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When clients ask for help in closing more sales, I'd ask them to list the objections they are hearing that prevented the sale. It's when they start stumbling over their response that I ask, "Are these the objections you are hearing directly from your prospects or what you're assuming as the reason why they don't buy?"
Whether it's around our sales efforts, during a conversation with our boss (and our kids), or when trying to uncover ways to best manage your team, certain assumptions can dramatically affect the results we seek to achieve, especially during a conversation.
Rather than uncovering the real barrier to the sale, assuming the objection becomes a detrimental process that spreads like a virus throughout every sales call. These assumptions are not based on the facts but rather the salesperson's assumption of the truth.
Salespeople often fall into this trap when creating solutions for their prospects. During a conversation with a prospect, they uncover a similar situation or problem that they have handled with a previous client. So, they assume that the same solution will fit for this prospect as well.
The problem arises when the salesperson fails to invest the time to go beyond what may be obvious and explore the prospect's specific objectives or concerns.
Thinking they "know" this prospect, the salesperson provides them with the benefits of his service that he perceives to be important, without considering the prospect's particular needs.
The next time you're speaking with your boss, your family your employees, or if you're on a sales call, rather than assuming the objection, how the prospect makes a buying decision, what they know or what they want to hear, follow these suggestions to create more selling opportunities.
1. Identify The Knowledge Gap.
That's the space between what people know and what they don't know. Instead of assuming what they know, start determining what they need/want to learn in order to fill in this gap and ensure clear communication. What may seem old or common to you is new to them. Use questions up front to uncover what's needed to fill in the gap. Example: "Just so I don't sound repetitive, how familiar are you with-?"
2. Be Curious.
Question everything! Since you're in the business of providing solutions, invest the time to uncover the person's specific need or problem, as opposed to providing common solutions that you assume may fit for everyone. For example, the words "Frustrated, successful, affordable, reliable and quality," can be interpreted in a variety of ways and often carry a different meaning for each of us.
When you hear a prospect make a comment like, "I want a quality product that will give me the results I want at an affordable price,” use this as an opportunity to explore deeper into what they want or need most. "What type of results are you looking for?" "What is affordable to you?" Questions allow you to clarify what you have heard or go into a topic in more depth so you can become clear with what they are really saying.
Make each prospect feel that they are truly being listened to and understood. Use a clarifier when responding to what you've heard during the conversation. Rephrase in your own words what they had said to ensure that you not only heard, but also understood them. Then, confirm the next course of action. Examples: "What I'm hearing you say is..." "Tell me more about that." "What do you see as the next step?"
4. Just The Facts, Please
"I told a prospect that I'd follow up within a week. Two weeks later, I figured I missed my chance and they went with someone else." Sound familiar? Effective salespeople don't guess themselves into a sale. To ensure you're operating with the facts, ask yourself this, "Do I have evidence to support my assumption or how I'm feeling?" Enjoy the peace of mind that comes from gaining clarity rather than drowning in the stories that you believe are true.
5. Recall Your
When talking with someone, did you ever get the feeling that they were not being 100 percent honest and upfront with you? While many people have felt this way, whether it's a business owner, manager, parent, co-worker, coach or consultant, I'm often told that they really don't know how to handle it.
Take a salesperson, for instance. Instead of confronting a potential customer about this innate concern, they take what this prospect says and try to do their best to work around it, even though they know that the prospect isn't telling them something.
Many salespeople feel they don't have an approach that would help in extracting the truth - the real truth - from a prospect. After all, what could you say? "Mr. Prospect, I think you're lying to me or not telling me everything." Certainly not an approach I would endorse. Aside from putting the prospect on the defensive, there's a good chance that this approach will destroy any chance of selling to this person.
How can you tell when there's something else a prospect may be holding back from you? Here are a few signs.
If you and your prospect established the desire and need for your product or service and:
They stop returning your calls. They are still reluctant to meeting with you.
You can't seem to move the sales process forward, even when they continue to say "yes" to you. For example: You schedule a meeting and the prospect keeps canceling it. They have a clear interest in your services and even request additional information but something always seems to get in the way of taking the next step.
