Are You Selling or Visiting – Sales eXecution 3212

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Last week I wrote about the importance of words in the context of a sale, while in that case I highlighted the importance of words we select in communicating the right thing to the buyer. But the words we use also impact our attitudes, and our attitudes have a direct impact on our actions, their impact on the customer and sale, and ultimately our company’s and our own success. Yes, what you call something will drive how you prepare, how you prioritize, the actions you take, and the overall intent it communicates to the buyer and therefore their reaction and the progress, or often lack of progress, we make in the sale.

Here is a typical, often overlooked, but clear example. One of the common topics I speak about here is the importance and role of next steps. Part of whether you get that next step or not is how you view the appointment, your role in the appointment and how you approach that appointment. And while it may not seem big it starts with what you call that appointment, which in turn reflects how you are thinking and preparing.

This is why I find it amusing (and at time sad), when sales professionals call an appointment a “visit”; as is “I have a visit scheduled with Harry at XYZ Inc.” (And let’s accept that this is a rep in Toronto, not someone selling sweet tea in Chatom Alabama). A visit? Really, think about that. You are going to go and “visit” a prospect.

vis·it
ˈvizit/
verb
1. go to see and spend time with (someone) socially.
“I came to visit my grandmother” synonyms: call on, pay a visit to, go to see, look in on;
2. inflict (something harmful or unpleasant) on someone.
“the mockery visited upon him by his schoolmates”

So which of the above do sales people mean when they speak about a visit?

I know some will say it is only semantics, and I say they are right, but semantics count, as stated above, in a number of ways. Some say they are visiting because they don’t want to appear “salesy”, why not, is that not what you are there to do? Before you leap to answer that think about it, are your sales people always going in with a clear intent, focused on a specific set of possible outcomes?

Intent counts as much as words. Buyers can read your intent, and if you’re intent signals something other than what you are saying AND, how you are saying it, you’re beat. Buyers can tune in and pick up on that incongruity every time. So you may think you are selling, but if your intent, body language and words are saying “Visit”, that is what you’ll have a visit, not a sales call. As the authors of The Hard Truth About Soft-selling: Restoring Pride & Purpose to the Sales Profession, we have created a class of professional visitors, hoping that the order comes up as they “visitin’”.

Reps are not alone in letting this phenomenon to happen. Managers or organizations fixated on a specific number of calls regardless of the facts on the ground, very much drive sales people to have visits. After all, if I need 10 calls a week, and that number is not directly tied to my goals and conversion rates, but are high on my manager’s personal KPI’s, then I am going to hit that 10 with sales calls and visits.

So go and visit if you must, but for continuous sales success, you will also need to go on first appointment and sales calls.

Tibor Shanto

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The Reason You are calling, is… – Sales eXecution 3200

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Child Phone

As a reader of this blog you have heard me say that whoever coined the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was not in sales. We all know that the wrong word at the wrong time can dramatically change the course of a sale or sales meeting, either for the better or….

This even more true on the telephone where you do not have the benefit of body language to balance out the picture. As more and more sales organizations turn to an inside sales approach, this becomes a greater factor. Without body language you and the prospects are left with only intonation and the words you choose, what and how you say will paint the picture and drive the prospect’s response. What you say, how you say it, and who you say it to, matters.

While I am not suggesting that there are “magic words” or “silver bullet” words or incantations that can turn a sceptic or close the deal, picking your words matters. And it has to be your words, it has to fit with your manner of speaking and it has to help the buyer not only better understand where you are coming from, but also how it helps them achieve their own objectives.

Whether you are in inside sales or a field rep, here is an example that you may relate to. Early on, during the appointment setting call, you will have to give the person at the other end of the line a reason to want to see you. What is that, is it your product, your company, your radio voice, no; it is, as it has always been and will be, what is in it for the prospect themselves.

Many sales people will say that they are looking to “learn” more about the buyer, their company, and buyi9ng process. Well with the demand on decision makers time, they really don’t have time to teach you. You want to learn, well that’s why Al Gore invented the internet, so you can learn about your buyers.

