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CHAPTER 6

Getting Your

Competition Fired—

The Commitment

Phase

Throughout The Wedge Sales Call, your approach has

been to help your prospect feel in control of the pace

and the content of the meeting. You have been a tour

guide, taking your prospect along a path of self-discovery.

Once you initially got your prospect comfortable and began

asking a few questions, you deliberately pulled back

and let your prospect do most of the talking.

In the Commitment Phase, you keep doing the same

thing as you move toward closing. Unlike traditional selling,

The Wedge is not about asking your prospects for an agreement

to do business. The Wedge strategy is about getting

them to invite you in, getting them to make the decision.

Some people mistake this apparently laissez-faire approach

to selling as too uncertain and soft. They say a great

communicator with excellent closing skills should take advantage

of those skills and get the prospect to sign up before

the magic moment passes. Moreover, shouldn’t a

salesperson show that he or she cares enough to ask for the

prospect’s business? Those who have mastered The Wedge

know better. They know that the strongest position to be

in is for the prospect to invite you in. That is where you get

the leverage you need to overcome the number one obstacle

to winning the deal—getting your competition fired. If

your prospects cannot fire your competition, they cannot

hire you. So the key is to get your prospects to invite you

in, to confirm that they have the authority and willingness

to fire your competitor, and then to help them do just that.

When I was a young boy in the 1960s, my buddies

and I used to hang around in the yard outside a friend’s

house. On some days, his mother would come to the door

and invite us all inside to have Kool-Aid and cookies.

When that happened, we would charge right in, grab the

cookies and pour the Kool-Aid, and make ourselves at

home. Now and then, though, his mother would stick her

head outside and shout, “Son! You get in here right now!”

So the rest of us would wait awhile, and then we would

walk up to the door cautiously. We’d ask, “May we come

in?” And, if we did get inside, it was a whole different ball

game. One of us would ask tentatively, “Could we have

something to drink?” This is an example of how getting

invited in gives you much greater leverage to go after what

you really want. And in a selling situation, it fosters the relationship

you need with your prospect in order to deal directly

with the issue of the incumbent.

Step 5: White Flag

To get yourself invited in, you are going to avoid the traditional

role of the salesperson who is expected to pop the

question with a trial close. Instead, you are going to wave a

WHITE FLAG. You are going to figuratively throw up your

arms, look at your prospect, and simply say:

“So, what would you like me to do?”

If you have done a reasonably astute job of driving

The Wedge, your prospect’s reaction should be immediate

and positive. He or she may not literally say, “Could you start working for us next Tuesday?” However, your prospect

will likely say something affirmative along the lines of

“Well, would you like to put together a proposal for us?”

Because you just got invited in, you now have the

leverage you need to move ahead and deal with the incumbent.

What helped you get invited in was that you in no

way pressured your prospect to accept anything in particular.

By waving the WHITE FLAG, you left it up to the

prospect to make the call in his or her own way.

Step 6: Rehearsal

So your prospect has invited you in. That’s great. You

waved the WHITE FLAG, and you got in. Your prospect

asked you to go ahead and prepare a proposal. Now you

have two options. You can either walk away happily and return

in a few days with a proposal, or you can put the proposal

aside for a moment and use the opportunity to deal

with the incumbent.

If you choose the first option, you could thank your

prospect for his or her confidence, and promise to get back

in a few days with specific plans for dealing with the concerns

you were asked to address. You could walk away believing

that you have a deal in the bank once you dot all the

i’s and cross all the t’s. A few days later, you could call or

stop by with your proposal. Your prospect would graciously

thank you for it, and thank you again for your time.

Your prospect would tell you how much he or she appreciated

your thoughtfulness and responsiveness. Then your

prospect would stress how much he or she looks forward to doing business with you at some point in the future. And

finally, your prospect would extend you the courtesy of

inviting you to call from time to time to see if that point is

approaching. You know, of course, what would have happened.

Your prospect would have used the interlude after

your sales call to check in with the current provider, asking

questions about service. Not being anyone’s fool and

knowing that something was going on, the provider would

have leaped into action. After some reminiscing and handholding

with your prospect, the provider would have

agreed to meet or exceed everything that you said you

would do. You would have just gotten rolled.

So here’s the other option. Step 6 of The Wedge Sales

Call, the REHEARSAL, is designed to protect you from getting

rolled. How? That brings us to our next conversational

phrase. When your prospect asks for a proposal,

here is what you say:

“That’s the easy part. May we talk about the hard part?”

