The Bus Story

The bus story works to confront the three agreements you need from the call. They are: One - what should they say in their advert to attract enquiries. Two: how much is it worth to do it and Three: what they should expect to happen. In any diagnostic call, you should consider all three of these topics are up for negotiation. Without a decent message or enough budget to promote it, you’ll struggle to achieve a result and you’ll always be destined to fail. So you need to influence each of these three objectives so they are comfortable that they are combining realistically. The bus story is the subtlest way to negotiate as it can be done in a tongue in cheek way.

As I’ve just stated, this is not the closing meeting, you’re not looking to close the deal here. The most successful closes come from just repeating back what the client has said in a diagnostic. All you’re trying to do is get them to give you a good message, a good budget and an achievable target. If closing is just bringing those things that they gave to you back to them, then get agreement on these three topics and the sale is as good as made. If you have already got one or two of the elements you need at a level you are happy with, then just use them in the story, otherwise, use the story to negotiate them.

Let’s revisit the same scenario of John and his outdoor furniture client, whom we’ll call Bob. (I should have given him a name earlier, but there you go, he’s now Bob). This is how John could use the bus story to help in his negotiations with Bob:

“Bob, I want you to picture this: back at work I’ve got this massive double-decker bus, now on that bus I’ve got 120,000 people which represents the number of our weekly readership/weekly cumulative listening audience. Out of those 120,000 people I’ve probably got around 1,000 (the number they both agreed on as the number of heaters he thinks will be sold in the next four weeks) people who want to buy gas heaters. Now I’m going to go get that bus and pull up outside your business. Then I’m going to get on the PA system of the bus and make an announcement about your gas heaters. I’ve got to warn you, it’s a pretty comfy bus and your offer is going to have to contain some appealing information to get them off the bus. What do you want me to tell them?”

At this point, if you haven’t agreed on a good enough offer this is where you do it. If for example Bob just says, “Tell them we’ve got friendly service and have been in business for 27 years and our heaters are quality stainless steel...” you may need to be a bit cheeky and say, “To be honest Bob I’ve pulled up outside businesses before and said that and nobody has got off the bus... We’ll need to tell them something that’s going to get them a bit more excited to get them off the comfy bus.” Our job is to negotiate a good enough message to get them off the bus, eg: top rated consumer review report, discount offer, buy a gas heater get a heat umbrella half price, etc. If you have to, keep reminding the client that the marketplace is a pretty comfy bus and you’re not the only one getting to talk to them on the PA, as a means of improving the appeal of the offer.

Once you have reached an agreement on an offer you both believe will work to get people off the bus, now you’ve got to work out what it’s worth.

“Bob, I believe we’ve got a great message to tell them that will get them off the bus. I reckon you’ll appeal to say, conservatively, half the gas heater buyers on our bus. That means 500 people are going to leave our bus and come into your business. So I’ve got to ask you Bob, what is it worth to do that? You stand to make at least $15,000 profit (heaters plus the heat umbrellas), so out of that $15,000 how much are you prepared to give me to get the bus here and then get on the PA?”

Again, this is the negotiation time, if Bob suggests to John too small an amount, John can jokingly suggest. “It’s a popular bus Bob, I’ve got lots of other businesses that want a visit from the bus, you’ll need to make it worth the driver’s time...”

As demonstrated, this metaphor allows you to negotiate in a symbolic fashion to determine what the message is going to be, what its worth to solve it and what the client should expect to happen. Without these three pieces of information, you will struggle to be able to reappoint and present a solution. So, once you’ve asked the necessary questions, the bus story offers a non-confrontational conclusion to negotiating the vital pieces of information.

I’ll say it again, you need to get answers that work for you and the client for the ‘What should we say in the advert’, ‘What is it worth to provide the solution’, and “What does the client expect to happen’. Do that and closing the sale will be easy. In fact, really, it’s already done - it’s the details that are up for discussion at the presentation meeting. If you have the client’s trust and the client believes in your ability to solve the opportunity you have discovered, the client will be guided by your expertise on the details.

A short-term diagnostic concludes exactly the same as a long-term one:

  1. Thank them for their time
  2. Compliment them on their business or the offer
  3. Review the things you spoke about, particularly the three objectives; what the offer is, what it’s worth to solve, and what they can expect.
  4. Get their permission to provide a solution
  5. Tease the idea
  6. Reappoint to present the solution.

Being an expert people can trust to provide a professional solution is just the combination of two things: having the ability to uncover opportunities and having their belief in your knowledge to provide the most appropriate solution. You are halfway there; you now know how to uncover the opportunities.