The best way to Advance your sales success…!

Links in a chain

Photo by Grant MacDonald via Flickr

A successful sale – for everything but the simplest transactions – is a series of steps…and in order to reach a win-win conclusion you have to make it through all of the steps. But sometimes the most challenging part of the selling discussion is being able to link those steps together and keep everyone on the same page.

Luckily there’s an easy answer to hold everything together – the best way to maintain control of your sales process is to use an idea that Larry Lewis from Client Builder Sales and Marketing calls an Advance Agreement.

When it’s done properly, an Advance Agreement will guarantee you won’t have the potential buyer deciding to ‘Think it over’…or to have a perfectly good meeting end as a waste of time because the discussion got off track. It’s an invaluable concept and it’s pretty simple to start using consistently.

What’s an Advance Agreement?

An Advance Agreement is pretty much just what it sounds like – it’s the idea that before you have a sales discussion…or before you move on to the next step of your selling process, you reach an agreement with your prospective buyer on what’s going to happen in the meeting. At a high level, here’s what’s covered in an Advance Agreement – these are points that you BOTH need to agree on:

  • Decide the time, place and duration for the meeting
  • Agree that you’re going to respect each other’s time and limit interruptions
  • Agree on an agenda (high level, it doesn’t need to be point by point)
  • Agree on possible outcomes and potential next steps
  • Agree that if the overall relationship isn’t going to be a fit, that you’ll make that clear right away (again avoiding wasting the other person’s time).

It sounds really simple – and it is…however it doesn’t happen very often and using it properly and consistently can have a huge positive impact on your sales. The reason this is so impactful is that it’s an engaging way to make sure you’re both focused on the same outcome. It removes doubts, it makes the whole process transparent and creates an environment where it’s easy to have a meaningful discussion.

Pretty powerful – right?

Sample Advance Agreement

The details of any given advance agreement are going to be driven based on your particular situation – do you typically close a sale in the first meeting? If so, then your agreement would focus on getting enough information on both sides to be able to make that decision…and setting the expectation that there will be a decision at the end (and you both agree to that). If your process requires multiple meetings, then agreement just focuses on what’s needed in order to move (or not) to the next step.

Here’s what a generic Advance Agreement might sound like as you start an initial meeting with a potential client:

Tom – thanks for taking the time to meet with me.  When we set up this meeting we agreed to get together for an hour – does that still work for you?  (Make sure you’re on the same page)

I also wanted to make sure this was a productive use of time for both of us – I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a meeting where you were constantly interrupted by calls or people coming in.  Is there any way we can make sure that doesn’t happen here?

(Getting clear on expectations and behaviors)

As we talked about over the phone, I don’t know if I can help you or not without knowing more about what you’re up against, so I’d like to spend a lot of our time really digging into the challenges you’re facing.  I also suspect you’d like to know a bit about what we do and how we do it – so I’d be glad to cover that with you.

Is there anything else you’d like to talk about today?

(Establishing a clear agenda that works for both of us)

Based on our discussion, it should be fairly clear by the end of the hour whether or not it makes sense to keep moving this discussion forward or not. Can we agree that if there isn’t a good fit (for either of us) that we’ll be up front and candid about that? (Keep us from wasting time)

On the other hand, if it does look like there’s potential here, the next obvious step would be to setup a follow up meeting and talk about your budget and how  you all make decisions – are you comfortable with that outcome…assuming that it looks like there might be a fit?

Imagine having the above discussion, in a very comfortable open way with a potential client. You’ve established respect and everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect from the meeting.

Have you ever used anything like an advance agreement in your sales process? Better question – do you use it consistently? I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach