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Sales Meeting Minute

Active listening

Has this ever happened to you? You had an initial meeting with a prospect. You asked that prospect what seemed to be all the right questions. You had what felt to you like a good conversation, and based on that conversation, you scheduled the next meeting. You sat down at your computer. You prepared a proposal…

…which bombed.

There are a lot of possible reasons for that outcome, but today, consider this possibility: You weren’t listening actively.

If that’s the case, you might have missed important elements of what the prospect really wanted to say. As a result, your proposal might have been missing essential components.

What’s tricky about this is that you may have thought you were listening, and you might even have written down interesting, accurate notes reflecting what the other person said during your meeting. But listening actively is not the same as waiting patiently for your turn to speak!

Here’s a process that will help you to listen actively during your next discussion with a prospect or client.

 

1.  Recognize the real goal of all your communication.

When we communicate, we have an innate need to be understood and acknowledged. That means step one is letting your prospect or customer know that he has been heard and understood! If you skip this step, your sales call is likely to go off track, no matter how good your ideas are.

2.  Send subtle messages that say, “I hear you, I’m paying attention,” as the other person speaks.

When you are engaged in a conversation, how do you let the other party know that you are listening and understand what he or she is saying? You can acknowledge the person speaking and signify your understanding by simply nodding your head or saying something like, “I see," “OK,” or “that makes sense,” each time he makes a point. This sounds like a basic, common-sense step, but it’s something most salespeople haven’t mastered.

3.  Before making points of your own, restate key content to prove you were really listening and really do understand what was said.

Active listening is the process of reflecting back to the speaker the message you heard in order to confirm or correct your understanding. That is accomplished by summarizing the speaker’s message and asking for confirmation or, if needed, clarification. Active listening not only facilitates effective communication, but it also enhances rapport.

Here’s an example of Step 3 in action:

Prospect: Minimizing equipment down time is our primary goal. When we have to take equipment off line for maintenance, it does more than just disrupt the production schedule. Raw material inventories start to back up at our warehouse facilities, and I have warehouse managers complaining. And, if the line is down for any length of time, our ability to fill orders is negatively impacted, and then I have the VP of Sales breathing down my neck.

Salesperson: So, your primary goal is to minimize equipment down time so you don’t disrupt the production schedule and negatively impact your ability to fill orders. That will stop the warehouse managers from complaining about inventory backups and also keep the VP of Sales from breathing down your neck. Did I miss anything?

 

Notice that your summary may incorporate the speaker’s exact phrases and statements, or you can paraphrase them.

If you follow these three simple steps – understand the true goal of your communication, send the right subtle “I’m listening” signals as the other person is speaking, and restate key content to prove you really were listening – you’ll have better conversations, gather high-quality information, and make better recommendations. Last but certainly not least, you’ll improve your closing ratio!

 

Copyright 2015 Sandler Training and Insight Sales Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

John Glennon is the owner of Insight Sales Consulting Inc, the authorized Sandler Training Licensee for the Interior of British Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected], toll free at 1-866-645-2047 or visit www.glennon.sandler.com

 



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Money issues first

So your prospect asks you for a proposal so she can get budget approved, what do you do?

On one hand it sounds really positive. Your prospect wants to get budget approval. On the other hand it’s going to require a lot of your time to prepare a proposal. She may not get budget approval. Maybe she’s not being totally straight with you and she just wants your proposal to beat a competitor up on price?

So what do you do?

If you say “no” to the prospect's request you risk putting her nose out of joint. You can “challenge” her, but you’re likely to sound like a pernicious pain in the rear.

Instead, I would attempt to gently change her frame of reference so that she comes to the conclusion that this course of action is not in anyone’s best interest.

The best way to do this in my experience is to tell a story.  For example:

Prospect: “I’ll need to get budget approval first. Can you send me a proposal that I can share with my manager to get this signed off?”

You: “That sounds like a good idea. [Hesitantly]…..Do you mind if share a concern though?

"A few years ago my wife and I were looking for a house. We looked at several really nice places before finally settling on one that was perfect for both of us. The asking price was high, but we felt it was worth it, so I went to my bank manager to get funding approved but unfortunately he didn’t share my enthusiasm. He wasn’t willing to give me the amount I was looking for.

"The upshot was that everyone was mad at me. The real estate agent, the vendor, my wife. They all felt that I had wasted their time. It was a big lesson for me. And they were right, I should have secured the funding before putting in all that effort.

