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#309: The Small Close

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 20, 2010
Closing consulting engagements sometimes takes longer than expected, even when we've had long discussions with the client and everything seems to have been negotiated. Why do some consultants seem to have more success with the close?

We'd all like to have an easy close to the engagement for which we have been talking with a prospect. This would seem to be good for bothparties. However, even when the client has come to us with a request and we think we are ready to start the engagement, the close doesn't come so easily. Why is that? Is the client getting cold feet or have we confused or complicated the issue? Did we expand the client's understanding of the scope of the issue (a good thing), or did we propose an unnecessarily elaborate approach to satisfying the client's need (shame on us)?

Closing is rarely a straight and sure path. Buying is an emotional process and if you force the buyer into a yes or no decision before they are ready, the answer will likely be "no." You know how you react when salespeople push you, so consider how a manager who is being asked to cede executive power to a consultant feels when pressed. The alternative to the yes or no decision is what is called the "Small Question."

The Small Question is part of what is called an assumptive, or small, close, where you assume the buyer has already agreed to purchase your services. Instead of asking for the sale, ask for something that would be a part of the sale. For example, you could ask if the prospect would find it more useful for you to brief the board or coach him or her to do the final briefing at the end of the engagement. Or, ask if the sales training should include developing a series of online training sessions. Finally, you might ask if it makes sense to conduct a pilot before going company-wide.

Tip: A yes answer to one of these questions is likely a yes answer to the engagement, but is much easier to make for the prospect. Once they have said yes to a critical part of the entire project (usually a high value part), they are on the path to saying yes to the whole engagement. Gauge the client's comfort with your small question and explore successively larger ones.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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