Second favourite reason spoken by reps trying to get appointments: “I want to discuss with you…” Again, do you think they have the time or inclination to discuss, likely not.

So what can you suggest as a reason for meeting? How about sharing some specific steps and impacts you helped others take to achieve their objectives, and how your offering specifically played a role in that, and the specific impact it had on their business. Now this isn’t a creative recital of your features and value props, but specific elements that are tide to OUTCOMES.

The reason I am calling you is to schedule an appointment where I can share with you how we haled XYZ Competitor reduce their logistics cost, allowing them to increase market share by 3% over 18 months.”

No product, no features, no discussion or learning. Instead you are going to show, teach, share, how you have been instrumental in helping others like them achieve specific objectives and results.

“How do I know what their objectives are?” I hear some of you asking. Not as hard as you may imagine, but the topic of a future post; stay tuned.

Tibor Shanto

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The Difference Between Sales Pros and Amateurs – Is The Silence4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Thinking man

Everyone knows that the prospect should be doing most of the talking during a sales call. Knowing it and doing it, well you know. That is one of the big challenges in sales, everyone knows what they have to do, but do they do it?

So ya, active listening, always in style, ever the fashion, but it means so many things to many different sellers, but there is more to the whole thing. It’s not just the listening, it’s what you do with it.

Buyers are practiced too, they can see when it is real, and when it’s shtick, even when it’s good pundit shtick. Sales person makes eye contact, does not interrupt, nods almost on cue, and takes copious notes to preserve every word the prospects utters. Then as soon as the prospects stops, bam, jump on the next thing.

That’s where pros differ from the pack. Watch effective sales people conduct a sales interview, and what you’ll see is that they not only talk less, but revel in the silence. Specifically the silence between when the prospect stops speaking, and when they start their next sentence. They take the time to not only take in what the prospect was saying, but more importantly time to digest and reflect.

If you jump right on the prospects sentence, you may convince them that you were listening, but do little to make them believe you took in what they said, considered it, and incorporated it into the rest of the interview. That’s where the silence comes in. Those precious seconds where you actually think about what they said, not just wrote it down for later, when you need fodder for the CRM.

I know that seconds seem like hours, especially in the heat of the sale, but if the buyer does not buy that you are understanding them and incorporating it into to you flow, the confidence and trust will diminish. After all, if you do not take the time to fully digest what you just heard, it is valid for them to ask if you are focused on them and their direction, or just pitching; one takes time, the other does not.

Part of the challenge is we tend to think faster than we listen or people speak, making it easy to race along, and instead of fully listening and digesting, just consuming things they say. So every time they say something that fits your script you jump in, or move to confirm a data point rather than taking in the whole point, said or implied. Remember, an agenda is not a script, you can change up the sequence and direction of things based on what the buyer is saying. And what they are saying is not always right, which give you the opportunity to explore why they see it that way, take in their explanation and use it as an opportunity to educate the buyer, and have them change direction. And the will, if they see that you are taking into consideration what they present, something you can do during the silence. One method I was taught is to base a question on what they just said that also introduces new elements you feel need to be part of the discussion. Stop, think, one steamboat, two steamboat….., and as the silence fills the room, ask away.

Tibor Shanto

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Drop It!2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Trashed

Last week I wrote a piece about the importance, and more specifically, the must have attributes of Next Steps. Had questions around the topic, most were relating to what to do if one of the three attributes were not attained. At that point you have a choice, retrace and see how you can firm up the loose attribute, or, drop it and move on to the next prospect.

When I suggest the latter, people say “ho, I can’t do that.”

Why not?

The answer lies in the state of their pipeline, and in the case of those people who don’t want to drop it and move on, it is usually the anemic state of their pipeline. You can’t force people to give you a next step, some pundits may have some questionable techniques or tricks, but next steps have to be earned. Assuming you did everything you could to earn that next step, and they don’t want to come along, there is only one logical action, move on to the next prospect. The challenge is that some have so few real opportunities in their pipeline that they are afraid to drop one, one less opportunity, real or not, just becomes too depressing and real. So rather than dropping it, they go for another fix, another hit of hopium, and waste more time and effort try to resurrect a dead opportunity.

