Prospects have more sales resistance training than salespeople usually have in sales skill.
The prospect’s response to salespeople is designed to get as much information as possible and to keep them in control of the situation. Prospects often mislead salespeople about their intentions, how much they’ll spend, who makes decisions, etc.
The prospect’s system is designed to turn salespeople into unpaid consultants, lead them on until they have all of the information they need, and often use their proposals to negotiate with their current salesperson or a competitor. When they have what they need, they stop returning the salesperson’s phone calls.
Does this make prospects bad people? Of course not. We all use this system for dealing with salespeople; it’s almost second nature.
Why do prospects do this? It’s simple. It works. The stereotype of a salesman is not a good image for most of us, and prospects are afraid of being sold something they don’t want. In order to protect themselves, prospects feel they need a system to deal with
salespeople. It is an instinctive reaction to the negative stereotype of a salesman that causes prospects to put up a defensive wall when dealing with sale people.
So how do most salespeople deal with the prospects system? Most play right in to it. Many don’t use a systematic approach to selling. They allow the prospect to take total control of the sales process. They eagerly:
• give their information
• make commitments without getting any in return
• waste resources on pursuing deals that will never close
• make unneeded concessions
• misinterpret the ubiquitous “I’ll think it over and get back to you” as a future sale
What do companies do to contribute to the problem? Frequently they focus on product knowledge and overlook teaching what circumstances or concepts their product fits best with.
The solution: Implement a selling system that provides sales managers and salesperson a track to run on. The system should balance both the prospect and salesperson’s best interest.
Spending too much time with prospects that will never buy.
A sales manager recently evaluated two of his agents like this: “Gary spends too much time with non-buyers and gets too involved in non-productive activities. One root cause of this behavior is that he doesn’t ask the tough questions. Amy is strong with prospects, but both she and Gary have lost deals because the competition asks for the business while they leave brochures with the prospect.” Why is this true?
Salespeople don’t ask the hard questions upfront for fear of making their prospects angry. Most salespeople think their job is to close everybody. Over the years sales training has taught, “Don’t take NO for an answer.” Salespersons are taught to be persistent…handle stalls and objections…trial close…always be closing…and yes, even manipulation. No wonder prospects need sales resistance to protect themselves.
Prospects realize sales persons don’t want to hear “NO” and that when they do they’ll “hang in there” and try to turn “NO” into “YES.” When the poor prospect really means “NO,” s/he has found the easiest way to get rid of a salesperson is to tell them, “I’ll think it over, and I’ll get back to you.” How many “think it over’s” really turn into business?
The solution: sales persons need tools to separate tire-kickers from buyers. They need an approach that obtains support early in the sales cycle. They need to learn the fine art of tactfully qualifying prospects out, not qualifying them in. The top salespersons learn to ask the hard questions up-front, to save precious resources for real opportunities. “NO” is an acceptable response from a buyer. “Going for the NO” requires a tremendous paradigm shift for most salespeople, but it can take all the pressure off the rep and increase her/his productivity. This approach allows the prospect to feel in control, which then relaxes them, and lets them buy instead of feeling like they are being “sold”.
Salespeople talk too much.
A Regional VP recently said, ” My agents’ listening skills aren’t where they need to be; someone says something and they don’t find out the real reason or intent behind the question, which leaves the prospect feeling like my salespeople don’t understand them or their issues. Of course, when we sent them to the College of Product Knowledge, filling them with technical knowledge and then sent them out to make their quotas, we should have expected this result.”
So what’s the problem telling our story? First, people buy for their reasons, not the salespersons reasons, not even their company’s reasons. Second, most companies’ presentations sound the same to the prospect, and when they sound the same, low price becomes the determining factor in getting the business.
The solution: Asking questions is the answer. Teach salespeople to stop regurgitating on the prospect and to start asking questions. Prospects should do at least 70% of the talking on the sales call. The only way this will happen is for the sales rep to ask a lot of questions. Questions to find out what the prospect’s “pain” is. This is the same thing your family doctor does when you go to see him/her. They ask – they don’t tell you anything until they have made the proper diagnosis.
Weak Salespeople focus on price and want discounts for every deal.
Price is never the real issue! Salespeople focus on price because it’s often the first thing the prospect asks about. Yet study after study confirms that quality and services are almost always more important than price. Price is never the main reason for getting and keeping business. People buy our products to either solve a problem they have or to improve something about their current situation or protect against future occurrences.
The solution: Teach our salespeople to be more effective in asking questions and getting to real issues. Once they learn to do this, price will not be the determining factor in winning and losing.
Product knowledge is over-emphasized and misused. As a result, selling often becomes nothing more than “pitching and presenting”.
