About 20 years ago there was a revolution in the sales world, one that drove many people out of selling altogether, but drove others towards earning fortunes.
Before that, most prospects found out about your products and services by listening to your pitches and discussions on the phone, in brochures and in person. They believed what you said, based on their trust of you and what you may have done in the past for others.
Then the revolution came and all changed. Prospects could find out everything they wanted to know via the net, and they didn’t (and still don’t) need you as a salesperson to come and tell them what they want. Most prospects say they know what they want before calling you.
Now, what are the requirements that makes a prospect agree to your product and service offerings? How can the decision-making process be sped up so they are convinced and belief that you are the solution to their needs?
Well, it starts by recognising the reasons why prospects reject sales approaches. And it very often boils down to one reason, which is…
They don’t see the value of what you can offer exceeds the investment they will have to make.
This could, naturally, involve the price or cost of the product and service. It could also involve the timing or the delivery or the warranties or the competition, or a plethora of other reasons.
It all boils down to whether the value of your product to them or their business is worth it to them. Is it worth the changes they will have to go through to get your product?
Whether they say yes or no depends on their viewpoint. If you can solve a problem that the prospect has, and they see what they have to invest equals or is less than the ‘worth’ of the solution, they are more likely to say ‘yes’. If the investment is equal or more than the ‘worth’ of the solution, the answer is likely to be ‘no’.
Think about how you can get prospects to see the value of what you have , in relation to what you can do for their business or for themselves. By doing this, you increase your chances of the prospect saying ‘yes’.
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When we discuss planning and preparation with salespeople, they consistently see the need for ensuring they are ready for the call and have the confidence in their products and services.
But when we dig deeper, we often see that many haven’t a robust system for ensuring they will give the prospect a good enough reason to meet up with them.
So here we cover a pre-call checklist that will enable you to have confidence before making that call and also convince the prospect you have a lot to offer.
1) What do you sell, and why should they care?
I don’t mean your product or service. I mean what is the solution you are offering? What pain are you taking away, or what benefits are you bringing? And, importantly, why should the person taking your call actually care? the fact you are trying to sell them something isn’t a good enough reason for them to talk to you. Have good reasons why they should care about what you do and what you offer.
2) How are you different and better than your competition?
Very few companies have USPs these days. Most of what you consider to be your USPs should be seen as ‘givens’ in today’s market place. Keep up-to-date with what your competition are offering, so it doesn’t come as a shock when your prospect says they have a better offer from them.
3) Answer the question, “Even though we’re not the cheapest, people buy from us because…”
You should have a list of at least 6 answers to this question. Imagine you’re in front of the prospect and they ask why they should spend extra money with you. Don’t just rattle off the generic ‘our quality, back-up, service, etc’ stock answers. Your competition will be saying exactly the same things. Be specific so your prospect sees your value up-front.
4) Do your research
There’s so much information out there for you to gain knowledge before your call. But many salespeople stop after they’ve checked out the prospect’s website. Remember to also do your homework on their Linked-In profile, their Linked-In company page, their Facebook business page, any Twitter updates, their You-Tube channels if they have one, and other social media outlets that allow you to catch up on what they stand for in the market place
5) Set your primary and secondary objectives
What do you hope to achieve on the call? Why should the decision-maker talk to you at all? If you don’t get your primary objective (appointment? Proposal offer, tender list?) what’s the next best thing you can aim for?
6) Determine how they will benefit from talking to you
There has to be some reason why they should spend their precious time talking with you. What would they achieve by partnering with you? What changes would their business go through by buying from you? If you can answer those questions you can have confidence the prospect will talk to you.
This isn’t an exhaustive pre-call listing, but it should give you an idea of some of the things you can do to prepare for a call with a new prospect. It will also give you the confidence to pick up that phone or knock on that door when you need to prospect for more business.
Before I sign off, here are some more tips on becoming a great sales person:
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My team and I have sat in on many visits with sales people, listening to great examples (and not so great!) of consultancy sessions, where the client has specific needs and the salesperson deals with those needs.
Recently, I came across a sales technique that had me thinking about whether those salespeople could really have dug deeper to discover needs and uncover opportunities.
What we find is that buyers often have long-held beliefs that drive their decision-making philosophies. The things they say and do are ingrained because they have been used for so long in so many situations.
These belief systems may have worked well in the past, but with the new global economic situation and the changes in culture we have all experienced, these beliefs may not now be up-to-date and might not be as beneficial to them as they were before.
So what can you do to encourage them to think differently about their business and maybe go down a different decision-making direction?
Well, you need to be getting beneath the surface of your prospects’ beliefs, by asking questions they may never have thought of before.
Let’s say your prospect has the opinion that their customers will not change their point of view, so we have to give them the same products as we have over the past few years. In other words, their beliefs are that consistency in product offering is the only way to sell to their current customer base.
Here are four ways that you can get beneath the surface and dig deeper on this belief:
1) Ask, Is this belief worth challenging? Does it get in the way of their business growing?
