Positive Prospects Are Trouble

Prospects have many moves they learn at prospects’ school, but one of the most lethal is the positive move.  The positive move is when the prospect appears to be eager to purchase your solution, especially early in the sales process.

Don’t get me wrong, there are always “blue birds” that fly in to a salesperson.  Blue birds are minimal qualifying, quick-closing deals that close so fast that they may not even make it onto the forecast.  They are extremely rare…but salespeople are always entranced by them.  Prospects seem to be aware of these blue birds and will sometimes use a mechanism that mimics a blue bird.

The prospect becomes overly positive.  I believe they have a clear motive for doing it.  When prospects go positive, salespeople tend to dial down (or turn off) their qualifying skills.  The salesperson stops asking qualifying questions about money, timing, decision process, etc.  They shorten the meeting and quickly add the prospect to the forecast as a quick close.  It is at this point that the “prospect” can quickly disappear in to the ether, never to be heard from again.

When prospects go positive, the salesperson has to go more positive.  They need to ask questions about what it will take to get a purchase order today.  Also, what is the ideal installation/delivery/solution date?  Notice how this approach takes the prospect further positive…if they are not a blue bird, they will start moving in a negative direction.  This movement is the key.  Now the salesperson can start requalifying the opportunity.  And they need to approach it as a fresh start, new opportunity…that may or may not make it to the forecast based on what the salesperson learns as they start requalifying.

Silence Kills Deals?

My mouth is still agape after reading this article in the MSP Business Journal – How to close a sales more effectively.

The first howler:

Anyone involved in sales knows silence can kill deals. If you present your best recommendations to a prospect and stop talking, he might say, “That’s food for thought. Let me think about it. I’ll get back to you.”

What?  No, not true.  The problem the vast majority of salespeople have is the inability to use silence.  A pregnant pause is a powerful tool that helps bring forth information.  It is important to remember that the person asking the questions is actually the person controlling the conversation.

The second howler:

They are all closed-end questions. When faced with a “yes or no” choice, the uncomfortable answer is “no.” Read the questions, answer “no” and see how you feel. It’s likely a negative answer requires justification and you can’t immediately think of reasons.

These suggestions come from the financial world which is predominantly based on selling to “consumers.”  Maybe things are different there, but in the B2B world open-ended questions are necessity.  It has been my experience that prospects are comfortable and adept at saying no.  My experience has been that close-ended questions quickly move you to the “think it over” response from the prospect.

The author clearly has a different approach to selling and perhaps it works well for him.  My take is that these tips would lead to atrocious results in the B2B world.

If you want to close more effectively, invest all, and I mean all, of your time in developing your qualifying skills.  At the end of the day, qualified deals close themselves.

The Lost Art Of Writing

No doubt we live in a technology-based world driven by expedited activities, from instant text messages to YouTube videos on demand.  Communication moves fast.

One area I believe it hurts is applying for sales positions.  I realize an ever-increasing amount of opportunities are found, shared and contacted through LinkedIn, but what of finding opportunities for which you do not have a direct connection.  I think this activity is similar to cold calling/contacting.

When I am sourcing for sales candidates, I receive many resumes forwarded to me through the job boards and LinkedIn.  Resumes.  It is rare that I receive a cover letter anymore.  For me, receiving a resume is similar to receiving a product brochure with no letter…I am left to review the product on my own and make a go/no-go decision.  An accompanying email or letter explaining what this solution offers to me is of value in that it will (hopefully) explain how this solution will help solve a current pain I am experiencing.

Cover letters work in the same manner.  Now, I’m not talking the pre-canned, generic cover letters that state the candidate is a good fit for the role based on the ad.  Rather, a strong cover letter explains how this candidate’s skills and talents are transferrable to this sales role we are advertising.  The cover letter can explain how the hiring company will benefit from acquiring the candidate’s skills.  The cover letter is even stronger when the skills are directly correlated to the desired attributes listed in the ad.

I know, it sounds old-fashioned and overly-simple, but it is still effective.  Unfortunately, the cover letter/email is an under-utilized tool in the strong salesperson’s toolbox.

Levers

A lever is “an inducing or compelling force.”  Selling in a down economy is best handled through the use of levers.  I recently discovered a lever with a material that has certain properties and uses that are not offered by the market leader in this space.  The market leader has such a dominant position that most prospects are unaware of the alternate option.  In talking to customers and prospects, the lever became quite obvious.

Of course, discovering a lever is one thing, defining it within the marketplace is another.  The work that now must occur is to translate the lever into the prospect’s world.  Brevity is key.  Real-world application is needed.  Solution-based, problem-solving, market-expanding wording is the template.

Once the translation is complete, it is time to test it with cold prospects to see if it snaps them out of their dismissive state.  The bar here is low – I simply want them to do a double take.  What is this?  How do they do that?  Could we use it?  Simple, straight-forward intrigue is the target.  From there, it is up to the salesperson to qualify the prospect for fit.

Levers work well in any economy, but I think they are heightened in this economy.  Features/benefits are nice for marketing, but you’ll get run over like a speed bump attempting to sell that way in this economy.  Money is tight so the best way to shorten the sales cycle is to couch the discussion completely in the prospect’s world.  Don’t make them translate your solution.  Find the lever and define it in their world by their terms.