And there is the rub, sales people spend so much time trying to breathe life into the dead that they don’t get around to prospecting to generate sufficient number of opportunities, Yes Virginia, Sales in a Numbers Game.  if you had a bushel of apples and one was bad, would you care? But if you had two apples, hadn’t eaten in days, and one was bad, you’ll find a way to rationalize taking a bite.

The first option above, also has to be tempered. It does make sense to review with the prospect why they may be reluctant to commit. You may find you overlooked something, which can be easily resolved. You may find that while they agree in principle, yet not enough to initiate a process they don’t see making much of a difference. I would encourage you to summarize points you thought, based on your plan going in, would resonate with the buyer, especially if during the meeting they in fact did. Do this with the prospect, quick concise, closing off each point. Often this will get things back on track. But if not, drop it and move on.

Don’t forget, leads are recyclable, you can always go back. But if you hang on for dear life, you’re just going to waste time, emotion and piss off the prospect risking future opportunities. Better to move on and reenergize and get back on the winning track. Sometimes your personal next step needs to be stepping on to the next prospect.

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Tibor Shanto

3 Must Have Attributes of a Real “NEXT STEP”1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Definitions are an important factor in sales success, talk to the best sales people, best here being measured in results, not likability, and you will find that they thrive on clear definitions, it is their competitive edge.  To identify weak sales people, look for those with plenty of opinion, but little or no clarity in approach or definitions for core elements of their success.  One common example is “Value”, it is part of almost every sales conversation, yet there are numerous, at times conflicting definitions.  I ask a group of five also rans to define value, and you’ll end up with seven different definitions, because the first two will change their mind based on what the next three say.

Another common element of successful selling that is all too often undefined (and usually unenforced), is the discipline of next steps.  Sure, everyone pays lip service to “next steps” (or advances, or other synonyms), but what they say is not what they mean, and not at all defined, agreed on, or universally supported.

I was brought up in the sales school that held that without a “next step” you are likely working with someone who is fully not engaged, if at all, and therefore not a prospect, but a lead.  This makes a “next step” a crucial delineator between real opportunities, or those pretend opportunities, taking up space in your pipeline or CRM, but lack any empirical evidence to suggest that you are working with a real prospect or an opportunity that will convert in a predictable time frame.

There is not an opportunity review that goes by where a reps is asked:

“Do you have a ‘next step’ with this prospect?”

Rep: “Sure do!”

“What is it?”

“I’m calling him Monday to set a meeting”, or “I told him I would call Monday to see what he thought of the proposal”

“What time is the call scheduled for?”

“I don’t have it formally scheduled, I told him I’d call Monday, and he said fine, I’ll do it after I am back from the Northern demo.”

Sorry, but that’s not a next step.  It’s a plan, may even be a good plan, but at this point it is little more than hope in the form of a thought, and you know what they say about hope, and people addicted to hopium.

For a “next step” to be real and productive it needs to have three attributes, that when combined and successfully executed form a platform for sales success that can use to plan, strategize and execute their sale, usually in a shorter time frame than they had anticipated.

1.   Must Be Agreed On By Both The Buyer And The Seller – by agreed I mean that it is booked and confirmed, not just a “ya OK”, whispered as you are walking out. These days you can have an invite fired from your phone while you are still there.  The physical act of pulling out your phone to put in the time and date will lead them to go to their calendar, if they don’t you may have a problem that you need to address right then and there.  It is not unusual for my prospects to have accepted the next meeting before I leave or by the time I am checking e-mail in the parking lot.

Many will settle for this as a “next step”, but I don’t want you to be one of those.  There are people, even with the demands on time, who will meet with a sales person without a specific reason.  This is why the next attribute is so important, in fact of the three the most important.

