We research and diagnose, so that, hopefully, we have a solution that the prospect values enough to buy. Our job then turns to moving prospects through the decision making tree as efficiently as possible. This means getting "yeses" of course, but also getting "no's". And this is where too many meeting professionals get bogged down; we put up with too many "maybes" or worse yet, we put up with silence.
I hear it all the time when hoteliers, DMO reps and even third-party planners complain that their prospects take too long to make decisions.
In an industry that too often just aims to schmooze and please, maybe it's time we get some backbone. Whether we are selling hotel inventory, the rental of goods or our time to plan events, the longer we dwell in maybes, the less time we spend closing and getting things done.
So what's the answer? Ask questions: What are your decision criteria? How will you know when a solution is the right one? And when you get a "maybe" or "not now, later" be bold and ask, "What will be different in (whatever time frame) that you don't know now?" That last question is a valuable one I learned from sales expert Colleen Francis.
Of course no single questions will ever be the silver bullet, but a mindset of inquiry is what appears to work best, in my experience.
Now I'm not suggesting you do this right after you send the first proposal. But after a reasonable number of attempts, it's time to put your foot down.
And if silence is all you hear, try this:
- First, when you ask, expect an answer. It's a metaphysical mystery to me, but when I expect to get an answer, I do. When I think I won't, I often don't.
- Next, nicely but firmly, force an answer. My favourite is, "Mr. Prospect, we had agreed to discuss your proposal by the end of last week. Since we have not connected I suspect that you have found another provider, or that you no longer need our solution. Either way, unless I hear from you by X, I will assume our proposal is not what you wish to proceed with. I hope we'll have the pleasure of working together at some other point in the future..."
For those who think this approach may be too harsh, consider this: getting a "no" means you can move on. And moving on may just be the most productive action you can take.