There’s an ongoing debate regarding the way sales are made. Some argue that successful selling is an “art” that requires years of experience to master, but recently a new way of thinking about sales has emerged; it’s a more scientific approach to the age-old profession.
Regardless of whether you’re selling residential entertainment and automation systems or painting a masterpiece, there are scientific techniques that can lead you to artistic results. If you don’t believe that an artistic practice can be approached scientifically, download the documentary film Tim’s Vermeer. In this film, a special effects technician recreates a masterpiece by Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer using purely scientific methods. The film is truly eye opening and proves that art can be produced via scientific methods.
One scientific method that I apply to close more sales is setting an agenda for every customer meeting. Incorporating this simple best practice can work wonders for you too. Here’s how:
On a sales call with clients, introduce your agenda and position it as a steering document with benefits
Understand that the most powerful sales techniques involve asking questions
Again, some call it “the art of questioning,” but if you approach question creation scientifically, you’re likely to have greater success. When NASA sent the New Horizons spacecraft to fly by Pluto, it had certain definitive objectives in mind and calculated backwards from those objectives to determine how to accomplish them. You can apply this same scientific methodology in creating effective agendas for virtually all client meetings, to drive them toward accomplishing your objectives.
List your meeting objectives before creating your agenda
Note several outcomes you want to get from the meeting. In some cases your objectives might include closing a bid and in others they might not, but set the stage for a follow-up proposal presentation instead. Consider using a ladder approach when determining your objectives. For instance, position your company, convey the value your system bid will include, and differentiate your bid from competitors, in that order.
Craft questions to flush out each of your objectives
An example might be: if your objective is to position your company as the best candidate for the job, craft a question that leads to that point, such as “What’s your perception of our company and the service we provide?” Your potential client’s response will either confirm that you are positioned positively or open the door for you to reposition yourself at that time. Make the last question on your agenda open ended for your client. Something like, “Is there anything else about our company, systems, or service that I can answer for you today?”
Print your agenda and take copies for every person in the meeting
Title the agenda and include the client’s name(s) in the title, i.e., “Meeting With John Doe Regarding Home Automation and Theater System.” Also date the agenda. Try not to exceed five questions, and arrange them on the page with enough space for attendees to jot notes. Make sure all of your contact information is on the sheet–in the footer works well.
Introduce your agenda and position it as a steering document with benefits
“To help us have a productive meeting, I’ve prepared a brief agenda.” Hand the agenda out and position a copy in front of yourself with pen in hand to validate its importance, give your client a brief time to review the agenda, and dig right into the first question. I suspect by the time you’ve gone through the first two questions your client will refer back to the document and continue on the pathway to the sale that you scripted.
Once you experience the success that using a well-crafted agenda brings you in client meetings, you too will have mastered a scientific way to hone the art of sales.