27 December 2006

Don't scare people away

Sometimes in a middle of sales pitch the prospect suddenly closes down and the salesperson is left wondering just what happened. Why does the prospect pull back and almost deny the existence of problems that they had talked about candidly just a few moments earlier in the meeting? Why doesn't the prospect see the salesperson as someone who can help with those problems?

If you have ever tried to sell anything to anyone, you're probably all too familiar with that scenario. What may well have happened is that the prospect has been scared away by the urgency of the sales pitch as soon as his / her problem was mentioned. The salesperson has created the problem by rushing too quickly to a solution.

That dash to a solution (easy though it is to understand from our side of the desk) can create a significant obstacle to doing business with a new prospect.

How can you prevent this from happening?

The salesperson has to change their behavior. Their prospects need to know that they fully understand their situation and care about helping them. While the salesperson may think that immediately offering a solution does this, in the eyes of the prospect it can come across as self-serving. All the prospect can think about at that stage is how to escape from the meeting without agreeing to anything tangible. So what does the salesperson need to do differently? As soon as the prospect mentions an issue, take a deep breath. This prevents them from rushing into a detailed presentation and keeps them in a consultative mode. Then they have to ask questions, lots of them. They need to find out why it's a problem. They need to ask the prospect to expand on the issues. They need to learn how they've tried to address it already. They need to explore the impact that the problem is having on the prospect's business. That helps them to uncover the value proposition.

After all those questions, the salesperson needs to shake the prospect's hand and arrange another meeting to present their ideas. Barreling headlong into the presentation before the prospect is ready and has fully agreed the real costs of the status quo will often result in them being frightened away.

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