2.  Moves The Journey Forward – going back without a clear purpose is a waste of time, you can sit at your desk twiddle your thumbs without adding to you carbon footprint. You want to go back to continue to move the process forward in a way that helps the buyer make the decision that you can help them achieve their objectives.  This can be asking them to do something that will validate their engagement, involvement and commitment to the buy/sale moving forward.

I suggest that you think in advance what that may be, leveraging your personal and organizational experience, map out the journey, understand the critical milestones, and how you have successfully arrived there in the past.  If you know that achieving something opens the door to the next phase of the process, then think of what has to transpire in the meeting to get the buyer to see that as a logical path forward.   This could be any number of things based on what you sell.  One example is to ask for the opportunity to interview other people impacted by the decision, and set a time to comeback, debrief and plan the “next step”.  You’ll often hear me say:

“So we’ve agreed that it would help if I had a chance to get the front line view, if you can give the names of three sales people to interview, I can set that up for next week, and be in a position to come back to review with you by next Wednesday, does 2:00 work for you?”

Now if they do not agree to the action requested, i.e. the team interviews, but do agree to meet next week to hear my recommendations, you have some choices to make.  Does it make sense to have that meeting without the input, can you viably make progress without that.  If not, then you need to understand where you and the buyer parted ways during the meeting, what you may have missed, whether it is an indication that they are not a real buyer, or do you need to retrace and build the value up again.

This is where “next steps” drive success long before the meeting, and how you bring the past to help you now.  Perhaps the most important aspect of “next step”, specifically how they help you plan, strategize and execute.  Since we can only speculate based on experience, it makes sense to visualize the meeting unfolding in a number of ways.  Again, we are not shooting for perfection, but to cover the most likely set of outcomes.  Therefore you need to have multiple “next steps” going into any meeting.  In essence, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and more base on your reality.  Based on the above if Plan B is the follow up meeting without prior interviews, fine.  But if your experience shows that second meetings without an interview end in no sales, or lower margin or quality sales that take 50% longer than the average sale; you can comfortably walk away know you did not go into a trap.  Remember you can always revisit the opportunity down the road, rather than wasting time and energy traveling that unproductive road.

3.  Agreed On Timelines – This ties the first two elements together. And while it may seem too obvious, too many sales people have a plan going into a meeting, find areas of agreement and action, but leave the timing open ended.  Don’t believe, lock your office door, and have a true look at the opportunities in your pipeline, and see if you have any with no time lines.

Seems to me that if you are going to propose specific actions you and the prospect will take as a result of today’s meeting, and prospect agrees that it is something worth doing and they take on doing it, why not agree on a deadline or timeline.  Some sales people tell me they don’t want to seem pushy, when I hear that it sounds like “I am afraid of seeming professional”.

By suggesting a specific time you are helping the buyer (and yourself but let’s keep focused on the buyer), people have a lot coming at them, a lot of demand on the time.  Those things with times attached, deadlines, in their calendar, in their face, with purpose, leading to a desired and agreed on outcome, will be the ones that get done.  Those with any elements of looseness, like no specific time, who know, could be today, tomorrow, “hell, I lived with it this long, could be next quarter”.  Solidify you sales success using time.

Above I asked you to look at your pipeline and see how many opportunities are without a time line.  While you are in there, take a look at the 3 attributes highlighted above, and see where some opportunities in your pipeline come up short.  And then go and fix them, set a meeting, execute your plan, and secure the “next step”, as defined.

So if you are not using “next steps” as success driver, not just in the meeting, but long before, then you are probably working harder than you have to.  Further, if you are not clear on what “next steps” really are, and are working with a different definition than above, you are likely not as productive as you could be.

Your next step now, put the above into practice, it is a discipline.  Need help, your next step is call me: +1416 822-7781.

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Tibor Shanto

 

 

Are your Open Ended Questions Leading to Closed Ended Results? – Sales eXecution 3160

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Question ball and chain

Often the best sales books are not about sales or by sales experts. Case in point Dorothy Leeds’, the The 7 Powers of Questions: Secrets to Successful Communication in Life and at Work. If you haven’t read this and you’re in sales, you are at a disadvantage to any rep that has. While the importance of questions has been explored by many, I keep coming back to this because she does not limit questions to being a sales tactic, but as a means of facilitating real communication and opportunities.

