If there’s no next step, there’s no deal
You can’t always be closing
Lots of gurus chant on about asking for the sale, but if you’re not asking for the next step first, you’re never going to even get the chance to pop the big question.
Some reps don’t like to ask for the next step or they don’t know how, but you can build it into the sales process so it’s just a natural part of the discussion.
Here’s what to do:
In addition to mutually agreeing who’s going to do what when, you should discuss what success looks like: is this the last thing to do before a purchase decision or just the first step of many?
Remember though, your prospect doesn’t NEED to do anything. Use the words “next steps” instead of “tasks” and frame actions in a time-window rather than a specific due date. Never use project management software to manage a deal.
Get it in writing
Memories of events start diverging the instant the parties involved part ways. Ideally you and the prospect can share a screen and mutually agree the next steps as they’re committed to writing; second best is an email directly after the call with detailed action items.
If it’s via email, be sure to ask for an acknowledgement that you correctly captured who’s doing what and that they’re onboard with what you wrote down.
Save the date
There’s no better time to compare calendars than when you’re actually talking. Even if the next step is two weeks out and five other people need to be in the room, secure the time on their calendar. It gives you a mandate to follow up and is a strong indicator of interest.
Share the load
No matter what, think of some next step for the prospect. Whether it’s reading some material or getting budget numbers, having an action item gets them invested in the deal. If they’re not willing to lift a finger, then you have a strong indicator about their interest level, which helps define how much effort you should put in yourself.
“I’ll think about it”, “Let me talk some other people and we’ll get back to you.”
These are not next steps. These are the sounds of prospect just being polite and your deal becoming dead. Trying to pick up from this position is a huge time waste: you have no mandate to call them again, no new deliverable to share and they have made no promises to give any more of their time.
As a last resort, acknowledge where you are, as it may prompt some new info from your prospect:
“It sounds like [their problem / your solution] isn’t a priority now, or is it never going to be a priority? So can we talk again next quarter? Yes? Great, may as well get it on the calendar now.”