Act 5 Sell the Company

Why are you a good match for this customer?

“Better keep that writing pad handy,” Joe said when Matt finished scribbling. “You’ve got a little more homework to do tonight.”

“Yeah, I’m sure I do. But let me take stock of where I am in this drama,” Matt said, looking again at the laminated sheet Joe had given him in the airport to illustrate the nine acts of the Action Selling process. “If I can get Iverson to agree on at least three high-yield needs that we can solve for him, then Act 4 is
over. Also, I’ve done all I can to address his first major buying decision, which is whether to buy the salesperson. I’m finally done ‘selling myself.’

Acts 2, 3 and 3 sell the salesperson. During Act 5 you sell your company.

“Let me rephrase that,” he added quickly, as Joe was about to speak. “Assuming I did everything right in Acts 2, 3, and 4, Iverson has made the first of his five major buying decisions: He has bought me. So now we move on to Act 5: I sell my company. After that, I’ll address his remaining buying decisions: product, price, and time-to-buy.”

“Right,” Joe said. “Now, when Action Selling says that the customer has ‘bought’ the salesperson, it means the customer is genuinely open to doing business with you. He perceives you as trustworthy, a good listener, and sincerely interested in solving his problems. Once you have agreed on his needs, you both can move ahead to his second major buying decision, which is whether to buy your company.”

Matt nodded.

“Up to this point,” Joe said, “you have done very little talking and a whole lot of listening. In Act 5, the salesperson moves to center stage. Here’s where you start to do more of the talking. You make that move easily and naturally with a simple transition question: ‘How much do you know about my company?’ After the customer answers, you say, ‘Let me cover a couple of things that I think will be important to you.’”

Matt noted the phrases on his legal pad.

In Act 5, your role changes. The salesperson does more of the talking.

When customers are deciding whether to ‘buy your company,’ they want to know three basic things,” Joe said. With Matt looking on, he wrote those three things on a page of his notebook: What does it do? What is it known for? And are we a good match?

“Your company story is the main tool you have to position us in the marketplace relative to the competition,” Joe said. “Since your competitors are always trying to unsell your company by telling their stories, yours has to be good.”

Mine’s good, Matt thought. Go ahead, ask me.

“The parts of your company story that answer the customer’s first two questions can be pretty much standardized,” Joe said. “What does it do, and what is it known for? Your explanation of those things won’t change much, so you can regearse your presentation and fine-tune it. For instance, I’ll bet you have a 30-second ‘elevator speech” that explains who we are and what we do.”

“Yep,” Matt said.

“Let’s hear it.”

Matt took a breath (I’d better do this right), and launched his rehearsed explanation: “We’re Sales and Marketing Integration Inc., SMI for short. Our company has created a suite of software that seamlessly combines enterprise resource planning, known as ERP, with a customer-relationship management system, or CRM, for our client’s direct sales force. That’s a lot of acronyms, isn’t it?” He smiled benignly, just as he did when using the line with strangers.

“I’ll explain our business in plain English,” Matt continued. “A lot of companies struggle when they try to capitalize on the advantages of Internet marketing without undercutting the historical strength of their direct sales force. The software they use to advertise and market and sell their products via the Internet won’t communicate easily, if at all, with their CRM systems—the software that keeps track of customers, prospects, and the activity of the direct sales force. So the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing—at least, not without a lot of expensive, timeconsuming integration work with software made by any number of different vendors.

“At SMI, we have built a complete and flexible system that lets companies do both things in harmony: manage and support the direct sales force, and handle everything from advertising to order-taking via the Internet.”

“I like it,” Joe said when Matt finished. “And I’ll bet that if I asked, you could tell some good stories of projects you’ve done for particular clients—how you have helped them solve problems.

Those stories would be just about as polished as your elevator speech, wouldn’t they?”

Most important question…“Is your company a good match?”

Matt nodded confidently.

“Stories like that provide the answer to the customer’s second question, ‘What is your company known for?’” Joe said. “You address that one mainly by telling him what you’ve done for other clients. Which leaves the third and most important question: ‘Are we a good match?’”

He paused and looked at Matt expectantly. You know where I’m going here, don’t you?

Matt did. “That’s the tricky one,” he said. “To tell Iverson why we’re a good match for his company, I’ll need to improvise. I can’t rely on a rehearsed presentation because a good answer will have to be aimed at the needs we agreed on in Act 4. I’ll have to take into account the information about his company and his situation that I uncovered earlier.”

“A little more game planning for tomorrow’s meeting?” Joe asked.


“All right, let’s assume that tomorrow in Act 4 you reach agreement on that first ideal need you’re aiming to uncover by Back-Tracking Benefits: Iverson wants a quick and painless way to solve his problem with the cutthroat competitor—the one that’s using the Internet to undercut APS’ prices.”

“Okay,” Matt said.

“Remind me,” Joe said. “What was the reason you selected that as an ideal need in the first place?”

“Because our company provides a great solution for it.”

“And which product feature makes SMI’s solution so great?”

“We are a single source for a complete system to serve this customer’s needs,” Matt said.

“And a key benefit of that to the customer?”

Matt began to smile. “It’s quick and painless. None of the hassles of dealing with multiple vendors.”

“Wait a minute. This is amazing!” Joe exclaimed, feigning astonishment. “Do you mean to tell me that Iverson just agreed he needs a solution to a problem that is not only harming APS but threatening him personally, and your company happens to have a solution to that very problem? Is that what you’re telling me?”

Matt laughed out loud. “This really is a drama, isn’t it? In Action Selling, everything connects to everything else. And wait, the story gets even better: If Iverson really wants it to be quick and painless, we’re the best solution to his problem.”

“Well, Alleluia! It sounds to me as if SMI and APS might be a good match,” Joe said. “How are you going to make that point to Iverson?”

“You’ll have at least three High-Yield Needs to aim at in Act 5 and in Act 6.”

Joe is loosening up, Matt thought. Somewhere along the line, I think he decided I’m going to make the grade. Either that or the flight attendant slipped some tequila into his bottled water.

He considered Joe’s question. Then he turned and spoke as if Joe were Iverson: “You said you wanted to solve the problem with your cutthroat competitor by yesterday. My company, SMI, offers the only single-source software on the market that will allow you to combine and leverage your direct sales efforts with your Internet efforts. No integration necessary, no dealing with multiple vendors. We’ll install everything you require. We’ll train your people to use the system. As for support and service, we’re the best in the industry. And you’ll have the convenience of one main point of contact for any issues that arise. That individual will be someone you know personally, someone with a big stake in making sure your problems get solved. Namely, me. If you want a solution that’s quick and painless, I think you’ll find that we’re it.”

Yep, Joe thought. I suspect Matt is going to make all of us more money. Aloud, he said, “Good. And remember that you’re going to find at least two more high-yield needs for Iverson to agree on in Act 4. That means you’ll have at least three optional targets to shoot at here in Act 5, when you explain why our company is a good match for his. You’ll also have multiple targets to aim at in Act 6, when you describe why our product represents the best solution for his needs.”

“What we do…What we’re known for…Why we’re a good match,” Matt said, jotting notes.

“Say,” he said, toasting Joe with his water bottle, “I’m doing pretty well in my meeting with this Iverson guy, don’t you think?”