A key point in the book is that questions make one think. So true, yet so underutilized in sales. Rather than using where the buyer is as a starting point, and using question to go beyond, sellers use questions to bring the buyer to a space where the seller needs them, where their value proposition resides. Salespeople use question to box people into a space where they feel they can demonstrate their product and their perspective of value. You can hear it when they “wouldn’t you agree that if….., then you would be able to ….. better (faster, cheaper, etc.)…. Odd how the biggest proponents of Open Ended questioning, end up using questions to create a Closed Ended buying environment. The result is that these questions lead the prospect to in the opposite direction, leaving sellers to wonder why their great questions fail to inspire the buyer.

Want to inspire buyers, get them to think, to engage in a way that they don’t with sales people who use question to coral them? Get them to think. Not about their situation, their hip to that, they live it. Get them to think of their objectives, about the path forward, and the possibilities those objectives Open Up. To do that you need to demonstrate being a subject matter expert, and brave enough to explore the unknown, using question to find possibilities not limit them.

Being a subject matter expert does not mean being a “know it all”. But having enough knowledge, confidence and curiosity to help your buyer navigate uncharted territories to get to their objectives.

All those probing questions fall on deaf ears, they have heard it all before, the have been disappointed before. What they are looking for is a trusted advisor, again, that is not an oracle all knowing all saying, but someone with the skills and expertise to help them figure out how to bridge the gap between where they are now, and where they want their business to be.

Now when I say trusted advisor, I don’t mean their friend, or a relationship type, but someone who demonstrates enough expertise in the areas the buyer is trying to understand that they are willing to trust them enough to first take input then advice. You do not need to have a relationship to do that, you need to have and demonstrate expertise. You can do that and establish yourself as the go to source, as the one who can cut through the noise out there trying to bring them into a closed ended discussion, and you can become the supplier of choice long before the relationship that will evolve after.

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Here is to Single Tasking – Sales eXecution 3001

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One

One of the realities of today’s economy, and always on work environments, is that we end up having to squeeze 16 hours in to a 10 hour day; and that’s on a good day, others can be worse, and weekends for many are just a chance to slow down, not disengage. People turn to different things to help them cope or keep up, is “multi-tasking”! A cute concept, with so much promise and appeal, yet rarely functional or practical, leaving most behind as a result. In fact it could get so bad, that many don’t even realise how far behind they because they are too busy rolling into the next task. Busy yes, productive, rarely. Which is why you should consider a new alternative, Single Tasking!

Let’s get past whether multi-tasking works or not, it does not. Don’t believe me, check these:

Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest
The True Cost Of Multi-Tasking 
12 Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now!

There is no productivity gain, there is just the opportunity to not get all the things you’re doing done right.

Learn how to avoid the multi-tasking trap in prospecting

To avoid this trap you need to step back and see why you find yourself needing to multi-task to begin with. In most cases it is because we have not planned or assigned sufficient time to high-value activities. Based on what you are selling this will vary, not only in terms of what those high-value activities are, but what percentage of your time need to be allocated to each.

One of the things that stresses people out and causes them to multi-task is that their planning is not aligned with their sales cycle. Not all high-value activities need to be done every day. But they do have to be done at different times throughout the cycle. But at some points in the cycle you may need to spend more time prospecting, others, selling, and at times managing accounts. By looking at things based on the cycle, you will give yourself the right not to do something one day, as long as you have allotted for that activity later in the cycle.

First thing is to list those activities, prospecting, training, internal meetings, account management, selling; some will need to add other things like implementing if that is part of your job, for me, I have to set time aside to deliver the training I sell.

Then figure out which of these activities have to be done entirely in “Selling Time”, that 8:30 to 5:00 when prospects and clients are most likely to see you. Other activities can be executed during “Discretionary Time”. This does not mean that the activity is discretionary, but when you do them is. A proposal can be written at 5:00, probably in a less rushed way.

