Selling is a lot like archery—aim right for your target and you might miss; aim a little higher and you'll be right on point. To build long-lasting relationships with clients, say Tim Hurson and Tim Dunne, coauthors of Never Be Closing, it's crucial to think beyond the sale and find ways to deliver value.
Associate Editor Maria Minsker caught up with Hurson, who shared his insight on what to do before, during, and after a client meeting to accomplish more than just sealing the deal.
CRM: How did you and Tim Dunne come up with the idea for this book?
Tim Hurson: The background we have is in innovation and creative thinking. One thing we learned is that even though people don't think creativity can be taught, you can apply a kind of structure to it and teach it, and people can get better at it. The same is true for selling. We discovered that most salespeople have a pretty consistent pattern. They do things in a particular way. We accumulated this information and put together a process that allows salespeople to demonstrate that they can be useful to their client, and [that] ultimately enables them to build a relationship, not just succeed at one sale. Anyone can make a sale, but if you want to make a second, third, and fourth sale, you have to focus on the relationship.
CRM: The title of your book alludes to a popular sales mantra. What was the reasoning behind this choice?
Hurson: We called our book Never Be Closing because most closing techniques are little more than ways to get people to commit before they're ready. The old high-pressure mantra "always be closing" sees the sale as the end of a relationship. We think it's the other way around: The relationship is the beginning of the sale. If you want to develop ongoing relationships that have the potential for sale after sale, "always be useful" makes a lot more sense. We think that "never be closing" [is going to be a great mantra] for salespeople because of what it says about their philosophy when it comes to selling. It's a philosophy where everyone wins, again and again.
CRM: What is some of your advice for preparing for that first big meeting with a prospect?
Hurson: One of the most important things that we recommend is establishing success criteria. It's astonishing how many people think that the only way to measure success is whether or not they get the sale—that's simply not true. We recommend abiding by a tool called DRIVE, an acronym that allows you to measure success by assessing what you want to do, what you don't want to do (we call these restrictions or risks), what you are prepared to invest, what values you bring to the meeting, and finally, what the essentials are, meaning are you getting a meeting with the client's boss? Are you getting a second meeting? Organizing goals with the DRIVE tool is a great way to prepare, because it helps salespeople think about more than just the sale—it helps them think about the holistic interaction.
CRM: Never Be Closing frames the actual client meeting as a three-act play. What role does this metaphor have in sales?
Hurson: This approach is something that we see in all cultures, in every movie we see, every book we read. It's a great metaphor for the sales meeting. The first act has got to be devoted to earning the credibility to ask tough questions. Once you've established that credibility, you're ready to move into act two, the discovery part. Your aim here is to ask the questions that will reframe the way the client looks at his or her situation, not to be manipulative, but to give him or her insight into it. Once you've gathered enough info, it's time to move into act three, which is a cascade of various ideas that you have that might help your client. It's all about having a genuine desire to help, to be of use, and to be top of mind.
CRM: Why do you warn salespeople against moving on too soon, especially when a meeting didn't go well?
Hurson: Once a bad meeting is over, it's tempting to just leave it in the past. But chances are you made a series of promises, and you have to follow up with that information. The more important part, however, is the debrief, where you take an honest look at how you performed. Salespeople need to ask themselves what they did right, what they did wrong, and how they can do better. This way, every single meeting that they have—successful or not—becomes a building block for the future.