And your prospect will ask, “The hard part? What do

you mean?” So you will explain.

You: “Suppose in a few days I’m back with the proposal.

It has everything you said you want. The

pricing is competitive. And you’ve checked us out

and you know we’re for real, that we do what we

say we’ll do. What happens then?”

Prospect: “I’d say we have a new rep.”

You: “Well, that creates a dilemma. Can we talk about

it?”

Prospect: “Sure.”

You: “The problem is that when you decide that we’re

your new rep, how will you tell your other rep that

it’s over?”

Prospect: “I’ll just tell them. It’s business.”

You: “And you’re saying it’s that easy? You’ll just tell

them they’re gone?”

Prospect: “Well, I’ll cross that bridge when we come to

it.”

You: “You say that. Can I tell you what’s going to happen?”

Prospect: “What?”

You: “Here’s what will happen. Your rep will find out you

want to make a change. He’ll want to come see

you. When he gets here, he’ll talk about all he’s

done for you, and how great your relationship is.

He’ll tell you that if it’s price, he can match it. If it’s

product, his is just as good. And he’ll tell you he can

provide at least the same service everyone else can.

When he does all this, how will you handle it?”

Now you are at the moment of truth. You are about to

find out whether you are going to get the account, whether

your prospect is going to fire your competition.

Firing someone is seldom an easy decision, as you know

if you have ever been in this position. You might have employed

someone who was just not working out. You realize

you need to let the person go, but he or she is a nice individual,

and has a family to help support. So you start to get cold feet. You may fear the disruption it could cause or begin to

feel guilty about not doing more to make things work, or out

of loyalty you are just too reluctant to pull the trigger.

The chances are pretty good that the person who already

has the account, your competition, will want to come

see your prospect. Once there, your competitor will try to

make your prospect feel guilty, or create fear of change, or

leverage the loyalty button. If you have not rehearsed your

prospect on how to deal with this when the time comes,

the chances are good that your prospect will get hooked.

And when that happens, you lose.

This is the importance of the REHEARSAL technique. If

your prospect can’t rehearse in front of you, how will he or

she be able to tell your competition directly that it’s over?

How will your prospect resist getting hooked by guilt, fear,

or loyalty when the current provider stops by in person

with wine and cheese?

The REHEARSAL also helps your prospect prepare emotionally

for firing your competition. It is a way of allowing

your prospect to let off steam in order to deal with the moment

in a calmer, more controlled fashion when it arrives.

The REHEARSAL is the true close for you. It is where

you establish with no uncertainty whether your prospect

has both the authority and the determination to fire or dismiss

your competitors and hire you. The REHEARSAL is

where you get the commitment that you can provide the solution

to the problem, the culmination of all three phases

and all six steps of The Wedge Sales Call.

As a general rule, I would recommend asking just

enough questions to satisfy yourself that your prospect has

the determination to do the deed. You will be relying on

your intuitive judgment to an extent, but at some point you

will be fairly certain your prospect is ready to act.

When that moment arrives, it is time for you to acknowledge

your prospect’s close:

“Are you comfortable with everything? [Prospect responds

affirmatively.] So it’s done. Great. I’ll get to work.”

By asking your prospects if they are comfortable, you

are making sure they have gone through the emotional

preview of the firing and are at peace with themselves

about doing it. When they answer yes, you then make it official

by declaring, “So it’s done.”

Notice your inflection. You say, “So it’s done.” You do

not ask, “So it’s done?” You assume the deal, celebrate with

the word “Great,” and begin taking over the account with

the words “I’ll get to work.”

Will The Wedge work every time? Of course not.

There will be meetings where in the first few minutes you

know from experience that you are not going to get the

business. And there are some outstanding prospectprovider

relationships out there that not even a sledge, let

alone a wedge, could crack. But The Wedge works most of

the time. If you have uncovered your competitive advantage

and developed your proactive services, if you have done

your precall strategy research and found the most powerful

way to communicate that competitive advantage, if during

your sales call you have found out what your prospect truly

wants and have gotten yourself invited in, and if you have

rehearsed your prospect on firing your competition, then

most of the time you will be able to win the business.

Since its initial formulation a decade ago, The Wedge

strategy has helped thousands of sales professionals and

hundreds of companies, including some of America’s very

largest, achieve some pretty remarkable results. It has

worked for small businesses with 20 or 30 employees as well

as for major corporations with thousands of employees.

