for you. Then you do have to check and make sure people execute. So probably one of the most interesting things to me about what's changed in sales is what we're accountable for now. We used to be accountable for selling a product, explaining the features and benefits, making sure that orders were placed and that something got installed and that was where our responsibility ended and then it turned into I need you to help me produce results. Then we were accountable for something else, we're accountable for making sure that those outcomes were delivered. Now we're responsible for having the ideas that allow this process to even start that are so strategic and so valuable that we can actually work through this process with people and we're accountable for being a business partner now. You need to look like somebody I want on my team. I have to have the same kind of trust. You have to bring the same kind of energy to bringing me new opportunities. That's how you hold your space now. The process that's changed is this commitments now have always been necessary and when I wrote the book I realized that I got this concept from Neil Rackham who wrote "Spin Selling" in 1988. In three pages that have nothing to do with the SPIN model, which is situation questions, problem questions, implication questions and need pay off questions. The three pages before that were the most interesting to me and what Rackum's research showed was this. The best sales people were gaining a series of what he called advances. It wasn't the final yes, it was a yes that lead to the next yes that lead to the next yes, always in the order that made sense for that particular client. The sales people that were struggling were people that were having tough times with customers would settle for what he called a continuation. "That was so nice Michelle, so great "to meet you and your team. "We'll definitely be getting back to you "at some time in the future," and that salesperson left with what I would call a non-commitment, right. You're like, "How did it go?" And Michelle's like it went great they really liked me. Yeah but you have no commitment and we've all done this. When I read that I was 25 years old or something like that. I read it and I went oh, so I always have to get a commitment leaving every deal. So I would literally walk into a client's site, open up my at that time Franklin planner and I would open on the desk to the calendar page and I'd start my conversation there because I was not going to leave without that advance and for all those years between 1988, when he wrote that, and 2017 no one ever wrote down what those advances are and matched them up to a sales process. To me it seemed like this is the right thing for people to understand as you think about the process what we're really doing. The discovery and the diagnosis is important. We've always known that but now we're doing it in such a way that we have these commitments that if the client keeps them we're certain that we can check the box and say I can tell you that this true and this was done. And here's why they committed to do this and they committed to take the next step. At some point we have to collaborate with people and build consensus. That wasn't always true but it's true now and that's why it's one of the ten commitments and then all of these commitments when you get them together and you go from advance to advance means that you're probably going to end up with a yes at the end and that's what Rackham's research showed in and nobody did anything about it until 2017. I thought that's a good book. This will help you understand what the process is and we'll also have a deeper dive into this. I want to give you one other fundamental principal that I live by, "Sales is a complex, "dynamic human interaction." So as much as I'm confident in what I'm saying to you and I'm telling you the truth and I believe it and I'm giving you things to do and things to believe I don't think there's one right answer. I think it's way to complicated too many humans involved in a process. Tyson, Neil Degress-Tyson has a quote that he says, "As soon as humans enter endeavor it immediately goes non-linear." And that's why Physics is hard and Sociology is difficult because we have humans and humans make things messy and difficult. But there's not one right answer. Selling is not a science. No matter what you hear it's not a science. Science means I do experiment A and I get result B and then you come along behind me and you do A and you get B. But sometimes we get C and sometimes we get W and we have no idea why when we're trying to do these things and gain these commitments there's something that happens on the other end and we have to figure out how do I adjust, how do I deal with these things. So it's confident as I am I want you to know there's choices and you always have to look at your choices and make the best suggestions out of what your looking at right now and make the best next step possible from this list of commitments. Now we're back to Q and A, my favorite part by the way. And you sir? Anthony, great to see you in person. I'm curious when I look at all of the forecast meetings I've sat through with our salespeople and there's always this focus on beating the competition and when we look at why we lose deals often times it's not... We don't lose deals to a direct competitor, we lose it to no decision and I'm just curious what you experiences and where you see the biggest obstacle for that no decision or it gets pushed out of the quarter when the salesperson was convinced it was going to close? Yeah and I wonder why they were convinced that it was going to close. That's the salespersons date right? Here's where I get really suspicious it's the last day of the month, it's the last day of the quarter and I'm like no, that's not true. Clients never go I need you to close in the last day of the month. They never say that. They're like I need it Tuesday because that's the only time I'm going to have my IT team together to go through the kick-off meeting. It's always something different then that. I think that's one of the challenges that we have. But what I would tell you, my experience especially for people at home who don't know who you are. He sells the most complex and potentially the most expensive a business can buy in the category. Right? Fair enough. What happens is people have massive dissatisfaction with what they have and they know they need something different and so they commit time, they commit to explore, they skip over the commit to change, they don't do that. It's too soon to change. You can't ask me to do that early on. They love the collaboration part. They'll let you have a lot of consensus meetings. You'll have a whole bunch of conversations and then all of a sudden it gets to the end where you hand over the pricing and proposal and poof just like that they disappear. Whoa, not ready to do that. And they weren't ready the whole time. So the trick for the salesperson is to ask this question sooner when we get here to the commit to change. That's where we have to be to be able to say if in fact we could do these things for you, if in fact we could give you these outcomes that you need would it make sense for you to do something different here and then would we be able to get the support of your team and would we be able to get the investment necessary to do that? Then I'm going to ask the other question that you're going to go back and immediately start teaching people and hammering them with and that is the question that they need to ask is if we were