One of the great myths about selling is that you need to make a series of calls on a prospect to determine their needs before you can make a proposal to them. If you’re selling anything less complicated than enterprise computing systems, this is time-wasting nonsense based on a misunderstanding of consultive selling. Why wait? You’ll speed up the prospect’s decision-making process and save yourself hours and hours of selling time (which you can use to make more sales) if you present a specific proposal on your very first call.
This suggestion invariably sends traditional consultive sellers into convulsions and they say things like, “How can you make a proposal without ascertaining the need?” “Won’t the prospect think you’re arrogant to come in with a proposal the very first time you meet them?” “What if your proposal is wrong?”
This response comes from a lack of understanding of my method. You’ll notice that I want you to make a proposal on the first call—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that call will be the first time you’ve visited the prospect. Nor does it mean that you haven’t done a needs analysis. In fact, the time and effort you put into needs analysis (before the first call) will dwarf that of a typical consultive seller who goes into the first call with questionnaire in hand. And your needs analysis will be more accurate, which will mean a more accurately targeted proposal.
Selling on the first call isn’t as simple as it sounds, of course. It’s not a matter of taking the same product to as many prospects as possible in hopes that you’ll stumble across someone that needs to buy something today. Nor does it mean that you ignore the prospect’s individual needs and try to sell them a one-size-fits-all product. To make a sale on the first call, you need to research the prospect in advance, ask probing questions during your presentation, and be ready to change your design or other elements of your proposal—on the spot. It takes preparation and a set of ears finely tuned to what the customer is saying.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.