So you’ve really done your homework on this new prospective client. You’ve put in hours of preparation for this meeting and you’ve set off early to travel the 120 miles to meet with them.
And because you hate being late you rock up an hour early and you pop into McDonalds for a quick cuppa.
You turn up 15 minutes early to the start time of the meeting and announce your presence with the receptionist. You noticed when you signed into the visitors book that a competitor of yours is in with them right now. You sit down, pick up one of their brochures on the table and then you wait and then you wait and then you wait some more!
The receptionist says “they’re running over” and would you like another coffee. You’re feeling agitated and a little hurt at how this prospect is disrespecting your time.
Everything in your heart is saying to leave. After all, what will they be like to work with? But your head and your sales figures says to stick it out.
Finally the decision maker comes through the door a fully 45 minutes late and says goodbye to “the enemy”. They have a laugh and a joke about something that makes you even more uptight, the competition signs themselves out, gives you the once over and then leaves.
“Sorry about that, we’re ready for you now” says the decision maker. You take what seems is a very long walk with them, you have some banter about where you’ve travelled from and you finally end up in a boardroom of some sorts. There, on one side of the table are a further 2 people ready to grill you. Everyone looks tired and fed up. “Sorry to keep you waiting but we’ve been running over today. We’ve only got 20 to 30 minutes I’m afraid. I appreciate it’s not ideal but you’re the last person we’re seeing today”
Finally, it’s show time…
Has that ever happened to you?
If you’ve been in B2B sales for any length of time then I’m sure it has of some sorts.
How does it make you feel?
And are you prepared for it?
In my early sales career I used to really take it personally and I’d go into the meeting all defensive.
Nowadays I prepare for it in advance as part of my normal planning and preparation that I do for any meeting.
Here are a couple of things you can do…
Firstly, keep calm and level headed. Don’t let it show that you’re ready to give them a “clothes line” like Hulk Hogan used to do in the WWF!
Secondly, my advice to you is to prepare a “microwave version” of what you were planning to cover, just incase time is against you. Could your presentation or information fit onto 1 page of A4 in a type of infographic style presentation which would give the main bullet points, benefits and how it would all come together?
The look on their faces when you reach into your laptop case and pull out your 1-pager for this very eventuality will amaze them and will impress them because you did your homework.
And finally, another way to face this scenario is to ask them this question right up front:
“Seeing as I’ve only got 30 minutes now, could you please tell me the top 3 areas/priorities/points you’d like me to cover that are the most important to you?”
You preface your question with “Seeing as I’ve only got 30 minutes now” – this tells them that both parties understand that everyone else has had more time than you and that this puts you at a disadvantage and that they “owe you” something whether that message is on a conscious or sub-conscious level.
Get that phraseology right and they will reveal exactly what they are looking for and their hot buttons!
You can then respond with a no-fluff approach and get to straight to the point. You wont be able to cover everything that you have planned for so ask them what they want you to cover in the time available. This will give you some real clues into their buying criteria.
At times this type of situation can really work to your advantage if you know how to handle it of course!
Have you had this happen to you?
Would love to hear how you handled it.
MTD Sales Training
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Have you spoken to prospects and they’ve said ‘Thank you, but I’m happy with what I’ve got’?
This is the single most common response to salespeople today, in person or on the phone. the prospect has no reason to change because the product or service they’re using is working just fine, or it provides everything they need at the moment, or they see no need for a change at all.
It’s normally the killer for most salespeople because they think that’s the end of their chances. If they’re happy with their current solution, why should they change? Many say that if I pursue my sales pitch to the, they’ll get annoyed, saying something along the lines of ‘which part of ‘no’ did you not understand?’
Let me ask you something. Have you ever made an impulse buy? Maybe you were walking down the street and you passed a shop window and something caught your eye. That new pair of shoes or that new suit…that new television or that new computer.
What ever it was, you may already be wearing something like it or have something like it at home already.
What made you not only see it, look closely at it and investigate it, but also walk into the shop, examine it, check it out and, eventually, purchase it?
Well, you succumbed to the age-old human feeling of desire. How do we create desire in ourselves? Easy. We look at our current situation or position, we compare it with what we would feel like if we had something better, and we take the opportunity to get that which would make us feel better. The current dissatisfaction evaporates, we feel good about ourselves, rationalise the decision and move on, now with the new suit or shoes or computer or whatever.
