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

Prospecting & Qualifying

These days, more than ever, salespeople are challenged by "think it overs", "we'll let you knows", "we'll be sending you the P.O. soon", "the order is on its way", broken promises and order cancellations. Prospects and Customers are unsure and scared as job security erodes and 401K's would well be described as " 40.1K's", as they are worth about 40.1 percent of what they were.

During sales training sessions, there are a handful of questions that come up frequently. They are generally in the form of “How can I (get/convince/persuade) prospects to (do something)?” Here are examples from a recent workshop.

Logic suggests that “more prospects” will lead to more sales. While that may be true for some salespeople, for many others, “more prospects” actually leads to fewer sales. “Prospects” is undeniably the essential element in the sales process. However, the quality of the prospects and the pattern of interaction with them after the initial contact will determine if the sales process leads to closed sales…or closed files (and fewer sales). What accounts for the difference?

Ask salespeople to list their least favorite selling activities, and you can count on “prospecting” being at the top of the list. And, the least favorite of all prospecting activities is unquestionably making cold calls.

You probably have had experiences with people—friends or family, perhaps—who are perpetually “looking into” or “thinking about” something … but who rarely (or never) take action on those things. You can’t afford to waste time with prospects who demonstrate that same tendency, despite their willingness—even eagerness—to meet with you!

Prospects will sometimes make statements that, on the surface, sound positive, but on closer inspection, reveal no actual commitment. They contain indecisive, play-it-safe words or phrases that allow prospects (and customers alike) to avoid making commitments.

Have you ever had a qualified prospect pick your brain for information – and then turn around and buy from the competition? Most salespeople have had this frustrating experience. Instead of showering the prospect with product information, we should ask questions that will clarify whether there’s an emotional gap between where the prospect is and where the prospect wants to be, or the prospects pain. Then we should figure out whether we can fill that gap.

Investing time to learn about your prospect before “pitching” your product helps build rapport and trust. When you understand your prospects, it’s easier to understand their points of view. Similarly, prospects must have a sense of your sincere interest before they can become comfortable with you—and seek your advice.

Have you ever made a prospecting phone call whose central message was focused on what the salesperson wants: the meeting? These kinds of prospecting calls are typically known as cold calls, and that’s a fitting name for them. In the vast majority of cases, they do in fact leave the prospect cold.

Have you ever tried one of those tricky “closing techniques” that are supposed to transform hesitant prospects into instant customers? The problem with all of these techniques is that prospects can see them coming a mile away, and they usually feel like they’re under attack – which they are. 

Setting goals for yourself is not all that complicated. There are no secrets. You’ll probably never see a half hour on one of the cable channels dedicated to “The Secrets of Goal Setting.” Nor will you find 25 CDs for three easy payments of $49.95 plus tax, talking about the wonders of this guaranteed sales closing technique called “Set Goals, Close ’Em & Reap Millions!”

When you conduct an interview, you expect to ask questions and listen to answers. That’s precisely what you should be doing in your sales calls. Sandler questioning techniques are the key to uncovering the prospect’s pain, getting a budget commitment, and establishing the decision making process. You’ve got to be willing to “interview” your prospect, and let him/her do most of the talking. 

Nobody cares about your products or services... and neither should you. Sure, your company’s advertising focuses on your products and services—their unique advantages and benefits. And, your marketing department has gone to great lengths and expense to produce extensive marketing brochures and spec sheets that further elaborate on the unique aspects of your products and services. Nobody cares.

Have you ever given a presentation to a prospect who seemed ready to buy … but found that, for some mysterious reason, the opportunity went nowhere once your presentation was complete? Why did the sale feel further away at the end of your presentation than it did at the beginning?

How much prospects are willing to pay for your product or service is a not just a function of how much they need it, but also how much value they believe they are receiving. The more value they receive, the more they are willing to pay. So, the question is not how much to charge for your product or service, but rather, how to add value. 

Have you ever reached the end of the line with a prospect—and had no idea what to do to move forward? Your strategy was sound. Your techniques were flawless. But your prospect still continually stalled the process. In those situations, when you know that you have something of value to offer based on the information you’ve gleaned from your prospect, stop being a salesperson and become a consultant.

Sometimes when making a presentation to a prospective client, you might notice signs of your audience disengaging - fidgeting, no longer paying attention, or checking their phone. Often their reactions are a result of their fight or flight response, which engages in situations where someone feels uncomfortable, confused, or overwhelmed.