Anticipate but Don’t Assume

The secret to finding pain is to be able to anticipate the problems the prospect might have and then to ask good hard tough questions to get the prospect to share them with you. That is the real value of subject matter expertise and industry knowledge and experience. If you have that expertise you can anticipate what problems they might have, and so you know where to probe for pain and you know what questions to ask. A novice in the industry or the product line is reduced to asking random questions or general questions and is less likely to get to the real pain or the real issue with the prospect. Do not make the mistake of anticipating what problems the prospect might have and then leaping in with a solution. This might be the origin of that old saw about what happens when you assume … ass/u/me.

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Buying Signals

Buying signals of a prospect can be extremely misleading. I don’t believe in them. Leaning forward, asking questions, using certain words are all classic buying signals taught in sales courses. I lean forward because I can’t hear it doesn’t mean I am either more or less interested or any closer to buying what you are selling. Prospects are expert at “playing” the salesperson. They do this to gain an advantage or to get the salesperson to give up information or maybe to get the salesperson to let his or her guard down. Don’t be misled by a prospects buying signals. Follow your sales process and use your sales skills. Ignore the body language and other nuances. You will save yourself a lot of anguish in the long run.

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Don’t Mistake Interest for a Compelling Reason

Prospects need more than interest to become buyers. I am interested in the features of the new iPhone but I am not going to buy it because I am too invested in the Android platform. I am interested in Pickup trucks but I have no need for one. A person like me can waste a lot of a salesperson’s time asking questions, satisfying my curiosity, and teaching me. But, I am not a prospect. I have no need. I have no pain. I am a decision maker and I have the money. But I am not a qualified prospect for either of those products and salespeople should ask enough questions to discover that and move on to someone else as quickly as possible without being rude or damaging the brand of what they are selling.

If you waste too much time with people like me in those two examples, you will not have time to prospect for real customers who are qualified. I know it is enticing and, by the way, prospects know that about you and they are good at pretending to be a real prospect to get their questions answered, to get their curiosity satisfied and to enhance their learning. So be sure to ask enough questions to be able to distinguish a real prospect from a “tire kicker”.

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Understand the Organization

You know your client you know what they need. You take care of them just like you have for the last 5 years that you have had this account. But do you really know them? Can you draw the organization chart of the entire organization? And more importantly …
• Do you know how they make decisions?
• Who the go-to people are?
• Where ideas for new projects originate?
• Do you have a relationship with your client’s counterpart in the other division?
• Who wields power but has no authority and is not on the chart?
• The history of the key contacts?
I could go on but you get the idea. If you only have a single lifeline into the company and he gets hit by a bus or goes on maternity leave or retires, what happens then? Every day your client company changes and you need to keep up with it. When they stormed the beaches of Normandy they didn’t stop on the beach. They continued inland and took over all of Europe. Likewise, when you have a foothold inside a company, you need to expand your influence by meeting more people and truly understand how that company operates as a whole, not just in relation to your work. Not to do so is to jeopardize your standing and risk losing the client to a competitor who does a better job of developing relationships.

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Jump Start your sales

When you are in a slump you need a jolt of energy to get you going. When your car battery dies, you jump start it to get it going. You hook up another battery and give your battery a short term jolt of new energy which causes your engine to start and run smoothly. That recharges your battery and you can operate your car normally. Mimic that with your sales activity. If you are in a slump, for a few days ramp up your sales activity. If you were talking to 3 people a day in the prior few weeks, do 6 a day for 3 days and see what happens. If you are like most people, good things will begin to happen and you can scale back to your normal activity. Look, it is simple math. In the short term the market won’t change and your sales skills won’t change so doubling your sales activity will double the results you get. So the moral of this story is to treat your sales career at least as well as you treat your car. If your car battery dies you don’t just let it sit there. You give it a fresh jolt of energy to get it going. You should do the same for your sales career.