This dissatisfaction is what makes us make decisions. And your prospect is the same. If you can create a feeling of dissatisfaction with the current position in his mind, he is more likely to at least give you a hearing ear.
Here are some tips on how to do this:
1) Raise the level of expectation of how his current solution should perform
You can do this in three ways:
a) Teach the buyer how to be more successful through using your products
b) Teach the buyer how your solution will help him catch up with or stay ahead of the competition
c) Teach the buyer how you can provide a better business partnership in the long run.
2) Identify how others have used your products in their industry and seen measurable results from them
They can identify with competitors or similar people in their industry, and if they see how these have benefited from your services, it may cause them to re-evaluate what they are currently getting from their current product.
3) Create a need for your product by checking on what his future expectations will be
If your product or service will give better returns or productivity or raise the chances of profitability in the future, they will experience dissatisfaction with the current solution and look to something better in the future.
The only reason that someone moves away from what they are currently using is if they see the potential for better results in the future with something else.
This gives you the chance to show how you can achieve higher goals for them and create more opportunities.
So, create this feeling of dissatisfaction in a prospect’s mind and you open up the chance for him to experience your solution and reap the benefits.
MTD Sales Training
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So, you’ve done all the hard work in preparing for the visit to your prospect. You’ve got all the materials you need, the traffic’s been ok and you’ve arrived on time. You ask for the prospect at reception and you’re told that you will be collected in a few minutes.
What can you do during this phase while you’re waiting? What would be the best use of your time? Here are some suggestions:
1) Take a look around to see if there are any signs of recent successes for the company.
Are there any certificates they have picked up? Any customer testimonials in frames or on the notice board? Are there brochures for the company’s products? Anything like this can give you a big clue for something positive you can open the conversation with.
2) Check the visitors’ book.
I went to give a presentation in London to a company who said they were looking at MTD and one other company to work with. I knew my competitor was going to be presenting two hours before me. By looking in the visitors’ book for the approximate time they would have arrived, I could see who there were, even though the prospect had kept it secret from me. It enabled me to shape my presentation around the areas I knew my competitor would not be covering.
Take a look and see if there are any signs of your competitor being there before. Are there any merchandise like pens, mouse mats or paper pads with their names on them. Of course, you may want to leave some of them yourself!
3) Re-aquaint yourself with the benefits of your solutions.
Know that your solution is going to be the best option for the prospect. Frame your questions so you can determine how best to present them. Be aware of what the decision-makers will be looking for from you.
4) Talk to the receptionist.
Rather than just sitting there in silence, how about having a chat with the receptionist to see how business is going and finding out a bit more about the company. Using your smarts will give you a lot of valuable information.
So, use the time you have available while you are waiting for the prospect to give yourself confidence you have all your ducks in line.
MTD Sales Training
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How much do you REALLY LOOK FORWARD to your sales meetings with the boss?
Chances are your immediate response ranged from ‘somewhat’ to ‘I’d rather have root-canal work done!’
Why do many sales meetings end up being a rehash of the “same-old same old”, with the end result being a mixture of ‘glad that’s over’ and ‘let’s get on with some real work now’? I think the answer can often come down to the attitude we as salespeople choose to take into the meetings. If we had the right mindset first of all, we might actually get results.
Here are some tips on contributing effectively to your sales meetings so they don’t always turn out to be a waste of time:
1. Bring some possible alternative solutions to every problem you bring up. If you’re always expecting someone else to answer your problems and challenges, you’ll always be reliant on someone else to earn your money for you. By coming up with possible solutions, you put the emphasis on looking forward rather than backwards
2. Discuss ways in which challenges you are experiencing could benefit other team members. Your challenges will never be unique and it may be that other team members are facing the same situations as you. Sharing possible answers will set a good tone for the meeting and encourage all to think of real-time solutions
3. Don’t get dragged into the minutia. Boring meetings kill creativity, so leave the mundane to another time when you can discuss it with people who can do something about it. We all hate administration and we’d rather be out there selling, so reject the discussions that drag everyone down
4. Look for ways that something CAN be done, rather than highlight the reasons why they CAN’T. We all know that positive thinking doesn’t always work and can lead us to reject reality. What we can do, though, is concentrate on what might work, rather than driving everyone into the metaphorical black hole of despair by raising all the reasons why something won’t work. Contribute from the angle that ‘there must be answer…we just haven’t found it yet!’