If you have ever run into a situation like this, there is a strong chance that there's something else the prospect isn't telling you. Here's a great way to find out what's really going on.
Use Your Senses
If a prospect makes a statement that causes your spider senses to tingle, trust and listen to your instincts. Remember, sometimes the real objection is two to three questions deep. Here's an example of how you can respond when you're following up with them.
You: "Mr. Prospect, based on our initial meeting, is it safe to say that you can see the advantages as well as the ROI that you would realize from our services?"
Prospect: "Yes. I definitely see the benefits."
You: "We've been attempting to get together and discuss what would need to happen so that you can start enjoying these benefits, but it seems that something always gets in the way of our meeting. I know you're very busy, but I'm sensing there may be something else that's getting in the way of taking the next step toward working together. Is that true?"
Prospect: "Well, actually."
And now, let the truth be known! Whether he is scared to make the wrong decision, had a bad experience with another purchase, is reluctant to admit he doesn't have the money, fears his job security, isn't the only decision maker, decided to use another company, doesn't want to hurt your feelings by saying "No," or wasn't motivated by a reason compelling enough that would make this a priority and cause him to want to explore what you have in greater detail, these are a few of the obstacles that can fly under your radar unless you dig deeper.
Notice the question I ask doesn't put the prospect on the defensive simply because I'm not accusing him of doing anything that would make him wrong. I'm not offending him by pointing my finger and playing the blame game. For example: "Every time we plan to meet, you keep rescheduling with me." "You told me that you were going to call me but you never did." "You said we would be able to get together for a few minutes." "I told you I was going to call you on Friday at 2 P.M. and when I did you weren't there."
Instead, make it about you. Beginning a statement with, "I'm sensing" acknowledges how you are feeling. Then, ask the prospect for help in determining whether your feeling is, in fact, valid.
This approach gives the prospect the space and permission
My wife and I were about to undertake our last remodeling project. Being a consummate consumer, I wanted several qualified companies to bid on our next project. After calling ten contractors, I scheduled an appointment with the five that called back.
Following our meetings, one gave me a price on the spot and two never responded with an estimate. Two contractors mailed an estimate, and one of them followed up a week later.
Guess who got the job. Just by making a five-minute phone call! What fascinated me most was that only one contractor called back to discuss his proposal and ask for my business.
How can these salespeople afford not to follow up? Conducting my own research, each one said they needed more business, yet didn't know the status of the majority of proposals they sent. I sensed that following up regarding their proposal was not their typical M.O. Instead, here's what they said.
While these contractors formulated their own conclusion, they never bothered to confirm if their assumptions were, in fact, true! They were operating under the costly assumption, "The prospect will call when they're ready."
I asked Bill, one of the contractors, "If you're sacrificing valuable time to drive to an appointment, deliver a presentation, write a proposal and then don't follow up and ask for a prospect's business after taking all of the steps that earned you the opportunity to do so, who are you really helping?" Then it hit him between the eyes. "My competition!"
Bill realized something that only a select few have. While prospects need his remodeling knowledge and skills, they also need his help in making their purchasing decision.
Bill recently called me with some exciting results. After making thirty phone calls to past prospects, he spoke with ten prospects he had met with. Bill sold three more deals ($78,000) in one week that he never would have sold.
In many businesses, especially the ones that sell directly to consumers such as home remodeling, cold calling consumers via the phone is no longer an option to generate new leads. Aside from canvassing door to door, networking, asking for referrals, posting job signs or traditional (and sometimes costly) marketing/advertising campaigns, what else brings in more business? Follow up calls.
How many prospects are waiting for your phone call so they can send you a deposit? How many people are out there waiting to begin working with you?
Bill and I sat down to crunch the numbers. I shared this observation with him. "Consider that you can make about fifteen calls per hour (one hour per week). Assume that out of fifteen contacts, you make one more sale. (Average sale $10,000.) Four hours a month equates to four more sales. Over a year, that's $480,000 in volume. This exceeds the yearly volume of most contractors just by making one hour of follow up calls each week!"
