You Can’t Find Pain by Email

You can transmit information by email. You can answer a quick question which does not require a complicated answer by email. And you can even submit a proposal by email. But you can’t find pain by email. One of the primary reasons is that people are reluctant to admit to emotional issues in writing unless it is in a diary and most of those are not meant to be seen by anyone. Another reason email pain finding does not work is that you cannot read the tonality and the body language of the prospect in an email. You cannot see how the prospect reacts to tough questions in an email and you cannot be sure that the answer you get by return email was crafted by the author and not by a colleague they conferred with. You are limited by how much you can say (that the prospect will read) in an email and you cannot insert your own tonality into the words to either soften the delivery of a tough question or to imply assuredness or any other modifier to the words you transmit. There are many other reasons but those mentioned herein should be enough to get you to pick up the phone and call the prospect.

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Analyze your thought process

Thoughts you have reflect your beliefs. And Beliefs you have affect your success on sales calls. If you are thinking that “this sales call is not going to go well”, then, it probably won’t go well. The question I would ask is “why do you think the sales call will not go well”. Too many sales managers attack the wrong end of the problem when debriefing a sales call. They focus on what was said and not said and on what was done and not done on the call. What the sales manager should do is focus on the thought process of the salesperson which will uncover what the self-limiting belief of the salesperson was at the time of the call. Once the belief is corrected the right words will get said with the appropriate tonality. And the right actions will take place on the sales call. Salespeople who want to accelerate their growth should analyze their thought processes after the call for the very same reason. If you get your beliefs in line the words will take care of themselves.

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Have fun on sales call

If you are not having fun on your sales calls you are not being as effective as you could be. Yes, you need to follow the sales process. And yes, you need to ask questions and gain commitments. But let your natural personality come out. Don’t be such a slave to the process that you can’t laugh and joke with the prospect at the appropriate times. A sales call is nothing more than a directed discussion with another human being. If you put too much pressure on yourself you won’t have any fun and you won’t be as effective as you could be. This is a short paragraph because the message is simple – Have Fun and you will make more money.

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Ask What Changed

Sometimes the sales process suddenly speeds up or slows down. A project that was dormant suddenly springs to life. Or, one that was moving along briskly suddenly comes to a screeching halt. When that happens (especially in the case when it speeds up) you should ask the prospect “what changed?”. The reason you ask is that things happen for a reason. And it is important that you know that reason. It might be the prospect got a visit from the EPA regulators and now they are under a deadline to remedy a situation. It could be that they were focused on a competitor and the competitor has slipped up for some reason and are now out of the running. In either of these cases the answer to the question will give you insight into the urgency of the situation, the pain of the prospect and the decision process of the prospect. It is also possible that nothing changed but in my experience that is rarely the case. Don’t be so excited by the project springing to life that you forget to ask what prompted the sudden change. If you do, you will miss a golden opportunity to get an advantage over the competition or some leverage in the negotiations to come.

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Find Someone who Cares

Pipelines are bloated with prospects who think the solution presented is interesting or who want to buy something but haven’t bought yet. These deals usually don’t close. The reason is that there is not enough of a compelling reason to buy. The solution to this problem is to find someone in the organization who cares about the problem. They usually care about it because it affects them in some way. This makes the pain personal and personal pain is the biggest motivation to take action. The message is as simple as that. Find someone in the organization who cares about the problem.

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Prep your expert

Experts can cause you problems if they you don’t handle them correctly. There should always have a reason to bring them on the call with you. It might be that they are there just in case there is a question you can’t answer. It might be to make the presentation about how you will solve the problem, or it might be to lead the effort in finding pain because the person you are dealing with is a technical person. It is important that whatever the plan is the expert knows what the plan and is ready to follow your direction. If they are just there in case a question comes up, make sure you tell them not to speak until you ask them to. To do otherwise is to invite disaster. If you are not careful they may take over the sales call in a misguided attempt to help you. This never ends well. In summary have a plan or don’t take the expert and make sure they know the plan and are ready to follow it.

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Wants to do it vs will do it – Follow up

There can be a big difference between someone who wants your product and someone who will buy your product. Many salespeople get excited when the prospect exhibits interest or says that they want or need their product. However, if you stop with need or want, you may end up with a pipeline bloated with prospects who are never going to buy. The difference between “I want that” and “I will buy that” mostly lies in whether there is enough pain to “compel” action. The first step in qualifying a prospect is to make sure there is a compelling reason to buy. The compelling reason usually resides in the answer to the question “why do you want it” or “why do you need it”. It may take more questions than that and many minutes of conversation but eventually the prospect must reveal what is driving them to move forward. If they don’t then there will be no sale in the immediate future.

Wants to do it vs will do it

Are your forecasts inaccurate? Is your pipeline bloated with deals that never close? It might be because you don’t appreciate the difference between someone who will buy form someone who merely wants to buy. As I write this I want to buy a new car. The Lexus I have is getting older and there are some minor problems with it. Nothing major, there are just some minor annoyances. Plus, I like some of the features of the new cars. BUT, I am not in enough pain to buy one. There is no urgency. Besides I hate cars in general and don’t especially relish the task of buying one. Money is not the issue. If I was in front of a car salesperson, I would sound like a buyer and act like a buyer, but I would not be a buyer since there is nothing pushing me to buy. However, that could change. If my mechanic would alert me to a major impending expensive problem, I would suddenly have enough urgency to buy immediately. Don’t be fooled by people who give “buying signals”. Make sure they have enough urgency to buy in the short term. Ask questions. Dig deeper and you will avoid the dreaded pipeline bloat.

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Verify time with the prospect

Knowing how much time you have for your sales call is vital to its success. It is frustrating to put all the work in to set up the meeting, not to mention time and travel expense, only to have the prospect cut your meeting short. You may have scheduled an hour, but the question is, “does the prospect still have that hour to give you”. Or, has another “emergency” or higher priority shown up between when you set the meeting and the time you got there? If they cut the meeting short, you will be rushed at the end, key people may have to exit the meeting early or the meeting may just end abruptly with no warning. There is a straight forward way to eliminate this problem. Just ask the prospect in the first few minutes of the call how much time they have set aside for the meeting. If they mention a time shorter than you were expecting, at least you know in advance and can plan the call accordingly. You can make sure you cover the most important topics and end the meeting in an appropriate way. Having a half hour meeting instead of an hour may be frustrating but knowing it in advance allows you to end the meeting in a natural way.

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The Closing Skill is Over rated

The closing skill is over rated. Too much attention is paid to closing techniques and overcoming objections to get a signature on the dotted line. Not enough attention is paid to the front end of the funnel. Closing should be the natural consequence of everything that comes before it. If you hunt regularly, sell consultatively and qualify prospects effectively, your pipeline will be full of prospects who are moving normally toward the close. The key here is to do enough prospecting and qualify effectively. Do not run to the quote and then try to close the prospect. Rather make sure they have a compelling reason to buy from you. Make sure they have enough money and you understand the decision process and what decision the prospect you are talking to has both the authority and the willingness to make. There is one right time to close. Close too early and you will look pushy. Close to late and you may look disinterested or miss the window of opportunity. The right time is decided upon by the prospect so have that conversation with him or her – don’t guess. If you prospect consistently, sell consultatively, and qualify effectively closing will take care of itself.

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