Ensuring a Happy Ending
Have you ever been halfway through watching a movie, only to have a friend sit down and begin watching the movie with you? The well-meaning interloper will invariably want to understand what is happening in the story, and will often interrupt with questions about situations that had occurred earlier in the film. Unfortunately for you, by the time you’ve gotten the newcomer up to speed, your popcorn is cold and your soda has gone flat.
From time to time, an account that was developed by a different representative in your organization may be dropped in your lap. When this happens, you may find yourself feeling lost in the absence of all the necessary information, much like our above-referenced interloper. However, when it comes to adopting an existing sales account, asking questions is not a faux pas; questions are absolutely vital.
The key is to ask the right questions. When speaking to the previous sales rep, don’t lead with a vague, simple inquiry such as, “Tell me about this customer.” This kind of request will yield only superficial information. Instead, probe for specifics using direct, factual questions:
- How many projects have been suggested to this customer?
- How many of those projects have been approved, and why?
- How many of those projects have not been approved, and why?
Think of this as a friendly interrogation. The more specifics about the situation you can uncover, the better equipped you will be going forward.
It’s important to find out what gets the company’s management team excited, since most decisions are made emotionally and then justified financially. Do they want to save on expenses? Improve productivity numbers? Win industry awards? Find out what is likely to move the needle with the people who can approve projects.
After you’ve completed your debriefing, assess how you may be able to reframe the pitch to the client. Have conditions in the marketplace changed since the initial project was proposed? Are there new rebates or incentives you might offer? And was your predecessor using the best techniques to land this sale? Identify any area where taking a different tack might work to your benefit.
When you take over a sales account, you’re not only joining a movie when it’s half-over, you’re being asked to finish writing the script. Take time to understand the story backward and forward, from the characters and setting to the overarching plot. If you are able to uncover enough information, the ending will write itself… and it will be a happy ending at that!
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