Asking for the Business

by Kriss Barlow, MBA

In sales circles, the topic of “the close” is always discussed. It seems fitting that we discuss this topic at the end of the year, as there are some similarities and of course, some vast differences in approaching the close.

New sales staff are often uncomfortable with “closing” while seasoned professionals may be quick to share their best approach. How about you? While some types of sales happen with one meeting … that’s very rarely the case in relationship sales or recruitment.

Just Throw Strikes

Leaders say, “My rep needs to do a better job of asking for the business…” Totally agree, but only when you have earned the right. My oldest son, who played years of baseball, sat with me on the bleachers as we watched a youth game. The crowd of parents yelled to the pitcher, “Just throw strikes.” My son leaned over to me and said, “Do they think he does not know that?” In the same manner I speculate that the doctors know that we would like their referrals or we would like to recruit them. This line just does nothing for the relationship — or your chance to earn referrals — unless you have earned the right to ask and generally that is not the first visit to their office.

Earning It

Consider taking small steps that earn credibility with the doctor, expose the physician’s needs and methodically move them toward considering your service. It starts with funnel-imagegood pre-call thinking about what you will ask, what you hope they will say and what you hope to accomplish in the initial call. The proverbial funnel that starts with a visit and ends with a referral has many steps and it is important that we have a plan to advance the relationship in a way that is sensitive to their needs.

Internal Support

If there is a lack of internal understanding about the process, this is your opportunity to engage them in it.

1. Involve them in ideas for mini-closes. For example, I am going to invite his referral coordinator to meet our Surgery scheduler. Work with them to define actions and next steps.

2. Start to use the word mini-close so they hear this process and method to advance the relationship.

3. Track your steps – using your funnel, track the steps needed to earn a referral. For example, you could show that on average it takes three visits to a splitter to earn a new referral and for a non-user it is eight visits. This conversation will help the internal stakeholders to understand the process and the effort to earn a referral.

4. In your tracking and reports, detail the sales process, stages and projections to affirm that you have a well-defined plan. Show the process of advancing referral relationships.

Planned Advancement

While the important part of closing is to appreciate that there is no magical phrase, asking for them to take a next step does need to be staged and it does require preparation. For your mini-closes, it is important to provide the reason why you think that it is a good idea and consider your role and their role.

[box]Selling without closing is just conversation.  – Personal Selling Power[/box]

Lay out all the detail in one to two lines. For example, “Dr. Smith with your renewed interest in the sports medicine offerings, let’s get Dr. Doe the new sports partner at Bone and Joint out here to meet you. Let me put that together… “

Give them the floor. They need to respond to this question and engage in the next step. Advancing the relationship is an active conversation. Make sure they are interested and not passively letting you push the next steps.

Get more commitment. With each successive mini-close you should be inching toward a commitment.

Timing Matters.  Likely it goes without saying, but beyond the right words and the right context, asking for the next level of commitment is an art not a science. When you ask, make sure you are prepared with the right level of energy and positive tone in your voice, a succinct statement of the action and the plan for implementation. And if you are in doubt, watch the kids with their lists for Santa; they have the tone just right!