This post is inspired by my pal, Anthony Iannarino (@iannarino), and a tweet that he sent me this week. Anthony wrote, “Who is ringing the bell today? I am!” Which in sales lingo means that he did a deal. I wrote back, “Nice, you’re a closer.” Here’s the next line that inspired this blog post:
“I am an opener! The closing takes care of itself!”
In one short statement, Anthony captured the foundation of the sales philosophy I have subscribed to for most of my career. Most sales people gravitate toward the money and always push for the close while missing the entire point of bringing in business and doing deals. It’s not about the close; it’s about everything that leads to the close. Closing business is easy if you have done all the right things leading up to the moment that you ask for the deal. Yes, you must ask for the business, but if you have invested the proper amount of time into the deal, your close ratio will be much higher. It’s similar to studying for an exam; if you work hard and cover all the material thoroughly, the likelihood is you will ace the test.
The fact of the matter is that the process should be all about the “open”. Getting into the game is a crucial prerequisite to closing the business. Once you are in the process and well on your way into the new business funnel, things become much easier. That doesn’t mean it’s a cake walk. No, it’s hard work. But, all sales people should realize this and understand that the investment they put in to ensure they can help the client do business and achieve its goals is what will lead them to the close.
This does not just apply to sales and the sales process; it applies to every aspect of business. Getting in the door is always the toughest part. Once you are in, then it’s your opportunity to make the most of it. Sure, people screw up that opportunity all the time by not doing what is necessary to excel. Sometimes it’s laziness, other times it’s a bad attitude, but regardless of what causes the missed opportunity, it is missed just the same. “Getting in the door” is where all your creativity and finesse should come into play. More importantly, you should have a concrete plan prior to any outreach at all.
The reality of Anthony’s statement is that because it is so important to be an opener, shouldn’t more effort be focused on a plan to get you in? I have managed a bunch of sales people who looked right past the introduction and jumped into the pitch. You should never, I repeat never, pitch business in the first meeting. Just because you get a first meeting doesn’t mean you are “in”. That first meeting is your opportunity to open up the conversation and begin the process that will lead you to closing business. Anyone who pitches business in the very first meeting should be thrown out of the meeting and fired by the company they work for. I imagine there could be some industries that would be an exception, but even then, why wouldn’t you want to get to know your potential customer better? What if you are leaving money on the table?
The more you know about your client and the more you invest in them, the better your chances of closing business. We dedicate an entire chapter in Winning the Customer, September 2011 (shameless plug) to the Nine Steps we believe are necessary in the new business funnel in order to consistently close business. I will let you check those out when you buy the book. But I will say this: focus on opening and investing in your client, and the close will come your way. Be like Anthony – an opener.