5. Be the kind of person that others look to for motivational and well-thought-out comments. You don’t have to take the Pollyanna approach to every situation, but you can encourage others to look for solutions
6. Make the time well-spent. Meetings are only a waste of time if the outcomes don’t match the value of the time devoted to them. Ensure your contribution is directed towards investing the time spent rather than throwing it away.
Next time you attend a meeting, do a quick calculation on how much the time spent is costing the company. For example, if six people attend for half-an-hour, and the hourly salary averages out at £15 for each attendee, then the meeting should come out with ideas worth more than the £45 you’ve all just cost the company.
By contributing effectively to your sales meetings, you encourage everyone to think about future solutions rather than current challenges, and you give yourself a great chance of getting great results.
MTD Sales Training
(Image by David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
How many times have you been in discussions with a prospect and got on well, only to find that they don’t have the authority to make a decision?
It happened to me a number of times when I was first selling MTD’s services. Then it hit me that this was an obvious question that should come up early in the conversation. But how do you raise it without it sounding patronising or the person finding it difficult to admit they might not be making the final decision?
Don’t just blurt out the question, “So, are you the decision-maker?” It might get a knee jerk reaction of ‘yes’, but it may be embarrassing for the prospect to admit they may not be top of the pile. Here are some better ways to get down to the company’s decision-making process:
“What is the process in your company for moving this forward?” The process is detached from the people, so it will be easier for the prospect to talk about the procedure rather than the people, particularly if they might not have the final say.
“What needs to happen to get this approved?” Again this focuses on process and helps the prospect talk through how rather than who.
“Who needs to be involved to get this approved?” This is when you’ve found out the process and the prospect is involving others in the process to determine the end result.
You need to make it easy for the prospect to answer the question, and concentrating firstly on the process the company follows to make decisions of this nature enables you to focus on an inanimate procedure. This means the person doesn’t have to justify his or her position…they just speak about processes.
Finding this out saves time in the long run, assists you in developing rapport and creates a foundation to launch your service discussions from, as you appreciate how decisions are made within their department.
MTD Sales Training
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A lot of salespeople are proud about their company and the products and services they sell. This gives them confidence when it comes to discussing options with their prospects, because they feel happy to share their knowledge and information about everything they know.
But when a prospect asks about your company, it can be tempting to launch into a whole history lesson about where your company comes from, its history, the products it produces, etc, etc.
Instead, you need to identify the real reason why the prospect is asking the question in the first place. Why do they need to know about your company? What specifically do they want to know? How will it benefit them from knowing about your company?
This type of question is known as a ‘universal qualifier’. What that means is the question is very generic and often far too general for you to know precisely what the prospect is seeking from you. Think first about why the customer wants to know about you. Is it that they want more confidence before they make a decision? Is the history of your company important as they want to check whether you are a ‘overnight success’ or have the stability to support them in the future? Do they want to know how many people work there, so they can see if they will have the back-up if things go wrong?
The truth is, you don’t know why they are asking the question, so one or two clarifying questions might be good to raise at this point.
You could say something like, “Of course I’ll tell you about us….may I ask what specifically you would like to know and why?”
What this does is narrow down the subject matter, so you both can see exactly where you need to start detailing the information you are going to share.
Find out the key reasons for the prospect wanting to know about you and your company. Then determine the points you should make to get the points across in a positive way.
The discussions could go something like this:
Prospect: “OK, tell me about your company”.
You: “Yes, of course…may I ask specifically what you would like to know?”
Prospect: “Well, the company we want to work with needs to be able to support our European operations, so you need to have experience and contacts that will help us in that area”.
You: “I see…so if I could prove to you that our coverage of the European markets will help your business objectives, that would give you more confidence, yes?”
Prospect: “Yes, we need that back-up and support. If you can give me confidence in that area, then I’d like to take this further.”
You can see here that, if the salesperson had not asked that clarifying question, they may have gone headlong into describing areas that the prospect has no concern about, like history or number of products they sell or their service coverage.
