One of the most frustrating problems for any sales rep is when a prospect’s interest switches from hot to cold. This can happen for a variety of reasons most of which have to do with the gravitational pull of the ‘status quo’. It’s a powerful force.
From an opportunity stand-point, (and at the risk of stating the obvious), the best time to gather the ammunition needed to fight status quo is the moment of peak interest. There’s no better time than when you’re talking with the prospect and have their attention focused on the benefits and possibilities. Enthusiasm begins its descent almost the moment you end your sales conversation. In other words, the adage “You’ve got to strike while the iron’s hot” applies here in great measure.
Unfortunately, sellers of B2B products don’t typically have one-call closes. Yours involve longer sales cycles and multiple interactions over a period of time. Passing time leaves prospects vulnerable to doubt and uncertainty, the two biggest weapons in the arsenal of the status quo.
Here’s what I recommend. Help your buyer to acknowledge any doubt and uncertainty they may be having just before you wrap up the call.
“Mr. Prospect, I’m glad you’re excited about (taking the next step, continuing the conversation, exploring this further) [pick one]. Before we end our conversation for today, I’d like to think through together—and take some notes on—any hesitations you might have in the back of your mind. Do you have any concerns for instance, about the implementation process or whether the timing is right?”
Be quiet and let him think. The goal of this exercise isn’t (for now) to address his hesitations or concerns. The goal is to help him to crystallize what the issues might be. Its better he does that now rather than let the thoughts waft around in his head in some uncoordinated way that manifests itself in a broad sense of uncertainty. An undefined, overarching sense of uncertainty and doubt will surely build momentum until the prospect just doesn’t want to move forward with anything i.e. the opportunity stalls.
After he shares his first answer with you, here’s the important thing to say next and it contains the magic question.
“Let me just write that down [pause to write], OK then, WHAT ELSE?”
Again, be quiet and let your prospect think. Don’t stop to address the concern or ask clarifying questions, or you risk spending the rest of your allotted time on that one issue and lose the opportunity to get all the cards on the table. Continue to write, pause, and ask “what else” until the prospect says something like “I think that’s it.” Then you say, “Thank you. I think that’s an important exercise to go through. Let’s figure out a plan to address these when we talk next.”
This approach puts you squarely in the same corner with your prospect.
Opportunities stall when we listen with ‘happy ears,’ that is, we give credence to the buying signs and happily sweep any discussion of potential threats under the proverbial rug. Buyers will almost always have hesitations. Your job is to bring them out in the open where they can be addressed. Rest assured that unspoken hesitations will not just go away. Instead, they have the great potential to snow-ball growing ever bigger and gaining momentum with each day they go un-addressed.
If you’ve ever wondered why your buyer’s enthusiasm dried up along with the opportunity, it may very well be that you didn’t ask the all-important question, “what else?”
Author, Nancy Nardin is the foremost expert in sales productivity tools. As President of Smart Selling Tools, she consults with many of the top sales productivity software vendors as well as end-user organizations looking to select the right tools. Click to get Nancy’s What & When weekly digest with invitations to complimentary webinars and informative publications. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools or subscribe to her Tool Talk blog. Nancy can be reached at 916-596-3035. To schedule a free 30 minute consultation click here.