What’s the difference between a chat and a sales call? Read on.

Business owner A goes to see a new customer. He starts with the polite chit-chat, then moves into his sales pitch, asking the right questions as he goes, the customer makes a couple of buying signals – the sales person is excited, wraps up his presentation with his key points, thanks the customer for their time and is gone. He all but ran out of the building. At some point he’ll send details or call or something – maybe in a few days.

Business Owner B (we’ll call him BOB) also goes to see that same customer the same day. Chit-chat, pitch, questions, buying signals, preso wrap-up and then….he remembers why he’s here. To sell something! BOB knows the best time to get agreement on next steps is right then and there. “So Mr Customer, I’ll send you a proposal (code for something you, Mr Customer, can buy) for your new thermo-discombobulator tomorrow afternoon and I’ll give you a call/drop in, etc on Thursday to see if you’ve got any questions. Is that okay?”

Now the customer is clear he’ll receive a proposal and be followed up by phone/in person. In fact, he’ll be expecting it. All BOB needs to do is follow through.

All things being equal, BOB is more likely to get the sale – he’s set the process up correctly. That’s not to say things don’t go wrong, people might not like what you’re selling, etc – but wouldn’t you rather know that before you leave? Unless you ask, you’ll never know.

So many times, the person doing the selling forgets to outline the next steps and ask for permission to continue the process.

Once some execs and I made it all the way out the client’s door to the cab, after having flown in for a meeting and my companions were settling themselves to get in the cab. They’d come, they’d chatted, they’d left a power point presentation to read – they were done.
At that point I had to step in and ask the CEO if he was happy with what we’d presented and could we follow up with a more fleshed out proposal and some tighter numbers. He looked positively relieved. He later thanked me for asking the question. He said he wasn’t quite sure what would have happened as he’d left for Europe a couple of days later and was away for a month and wouldn’t have really remembered the details of the conversation when he got back.

We won the business on that occasion – but what would have happened had we made it into the cab without asking and our competitor asked the question we hadn’t. Imagine how disappointed the sales team would have been had he not returned their follow-up calls (not knowing he was on leave).

So next time you’re on a sales call – be a BOB – by all means chat, but ask the question that will propel you forward on the path of new business or, if it’s not meant to be with that customer, at least let them release you for your next one.

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