A few weeks ago I wrote an article entitled “How Do We Get A Decision.” In the post, I explored how we try and ensure we have the right people at the meeting so we can get a decision. Assuming we have done that, I now suggest to you that there are 6 ways you can tell the answer is yes. Let’s look at how we can tell and why that’s important to us. Let me tell you a true story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
I was in Johan’s office in Munich and our Agency had just pitched a summer promotion concept to his team, which was original and the timing unusual.
The World Cup was being held in Germany in 2006 and as McDonald’s were a major sponsor of the event, this was a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the occasion and drive traffic in the restaurants through soccer related promotional activity. However, we had been down this path before and not got the green light.
We had presented three variations of a theme and he kept walking back to a particular set of concept boards. Then he started to draw on a white board, whilst doing so he started to get animated and ask me about what the next steps would have to be and timing should we go ahead.
I answered his questions, and although not letting myself get too carried away yet, it started to dawn on me he was about to say yes.
Some of his team in the meeting started throwing out positive suggestions for enhancing the mechanics of the promotion.
At this point, I wanted to leap up, punch the air and shout “YES.” However, this would have been rather unseemly given the circumstances and also very premature; but the thought and image were very tempting. Instead, I let him talk, let him own the promotion, let him lead the direction.
Thirty minutes later, I did exactly what I had thought about, but in the car park with several of my team. We had done it. He had said “YES.” My premonition had come true. But how did I know? Let’s look at how you can tell the answer is yes and more importantly, when you get the clues, what you should do about it.
In the early part of my career with Cadbury’s, we were taken through training that taught us what “Buying Signals” were and how to recognize them. This is still a term used in sales circles and when recognized they are supposed to trigger a certain behavior in the sales person to “Close the Sale”. Although effective, I found “Closing the Sale” a difficult process with which to identify. It seemed a short term answer to a short term opportunity. It seemed manipulative.
I prefer to think I’m building relationships, and partnerships now and for the long term and that any resulting business transaction comes from adding value to that relationship.
However, the “Buying Signals” were very useful and I have found they provide clues as to whether we will be successful. So how did I tell what was going on and what made me realize we were almost there? There were tell tale signs and here’s what I observed.
1. Suggesting alternatives
He started suggesting tweaks in the concept and how this would make it better to sell internally.
2. Talking about it as if it is their idea
As the conversation developed, he owned it. “What if I did …?” In fact I encouraged the fact that it was his idea.
3. Expressing Excitement
As the discussion progressed he got more animated and jumped to the white board and started scribbling and drawing.
4. Asking questions of his team
Much of the conversation was punctuated with “And then what if we did…?” In other words he was validating his commitment and ensuring his team were also on board.
5. Questions about the Action Required
Johan asked me if we were to go ahead, what do we need to do? So he was already thinking about the implications for his resources and his time and the process for implementation.
6. Suggestions on Timing
As he thought through the Action points and we discussed them, he started putting milestones to the various action items. This was tangible proof of his commitment.
These tell tale signs meant I did less talking. I observed, listened, took notes and added supportive comments when required and offered additional ideas when asked.
But why was this all important? It meant I had enough signals for my team and I to change tack. Instead of talking about why we should be doing the promotional activity we had outlined, we started talking about how, and that is a much easier, informal and collaborative discussion to have. It is a discussion which is more of partners working together than one team pitching to another.