Identifying Prospects – “You’ve got to hear 5 no’s to hear 1 yes.” is a common saying in the sales game. Its also held up as one of the most challenging aspects of sales. Some people just can’t handle that kind of rejection day in and day out…
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way!
The history of selling, which I’ll save for another post, is such that prospects and sales people are trained to follow a certain dance. Its one in which the prospect is “leading” and the sales rep is “following”. This puts the sales person at the mercy of the prospect’s whims and leads to lots of disappointment and rejection.
So, how does a sales person take control of the dance and find success in a more fulfilling way? Well, its not as hard as you think…
Its really about knowing what makes someone need and want to pay for your product or service and making sure the prospects you invest your time in fit the bill. There are entire books and sales methodologies built around this concept – “Solution Selling”, “Find the Prospect’s Pain”, “Questioning Techniques” are all common phrases used within these methodologies.
More good news! You don’t really need to spend a week in sales training to get good at it!
Here’s a simple road map –
- Write down 3 to 10 things you need to know about a prospect before you know if you’re likely to do business with them. Imagine that you’re talking with a life long friend and he says he knows someone who may need your product or service. In that comfortable setting, with no risk of offending anyone, what would you ask your friend about his friend to be sure its a fit?
- Spend a little time working on scripting out ways to ask these questions that will be appropriate for your prospects. Keep it short, simple and to the point.
- Create a call sheet where you can record the answers to these questions for each prospect you talk with. A simple spreadsheet with each prospect listed on one row and the answers to your questions in columns will work. If you’re using a contact manager or CRM, create fields in the system for these answers.
- Now, test the questions by trying to answer them for all the prospects that are already into your sales pipeline. Try to fill in the blanks when you have further questions with these prospects. You’ll find its uncomfortable if you’re asking the right questions because these questions are much easier to ask at the beginning of the relationship.
- With every new prospect, take control up front using your questions. Take the role of the expert. When the prospect starts asking you the typical questions about your company and services, they’re taking over and you’re loosing control. Stop them by saying something like “Our product/service is designed specifically for certain types of companies/customers/etc. Let me briefly ask you a few questions to see if we’re likely to be a fit for you. If so, I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.” If handled properly, the prospect will see that this is in his best interests as he won’t be wasting his time if its not a fit.
- Now, the hard part – when you hear answers you don’t want to hear, recognize that you have an opportunity to do yourself and the prospect a huge favor. You can save yourselves a lot of time by saying “based on what you’ve told me, I don’t think that our offering is going to fit your needs.” You may even want to point them to other solutions that do fit.
I know, this sounds totally counterintuitive. Just try it. You’ll find that you establish tremendous creditibility with the prospect and often, they’ll try to convince you that they DO need your product! …and that’s what we’re after!
Now you’re in control.
Now price won’t be such an issue.
Now you have more time to spend on the prospects that DO fit the bill!
To read more about this approach, try these articles on qualifying techniques other related topics.
If you’re having trouble making this concept work for you, you may be talking to the wrong people. More to come on finding the right prospects…