Feb 5, 2015

The 2-Call Close, Part 1

Can you close a sales opportunity in two calls?

Now, I’m not talking about a small, transactional sale like office products. Can you sell a complex deal — $10,000 to $75,000 solution — in two calls?

To me this is the holy grail of branding, and it’s what I like to call the “2-Call Close.” It’s the ability to package your services so well that a salesperson’s only job is to facilitate the buying process.

The first call sets the stage. It qualifies if the prospect is a fit for your services, demonstrates your firm’s capabilities, and sets the customer up to agree to move forward with a service agreement. Following the call the sales rep submits a service agreement or contract. Note I am not saying a “proposal.” This is important and we’ll come back to it later.

The second call is a closing call. The sales rep will review the agreement with the customer, answer any questions, negotiate any sticking points, and gain consensus to move forward.

That’s it. That’s the sales cycle. And it can be conducted in the course of two to three weeks. That’s the holy grail of branding.

In this three part series I will discuss what is involved with setting your brand up for a 2-Call Close. We will cover the following:

Part 1: Deliver Contracts Not Proposals
Part 2: Websites That Sell
Part 3: Experts Close Deals

These posts will be a little meatier than my average posts, but I believe this topic is very important. It will also give you a glimpse into how I discovered some of the Principles of Sticky Branding, as well as deliver actionable ideas you can apply in your business.

Part 1: Deliver Contracts Not Proposals

Achieving a 2-Call Close is all about driving velocity into your sales funnel.

I first came onto this idea in the mid-2000’s while developing the LEAPJob brand. In 2004 our sales team had to work hard to close a deal. The average sales cycle was between 60 to 120 days, and involved several phone and face-to-face meetings.

Every sale cycle included a discovery meeting, an on-site presentation of our firm’s capabilities, a proposal followed by a contract, a negotiation, and finally an agreement.

It was an arduous process, but it was our normal. We’d been selling that way since 1989, and we were good at it.

But in 2006 I heard the Vice President of Sales at WebEx speak at a conference. He shared with the audience how his team had reduced their sales cycle from 180 days to 21 days, and he talked about all the steps they removed from the sales process to compress the sales cycle.

I was hooked. I wanted that for LEAPJob. This became our Big Goal, our Whale. We challenged ourselves to try and reduce our sales cycle to two calls over two weeks.

Proposals Slow Down Sales

When we studied our sales process we realized the most time consuming part of our sales cycle was the proposal. Proposals took a lot of time to write and deliver, and many times our clients didn’t even read them.

Proposals are ubiquitous in business, but they are evil. They slow everything down.

Customers and salespeople can hide behind them. It doesn’t cost a customer anything to say, “Send me a proposal.” And the salesperson thinks he’s done a good job, and scurries back to his desk to write a thirty page document.

What’s missing is two ingredients:

  1. Simple Clarity: When a salesperson can’t clearly articulate what they sell, who it’s for, and what problems or issues they solve, they have to use a proposal. A proposal is a sales crutch for a poorly defined product or service.
  2. Weak Qualification: Customers don’t like to say “no.” It’s uncomfortable. So they ask for a proposal to delay the inevitable. An effective sales process builds off Simple Clarity, and gives the salesperson the questions and indicators to qualify if a customer is a fit for the service. And if the sales rep discovers the customer isn’t a fit, they can quickly shut down the sales process and focus on more appropriate customers.

Treat proposals as a sales crutch, and ask do you really need them?

Skip the Proposal, Offer a Contract

Instead of presenting a proposal, offer your customer a service agreement. You will know right away if a customers is interested in buying when you present a contract.

A contract has very different implications than a proposal. It means you’ve come to an understanding with your client. You understand their needs, and they understand what your firm will offer, how the service works, what they will receive, and what it costs.

There are no surprises. The contract simply states the facts:

  • Price
  • Deliverables
  • Terms of service

There are no benefit statements or value propositions in a contract. It only presents the cold hard reality of your services.

If a customer isn’t ready to receive a contract, they are not ready to receive a proposal either. And this can mean several things:

  • The customer doesn’t understand what your firm does and what it will deliver.
  • The customer has doubts in your firm’s capabilities.
  • The customer isn’t ready to buy, and may be leaning towards another option.

Wouldn’t you rather know the customer has doubts and tackle those head on versus writing a proposal?

Three Steps to Eliminate Proposals

I will be the first to tell you eliminating proposals is easier said than done. And there are cases where you simply cannot eliminate the proposal entirely, because they are baked into an industry’s buying process. For example, government agencies require suppliers to submit detailed proposals.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t streamline your sales process to the point where the proposal is a necessary evil, but has little influence on the sales outcome.

Eliminating proposals from your sales methodology requires three things to happen first:

1. Position To Win: If you want velocity in your sales funnel you have to position your brand to win. This means clearly defining your target customer, their needs, and how you serve them. Your brand cannot be all things to all people. You can’t be endlessly customizing your services to fit any need. You’ve got to clearly define who your company serves, how you deliver value, and who isn’t a fit.

2. Package Your Services: Make your services really easy to understand and buy. Instead of writing a proposal, you should be able to direct a customer to your website or send them a brochure that gives them that information. That’s the proposal. Your website should be telling the same story your salespeople are conveying, and speak with absolute authority of what your firm delivers, how the service works, and address any question or objection head on.

3. Simple Clarity: Simple Clarity is the ability to describe your business, products, and services in simple, concise language. There should be no confusion about what your company does, who it serves, and how it delivers value. And your customers should know those statements before they even speak with a salesperson.

Eliminating Proposals is Strategic

Your sales team cannot eliminate proposals from the sales cycle. This topic is above their pay grade. It’s a structural project. It’s a branding project.

Creating the conditions for a 2-Call Close is a leadership project. It takes defining your market, developing Simple Clarity, eliminating fluff from your services, and honing your brand to do one or two things really, really well.

What’s Next?

In Part 2 and 3 of this series we will go deeper into the marketing, and what’s required to create the conditions for a 2-Call Close.

In Part 2 I address the concept of “Websites That Sell.” This is the goal to make your website sell as well as your best salesperson. Let your salespeople work with customers that have a need and will make a buying decision, and let your website do the prospecting and relationship building.

In Part 3 I tackle the talent equation. Sales talent is integral to the 2-Call Close. Weak salespeople cannot do what I am calling for. This sales process is efficient, focused, and requires expertise. A socializer or a rookie can’t do a 2-Call Close.

And please, share your comments or ask questions. This is a rich, meaty topic. I am happy to tackle it further with you in the comments of this post.

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