If you take a moment and look at your call back list, how much business does that equate to? Now ask yourself, "How much of it am I willing to give to my competition?"
Since your competitors aren't paying you commission, here's your opportunity to utilize a simple, efficient three-step follow up system that will bring in more (free) sales.
1. Get Permission. Whether you need to follow up after an initial conversation or once a prospect receives your proposal, tries out your product, speaks with references or needs to check their schedule before they meet with you a second time, it's just good business sense to get permission before doing so. For instance, you inform the prospect they will be receiving your proposal next Friday. Before you leave the appointment ask, "May I follow up with you to discuss and answer any questions you have regarding my proposal?" Gaining permission to follow up eliminates
On a very basic level, there are five ingredients needed to create a sale:
1. The salesperson.
2. The qualified prospect.
3. A need or want that the prospect has.
4. The product or service.
5. The selling strategy or procedure you follow that guides a prospect to the natural conclusion of the selling process; the sale.
While many salespeople would say the selling process is about the customer, they wind up making it about themselves.
How do I know this? Look at some of the limiting beliefs that contribute to cold calling reluctance that we mentioned earlier.
Think about all the fears or reluctance you may experience when it comes to cold calling or selling.
I, I, I, I, I!
Look at the first word that begins each statement above. Making the selling and cold calling process about you is the number one roadblock to successful prospecting and the number one cause of cold calling reluctance.
Instead of making the selling process about you and how much you can gain if you sell, make it about the prospect and how much value you can deliver to them.
If you are experiencing any fear or resistance to prospecting, look at who you're making the selling process about. Chances are, you're making it about you!
Once you shift your focus and energy towards making it about the prospect, it will immediately relieve you of the unnecessary pressure to look good and perform.
You are either making the selling process about you and how much you can gain (money, sales, status, and so on), your fear of rejection, looking bad, or hearing "No," or you're making it about the prospect and how much value you can deliver to them. Now, the cold calling process is no longer focused on the salesperson's negative assumptions or fears but on the prospect and the advantages that your product can provide them.
After all, if you are making the sale about you and are concerned about your performance, then how are you ever going to capture their interest when all of your energy, concentration and attention is being directed on to you rather than focused on the prospect?
Make the selling process about the prospect and the value you can deliver rather than what you can gain if you sell. Once you do so, the sale then becomes the natural byproduct of your selfless efforts and good intentions.
Ask yourself this question. Would you rather make a cold call or follow up with a qualified referral; that is, someone who has already expressed some level of interest in your product as a result of an endorsement from someone else?
Okay, so maybe this question can be classified as a rhetorical question. If you would rather build your business off referrals, is your sales funnel bursting with potential new business that you've generated through networking and by utilizing a referral program? If not, then you will certainly have the opportunity to make this a reality and experience it firsthand after implementing the following strategies.
What is that, you say? You don't feel comfortable going to a networking event, into a room filled with people you don't know, and then have to ask a complete stranger for new business? How about those special interest groups or lead groups where the intention is to help other people build their business by sharing referrals? I have news for you. Most people feel the same way. Chances are, you don't enjoy networking because you feel that you're alone, "out there" all on your own. Hey, it takes a lot of courage to fly solo and into an event where you don't know anyone. Yet, maybe there's a way for you to change your mindset around this.
To begin, lets take a moment to define what networking actually is (in the spirit of selling). Networking is the act of meeting new people, often in a social setting with the intention of interacting with them, exchanging ideas, and developing mutually rewarding relationships that would ultimately lead to creating new selling opportunities which would bring in additional business.
One of my clients, Cindy, was a stay-at-home mom looking for ways to generate some additional cash to help out her family with the monthly expenses. To do so, she found an outside sales position selling a line of self-care products. This position gave her the freedom and flexibility to create her own hours, while honoring the priority in her life, which was her family.
Cindy knew that in order for her to make this worthwhile, she needed to maximize the little time that she had to devote to her business. After speaking with the top reps in her company, Cindy quickly realized that the only way to leverage her prospecting time was if she put herself in front of as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. As such, she began to search for local networking groups, trade shows and business events that she could join or take part in.
