You’re sales team is probably not struggling with prospecting. But, if you’ve ever been frustrated by inaccurate projections, insufficient new business or being shopped for price, this article may be of help.
The main prospecting issues are:
Spending time with people who won’t do business with you.
People who say they’re interested and would like to see your presentation.
Those that give you a projected start date, then can’t be found.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed that sellers too quickly accept their prospect’s response at face value. The rippling effect of this is countless hours of wasted time spent in leaving messages, sending e-mails, creating presentations, incorrect reporting, and revised projections, all of which make business owners and sales managers cringe.
If more sellers practiced skeptical curiosity in all selling activities, there would be more productivity and less meaningless activity. Let me explain. Adopting the following beliefs will help you understand the power of skepticism and help you to qualify and disqualify more quickly.
Belief 1: Prospects should never be taken too seriously, especially when they’re overly positive.
Belief 2: Prospects deliberately don’t divulge all the information so they can keep you guessing and them in control.
Belief 3: Most times they have no intention of switching from their current supplier, even though they’ve asked for quotes, they are just shopping you for price, etc.
Belief 4: They feign interest because their goal is to gather as much information from you as possible at no charge.
Belief 5: They want you to make a presentation and leave a hard copy with them when you leave. This way they’re armed with facts for negotiating with others.
Belief 6: They want your pricing because once they get that from you, they have all the leverage.
Belief 7: The start date they share with you is fictional. Always.
Once you internalize these beliefs and approach your prospects with a healthy dose of skepticism, you’ll better understand the importance of asking more questions to get to the truth. So, let’s review the above three issues and how approaching them skeptically would help. A sampling of questions is included with each for your consideration.
First, only spend time with people who match your ideal target account profile. Then realize that it’s likely they really won’t have a pressing need. That way you’ll be prepared to ask them questions to uncover what they’re struggling with, whether that’s just an irritant or actually costing them money; how important it is for them to fix; what they’ve already done about the issue; whether it’s worked, or if they intend to keep trying on their own. If they’re losing money and they’ve tried everything they can think of to no avail, they need help. How much help depends on the amount they’re losing. Ask for an appointment. Otherwise they don’t have a real need right now, so move on, staying in touch periodically for a pre-determined amount of time.
When prospects say they’re interested in your product/service, don’t get excited. Rather, ask them why? What precisely are they interested in? What’s happened to put them in the market to buy? Who else are they contacting? Who are they currently working with? Why would they switch? Ask them when they’ll make a decision. Why then? Ask them about their key buying factors, price, delivery, etc. If they’ll only buy from the low bidder, your company’s policy will dictate whether you continue. If their request is simply part of an annual bid process, you should know some history. How often have they changed suppliers after bids were submitted? If bids enable them to get better pricing from a current vendor without making a change, that’s precisely what they’ll do and you want to know that upfront. I suggest you not play that game. However, if they’re experiencing issues with a supplier, discovering exactly what those are will help you determine your next steps.
When they give you a start date and ask you to let them think about it for a while, I hate to say it, but they now hold all the cards. Once you’ve given them pricing, they have all they need to leverage your information against others; and, can take their sweet time in making the decision. So, now what do you do? Apologize, saying that you obviously misunderstood they would be making a decision that day. Ask what information you’ve left out because it’s clear they still have concerns or questions. If they say everything’s fine, ask for the order. If they still won’t give it to you, it’s a glaring sign that they aren’t serious buyers. State when your current offer expires and be clear that if a decision hasn’t been made by then you’ll have to resubmit. If they’re the decision maker and are really in the market to buy, they’ll have a date, a budget and be able to decide. If not, they’ll string you along.
So, if you’re tired of spinning your wheels and would like greater success with prospecting and generating new business, become skeptically curious. Do so sooner rather than later.