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Raise your expectations

When you raise your expectations … and actually believe it, everything changes and your sales effectiveness will rise in an attempt to meet those expectations. Here is the mechanism. When you believe in your heart that more is possible, your attitude changes and your beliefs about how things work change. Once your belief and expectation change your tonality will change. Think for a moment how your tonality changes when you ask a question expecting to get an answer and when you ask hoping to get an answer. It’s a dramatic difference right? Since around 38% of what you communicate is in the tonality you use, changing your beliefs and hence your tonality will have a major effect on the results you get. In addition, when you believe something will work you attack it with a different attitude and energy which will have a dramatic effect on the results you get. So today’s lesson is raise your expectations and work on your belief that the expectations are valid and your sales will rise to meet those expectations.

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Don’t have a list of Questions

Knowing what information you want to discover on a sales call is a good idea. Preparing a list of specific questions to ask on the call is a bad idea. Those two statements sound similar but they are vastly different. If you go in with a list of questions to ask, you run the risk of having the meeting feel like an interrogation to the prospect rather than a discussion. You will be inwardly focused trying to remember the questions and the order you want to ask them (and maybe even the wording) rather than focusing on what the prospect is saying. You then will miss subtle ques the prospect may give you about what concerns them. the questions you prepared may not fit the conversation exactly and may appear to be out of context to the prospect. The flow of the conversation will be interrupted. If any or all of this happens you will appear to be very “salesy” or worse out of touch.
It is a better idea to go into the call knowing what you need to find out and lead the conversation to a discussion of those topics. The exact questions you ask will be context based. That is, they will flow naturally from what the prospect has said just prior to the question you want to ask. Depend on your ability to formulate the question in a way that fits the conversation.

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Logic doesn’t work

Most of us think logically (some more than others). But the fact is that people buy emotionally not logically. Logically I should drive an economical car to commute to work. But if I worry about status and “feel” more successful in a Mercedes, I would abandon logic and spend more money each day to get to work. When your prospect seemingly makes an illogical decision to go with a competitor, it may be because you ignored some pain indicators the prospect gave and focused more on the logic of why your product or service was better. If a prospect for a car is more concerned about how he feels in the car he drives and believes what others think of him will be affected by what he drives, then the only logical thing for the salesperson to do is to sell the client a Mercedes even if objectively “logic” would dictate the prospect should buy something more economical.

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Value Propositions have no Value

Value propositions are not for salespeople to use on sales calls. The purpose of a value proposition is to define for employees and investors what value we plan to bring to the market or what value we believe the product or service has. This is great for planning and for the training of salespeople. But that thinking is inwardly focused. As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the same is true for value. A product only has value to the extent that it alleviates a pain that the prospect has. So, to announce to a prospect that “the value we bring is to do ____” is to run the risk of the prospect saying (either aloud or to himself) “but I don’t care!” He would only care if he had the problem that the product fixes and also had a passion to rid himself of the problem. It is a much better strategy to use the value proposition as a basis from which to ask questions rather than a basis to make statements about what you bring to the table.

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Rehearse Your Prospect

When you can’t get to the person who makes the decision, your fate is in the hands of the untrained non-commissioned “salesperson” who carries your message to the “boss” who holds your fate in his or her hands. Does your contact know how to make an effective presentation of the reasons they want or need your product? Can they handle the objections the boss will throw at them? I never like to have my fate in someone else’s hand. A way to deal with this is to ask your prospect how they will make the case to the boss. If you like what you hear you can then ask them something like “when She asks why you went with our product even though we were more expensive what will you say”? One of three things will happen when you do this. They might have cogent reasons they can articulate to the boss which will be effective. Or they might not know what to say and you can coach them on how to make the case for your product. The third possibility is that they might get so uncomfortable with the idea of presenting your product on their own that they ask if you can accompany them to explain it to the boss. Any one of the three is preferable to letting them fail on their own and leave you with no sale.

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