We live in a scary time. Decision-makers are under pressure and short on patience. In a word, they’re easily spooked. They look for reasons to run away—or to avoid salespeople in the first place. Put these five tips into practice and assure your prospects they’ve got nothing to fear.
Listen and hear:
Listening is not the act of waiting for mental cues that you can build your sales message around. Listening is an act of learning. What’s earned salespeople a bad name is that they listen with their head and not their heart. If you truly hear what your prospect is saying, you’ll respond with sincere interest, thoughtful questions, and an honorable intent. And those are three qualities that will differentiate you from your competitors.
It’s getting more difficult to get in front of prospects for quality sales conversations. Every conversation has to count. If you approach your prospect without first learning about them, one of two things will happen—neither of them good. You’ll either talk about a subject you know (your products) or you’ll ask questions that you should already know the answers to. When you ask basic questions, you’re wasting a rare opportunity to make a good impression with the prospect. Which leads me to the next suggestion.
Ask Great Questions:
What are great questions? It depends partly on who you’re talking with. In Nancy Bleeke’s book, “Conversations that Sell” she offers up examples specific to various personality types. But the bottom line is this; ask questions about issues your prospect cares about. “Can you tell me about your current process?” “What parts of the process are giving you desirable outcomes?” “How do you measure outcomes today?” Ask questions that help your prospect think through things. Prospects rarely have the time to truly think through their situation. It’s a valuable use of their time when they do. And by helping them to do it, you’ll distinguish yourself from the hordes of salespeople that call on them.
Telling your prospect that you can help them close more business and shorten the sales cycle won’t be enough to get them excited. They’ve heard it all before from everyone else that contacts them. It’s become meaningless. Be specific. Tell them how a particular client (preferably one that ‘looks’ like them) was having problems (give specific examples). Tell them that when the client started using your product they were able to increase their business by x% over x period of time. Prospects are a bit tone-deaf to solution oriented claims. What gets their attention is when you can give them specific situations that they themselves are in and talk specifically to how your solution helps within that frame-work.
Don’t Push, Lead:
Lazy salespeople attempt to push their prospects along. They are the ones that call up the prospect to ask “were you able to talk with your boss about the proposal.” True professionals lead their prospects through the sales process. They call with purpose, prepared with suggestions rather than demands for an update. They realize that if they haven’t heard back, then the prospect probably hasn’t talked with their boss yet. So they call with a purpose, “We’ve just completed a case-study that could help strengthen your case when you present the proposal to your boss. Why don’t I take you through the findings before your meeting. What day is that scheduled for?” Offer a clear path through the sales process. Help your prospect understand the objections they might face from internal buyers. Prepare them for the process and lead the way.
Inspire the buyer:
The best way to inspire the buyer is to be the impetus for a change in their thinking. People have Aha moments when a switch goes off in their head that causes their thinking to change. Aha moments are what motivate buyers to do something, to take some sort of action. It’s hard to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done after having an Aha moment. Be the one that stimulates your buyer’s thinking and inspire them to action.
Salespeople have earned a reputation as being the boogie man. Prospects run and hide when we go near. Show them you’re different from all the other “tricksters” out there. Make these five practices your standard M.O. and prospects will revere you rather than fear you.
This post was first published in October of 2013.