Always Focus on Your Fourth Sale


Jake is meeting with his boss, Sarah, the Sales VP, trying to explain his challenges in getting to see a few top prospects. They spend a full 30 minutes reviewing ways to get a prospect to engage, a task that is getting harder and harder as prospects prefer to do 80% of their research before ever talking to a sales professional.

Sarah offers many tips, and more than a little encouragement. She perceives that her team must be more aggressive if they are to make their stretch goals. By the time the meeting ends, Jake has nine ideas for “opening doors”.

Did you catch their deadly omission?

There was no talk – zero – about what to do after Jake gets his foot in the door. In my experience, this is a common flaw in many sales organizations: they focus on getting in, rather than on getting deeper. In many cases, “deeper” simply means delivering a sales pitch, which is why most prospects avoid salespeople like the plague.

Here’s what Sarah should have told Jake:

Study each buyer’s situation from afar: Before you reach out to any potential buyer, study their situation at both a macro and micro level. What’s happening in their industry? What changes are evident, and which ones are just appearing at the horizon? How are the buyer’s company, business, and personal circumstances changing? This sort of knowledge allows you to immediately have deeper and more powerful conversations. Insightful questions power meaningful conversations, and you cannot ask such questions without doing a lot of homework.

Serve before you sell: Once you’re in the door, don’t even think of pitching. Instead, look for opportunities to serve the needs of the other person. Do you possess knowledge or contacts that could be helpful to that person? Can you do some legwork to add value? In your first meeting, walk away with up to three next steps. Then make it your priority to personally fulfill those three obligations. By doing so, you will build credibility and prove that spending time with you is a wise move.

Customize, customize, customize: If all you have to offer that buyer is an off-the-shelf solution, the best case is that you will make a very low margin commodity sale. To avoid this trap – and it is a trap – be as ingenious as possible in finding ways to create a customized solution. Make sure the customization you offer has meaningful economic value to your buyer. If all you do is put pretty wrapping on a standard product, the buyer won’t be fooled. Instead, offer customization that is both useful and substantive.

Think about the fourth sale: Most sales professionals chasing a new prospect are obsessed with one thing: closing the sale. This is a short-sighted rookie mistake. Instead, focus your efforts on getting to the fourth sale. This changes your “hunt and run” mentality into one that truly serves the long-term interests of your buyer. If you focus on the fourth sale, you will pay close attention to what happens after and in-between each transaction.

You will think holistically, instead of selfishly.

Importantly, a few weeks or months after each transaction, schedule a debrief with your client and ask for substantive feedback. People don’t want to hurt your feelings, so ask them to help you achieve a learning and growing opportunity. In essence, give them permission to share less than positive feedback. You want to gather what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.

This is how you turn a sales call into a mutually profitable long-term relationship.

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