When they really want something, you and I both know that our kids are going to get it, ever-ready to “fight” for it, as necessary! We’ve all heard a child’s “sales conversation” go something like this:
Child: “Daddy I want a new bike!”
Father: “You already have a bike.”
Child: “Yes, but it’s not good enough. The chain keeps coming off.”
Father: “Well, let’s go get the chain fixed.”
Child: “We’ve already gotten it fixed three times and Mr. Fix-It said he couldn’t guarantee it would stay fixed.”
Father: “Well, I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it”
Child: “Why do you need to think about it, Daddy?”
Father: “Well, I need to think about how to much it will cost and how to pay for it and how to keep the chain working so it won’t cost us a lot more money.”
Child: “If I can earn some money to help pay for it and I can learn to take care of it by fixing the chain myself, can I buy a new bike?”
Father: “Yes, IF you can do all of those things, then you can buy a bike”
Child: “How much money do I need to earn?”
Father: “Oh, maybe $50 dollars”
Child: “So if I can earn $50 and learn to fix the chain myself, I can get a new bike. “
Father: “Yes, that’s right”.
Child: “So I can buy the bike just as soon as I earn some money and learn to fix the chain, right?”
With verbal agreement “in hand,” the child gets a job with the next door neighbor helping clean out the garage and he convinces Mr. Fix It to teach him how to repair a broken chain. He has earned the right to buy a new bike and proudly purchases a shiny new blue bike. Three weeks later:
Child: “Daddy, I need a better seat for my bike!” And so the sales process begins again.
Not bad for a 12-year-old. When a child reacts this way, he/she understands that selling is aprocess of gaining agreement and, perhaps most important, beyond the initial agreement, it’s also a process of progressively gaining greater commitment from the buyer. The earnest young saleskid in this example got Daddy to agree to buy a new bike. He then got his father to agree on just how much money he needed to earn and then he next got Dad to agree to a time frame.
And, drum roll please, three weeks later this same sales whiz-kid again goes after an agreement to purchase a better bike seat. Why can’t all our sales people be as effective as this 12-year-old? Perhaps it’s because many of them have forgotten that selling is a progression of gaining agreement.
Adult sales people carry psychological baggage that gets in their way. Unlike children who are fearless, adults allow the fear of getting a “no” to prevent them from asking for the sale. If sales people understood that there are levels of agreement they should seek before, during and after they ask for the total sale, that fear would diminish and their success rate would increase.
Progressively gaining agreement from your customer requires persistence and fear acts against persistence. The boy in the conversation exhibited real persistence – he wanted that bike badly enough to not give up even when challenged by objections. To repeat, he understood there are levels of agreement and that overcoming objections can be just another opportunity to seek agreement.
As a progression of gaining agreements from prospective buyers, the sales process thus includes getting prospects to:
- accept your call
- schedule a meeting
- share their business challenges
- understand the value of your solution
- define the urgency to act
- buy your solution
- implement your solution
- refer and advocate for you in other departments in the company
- buy more
Yet too many sales people approach selling as if there is only one agreement, i.e., the agreement to buy. When they fail to understand the progression of gaining agreement, they go for broke and end up with nothing, never understanding why they didn’t obtain the final agreement – the sale.
There are three agreement elements that sales people must understand and practice:
(1) sales reps should always know what agreement they want;
(2) they must be able to identify the interim agreements necessary to earn the specific overall agreement;
(3) salespeople must never forget that consistently asking for additional agreements is the key to long term relationships.
Defining an agreement goal insures that sales reps set the stage for getting to the specific agreement and it also insures that they plan for the interim agreements necessary to gain the specific agreement. In the story above, the child instinctively knew that to win the big prize agreement of a new bike, he had to get his father to agree to a series of interim conditions such as earning money, learning to fix the chain etc.
He also knew instinctively that he needed to consistently and repeatedly ask for each agreement. He said: “So I can buy the bike just as soon as I earn some money and learn to fix the chain, right?” By asking this, he thereby set up an agreement on a time frame for purchase.
And finally, after the child has made his first purchase, he goes back for a new agreement, this time on another purchase, a new bike seat – the equivalent of up-selling! Children are not afraid to want more and to ask for it. But adult sales people are different, often afraid to go back and ask for more. Also, the fear of appearing too aggressive or too greedy often prevents them from asking for more early on in a relationship.
The most effective sales people clearly understand that selling is a process of progressively gaining agreement, building this notion into all of their customer conversations. They thus seek agreement:
- to commit to a specific agreement
- to interim agreements necessary to achieve the overall agreement
- to the next meeting
- to a time frame
- to advocate to specified others in the organization
- to consider a possibility
- to an alternative “fall back” agreement
Genuinely understanding the progression of gaining agreement keeps a sales person from giving up. Realizing that they should always have an alternative agreement in mind is critical to keeping the prospect moving forward. So it may be time to learn an important sales lesson from our kids! Teach your sales team to map, mentally or physically, the gaining agreement process for their next prospect, or next customer meeting. Each prospect or customer or prospect interaction has a unique set of agreements that can be reached. Practicing the process will close more sales and will shorten your sales cycle.
And here’s to our kids – the world’s greatest sales reps!