2) Is this a universally-held belief? Are there examples of how this belief has been changed and shown to be not so beneficial? If so, what can we learn from these counter-examples?
3) How does this belief serve the interests of the prospect? What do they gain from believing it?
4) What alternatives could there be to this belief? What advantages would there be in having different beliefs?
By answering these questions, you get a differing viewpoint of how the business could be in the future. You highlight situations where there have been changes in other companies, and you determine the results that those businesses have enjoyed.
Now, what you DON’T do is try to change that belief system in your prospect by telling them how others have got results by doing things differently. A long-held belief will not be changed instantaneously simply by seeing how others have got different results.
The prospect will simply assume that their situation is different to theirs and, if they changed, they would not get the same results.
No, the way to dig beneath the surface of your prospects’ beliefs is to
a) get them to look at the current results they are getting with the belief. Then,
b) ask if these are the best results they could get. Then,
c) determine if they want any other type of result. If they do,
d) ask what would have to change for them to get that result.
These questions dig to the root of the belief system and help the individual themselves determine if changes are needed. Even if they have great respect for you, their beliefs will remain the same UNLESS THEY CHANGE THEM THEMSELVES.
That’s the key to any change. You get the other person to see the value of the change, so they start on the self-motivational change themselves. What you hope the prospect will conclude by going through the above process is that their current belief is worth challenging, that there are examples of other companies that have tried different things and got better results, that it would serve their better interests if they changes that mindset, and that the alternative beliefs would be better in the long run.
Use these ideas with your strategic accounts and you may well find that you are quickly facing a different mindset, one that will drive better choices in the future.
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When you meet a prospect, how much information do you usually get from them? Naturally, their name, phone and email adrress is top of your list. But what other information can you ask for that would make your job easier? How much could you know that will help you identify the best way to network with this prospect? Here are some ideas of the most essential, minimum amount of information you need to make your contact really valuable…
Their name and title
Full company name and address
Phone (direct line, if possible)
Now, what other information would be useful for you to get that would help you beat the competition in getting to the prospect’s real needs?
Here’s some ideas:
What the company does that’s better than their competition
What decision-making authority the person has
What challenges the person is facing
What challenges the company is facing
What strategies you could use to get into the company
How you can keep in contact with the prospect and how often
What their Linked-In, Facebook and Google pages tell you
What actions you can take, and information you could send, that will make the prospect sit up and take notice of you
When you consider all the information you could gain from a prospect, many times we only scratch the surface. If the prospect feels they would benefit from your services, they would be happy to give you all that information and more. Build the relationship on a personal level and you’ll reap the rewards.
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I read the other day about a woman who weighed 420 lbs (190 kg) and went into hospital with stomach pains.
The doctors examined her and said that there was nothing wrong with her…the pains were caused by the fact she was pregnant and about to give birth.
Well, I don’t know about you, but that made me wonder why it wasn’t picked up before. The doctors said that she hadn’t noticed any movements from the baby because she had mistaken them for her usual stomach movements!
It got me thinking how we as salespeople can maybe uncover prospects’ needs that they may not know they have. Just like this woman I read about, could we use our questioning skills to determine how to look at a business’s true situation and determine needs that they never knew they had?
Firstly, identify the current position and what the potential is for the business. Many prospects potter on at the same pace as always without realising what opportunities might exist out there. Your knowledge of the industry and the market may throw up ideas that they didn’t know about and have not seen.
Second, show the prospect the consequences of doing nothing rather than taking your products or services. What would be the outcome if they stuck with the status quo? How much would they lose if they didn’t take up your offer?
Third, highlight the benefits of growing in the direction you are suggesting, even if they hadn’t planned it before. You uncover that new market for them, and they start being motivated to buy rather than you having to sell.
And fourthly, describe how those new markets will impact their bottom line or reduce their overheads if they go for them. This will uncover new potential for them that didn’t exist before and help you become their real business partner instead of a supplier that has competition.
If the doctor of that pregnant lady had asked relevant questions earlier, they both may have uncovered the reasons for the pain and the diagnosis would have been easier to make. Take the role of a doctor with your prospect, and you may uncover needs they didn’t know they had. How’s that for partnership?!
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I’m asked a lot about the value of asking the right sales questions, so much so that I put a free report together on the homepage of the blog on the top 23 sales questions to use with your prospects!
You see, in any sales interaction you need to adopt the PULL rather PUSH mentality.
What I mean by this is that you don’t just PUSH benefits down the throat of your prospect. Instead, you pull out the problems and pain from your prospect and then you SOLVE the problem with what you offer.
So when you go into your next sales interaction remember to PULL out the problems and pain by asking effective questions. You need to assume the position of a doctor!
Now a doctor will perform a thorough examination before writing out a prescription and so should you.
And just like a doctor remember this:
“Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice!”
So, in summary: Pull out the problems first and then solve them. Ask questions, listen and make sure you unearth what EXACTLY the issues, problems and pain is before you SOLVE them!
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