You would think a large company with a major brand

name would have its selling process down, that it would

know the most effective way to win business. In reality, I’ve

found in working with some of these multibillion dollar organizations

that, if they had to appear before Judge Judy

tomorrow morning and state what makes them different

and better, most of the time they couldn’t say. Why? Because

they have not drilled down and identified their true

competitive advantage. They are not selling their proactive

services platform, the most powerful differentiation they

have in today’s marketplace.

The Wedge works because—to repeat our mantra—it

disciplines sellers to proactively control the experiences of

their clients, making their future more predictable. It is not

your company’s price, product, or reactive service that gives

you the greatest advantage in most competitive services industries.

It is your proactive service. This is what gives you

the leverage you need to get your competition fired.

Recap

So you have taken your prospect through the six steps of

The Wedge Sales Call. From the moment you walked in

and commented on the skiing photograph to when your

prospect assured you that he or she was ready to give your

competition the bad news, you helped your prospect come

to the right decision:

• You created a rapport with the prospect by putting

him or her at ease. You told your prospect a story

about a similar client whose problem you fixed. You

passed the comfort and credibility tests.

• You asked preliminary questions to begin your search

for pain.

• You created a PICTURE PERFECT of ideal service, one

that deliberately reflected a strength of yours in contrast

to a weakness of your competition, and one that

prompted your prospect to feel the pain of being underserved,

giving you something to sell.

• You used the TAKE AWAY to measure your prospect’s

pain, triggering your prospect to insist on the benefit

of the PICTURE PERFECT.

• You used the VISION BOX to get your prospect to spell

out exactly what he or she wanted, creating a box of

deliverables as opposed to trying to develop a proposal

based on a more abstract vision. To accomplish this,

you stayed low on the ladder of abstraction to get your

prospect to describe in concrete terms what he or she

would like to see happen.

• You gave the prospect a REPLAY of that vision, to confirm

that you understood what he or she wanted, implying

that you were the best person to deliver it.

• Instead of doing a trial close, you waved a WHITE

FLAG, getting your prospect to invite you in.

• Once you got invited in, you guided your prospect

through a REHEARSAL of firing your competition. You

determined that your prospect had the authority and

the willingness to act; and you acknowledged your

prospect’s decision by saying, “So it’s done.”

The Conversation

With practice, you should soon be able to recall and use

the six steps of The Wedge Sales Call as easily as remembering

to say please and thank you. Because The Wedge

is prospect-focused and adaptable to each situation, it is

an easier format to remember than a canned sales presentation.

Most of the salespeople I have trained have found

the conversational phrases of The Wedge Sales Call fairly

easy to remember and to adjust to their own style. The

phrases sound mundane but, as we have seen, each one is

designed to elicit a powerful psychological response on

the part of your prospect. The Wedge is as powerful as it

is disarming. Let’s go over the phrases for the six steps

one more time:

PICTURE PERFECT: “I’m curious. When you receive [a

specific service] so that you don’t have to worry

about [a specific pain], are you comfortable with

that process?”

TAKE AWAY: “Well, perhaps it’s not that important because

[insert a reason].”

VISION BOX: “In regard to [area of concern], what would

you like to see happen?”

REPLAY: “Here’s what I’m hearing you say you want. [Repeat

what the prospect said.] Have I got that right?”

WHITE FLAG: “So, what would you like me to do?”

REHEARSAL: “That’s the easy part. May we talk about the

hard part? . . . How will you tell your other rep that

it’s over? . . .

“Are you comfortable with everything? So it’s

done. Great. I’ll get to work.”

If you’re like me and don’t have a photographic memory,

let me suggest a couple of practical exercises that have

helped other salespeople become comfortable more

quickly using The W edge. First, beginning tomorrow, take

a little time in the morning to handwrite a Wedge script

including a PICTURE PERFECT question. This exercise will

help you memorize the key conversational segues, as well

as anticipate the things that your prospects will typically

say. Second, find someone you can role-play with. Practice

The Wedge Sales Call a few hours a week for the next two

months. Do these two things, and you should be well on

your way to using The Wedge with ease and confidence.

In Part III, I tell the story of how The Wedge was developed.

We take a look at what The Wedge has done for the

companies and individual sales professionals who have been

using it. After that, two special chapters—one for prospects

and one for current providers—look at The Wedge through

the eyes of the other two parties in the selling situation. Finally,

we put everything together in a brief review of strategy

and tactics.