Then allocate what percentage of your Selling Time needs to be allocated to each high-value activity, then do the same for Discretionary Selling time. And remember this is over the course of you average cycle, not day in day out, no need to bring unnecessary pressure.

Develop the discipline to manage your activities to be focused only on the activity you allocated time to, and you will not be behind the eight ball when the deadline looms. We multi-task because that deadline, drop dead time, is coming and we have to get a whole bunch of things done. You may get them done, but will they be done to the best of your ability or just done?

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

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The Power Of Impact Questions – Sales eXecution 2881

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

IQ

I know that we have been taught not to answer a question with a question, but at times you have no other means of redirecting the conversation. One of my favourite type of questions, are Impact Questions. Questions that go to the heart of the issue, challenge the assumptions of the other party, and allow you to redirect the conversation in a way that it revolves around elements that allow the buyer to explore issues in a way they hadn’t considered.

For Impact Questions to have maximum effect they need to have two attributes. Individually each of these are a bit uncomfortable for many sellers, together, they can cause a bit of anxiety, at times fear, I have even seen smoke rising out of some people’s ears, no worries, usually pundits, not card carrying sales people.

The first element of discomfort, is that Impact Questions are by design Closed Ended, ooh, freaky, I know. Everyone thought closed ended questions went eradicated years ago, (same guys who though cold calling was dead), but no, alive and well, and doing fine in the right circumstance. Let me clear, I understand the power and purpose for Open Ended Questions, but as with most things in good selling, it is not one vs. the other, but which makes more sense for the specific situation.

There are some critical moments during the sale when only a closed ended question make sense. Where a limited set of answers creates clarity for both the buyer and seller, and allows them both to focus in critical issues rather than the universe! These points are usually during the initial prospecting call, when the buyer needs to see the opportunity for a new paradigm, and during negotiations, when it helps to re-establish the value agreed to earlier.

The other difficulty with Impact Questions, is that they have to be built around actual impacts you and your company have been able to deliver to clients in similar scenarios as the current buyer, where you have been able to help them achieve critical business objectives. While this may sound straight forward, it takes work.

Ask a team of sales people to tell you what specific impact they have had on their client’s objectives, and most have difficulty answering. They are usually accustomed to exploring things from the filter of what they do, and how their clients use their offering. Few focus on outcome, usually because few sell to those who benefit from the outcome, most will sell to the users or implementers. But regardless of who you are selling to, directing the discussion to outcomes will always be an advantage for all involved. But many buyers have been conditioned either by their role or by their experiences with sales people to look at and talk about “how” we get there, not the “what happens after we get there”, the impact; hence Impact Question.

Combining these two elements in a specific and practiced way, will allow you to avoid certain traps in the buying process, and direct the conversation to where you can actually deliver a win-win, helping both you and the client achieve key objectives.

Tibor Shanto

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Neither Either0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Confused by Too Many Choices Arrow Street Signs

While I am all for having a sales process or road map, there is plenty of room for choice, and there are some elements of sales success that are achievable via many paths. You have choice within a defined structure, the result is pretty much the same regardless how of the path taken. As a seller, your success will not be adversely impacted by the choice. On the other hand, there are areas where you are presented with the option between two paths, but one does not deliver the same results, where one path may be easier but consistently yields lesser returns than another, at times more demanding alternative. Often the alternative delivering better results may not be as comfortable at first, require a different effort. One common reason people will choose the less effective/more comfortable route is they do not want to come across as being “salesy”, you know for some, just asking for the order is “salesy” or pushy; or that’s what they tell me.

An example of the above is “choice” or “options”, specifically sellers giving the buyer options for no real reason or benefit other than their own comfort, not at all that of the buyer. Too many sales people offer up choices or options to their buyers throughout the sales cycle, where they are not necessary, where they could negatively impact the sale or momentum, and are usually deployed not because they make sense for the sale or the buyer, but because they help sale people cope.

Here is a common example early in the engagement, while on a prospecting call. You’ve positioned how you can help them achieve objectives based on you experience and credible validation, and you get to the point where you ask for the time to meet, and instead of creating focus and a call to action, too many sales people make the mistake of saying:

“So what’s better for you, Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning?”