Be aware of these ‘generalisation’ questions. You will need to be more specific in the discussions, so you can get to the real point the prospect is seeking.
MTD Sales Training
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This is an interesting question that came up in one of recent sales courses. The sales person wanted to know if there was an ideal time period to spend on idle chit-chat (or rapport-building, as he termed it) before getting into the meat of the meeting. He felt that sometimes he sounded as if he was avoiding the real issues the client had by making small talk, but he also didn’t want to just say ‘Hallo, here’s what we can do for you’!
Well, what would you say the purpose of small talk is? Let me give you three scenarios:
1) You compliment something in the prospect’s office, like their view or posters or pictures
2) You refer to a big news item so they see you are up-to-date and interested in world affairs
3) You refer to something that proves you’ve done your homework on their company or they themselves
The first two are typical introductions and make you fall into the same barrel as every other salesperson who has crossed their threshold.
The third is something that makes them feel you have their best interests at heart and that you are getting round to business, without (and this is the main point) digging deep into your products or services or putting too much pressure on.
Think of the introductions as an opportunity for you to build rapport at the professional level. If your initial discussion points revolve around the global picture of how their business is going, you set the scene for taking discussions deeper later on, and you don’t have to worry about crossing the threshold from how good or bad the weather is to talking about why you’re really there. There’s plenty of time to talk about last night’s game when you are having a natural break in the meeting.
Here’s an example of openers I like to use in sales meetings when I meet with prospects:
“I noticed from your LinkedIn profile that you used to work in the (xxx) industry. Was it a challenge moving into a new industry like this one?”
“I really appreciate that you’re taking the time to meet with me when I know things are really busy for you these days. You must be facing some real challenges with the re-organisation that your company announced recently.”
“The company results you announced yesterday must have been really pleasing for you. Were they better than expected?”
This way, you are still creating small-talk, but the emphasis is on how professional you are, and the rapport can still be built as you walk through the global issues before honing into the more detailed areas.
Consider the small-talk in the sales meeting as helping you build rapport with the client on a business level. There’s plenty of time to discuss more mundane matters after the rapport has been gained. That way, the prospect doesn’t feel that you are simply asking questions that everyone else has in order to try to get ‘friendly’. Many prospects simply see it as patronising, so get to their level quickly and decisively, showing you appreciate they are busy and want your help as soon as possible.
MTD Sales Training
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Sales is an unpredictable profession at the best of times. You may be up one moment and down the next. And a lot of the unpredictability comes from the ‘not knowing’, the lack of clarity of where you are in the selling cycle or what is actually happening during the sale.
How do you know when things are actually going right during the sale? Naturally, you know when you have built up good rapport with the prospect, but what signs are there that you on really on the right track? What will you see and experience that tells you you are going down the right road?
Here are some signs you might want to look out for:
1) The prospect asks for your input to assist in the evaluation of the direction they should be going. This means your advice is sought, rather than just a list of your products.
2) The prospect is sharing information with you that they haven’t done previously. Their need for absolute control in the conversation is lessening.
3) You are able to open up with the prospect yourself. No longer do you feel the need to make wild claims about what your services will do; you’re more open and honest.
4) The relationship you start to build is based on trust, collaboration and honesty. This shows you have gone further than just a seller-buyer state of mind.
5) Your thought process goes beyond ‘how will I close this prospect?’ to a more considered ‘How can I help this prospect achieve their goals?’. This helps you stop selling and, instead, aid them to buy.
6) You’ll go beyond the prospect’s expectations and set new high-bar levels of performance. The prospect is less concerned about you trying to sell them something, and more interested in what is the best long-term solution for them.
As the relationship builds, there is less reason for you to sell your services, and more reason for you to build relationships. You know you’re on the right track when the relationship becomes less supplier-buyer focused; instead, the prospect sees you as a trusted advisor. They start asking you questions related to their business, and listen attentively to what you have to say.
When you’ve got to this position, you can identify how the prospect makes decisions, what criteria they use to go forward, and how your products and services might fit into their future. Remember, they buy future outcomes, not products, so start building on what you have already laid as a foundation. Then you’ll see that you’re really on the right track to a successful long-term partnership with this prospect.
MTD Sales Training
(Image by David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)