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Greg Nanigian and Associates, Inc. | Braintree, MA,

We all love to win. We all need strokes. We all need to feel OK. However, the professional salesperson shouldn’t try to get those needs met by a prospect. The prospect is the one who needs to feel like a winner in the selling situation. The prospect should feel stroked after a sales call. And, perhaps most important, the prospect must feel OK when dealing with a salesperson. Having high self-esteem and maintaining dignity is certainly critical for salespeople, but you shouldn’t look to build those elements at the cost of the prospect, and at the cost of a sale. The prospect is not there to stroke you or to make you feel OK by being not OK. It’s up to you, the salesperson, to make the sales process win-win.

Follow the Rule of Three Plus

Pain comes in levels, and you have to get from the surface to the core in order to be able to truly solve a prospect’s pain. The Rule of Three Plus says that it takes three or more questions, or reverses, to get to the core, emotional nature of the pain. The prospect may tell you that his or her problem is X. “Great,” you say, “our product can clear that up immediately.” But so can your competitor’s product. You’ve got to find out why X is happening, which gives you a great advantage over your competitor. And, you also have to find out how X is affecting the prospect on a personal level. That’s the key to the buying decision. You can only get there by questioning, and the Rule Three Plus is the technique to use.

Every Team Needs a Leader

Team selling is an effective way to have all the bases covered when presenting to a qualified prospect. If various departments of your company are involved in the prospect’s solution, the presence of representatives from those departments can add a level of comfort for the prospect, and take pressure off the salesperson. The salesperson should serve as the leader who guides the presentation and moderates the team members’ participation. Everyone on the team should be aware of the content and flow of the presentation, and his or her role. As leader, the salesperson should ensure that the presentation stays focused on pre-identified pains, and avoid any tangential discussion that could weaken the close.

The First Phone Call

The Sandler Selling System offers salespeople many effective techniques to use when making the first phone call to a prospect. Here’s one that may take a bit of practice to break an old habit: Skip extraneous phrases. Don’t open with, “How are you today,” or “Yes,” or other introductory phrases that we are all used to using. When talking to a prospect, get to the point. There’s a very good chance that when you are saying, “How are you today,” the prospect is hearing, “Your time isn’t that valuable, so let’s waste a bit of it with meaningless small talk.” Instead, open with a surface pain that you can be confident the prospect experiences: “George, I’ve worked with many operations managers and they all say the same thing: lack of automation bogs down the day-to-day plant operation. You’re not experiencing that, are you?” An opening like that invites an exchange, and gives you the opportunity to begin using Sandler questioning techniques.

You Make the Call

Situation: You are presenting to a fully qualified prospect. You have so far covered two of the prospect’s four primary pains. The prospect is shaking her head positively as you speak, and you have a feeling the sale is in the bag. But your instinct is to finish the presentation. What should you do?

Action: Get out your thermometer! It’s time to take the prospect’s temperature. It may be that you don’t have to continue the presentation, but you need a way to be sure. Find out, on a scale of one to ten, where the prospect is with the buying decision. If she is at any level except ten, find out what is needed to get her to ten. If she indicates ten, it’s time to ask what the next step should be. Of course, you know the answer—signing a purchase agreement.


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