Why? Don’t you know when you want to meet, don’t you utilize your time efficiently and set appointments based on where other meetings take place that day?

Rather than communicating “gee any time is good, I got nothing else going on, so Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, makes no difference to me, any one of those, please I need an appointment.”

There really are those who tell me they don’t want to be pushy, they don’t want to “box” the prospect. So now instead of thinking about what you called them about, any potential value that you may have communicated to this point in the call, you get them to go back and forth between two points in their calendar, instead of focusing on one time.

Hands down, it is better to give them one time, focus them on that time in their calendar, and make it easy for them to say yes, or no, you can always offer up the other time at that point. But why introduce slackness into an otherwise tight call? Is it for the buyer’s benefit? No! If you want to make it easy for them, especially if you have set up the call well to this point, give them one specific time, their eyes will go there and bam! Give them choice, they’ll look at both, maybe see that they have a meeting Tuesday afternoon that they are not ready for, and what could have been an appointment becomes “It’s not the best time, give me a call next month”.

Another example where offering choice is not the best plan is at the time of proposal, too many sellers offer up options, A, B and C. Some even believe that buyers will always go to the middle price point, on the other hand if you offered only one choice, you would get a yes or a no, giving you the option of offering the mid-price at that time. As you have heard me say in the past, good sellers are subject matter experts, as such, you should demonstrate that expertise by putting the best option forward, not a range of options. Order takers offer options, because they do not create the sale, just react to it.

If you have truly sold the deal, addressed the buyer’s objectives, and have gotten confirmation of that throughout the sale, then the only choice is the best one based on the process that just unfolded. For me, go with the best, other than that, I’ll have neither either.

Tibor Shanto

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Teach Them How To Answer0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Q+A

Whenever sales types get together to talk about how to improve their selling, high on the list is the importance of asking questions, good questions, and for good reason.

Good questions, not “what keeps you awake at night?” (The neighbor’s dog), not only uncover valuable data and information, but give you control of the flow and direction of the conversation. Setting the flow is one of the four pillars of effective sales communication, and one that many sales people don’t take full advantage of, or too easily abdicated to sellers in the hope of being “accepted” and not to come across “pushy” or “salesy”; such softy nonsense.

As importantly, good questions get the prospect thinking, an important ingredient in getting Status Quo customers to begin sharing their objectives and going beyond their comforts and preconceptions. It is when you can get them to think outside their self-imposed limits, and they begin to think things through and often out loud, that you can understand why they are stuck on the current state, and what you need to do to move them into unchartered territory for them, to the future state. This is why having questions about objectives are much more powerful than questions about needs or pain, it opens things up, goes to possibilities, not just cures.

But to fully maximize the impact of your questions, you also need to learn how to answer question the prospect will have. The better you get at asking questions that get the prospect to think, the more likely that they will ask you questions, sincere questions about the possibilities, not product related, and you need to be ready. This is more than just good listening, it is about continuing to drive the conversation in the way you answer these questions.

Your answers are another means of reinforcing the direction of the discussion. Especially in the early stages of the sale, your answers should open issues up further. All too often sellers, even experienced “solutions” sellers, see answering prospects questions as a means of “nailing things down”, but they don’t need to be. There is no rule that says questions explore while answers resolve. Answering a question in a way that causes the prospect to go deeper is one of the best ways to focus the discussion and drive the sale.

It is a great way to introduce you subject matter expertise, talk about how you have been able to drive specific outcomes and impacts without sounding like a pitch. By including examples and testimonial type of anecdotes in your answer, you can accelerate the discussion and engage the buyer much more effectively than always leaning and leading with questions. Not to mention how it helps build confidence in the buyer.

As with any skill, some will find and develop it on their own, but many, need to be taught and helped, but once they learn the process, it becomes part of their tool kit for ever. Combine this skill with information you’ll learn from you deal reviews, and you can have a much more effective, enticing for the buyer, and profitable for all, conversation.

Tibor Shanto

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