going to do this what would be the right date for you to make a switch over for something like this because the client's date is the real date that they would commit to. It's not our date and it's certainly not the end of the quarter. I mean that is not a real date. That's a date that they put in their CRM with great hope that it comes true and I was talking to my friends at and they now how a push counter where they can count how many times something pushes and some people have five and seven pushes. That's a lot of quarters to go through. Totally agree, we call it the compelling event. There has to be a compelling event and you do have to have the conversation you have to ask does it make sense to change or should we be doing something else together and that's okay if it's not time it's not time. I'm still going to nurture them, I'm still going to try to give them insight, I'm still going to try to get mind share but I know that I don't have a deal coming in this quarter or in your case probably for the next three or four quarters for sure. More questions? We have time here, right? Yes. I'm with one online here Brooke says, "How'd you get people to commit to time with you? What is the motivation when you really want them to hear about your services?" Oh Brooke, I'm going to speak over into this camera. They don't want to hear about our services. I'm going to talk about this again but I'm going to preempt myself and talk about it here too cause I want to serve Brooke. When you say something, this is why it's hard for people to say yes to time because it sounds like this. "I'd like to come by and introduce myself and my services, I'd like to tell you about what we do and how we're helping clients like yours, what do you look like for a meeting Thursday? And so what the client just heard is you're going to talk about yourself, okay? And then you're going to talk about your company, that should be really interesting to me. Then you're going to start trying to prove to me that you work with other companies that are like mine, everybody's already done that to me before and I found out I didn't like it all that much and then you left me this open-ended idea that you're going to have a meeting. How am I going to get you out of my office when you don't create any value for me and you think you have an hour on the calender and I'm going to be done with you in about seven minutes. So that's the reality of the World that we live in. I'm going to offer you other language, I'll do it a couple times here so people can find it in these segments. I'm going to say something like, "I'd like to come out and meet with you "and I'd like to share with you the four trends "that are going to have the biggest impact on your business "over the next 18 to 24 months. "I want to share with you some of the decisions "that you and your management team are going to "have to make in order to be able to do something "different than what you are doing now to "take advantage and probably succeed better "than you are right now. "I'll leave you with a slide deck with all the questions "that you can challenge your management team with "and look even if we never do business together "you're going to have the insight "and the ideas that you need to do something different "over this time period even if "we don't do business together. "What do you look like Thursday for "a 20 minute meet and greet?" And I gave it 20 minutes because I'm trying to lower the commitment level so they go in 20 minutes I can throw you out of here if you're not creating value for me. Then I'll take that because now you gave me an end time that I can agree to and I don't have this open-ended. I also did something else and you're nodding because you recognize what I did. I did not make it about me or my services because what I want to show them is that there's a compelling reason to change and I understand how to help you with that and I have the questions that you need to challenge your team to answer in order to be able to do that. That's the part that's interesting to other people. Later on when they say how would we do that? Then you get to say well I have some ideas I can share with you let's explore this and see if this makes sense and I'll show you what some of our choices are and I'll show you some things that your competitors and other people that we work with are doing that's helping them. That's really the part that changes the commitment for time and the language that I gave you. You'll see it again and you'll have the deck so you'll be able to see this language a couple times. It changes directly what the person perceives of you because when you call and you say I want to talk about me and I want to introduce my services they're like great it's all about you, not about me and you're probably going to come in and ask me what's keeping you up at night? Great I have a service for that and you want to share that stuff? It's better to share something about the world that they live in than in helping them understand it because you want to show up and I'll continue to go back to this point. You want to show up as a peer, as a trusted advisor, as somebody who has good counsel, that's consultative and you show up that way by opening that conversation around what I know about your world and how to think about it. And I gave you an example a few minutes ago talking about the baby boomers retiring. I don't need to talk about me. I'm talking about you and I'm talking about your world. Why you should change and how you need to start thinking about it different. That's a person that's a value creator and I want to work with Brooke because Brooke challenges my thinking on this and she's allowing me to think through these problems in a better way and giving me a better lens to view my problems. So thank you Brooke, I appreciate that question it's a great question. Couple more? Yes, there's one more here from Mikey who says, "Anthony, I'm new in sales and business "and I'm struggling with customers typical questions, "why should I buy your product instead of a product "from a company I've worked with for years?" That's a great question too. We're going to talk about that later on with differentiation because there has to be a reason that it's why you instead of somebody else. This is called a competitive displacement and it's one of the most difficult things that we have to do in sales. We have to go in and displace a competitor. This is Mickey right? Yes. That's my brother's name so I like Mickey already. Mickey was my partner in crime for many many years. Crime's probably a little strong but fairly accurate. Why should I buy your product instead of someone else. You need to make a different case, I think Mickey, when you go in and say my product's better. How much better? Is it worth changing? So again I'm going to take you back up to go to something else that compels people to change outside of the product itself because if you're stuck on product it's very difficult to differentiate. To differentiate you want to show up with greater insight, you want to show up with a better idea about how they should change, you want a better idea about how what you do is going to different enough to create value for them and it tends not to be the product. It tends to be how I think about your business, what we're going to do different together and we're going to cover this in a little bit around differentiation. You have to be different in a way that makes a difference and you have to talk about what that difference is and that's the short answer. We'll give you the longer answer later.