“So, Mr. Prospect, can we do this instead……?

“If I give you a ballpark range, can you check if that kind of money, for the right solution, is going to be OK with your colleagues. If we get a red light, we don’t need to pursue this any further and nobody has wasted any time. If we get a green light, then we can roll up our sleeves and get a detailed proposal on the table.

”Does that sound fair?”

Any story where you wasted time because you didn’t deal with the money issues first will work. If you have a personal story, use that. If not, make one up……I just did! That’s because stories are not about what’s true (i.e. the facts) but about a ‘truth’. The truth here that if you don’t deal with money up front, you risk wasting time and upsetting people in the process.

 

Copyright 2015 Sandler Training and Insight Sales Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

John Glennon is the owner of Insight Sales Consulting Inc, the authorized Sandler Training Licensee for the Interior of British Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected], toll free at 1-866-645-2047



Penetrate the smokescreen

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in the middle of your second or third “good discussion” with a prospect. Everything’s going great. The prospect seems engaged and positively disposed to work with you. The prospect poses an innocent-sounding question:

“Say, how big is your company?”

Without hesitating for even a moment, you answer that question. You recite, more or less verbatim, the standard reply you were trained to recite when people ask you about the size of your company, the answer laid out for you in your orientation workshops, your promotion materials, and your brochures: 500 employees, one headquarters location, three regional offices, and six assembly facilities in three states.

The prospect nods. The conversation continues. Although there are plenty of smiles, pleasantries, and earnest promises to be in touch as you wrap up the meeting, the oddest thing takes place once you leave the building.

All forward motion in the sale stops.

The prospect no longer returns your calls. Your emails receive ambiguous replies and weeks pass by. You’re off the prospect’s radar screen. You find that no one else in the company seems willing to acknowledge your attempts to reach out, either. It’s like the prospect has ordered everyone in the enterprise to deny your company’s existence.

What happened?

You answered the prospect’s question.

David Sandler advised that you should only answer your prospects’ questions if doing so can help you … or at least can’t hurt you. Since prospects tend to “smokescreen” their questions – meaning that they tend to ask questions whose true purposes aren’t likely to be clear to you at first – you must make sure, first and foremost, that you’re answering the real question.

Guess what? When that prospect asked, “How big is your company?” the real question was: “Will you be able to handle an 11-state distribution schedule?” As it happens, you can handle an 11-state distribution schedule. But the answer your company taught you to repeat during your onboarding sessions only mentions three states. And that was enough (non)information for this prospect to tune you out … without telling you why.

In most cases, and especially in the early going, you have to assume that every question you hear from a prospect is a smokescreen question. So the question, “How soon can you get a shipment to us?” may mean, “Can you get a shipment to us by 10:30 Thursday morning?” The question, “How strict are you with quantity discounts?” may mean, “Can I take advantage of the quantity discount and arrange for a 14-day split-shipment?

If you make a habit of answering the first question you hear, you’ll never understand the real question!

You must discover why the prospect asked the question you just heard. You must identify the underlying intent. If you don’t know the intent — the importance and true relevance of the question to the topic of discussion — you can’t respond intelligently.

How do you identify the intent? By Reversing.

Reversing is the strategy of responding to your prospect’s questions and statements with a question. It puts the verbal “ball” back in the prospect’s court.

Reversing prevents you from attempting to mind-read. It adds clarity and completeness to the prospect’s smokescreen questions and statements. It helps you uncover the underlying intent of those questions and statements.

Some Reversing questions include:

  • Why do you ask?
  • Why is that important?
  • What are you hoping I’ll tell you?
  • Why did you bring that up just now?
  • What are you really asking?
  • What are you really saying?

Reversing must be done with caution. Firing back with questions in response to the prospect’s questions may sound harsh. So, in most cases, you will want to precede your questions with softening statements.

  1. That’s a good question. And, you’re asking me that because…?
  2. I’m glad you asked me that. What are you hoping I’ll tell you?
  3. Many people ask me that. And that’s important to you because…?
  4. That’s an interesting question. Why do you ask? (What brought that up?)
  5. Good point. And, you brought that up now because…?
  6. I appreciate you sharing that. I can’t help wondering, what are you really saying?

 

It often takes three or more Reverses to get to the prospect’s real question. In this case, if you’d asked effective Reversing questions, you could have gotten to the prospect’s true question and confirmed that an 11-state rollout was no problem. And you’d still be in the game.

