Look for the silver lining. Hope for the best. Look on the bright side. These are good motivational one-liners. They are not good strategies for developing selling opportunities.
While hoping for the best is admirable, identifying and planning for the worst case will better prepare you to develop and close more opportunities…more quickly. Prospects will frequently try to stall the process and objections are bound to surface. If you are prepared to deal with these roadblocks, then you can nip it in the bud, or head ‘em off at the pass. The sooner you deal with these potential roadblocks, the sooner you can close the sale or, if the roadblock is immovable, close the file and move on to a more viable opportunity.
Hope may spring eternal, but planning for the worst case (and how to turn it around) will take you to the bank.
Prospects Don’t Care about You!
Prospects care about getting their needs met. During a sales call, prospects are thinking one thing—What’s in it for me? (WIIFM) They really don’t care what’s in it for you or if you get your needs met.
Keep your conversations focused on them—their needs, their goals, their challenges, their reasons for choosing one supplier rather than another, how they would make a buying decision, and how much they would be willing to invest to obtain your product or service. All else—your reasons for them to buy from you, how much you charge, how and when you would like them to make a decision, what you believe to be the unique selling points of your product or service—is irrelevant.
Prospects have their reasons for buying. Find out what those reasons are early in the selling cycle. Then, you can tailor your presentation to focus only on those issues…and clearly answer the WIIFM question.
Prospects are Often Ill-prepared for a Sales Call
Prospects’ perceptions of what’s happening around them are just that—perceptions. They often don’t see the real issues or the underlying causes for their concerns, problems, or desires.
Helping prospects see their situation from a new perspective in the short duration of a sales call usually doesn’t allow them enough time to completely internalize the situation and fully experience, in the moment, the feelings that will eventually develop from the revelation. Correspondingly, they usually don’t know how to act—what to ask, to do, and to think.
Often, you must advise your prospects how to think, what to feel, and what to do— encouraging additional conversation and guiding them in a direction that keeps the process moving forward. Here are some examples:
“John, if I were in your shoes, I think I’d feel frustrated. What are you feeling?”
“I suppose you want to ask me how long it will take to repair the damaged machines.”
“I imagine you’re wondering why you didn’t see the warning signs earlier.”
You Make the Call
Situation: You have been pursuing the print media advertising business from a local up-scale retailer for some time. Your previous efforts have been met with “We’re already working with an agency. Send me some information about your company and I’ll get in touch with you if the need arises.”
Not ready to give up, you once again call the advertising director. This time he tells you that he is open to meeting with you. He says, “We’re always looking for fresh ways to promote our stores.” He informs you that they have a new store opening in a few months and he is particularly interested in any ideas you have for a grand opening promotion. His then says, “Let me switch you to my secretary and set up an appointment.” What should you do?
- Consider yourself fortunate and schedule the appointment.
- Keep him on the line and gather some information about the new store opening and any expectations he may have about promoting it and what he’d like to see from you.
- Keep him on the line and gather some information about existing advertising agency relationships and why he is open to talking to you now.
Action: Until you know the ad director’s intention for the meeting, it’s not a good idea to schedule the appointment. Does he only want to pick your brain for ideas he can give to his existing agency? Is he bringing the advertising “in house” and does he now want some free consulting from you?
Determine his true intentions before committing to a meeting. If his agenda is not in your best interest, don’t schedule the meeting.
Exercise Your Ears, Not Your Mouth
Being a good conversationalist and having the gift of gab may be beneficial in social settings. On a sales call, the gift can get in the way.
The salesperson’s first and foremost goal is to obtain information regarding the prospect’s needs, wants, and intentions. Only then can the salesperson determine if he of she has an appropriate product or service to offer. To obtain the information, the salesperson must ask appropriate questions and then listen, listen, listen.
If the opportunity gets to the presentation stage, the salesperson will have plenty of time to talk. Until then, the objective is to keep the prospect talking—painting a word picture of what he or she wants to buy. The more information the salesperson can obtain, the greater the chance of developing a solution and an eventual presentation that matches the prospect’s picture.