IT’S THE FIRST meeting with a potential client. Instead of launching into a pre-determined sales pitch you take a consultative sales approach. You use the BRACES process to guide you through the meeting. You started off well by briefly building rapport (‘BR’) to position yourself and your company. Now it’s time to move to the next stage - ascertaining (‘A’) in detail the prospective client’s situation and confirming (‘C’) your understanding.
IN THE WORLD of business, it is important to be seen to be moving with the times. That's because a big part of running a successful enterprise showing shareholders, clients, employees, partners and potential investors that the organisation is up with the best, forward looking and always in search of improvement.
MANY SENIOR EXECUTIVES will assure you that to seal the deal, you must have a strong personal relationship with the person you are doing business with. They emphasise the importance of the handshake, face-to-face communication, and knowing what makes the other person tick. For people in sales, business development or in deal-making roles, this can mean spending much time away from the home base, chasing up new contracts or maintaining old ones.
NO ONE IN the developed world can complain about a lack of access to the latest business news. Screens in office lifts, shopping malls, and banks flashing news headlines and stock market updates almost round the clock, while Twitter, Google, and all of our most trusted news sources are always accessible from the smartphone in your pocket. With such coverage, very little goes unreported and uncommented on – from corporate restructuring and earnings to business collapses.
YOU'RE MEETING WITH a prospective client for the first time. Your only prior contact with the person has been a few emails and a brief telephone call. After introductions have been made and business cards exchanged, you pull out your laptop, fire up PowerPoint and start your sales pitch – regional offices, qualified team, services or products offered, etc… This scenario is played out time and time again when selling professional services. The problem is that a solution is being offered before there is an understanding of the prospective client’s business. Nothing good can come from this. Even if you propose the right solution, you may be missing out on a much bigger opportunity. Or worse, the solution you’re proposing may be wrong. As professionals we know the importance of understanding the client’s needs – we’ve read the books, attended seminars, participated in training, heard it from our managers. But this doesn’t stop us from offering a premature solution. The justifications (or excuses) are many. It’s a sales meeting and we’re expected to sell. The client wants to hear what we’ve got. I have to take every opportunity to sell.
IN MOST ORGANISATIONS, when a new or unexpected problem comes to light, the reflex action is to call a meeting. On the assumption that communication will spark ideas and diverse input will lead to results, a varied selection of the company's great and good will gather in the boardroom, hunker down around a conference table, or drag a few extra chairs into the manager's corner office. All too often, what then follows is a performance that could have been scripted days or weeks in advance. The topic, the timescales and the experience of the people involved will obviously differ, but the "characters", their approaches and methods of acting tend to be remarkably similar wherever you go.
ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY have had a phenomenal impact on the business world. Ubiquitous high-speed internet and mobile devices have given constant access to vast quantities of information and completely transformed the way companies operate. These changes are usually heralded as promoting speed and efficiency. They are designed to make life easier for the average employee. But all too often, it turns out that the net effect is just the opposite. For many people, the working day now stretches far beyond the mythical "nine to five", and it rarely finishes when they leave the office.
WHETHER YOU are leading a team or an organisation, success always depends on the efforts of every individual in a group. Some employees are naturally motivated and will do all they can. Others might prefer to sit back and watch. What needs to be kept in mind, though, is that you cannot force people to be motivated. You can only create a working environment that encourages them to take part fully and maximise their potential. As a leader, you can do this by framing the future.
YOUR MARKETING has resulted in a stream of interest from prospective clients. The phone is ringing off the hook. The switchboard is jammed with requests for meetings. The first available time on your calendar is two weeks from Wednesday. As great as this may sound, it doesn’t happen. It’s not unrealistic to imagine someone attending your luncheon seminar coming up to you afterwards and saying “I’m interested in learning more about this, can we get together?” It’s also possible you receive a response from a contact marketing email from someone wanting to meet once they return from their business trip. These do occur – but for most of us, this is not enough to meet our business development goals.
WHETHER YOU CALL it product development, strategic planning or sales forecasting, in the end, it comes down to the same thing: to be successful over time, businesses need people who can see the future. They don't have to be geniuses or visionaries in the mould of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford or Bill Gates. And they certainly don't need to come up with vacuous "vision statements" about having a passion to serve customers and be the best. What every business does need, and always will, is individuals who can see what's coming next. On one level that may amount to little more than functional foresight. For example, right around the holidays, planes will be overbooked, shopping will be intense, and any production services needed will be slower than usual. Base any plans around any of those factors and you won't go far wrong.