How to Win Over the Decision Maker from First Phone Call to Final Agreement

I love the challenge of making a sale. But like anything worth having, getting a decision maker to that point takes dedication, preparation, and hard work.

Every sale is different, and there is no one tip that will get 100% of your prospects to buy. However, every successful sale has one thing in common: The rep got the decision maker to say yes. Yes to the first phone call, to the first meeting—and to the final agreement. So everything you do as a sales rep should focus on getting you closer to that one word.  

The First Phone Call

The first contact you have with the decision maker is crucial, but as you’re probably all too aware, it’s impossible to know who will pick up the phone on your first dial. It may take several calls with receptionists, assistants, and gatekeepers before you get to the decision maker, or they may pick up on the first call. You need to be ready for either scenario.

Having a well-defined sales methodology can help set the scene for how you handle your first interactions with the decision maker. For more on how the right sales methodology can help you define your goals, set your expectations, and codify the role you should play in the relationship, check out our article, 7 Successful Sales Methodologies Commercial Services Sales Teams Swear By.

Use calls with gatekeepers for fact-finding

Successful salespeople know that not all calls with gatekeepers are a waste of time. You can use them to learn a lot about the company’s pain points, culture, structure, and more. But as soon as you get the decision maker on the phone, you have only one goal: Get to a face-to-face meeting.

Focus on setting up the next steps

If the decision maker picks up the phone on the first try, great! Ask if it’s a good time for them to talk. If it is, focus on scheduling the next face-to-face meeting. If they aren’t able to speak just then, tell them you respect their time and ask them when would be a good time to call back.

The important thing is to never hang up without a next step planned. Now that you’ve got the big fish on the line, the last thing you want is to let them off the hook!

The Face-to-Face Meeting

There are many ways to set up a face-to-face meeting—the decision maker may want to schedule the meeting at their office, their manufacturing plant, or via videoconference. And the closer you can get to seeing the decision maker in their own environment, the more you will be able to learn about them and their business.

Focus on building a bond and rapport

The fastest way to get your prospect to put up defenses is to be too quick with your sales pitch. No one wants to do business with a pushy salesperson. They prefer someone they trust and with whom they have a good relationship.

When a salesperson jumps straight to the pitch without taking time to listen to and learn about the prospect, it can look as if they only care about their own personal gain. Building and facility services are all about forging long-term relationships, so prospects will be wary of reps who only seem concerned about their short-term commission.

If you start by building a bond with the prospect, it shows that you value the relationship and makes them feel more comfortable opening up about their needs and pain points. And showing the decision maker that they’re dealing with a person helps redefine the relationship to one of mutual benefit where both parties are helping each other rather than a simple zero-sum transaction.

Of course, no one is saying to be friendly at the expense of profits. In fact, quite the opposite. Investing a little more time at the beginning of the relationship can lead to much higher returns over the long term.

Define the relationship with an up-front contract

Successful salespeople are open about their intentions and goals from the start. The up-front contract, created by sales training leader Sandler Training, is a great way to define the relationship, including the goals and expectations of each party.

By telling a potential customer, “These are my goals and this is how I plan to achieve them,” you are laying out an up-front contract that the prospect can use to understand the nature of the relationship and how your actions fit into that relationship.

According to Sandler, the up-front contract is “about creating subconscious comfort” in the prospect’s mind by ensuring everyone is aligned and understands the goals from the beginning.

There are five key elements to an up-front contract:

  • Purpose: Define the goals of the meeting or relationship.
  • The other person’s agenda and expectations: Explain your understanding of what the decision maker wants and expects from the relationship.
  • Your agenda and expectations: Explain your goals for the meeting or relationship and what you will need from the decision maker.
  • Time and logistics: Outline the relationship’s timeline, important dates, and milestones. Make sure both parties agree on the time, date, length, and location of meetings.
  • Outcome: What is the goal for the meeting? For the relationship? Make sure everyone agrees on the next steps.

As you outline the up-front contract, you are also giving the prospect an opportunity to end the relationship on agreeable, friendly terms.

While it may seem counterproductive to say to a decision maker, “If you realize at any moment that my company/product is not the best solution for your problem, let me know. And I will do the same,” this can make them more receptive to your message by helping to disarm them and lowering their defenses.

Ask the decision maker what they need (and then dig a little deeper)

By now, you should have some idea of the decision maker’s problem. But you still need to clarify the facts and ask the decision maker about the specifics of their situation and their goals.

It’s important to remember that even seemingly straightforward issues can reveal complexities upon closer inspection. Once you’ve identified what the decision maker is dealing with, it’s time to dig into the details and qualify the pain points.

