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Monday, January 10, 2011

THE COLD HARD TRUTH: Prospecting 101, Part 10

The Cold, Hard Truth with Gabriel Siegel

THE BOTTOM LINE: When a prospect says “I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT you can bet one, or more of these things went wrong:
  • Your prospect was not properly qualified.
  • Your prospect was not asked the right questions.
  • Your prospect sees no value, to him, in your product or service.
  • Your presentation was too technical and relied on buzz words or industry-specific terminology.
  • You were too anxious to close the sale.
  • You wrongly assumed you knew what a prospect wants or needs.
Remember the David Sandler® rejoinder: “PEOPLE BUY TO AVOID OR OVERCOME PAIN”. Your job as an entrepreneur is to find the pain, the reason to buy. The Sales Manager of a large insurance agency recently told me that when someone agrees to see one of the agents, there’s a need for the product or service. “When the salesperson hears “I have to think about it”, you know we didn’t find the pain or real reason why we were asked to come in”.

Several years ago, a home contractor told this story at a PROSPECTING ROUND TABLE. He was invited in to a home in a middle class neighborhood. His business was fairly new and he was “hungry” for new clients. The owners were vague about what they wanted. He did determine, however, that they were looking to update their kitchen and join it to the dining area. He prepared a proposal and a sketch. He was told by the homeowners they would have to think about it. He never heard back from them.

Several months later, he went to another house in the same neighborhood. He passed that first house and noticed trucks and workers swarming over the property. He later discovered that the owners were affluent gourmets who bought the house so they could expand the property and indulge their passion for cooking and entertaining. Lesson learned: NEVER ASSUME YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR PROSPECT WANTS OR IS THINKING. YOU’LL BE WRONG EVERY TIME!

An annuity salesman tells the story of a visit to an elderly couple living in a modest apartment. The salesman, after gentle probing, convinced them that investing in a fixed annuity was not “playing the market”; their greatest fear. He suggested a minimum investment of $50,000. He returned to his office and prepared a visual showing how much they would get monthly with a $50,000 investment. After he presented them with the proposal, they told him they were thinking $250,000. They signed that night and the next day came to the office with a certified check for $250,000. About a year later, they bought an additional annuity for a substantial amount. Lesson learned: REFER TO LESSON LEARNED IN THE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH.

Go back to “THE BOTTOM LINE” in the opening of this article. You need to:
  • Properly qualify your prospect (questioning).
  • Address fears and concerns.
  • Never assume you know what someone wants or is thinking. You’re not a mind reader.
The first salesman (the contractor) failed to ask the proper questions and assumed from the surroundings that the couple was looking for a simple “facelift”. Further, as he admitted, he never asked about a budget. The second salesman (annuities) probed and discovered that his prospects were afraid of the stock market. He also understood that this was a major step for them.

I recount these stories because they offer the perfect lead in to the bane of the entrepreneur/salesperson: I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT.

Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s the term “needs analysis” was quite the vogue. A salesperson would visit a prospect and tell them he/she would perform a “needs analysis” so they could be sold what they need. As a Sales Manager of what was then the NCR Corporation told me “A potential client may want something, but not be sure he actually needs it”. A prospect may need your service, but unless you can demonstrate what it can do for him, or how it will help him, be prepared for “I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT”.

In conversations with dozens of salespeople and managers, two issues dominate. First, we fail to properly qualify our prospects and often present a product or service to prospects who genuinely don’t need or want what we have to offer. Second, we fail to ask the proper questions. It’s no wonder we often hear “I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT”.

As salespeople, we’re told to “control the interview”. However, your prospect will be (hopefully) writing the check. Who has the ultimate control? What you can do is guide the interview by establishing trust and rapport and asking simple and appropriate questions.

I mentioned in an earlier article that when I go on an interview I bring nothing with me, or, when I need to have something, i.e. a price list, I keep it hidden until the very end. My prospect immediately feels that he is not going to “be sold”. Your prospect doesn’t care how much you or your company spent on presentation materials. This issue of “establishing rapport” brings us to another critical issue in the sales process: HOW DO I GET MY PROSPECT TO OPEN UP TO ME?

Again, repeating from an earlier article, I will tell a prospect something like:

“If you’re wondering why I have nothing with me it’s because until I learn a little bit more, I would have no idea what to bring. If you would allow me to ask a few questions, we’ll see if what I have to offer will work for you. Is that fair enough?”

You’ve now accomplished three things:
  • Your prospect is relaxed
  • Your prospect may be more open with you
  • You have established some level of control
At this point, there is one caveat. Never say “TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS” or something like “WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS”. These types of questions are intrusive and for some, too personal and/or too vague. You might ask something like “Would you mind sharing with me what you were hoping I could do for you”, or, “When I’m invited in I’m sure there had to a reason for your invitation. Would you mind sharing it with me”? I’ve found these openings (or variations) to be most effective.

At times, even with the most judicious questioning and pin-point presentations, you will hear “I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT”. Herein lays the true test of salesmanship. You need to step back and place yourself in your prospect’s shoes. You also need to swallow your ego. Your prospect may well be thinking “Do I really need this?” or “I don’t see how this is going to help me or change anything” or ”Is this really worth the money”?

The only salespeople who have never been told “I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT” are those who’ve never sold anything. What went wrong? Refer to THE BOTTOM LINE at the beginning of this article.

Try this approach. Put everything away and say to your prospect:

“When someone tells me “I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT” it’s usually a polite way of telling me no. If that’s what’s happening here, I understand”. (PAUSE AND TAKE A DEEP BREATH). “Okay, now that the pressure is off, would you please share with me the real reason why you said no”.

Will this salvage every sale? No! But you will save some and, most important, if you did make a mistake somewhere in the presentation, you will not that make that mistake again.

In my next article I will be sharing with you the value of prospecting roundtables and how they can help you in becoming a more effective salesperson.

For anyone wishing to share thoughts or comments, the writer can be reached at I respond to E mails quicker and more thoughtfully than I do when contacted on social networking sites.

For more information, please visit Gabriel's TNNWC Bio.

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