By making better decisions about which questions you answer directly and which you Reverse, you can increase the quality of the information you uncover during discussions with prospects, get behind the smokescreen and close more sales.

 

Copyright 2013 Sandler Training and Insight Sales Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

John Glennon is the owner of Insight Sales Consulting Inc, the authorized Sandler Training Licensee for the Interior of British Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected], toll free at 1-866-645-2047 or visit www.glennon.sandler.com





Sales Poodle wanted

Do you have a customer or prospect who treats you like a some sort of Sales Poodle?

A Sales Poodle believes that his job is to satisfy the customer. The customer is king is a core belief of the Sales Poodle. When push comes to shove, the Sales Poodle acts in a manner that reinforces the customer's belief that he is more important.

  • A Sales Poodle is not respected by his customer.
  • A Sales Poodle is expected to run and fetch.
  • A Sales Poodle is expected to wag his tale after been given the ‘run around’.
  • A Sales Poodle is not considered a business Equal.
  • A Sales Poodle can never be a trusted advisor.

 

Ten ways to know if your customer sees you as a Sales Poodle:

(Score yourself 1 point for each statement that is true for you).

  1. You are willing to drop everything to meet with a prospect (usually at the first date and time that they suggest). ___
  2. You invest time in writing sales proposals that you didn’t create. ___
  3. You allow your prospects to determine the rules of your selling interactions (whom you can speak to, what you can discuss, etc.) ___
  4. When you bring up the topic of money and your prospects fobs you off with a “we don’t discuss money with vendors” – you just continue. ___
  5. You thank your prospect for their time at the start of a call or meeting. ___
  6. You work hard for your customer, then they don’t return your calls or emails. ___
  7. You consider their money more important than your time. ___
  8. You take work home.  ___
  9. You check your emails when on holidays. ___
  10. You accept behavior (i.e. showing up late) from a prospect that they would not accept from you. __

 

How did you score?

Score 0-3: Well done!  Sometimes you have to show a little flexibility, it’s not a sign of weakness.

Score 4-6:  You’re running about average. Average is never good. Nobody ever remembers;

  • an average day
  • an average sunset
  • an average meal
  • an average song
  • an average kiss

Average is bland.

Score 7-10:  “Yap, yap, yap.”

Being a Sales Poodle is not a strategy. It stems from a failure to plant your feet and assert your rights.

 

Ten tips to avoid the poodle trap:

  1. Imagine you had $10,000,000 on deposit in the bank every time to engage with a prospect.
  2. Keep in mind that you have the solution – the prospect has the problem (if you are thinking that the prospect has the money and you have a target, see tip #1).
  3. Don’t forget that the prospect will not invest unless he is getting a good return for his investment – so he always get the better end of the deal.
  4. Resist any urge or pressure to discount. Get the price right first time.
  5. Never give a concession unless you get something of equal or greater value in return.
  6. Don’t give into the temptation to justify a high price. This is something your prospect has to do (and is well capable of).
  7. Remember that to get what others don’t you have to be willing to do what others won’t.
  8. The fact you feel uncomfortable is exactly why you should do it (whatever ‘it’ is).
  9. Have clear and unambiguous goals. If you’re not part of your own plans, you’ll be part of someone else’s.
  10. Know your rights as a salesperson. No need to wear them as a badge. Just take them out when necessary.

 

Courtesy: Paul Lanigan: Sandler Training, Dublin Ireland



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About the Author

John Glennon is an authorized licensee of Sandler TrainingSM in the Interior of British Columbia.

John is an accomplished sales person and manager with over 17 years sales and sales management experience. Beginning in sales in 1990 as a sales representative, he progressed to territory manager, sales manager, division manager and national sales and marketing manager roles throughout his career.

In 1997, John became a student of the Sandler Selling System. This introduction changed his sales career and over time propelled John and his career to new heights.

Successful in accelerating growth through strategic leadership, John knows firsthand the value of a sales training approach that follows a learning philosophy of ongoing reinforcement. He is experienced in driving the behaviours, attitudes and techniques required of an effective sales team.

Sandler Training is offered on a regular basis from their Kelowna, BC training center and through innovative distance learning programs to the rest of the BC Interior.

www.glennon.sandler.com




[email protected]
1-866-645-2047







The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


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