Class Description

To close or not to close, that is the question: Whether it’s smarter to use pushy tricks for the final ask or forgo the hard sell for a softer approach. For people who work in sales, figuring out the best way to close the deal is a real conundrum.

Best-selling author, speaker and entrepreneur Anthony Iannarino has come up with an innovative approach to closing that’s geared toward the new technological and social realities of our time.

Instead of looking at closing as the hardest part of the sales process, Iannarino shows how it can be the easiest. The key is to lead your customers through a series of necessary steps designed to prevent a purchase stall, including getting them to commit to investing in the process, building consensus and resolving concerns.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Identify and pursue your dream clients.
  • Call prospective clients without being smarmy, pushy or self-centered.
  • Uncover your prospects’ needs.
  • Present your proposal and solution.
  • Differentiate yourself in a crowded market.
  • Talk about money without fear.
  • Avoid weak language that lacks confidence.
  • Negotiate so you can capture a fair share of the value you create.
  • Ask for more business and referrals.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Anthony Iannarino Presentation

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Debbie Burney

I took an entire work day off to attend this online course. It was so worth it!. I've read Anthony's books, and I've been applying his methods and adopting the mindset of being "other-oriented," and my success is taking off in a big way. Just about everything in this session is in his books in some form, sometimes exactly, but seeing Anthony live and hearing the passion and commitment to practicing what is in the books was exciting, motivating, and sticky. The combination of reading the books, working through the workbooks, reading the blog, and now, seeing it all live is powerful stuff! I highly recommend dedicating a day for this class.

Joanna Avigail Nasierowska

Incredible course, loved it! Thank you, great advice, great understanding of sales process, sharp, quick, easy to understand negotiation & selling process.

Stephen Layman

Anthony Iannarino is an excellent teacher. I have seen the concepts and principles that he teaches ring true in and my experience in B2B sales with large creative projects. For anyone seeking to sharpen their sales technique I would highly recommend this class.