  • Identify why this is painful to the decision maker: Maybe the issue impacts the decision maker themselves or affects them in a more roundabout way. Is the pain point causing a loss of money or time? And why is this important?
  • Determine whether this is the root problem or a symptom: Is the problem identified by the decision maker the root cause of their pain, or is the pain point part of a more significant issue? If it’s a symptom, does it make sense to look into solving the underlying problem, or is a short-term fix good enough for now?
  • Understand the “why now?”: Some problems need to be solved right away; others can wait. Is this an urgent problem or one they’re just trying to check off the to-do list?
  • Quantify the severity of the pain point: Is the decision maker trying to solve a minor annoyance or an existential crisis? What is on the line if they can’t solve the problem? Will they lose a few minutes walking up the stairs because the elevator is broken, or will they lose their job because an HVAC system failure could ruin the company servers.

The Finishing Touches

As the relationship with the decision maker strengthens, you need to adjust your focus to getting the decision maker on board and ready to sign.

Pitch directly to the decision maker’s needs

Now that you’ve gotten to the root of the problem, it’s time to show the decision maker how and why your offer is the best solution for their specific needs.

Is price their most important deciding factor? Calculate the value and ROI and how much they would be losing by not choosing you. Do they need the service urgently? Call your service manager and get the exact date you can have the customer set up.

You can pitch the best, cheapest, top-rated janitorial services that come every week from Monday to Friday and will leave their building spotless, but it won’t do any good if all they need is someone to clean their lobby on Saturdays.

Don’t be afraid to push back

There are times when you may need to tell the decision maker things they don’t necessarily want to hear. But disagreements can lead to a stronger, more trusting relationship if you handle them correctly.

For example, imagine the decision maker is dead set on a specific service package, but you know it won’t be enough to meet their long-term needs. You could smile, hand them a pen, and walk away with a signed contract (and a guaranteed commission). You would also walk away with a customer who is likely to call you in six months, angry that your service isn’t meeting their needs.

Now imagine you took a moment to respectfully disagree, gave them concrete examples of why their choice may not be the best, and explained why they should go with a different solution. It may lead to a few unpleasant conversations in the short term, but it is an investment in the relationship that will build long-term trust and loyalty.

Sometimes a decision maker sets requirements or has demands that you simply can’t (or won’t) meet. In these situations, you may need to push back with a “not OK” response, tell them you can’t agree to the current conditions, and that you’re going to walk away.

You might need to use the “not OK” response if you see that closing the deal will take more time or more money than it’s worth. For example, the decision maker might say, “I like your offer, but my company requires that I get five proposals before making a decision.” If you know this will take too long, you could say, “We just don’t have the capacity to wait for such a long decision. I’m going to pull my proposal from the running, but I’d be happy to provide my opinion on the proposals you collect to help you make a decision when you’re ready.”

It is important to note that this is not an ultimatum, and it doesn’t have to be the end of the relationship with the client. It’s actually an opportunity to say, “I don’t think this is the best fit for us, but I will be happy to help if I can.”

Eliminate the prospect’s reasons to say no

It’s much easier to say no than it is to say yes, so if a client can find a reason to say no, for whatever reason, that will likely be their answer. But taking away their reasons to say no makes it easier for them to say yes.

To do this, it’s essential to focus on the unique set of challenges and goals each customer has. As humans, we all share common psychological barriers we need to overcome. It’s important to not focus solely on business challenges at the expense of the very human doubts your prospect may be having. 

When dealing with the business, the reasons to say no are usually simple issues like, “this product may not solve my problem” or “the price may not be acceptable.” But the concerns the individual has are often more complex or personal. Their reasons may be driven by unconscious biases such as loss aversion (“if this doesn’t work, I may not get that promotion”), the sunk cost fallacy (“I’ve already spent so much setting up my previous provider”), or the gambler’s fallacy (“I don’t need maintenance because my systems have never failed before”).

By the time you get into the final stretch of the sales process, you’ve likely already answered most of the significant business concerns, and the personal concerns start to surface. Luckily, if you’ve been following the previous steps, you’ve already built a strong rapport with the decision maker and can leverage that relationship to get past these concerns and close the sale.

Chart Your Course to Yes with Convex

There is no single solution to getting a decision maker to sign. It takes preparation, planning, and persistence. And, like any journey, there are often setbacks and detours. But the solutions we develop at Convex, such as the pipeline management solution, can help sales reps organize leads, focus on the best targets, and prepare for meetings like a well-oiled machine––all within a single platform.

To learn more, check out our article 4 Creative Ways Our Users Manage the Sales Funnel With Atlas or schedule a free demo to see our tools in action.

Originally published on June 27, 2022 Updated on June 27, 2022

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