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Greg Nanigian and Associates, Inc. | Braintree, MA

Prospecting

If you examine the day-to-day conversations that take place in the business arena (or almost any setting), you’ll discover examples of miscommunication and non-communication occurring in varying degrees. Conversations will contain distortions, deletions, and generalizations. They are part of the fabric of interpersonal communication. And, it’s the distortions, deletions, and generalizations that get in the way of closing more sales…and closing them more quickly.

David Sandler’s search for knowledge about why and how people buy coincided with the Transactional Analysis (TA) movement in psychology. TA theory defines three ego states that influence our behavior—the Parent, the Adult, and the Child. Think of these ego states as internal tape recorders where childhood impressions—teachings and associated feelings—are stored.

Some time ago I stood in the security line at Logan. I was on my way to Orlando to speak at the National Conference of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Using "the three foot rule", which says "whenever you are within three feet of someone ask them what they do as they may be a prospect", I struck up a conversation with the gentleman behind me. He turned out to be the Head of the Central and Eastern European Divisions of L. Hoffman LaRoche.

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.

You don’t tightly target your prospects. When business is slow, the temptation to tell your story to whomever will listen is great. After all, talking to someone-anyone-is more productive than sitting at your desk waiting for a potential customer to call. Right?..

I have met many excellent sales people that were chief executives. They could prospect, qualify, close and negotiate. Their closing ratios surpassed their best sales people. Yet, they couldn't train their people to sell. Even though they tried, by coaching, running sales meetings, showing and telling, they weren't effective at training sales people. In fact, in some cases it made their sales people worse as they tried to emulate the Boss.

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.

It’s been over thirty years since David Sandler introduced the concept of “pain” as the core element of a selling methodology—the Sandler Selling System®. Pain represented the prospect’s collective reasons to buy a product or service. Sandler chose the term not only for its connotation physical discomfort, emotional distress, or something troublesome—but also for its relationship to one’s motivation to take action. Psychologists note that people take action to either seek pleasure or avoid pain. Of the two, they suggest that avoiding pain is the bigger motivator.

Almost all salespeople will agree that the shorter the selling cycle, the better. Why?

Up-front contracts are a powerful tool in the Sandler Selling System. By agreeing, up-front, with a prospect on what will take place during a sales interaction, including an agenda, time limit, and next steps, you are in control of the sale. But beware—a wishy-washy contract is as good as no contract at all.

If a salesperson had a process that was so good that every time they talked to a prospect on the phone they got a decision, then it would be easier for them to make more calls; they’d have more appointments; they’d accelerate their sell cycle; they’d close more deals; they’d make more money; they could have more time off; they’d certainly be happier being in sales and they’d be more efficient! Being more efficient means having a system for making phone calls. So, I’m going to share the one people pay thousands of dollars to hear about in our training.

Maybe you thought you were the only one with a sales person that everyone loves, but is a terrible closer. The reality is that most sales teams have one or more such non-closers. Compounding the problem of these people not being very profitable is the fact that they are likeable, as many of them tend to have good people skills.

By using the reversing technique of answering a prospect’s question with another question, you encourage the prospect to tell you more. And, getting the prospect to tell more is the key to getting beneath surface pain to real pain, the pain that will lead to a sale. Let the prospect do the talking, and use reverses to keep information coming.

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.

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!”

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.

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.