Cindy called me one morning and shared her situation with me. Finally, she said, "Keith, I am so uncomfortable attending these functions with people I don't even know. And even if I did start talking with someone, I wouldn't know what to say or how to stimulate their interest in what I am selling without sounding pushy or overly aggressive."
I then shared several observations that she considered to be the treasure she needed to make networking a prospecting activity she could actually enjoy.
1. Bring a Wingman: Rather than flying solo at your next networking event, bring a friend, co-worker, or business associate along with you. This "security blanket" will boost your confidence as well as your comfort level and immediately removes the bulk of reluctance associated with attending a networking event by yourself.
2. You Are Not Alone: If you ask most people who attend networking events, they would tell you that there are certainly some feelings of apprehension and fear when it comes to meeting new people (if they were being honest). Rather than placing yourself in the class of people who you perceive to be the minority, instead, consider that you are amongst the majority of people who feel the same way you do.
3. Keep Your Intentions In Focus: If you expect to go to a networking function and walk out with a handful of business cards from people who want to buy from you, think again. To maximize your networking effort
So, what do you do?" This question usually surfaces at some point during an initial conversation with a new acquaintance. Surprisingly, few people know how to respond or introduce their product or service in a way that builds their business or network, without appearing overly aggressive or desperate.
You have probably been asked this question dozens of times. Often enough, the response isn't given much thought. You may reply, "I am an attorney," or "I am in sales," or "I own a business," or "I am a financial planner, (consultant, coach, doctor, CPA, account executive, manager, recruiter)." I've even seen people stumble to get the answer out as if they weren't sure themselves of what it is they do.
On the other hand, those people that walk away from a social event, networking function or trade show with a list of new contacts are the ones who have spent the time preparing an opening dialogue and an intelligent response to this question.
Developing Your Laser Introduction
Here's a technique to assist you in opening up a conversation and new opportunities that will increase your network and client base, while leaving a lasting impression.
The Laser Introduction: I recently asked one of my clients who was a consultant to describe her services. She said, "I help my clients with their business." When I asked her to explain in one sentence the benefits her clients realize or the end result they experience after using her services, she had a hard time finding the words. When creating your laser introduction, begin by focusing on the service you provide to your clients. How do you describe the product or service that you provide? You could opt for something generic, as described above. However, you can have a greater impact by delivering a message that will spark further interest in the person with whom you are speaking.
After all, the term "laser" describes a "devise that emits a highly focused beam of light (or more specifically "a beam of synchronized single wavelength radiation")." Here's your chance to develop your own focused beam of prospecting brilliance that illuminates, clarifies and brings to life every networking or prospecting opportunity you uncover.
When creating a laser introduction, begin by identifying some of your client's challenges. Then, describe how your product or service provides solutions to those challenges.
Begin with the phrase, "You know how:" followed by a couple of common problems that your clients normally experience. Then follow up by saying, "What I do is:" and continue with one or two key points, benefits, value propositions, compelling reasons or MVP's (most valuable proposition) as they relate to how your product or service solves these problems.
For example, if you are a sales trainer or consultant, here's an example of what the dialogue between you and a potential prospect might sound like.
Prospect: "So what do you do?"
You: "Well, you know how some sales teams experience high turnover and struggle to meet their sales goals as well as find new prospects which ends up costing the company time and money?"
Prospect: "Yes. I'm actually going through that myself with my company."
Tip from the Coach: Allow the person to respond, demonstrating you have their attention and that they are interested in what you have to say. Then respond with the following statement.
You: "Well, what I do is help businesses improve their bottom line and bring in more sales by getting their salespeople in front of more targeted, qualified prospects."
Prospect: "Hmm. That's interesting. So, how do you actually do that?"
Notice that I did not tell them what I sell or do or even the specifics of how I go about achieving these results. I simply shared with them the end results they can realize.
Using this approach, you have not only clarified the results you can deliver, but you have opened the door for further discussion about similar challenges that the perso