If you’ve been long enough in the market – and I’m sure most of you have – the question you come across all the time – how do I close the deal…..you all know about that one deal that simply refused to close, the one you just couldn’t bag despite having all the moving parts in place. The product or service, the value proposition, the pricing, the future potential, all rattled off by you in slick presentations; and yet, and yet… the client just refused to unscrew the top of his pen to sign on the dotted line. I’m sure you’ve thought long and hard into the night why your prospect walked away from such a seemingly delicious proposition. Rest assured you’re in illustrious company here, because I too have had my fair share of misses and that dark night of introspection followed by the fairly embarrassing realization that the missing bits – which we all mistakenly assume is rocket science – were nothing but some very common-sense tips and tricks you needed to remember and deploy to make the “kill”.
Have Attitude; Carry Swagger
Trust me, this is not what you think it is. I’m most definitely not recommending you adopt a Hollywood-esque obnoxiousness towards your clients; that’s a sure recipe for Hara Kiri, and we all know that. Actually, been there done that too, to my detriment, so No! that’s definitely not what I mean. What I do mean, however, is that you should be able to exude a certain confidence that you have a bigger – in fact, much bigger – vision of the future of your client and of your cozy relationship with your client in that prosperous future of his. Act as if your company is about as big as the one you’re offering your products and services. Companies shopping for products and services like that; its gives them the confidence that the chaps closing the deal with them are as good at their game as the client is at theirs, and will be around for subsequent offers and solutions. So don’t be a desperate minnow in your next pitch.
Find the pieces and put them together
In most cases, you’ll just get the one shot at your strip tease. Make sure you know exactly what tickles the client’s fancy. Ask around, collect information, and make a plan. Ok! Let’s stop with the subtleties; collect intelligence! Remember (I know I just said it a sentence ago but) this IS your one shot; you have to make it count. So find out everything you can about the company, its strengths and weaknesses, its people, its idiosyncrasies, even personal snippets that are not ostensibly business related. You’d be surprised how many times the Mosaic Theory clicks, while the technical analysis is off by a mile and a half. Form an accurate image of your prospect and carry it around in your head at all times. Familiarity might breed contempt when dating, but in a deal closure setting, familiarity with your client’s cupboard skeletons could be your biggest defense against being side-tackled by a dimension to the client you were unaware of.
“What could possibly go wrong”? Figure it out before finding out the hard way
Actually, anything and everything. Which is why you’ve been spending time building that very sophisticated mosaic. What could possibly go right for you is that the prospect falls in love with your product and your sales pitch (not to mention your yellow power tie). But what could go wrong is just about the entire spectrum of challenges. The chap just ahead of or behind you might have a yellower tie, for instance. But more importantly, he may know of the one chink in the client’s armour where he can squeeze in a feather to tickle him long enough to sign the deal. And you really want to be that guy, don’t know? Not the guy writing a blog about how he blew his last deal. So, dear reader, MAKE A PLAN!! I can’t emphasize that enough. Replay the battle in your boardroom as many times as you need to, and be ruthless in your mock encounters. Don’t be shy to be defeated by your team, because in these defeats lies your victory in the final battle. Rehearse, till you’ve refined every lunge, made every parry an instinct. Then, and only then, may you ride forth to your big meeting; where you’re going to close the deal.
Show the Face, Press the Flesh
We all like to throw around the adage that the world is run by faceless corporations. The sad fact, however, is that these faceless corporations are still run by people in the end; people who like to see the faces of who they’re dealing with. When you shake a hand (firmly please, but not to create an insurance claim), when you look someone in the eye, you are taking – and giving – the opportunity to weigh and measure, and to be measured and weighed in kind. I’ll be honest here, I’ve never seen a deal close on an email or a phone, unless you’re ordering pizza. Closure is just the final song of an elaborate musical, and you must step out on stage and sing your lines with all the other players. And you shouldn’t be worried about that. Not much at least. Because you’ve been rehearsing that for a while by now. In fact, you’ve become so good at it that you’re dying to get in there and strut your stuff. Your client will feel more confident about you if he can reach out across the table and press your flesh. Being there in person is one of the most significant tricks you can have, because it gives the client the assurance that you’re willing and able and authorized to effect any number of tweaks to refine the deal. If your company has sent you, the client will know you can make key decisions towards closure.
You Scratch my Back; I’ll Scratch Yours
And the client will, in due course; if he knows you can scratch his. Frankly, a negotiation session is little more than that (not counting the free pizza and coffee and cookies). You both want to walk away from the table having closed the deal. And you both will have (secret) margins of flexibility in your positions you will continue to trade till you’re both in bed. A “take it or leave it” posture works – sometimes – but flexibility by and large has a higher success rate. Now this should not mean you’re going to roll over and play dead for the amusement of your client; no. We’re talking trade-offs here. For every concession he asks for, he has to be ready to give one. And believe me he’s ready. Because he’s been keeping his team away from friends and family while refining his war plan against you. So don’t be shy to haggle; don’t be shy to ask for quid pro quos. The client’s team have prepped him long and hard; they too are in it for closure, not just the latte.
Team Team Team
Please please PLEASE don’t go into a negotiation alone. You’re not Clint Eastwood, and you’re client is not Lee Van Cleef. We’re all civilized people here. He’s going to bring in his team of advisors, colleagues, co-workers. And nothing in the rule-book says you can’t. In fact, once I’m finished with my rulebook, it’s going to say you must. Because the client will want to be assured that the deal he is about to close has not been cobbled together by one fellow but by an entire group of very cooperative and contributive experts. It’s simple, really. The Lone Ranger is a risky proposition because his potential ride into the sunset means there is no Tonto left at your company to champion the cause of the client for relationship management and future deals. The client will be much happier with a tribe who may be just slightly less brilliant people but who can be relied on to stick around for the next challenge. So always take as many of your team along as the bean-counting trolls in the basement of your company headquarters will allow you to carry. And, let’s face it, since you really aren’t Clint, team-members come in handy when you run out of bullets. They can remind you of bits of your overall strategy that just slipped your mind, and even quietly contribute on-the-go refinements. So never disregard your team just to be Superman in your management’s eyes. In fact, the only reason you are Superman in the first place is not the square jaw but the nice boys and girls holding you up and blowing a fan on you cape.
In essence, know who you are (and polish up a bit), know all you can about you client, get to know as many unknown unkowns as you can, meet your client in person, be there with your team, and be ready to bend just a bit if the client will do the same. These tricks sound so simple, and yet it took me a few pratfalls to figure them out. I wish I had read a blog on how to close the deal before my next negotiation. Now go ahead and close the deal.
Khurram Jamil Butt aka KJB,
Content Manager, MarkiTech