You can expect to get some ribbing if you write a second book on sales after the title of your first book is “The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need.” Anthony Iannarino, whose book “The Lost Art of Closing” is due out later this year, admitted to me on Saturday when we talked for a Q&A that will appear in the summer issue of Sales & Marketing Management, that he had a contract for this second book before he even finished the first one.
The world desperately needs another sales book, Iannarino exclaimed, because the B2B sales process has changed drastically since sales giants like Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy wrote their tomes on closing the sale more than two decades ago.
“We’ve had closing, over the course of time, be considered one single thing – the final act when I ask you for the commitment to buy. That doesn’t match reality in complex B2B sales at all,” Iannarino said.
Commitment to Build Consensus
In his book, Iannarino explains closing is still a matter of gaining commitment, but not solely for a signature on a contract. In a world where the latest CSO Insights estimate is that an average of 5.8 people are involved in a complex B2B buying decision, it’s vital to gain commitment to a series of steps – 10 to be precise – that ultimately lead to the holy grail of a signed contract.
“Always be closing is still true. It just means always be closing for the right next commitment so you can actually help people create real change,” Iannarino told me.
One of the more interesting points Iannarino makes in his book is that many times it’s the customer who tries to jump over multiple important steps to get to the final buying decision phase. Many prospects request a presentation and pricing right off the bat, which eliminates the opportunity to learn more about that prospect’s unique needs and whether your solution is a good fit. Requests for proposals (RFPs) are a bad buying process and an almost certain death knell for a sale, he said. RFPs prevent you from reaching the multiple buyers who will be part of the buying decision on a personal level.
“In sales, fast is slow and slow is fast. If you want to go faster, you slow down and make sure you bring everybody along with you,” Iannarino said. “The thing about trying to jump to the end is that you leave so many people behind in the process, they can’t agree to go forward with you. You end up undoing exactly what you’re trying to do when you go fast.”
Where does that leave you with a prospect who believes in RFPs? Is it proper to push back on that process and insist on a different tack?
“In sales, it’s always bad practice to tell someone no right out of the gate,” said Iannarino. “I would say, ‘I’m happy to send you our pricing, but can I share another idea with you? It ultimately isn’t going to help you get the best outcome unless we sit down with your team, make sure we understand how to bring them along with this, collaborate on a solution and make sure we dial it in. Can I ask you for a meeting where we can get at least a little bit of understanding before we give you the pricing, and would it make sense to bring in some of your team so we can make sure we’re a good fit in the first place?’”
Gaining commitment from the buyer to explore the problem in depth is one of 10 that Iannarino covers in his book, which is due out later this year. He blogs regularly at TheSalesBlog.com.
Paul Nolan is editor of Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, the premier digital and print media source for reaching sales and marketing decision-makers.