Most sales training focuses on product knowledge. In fact, studies show that 80% of training dollars spent annually are spent on product knowledge training. Salespeople, once filled with this product knowledge, are eager to share this information and become a Professional, Un-paid Educator. The focus then becomes totally on product, and not on the prospect and her/his problem, where it belongs.
The solution: Provide training in the strategy and tactics our salespeople need to help prospects clearly define their problems and co-build solutions that fit their needs. Product knowledge is important, but how it’s used at each phase of the buying process is the key.
Sales people fail to get prospects to reveal budgets up-front.
Many salespeople are uncomfortable talking about money. Discussing money is seen as intrusive, and unpleasant. Many salespeople avoid talking about money, until the prospect forces the issue. This is one of the five most common weaknesses that salespeople have.
The solution: Knowing whether there is money up-front will help the salesperson distinguish between the prospects that are ready to solve a problem from one who is not committed. Comfortably talking about money is a key to the executive suite, where projects are evaluated based on bottom line impact. Teach your salespeople to find out two things about money:
• How much the problem is costing the prospect.
• How much they’d be willing to invest to solve the problem.
Without a candid discussion about money the salesperson is left to make certain assumptions. And we all know what happens when we make assumptions.
Salespeople fail to get firm commitments from prospects.
Salespeople are often very willing to jump at the opportunity to do a proposal, presentation, etc. This approach is incredibly time-consuming and resource intensive. How many proposals has your office sent out over the last twelve months that resulted in nothing? How much does it cost your office on an annual basis to do proposals that go nowhere?
The solution: Salespeople must learn what motivates people to buy. They must master the skills required to help prospects become comfortable sharing problems, and they must learn to determine the prospects level of commitment to solve these problems before they begin to offer their solutions.
Lack of sufficient prospecting.
A quote from a VP, Director of Sales: “They don’t do enough prospecting, even ‘when I use a long stick.” All professional salespeople will eventually be faced with a bout of call reluctance. You know the story – they have so much paperwork on their desk they can’t possibly find the time to prospect for new business OR they’re so busy calling on existing customers (who incidentally aren’t buying anything) there’s no way they could add any new appointments. Getting ready to get ready. The BT club (bout to) Sound familiar? 40% of all veteran sales professionals have experienced bouts of call reluctance severe enough to threaten their career in sales. 80% of all new salespeople who fail within their first year do so because of insufficient prospecting activity.
The Solution: sales persons need to develop a realistic prospecting plan. Monitor the plan weekly and implement effective accountability.
The salesperson has a strong need for approval.
It’s an easy and common mistake. “I love people, so I’ll be a salesperson.” You end up with a salesperson that would rather make “friends” with their prospects than conduct business. While developing relationships are an important part of the selling process, selling is not a place for people to get their emotional needs met. In fact, it’s the opposite, a tough and demanding profession, full of rejection. People who internalize the rejection end up getting out of the profession. Truth is, they should never have gotten in the business. Sales interactions are fundamentally different than social interactions. Successful professionals understand and accept that the bottom line of professionally selling is: MAKING MONEY.
The Solution: Evaluate yourself to determine if you have this need for approval. Managers need to use a pre-hire screening tool that helps you hire stronger people and teach them a system that helps strike the appropriate balance between developing relationships and getting commitments.
Salespeople don’t treat sales as a profession.
Professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, doctors and CPA’s all have one thing in common – they attend continuing education to maintain and increase their proficiency. Yet how many salespeople are continually seeking new ways to increase their skills? Many have the attitude, “I’ve been selling for years, what more can I learn?”
The solution: Top performers in every profession are always looking for ways to sharpen their skills and gain the fine edge that leads to consistent success. Managers need to begin
to invest in your top performers and help them grow their skills.
Hiring: Sales managers must complete, step-by-step, formal process for profiling, attracting, recruiting, interviewing and hiring top performers. Effective recruiting and hiring is the most important job of any manager. No amount of training, coaching or mentoring will make up for a poor hiring decision. Do it right the first time.
Managing: Implement a sales management process that emphasizes more effective hiring and recruiting, coaching, growing, and developing salespeople. Most of all quit accepting excuses for poor performance, raise your expectations and implement a rigorous accountability process. This starts with your personal production-if you are not meeting standards how can you expect to hold your sales people accountable? In management, you don’t get what you want – you only get what you expect and inspect.
Training: Tapes, books and one -day seminars are fine for intellectual learning or external motivation, but if you want to be a better golfer, pianist – or a better sales person, you must practice and develop new skills. Selling is a skill that can be taught, learned, and mastered over time. The key is to do enough of the right things, enough of the time.
Give success time to happen-and do something today to make it happen!
The clock starts NOW!