How to Determine if Your Deal Can Close Without Telegraphing a Concession

If you are involved in sales in any way then I’m sure you are familiar with the pressures associated with reaching end-of-quarter or perhaps even end-of-month quotas. It is unfortunate that these pressures often give rise to many dysfunctional selling practices. One common tactic is to offer a concession of some kind in order to close the sale before the end of the month or quarter.

Trading Margin for Timing

End-of-quarter discounts are essentially trading margin for timing. I am not an advocate of discounting in an attempt to accelerate timing. However, having worked for a publicly traded company for almost two decades, I do understand the dynamics involved. In some cases revenue recognized in this quarter may actually be more valuable to the company than that same revenue the following quarter.

So as you can imagine, I have a long history of executive management encouraging accelerated sales every quarter, often times by whatever means possible.

The Birth of an Ingenious Trial Close

I recall a particular quarter where I had on my office whiteboard exactly ten opportunities for new business that were all in play. One of these opportunities was ripe and ready to go but the others were somewhere in the middle of their buying process. Two weeks before the end of the quarter we received the word from above — this was a particularly challenging quarter, and we needed to use all legal means possible to bring in more business.

I was encouraged to offer discounts, which I did, to all ten accounts as an inducement to close before month’s end. Each account knew that the discount was conditional upon receiving agreements before end of quarter and that they would not receive that discount if it came in later.

The Outcome…

So how did it work?  One deal signed — the very deal that was already at the closing stage before we had decided to start offering discounts.

The remaining nine accounts chose to continue their evaluation rather than take advantage of the discounts. Naturally we continued working these into the subsequent quarter, and ultimately we closed seven more of the original ten for a total of eight out of ten.

That Awkward Moment

Unfortunately, on every opportunity there was this awkward conversation about whether or not they could get the same discount they saw the previous quarter. “If it was worth it to you before, why isn’t it worth it to you now?” they would ask. Resisting the request would sometimes create a tangible erosion of goodwill.  Anyone else recognize this situation?

A Fortunate Repeat

Ironically, near the end of the very next quarter I found myself in a repeat fire drill of the previous quarter where discounts were encouraged to close business. Naturally I used this opportunity to provide the discounts I had before and all ended well — though with lower margins. And thus I found myself having unintentionally trained my buyers to wait until the end of the quarter in order to get concessions, but that’s another story for another day.

Epiphany

It was this dynamic that caused me to think creatively about how to offer concessions. There must be a way, I thought, to see if a deal can really close by end of quarter without telegraphing the concession and having to give that concession later even if they couldn’t close by EOQ.

And thus “Something Special” was born.

The “Something Special” Trial Close

Many professionals have told me that this one close is among the most valuable things they’ve ever learned in sales. You be the judge. Here it is verbatim:

“Does it make sense for me to see if we can do something special for you if we can get everything wrapped up by the end of the quarter?”

“Does it make sense for me to see if we can do something special for you if we can get everything wrapped up by the end of the quarter?”

Naturally you adapt the time frame to suit your situation. Otherwise I recommend you use it verbatim.

Attitude

It’s important that we come to the conversation without any particular concession in mind here. Determining exactly what the client deems as “special” will require another step and further conversation. Your attitude should be: “Well, I don’t know what my options are without talking to some folks, but if the timing is right I’ll go see what I can do for us.”

The beauty of this approach is if the timing isn’t right for the client, you will never have to discuss what that “something special” might have been, and your margins are preserved going into the next period.

If the buyer says that it “IS possible to wrap things up” within your timeframe, then you have a couple of options:

  1. Ask what they would find most valuable. Not guaranteeing anything until you first talk with others inside your organization.
  2. Tell them you will go see what you can do and that you will report back. Then go discuss your options with your organization or supervisor.

These two options are not mutually exclusive. I prefer to use them both. The only time you would want to skip option one is if it is possible that the client will suggest concession options that you know you won’t be able to satisfy. In that case, asking will only set an expectation that you can’t meet.

Concessions

While concessions vary by industry, some common ones involve delivery, training details, additional services, optional modules, maintenance, payment options, and the list goes on. I have often found that my client’s preference for a concession was not what I was expecting. Based on the dynamics within a given organization, clients often value concessions on services more than a discount on the basic price. Knowing this gives you much more flexibility in crafting your offer, and if a client values something that has a lower hard cost to your company, it’s a real win-win.

Here are some examples of how your conversation might go:

PROFESSIONAL: “Gary, does it make sense for me to see if we can do something special for you if we can get everything wrapped up by the end of the quarter?”
PROSPECTIVE CLIENT: “I don’t think so. Our CEO is out until after the holidays. We wouldn’t be able to do anything until he’s back.”
[Margin Preserved]

PROFESSIONAL: “Hey Gary, does it make sense for me to see if we can do something special for you if we can get everything wrapped up by the end of the quarter?”
PROSPECTIVE CLIENT: “Maybe. What did you have in mind?”

PROFESSIONAL: “Well, I don’t know what my options are without talking to some folks, but if the timing is right I’ll go see what I can do for us.”
PROSPECTIVE CLIENT: “If the offer is right I think we can do something. Go find out what you can do.”
[Opportunity!]

PROFESSIONAL: “Hey Gary, does it make sense for me to see if we can do something special for you if we can get everything wrapped up by the end of the quarter?”
PROSPECTIVE CLIENT: “Hmmm, what are you thinking?”

PROFESSIONAL: “Well, I don’t know what my options are without talking to our CEO, but if we can actually do something this quarter, he said he would be willing to work with clients.”
PROSPECTIVE CLIENT: “If the offer’s good enough we’re ready to do something. Why don’t you find out what he’s thinking?”

PROFESSIONAL: “You got it. Just to speed the process up a bit; is there any part of the proposal that you would get more value out of than another? I’ll see if that’s an area we can play in for us.”
PROSPECTIVE CLIENT: “There is. Charitie is concerned that some of our folks will need more training than usual, so anything you could do in that area will make me hero with her. From my perspective, it would be great if there was something you could do with the maintenance. Lowering it or starting it later would be great. So that’s it, maintenance and training. See if there is something he can do there. Thanks.”
[Opportunity!]

Three Important Outcomes

Something Special accomplishes three important things:

  1. It doesn’t telegraph any kind of concession or the size of that concession.
  2. It reveals if the client is able to do something within your suggested time frame.
  3. It positions you as an advocate for the client. You are doing all this on their behalf.

If you’ve ever found yourself on the end-of-quarter discount roller-coaster, you will appreciate how “Something Special” preserves both revenues and your commissions.

Closing Tip: To test timing and preserve margins use the “Something Special” trial close.

Until next time!

James

PS – You can learn more about this trial close and The Perfect Close itself in The Perfect Close – The Secret to Closing Sales on Amazon.

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