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.
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.
- That’s a good question. And, you’re asking me that because…?
- I’m glad you asked me that. What are you hoping I’ll tell you?
- Many people ask me that. And that’s important to you because…?
- That’s an interesting question. Why do you ask? (What brought that up?)
- Good point. And, you brought that up now because…?
- 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
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).
- You are willing to drop everything to meet with a prospect (usually at the first date and time that they suggest). ___
- You invest time in writing sales proposals that you didn’t create. ___
- You allow your prospects to determine the rules of your selling interactions (whom you can speak to, what you can discuss, etc.) ___
- 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. ___
- You thank your prospect for their time at the start of a call or meeting. ___
- You work hard for your customer, then they don’t return your calls or emails. ___
- You consider their money more important than your time. ___
- You take work home. ___
- You check your emails when on holidays. ___
- 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:
- Imagine you had $10,000,000 on deposit in the bank every time to engage with a prospect.
- 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).
- 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.
- Resist any urge or pressure to discount. Get the price right first time.
- Never give a concession unless you get something of equal or greater value in return.
- Don’t give into the temptation to justify a high price. This is something your prospect has to do (and is well capable of).
- Remember that to get what others don’t you have to be willing to do what others won’t.
- The fact you feel uncomfortable is exactly why you should do it (whatever ‘it’ is).
- Have clear and unambiguous goals. If you’re not part of your own plans, you’ll be part of someone else’s.
- 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
I have never been able to understand why some people can only see as far ahead as the end of the current day. Instead of aiming for long term goals, they just wallow in their everyday problems. Sure, the job of running a business, selling, and hanging on to your clients day-to-day can be a full time job. But a crucial part of that job – any job – is to look far ahead, to anticipate change and new challenges, and be prepared for them.
If you know what you are trying to accomplish over the long haul, that often provides sufficient motivation for doing the day-to-day “grunt” work to get you there. What difference does it make on a daily basis what you have to do, if each day gets you closer and closer to the end result? What difference does it make if you are turned down or turned out by a close-minded prospect? What sense is there in spending today pouting over what happened yesterday or, even worse, what might happen tomorrow? If your goals are clear, and you understand the path to achieve them, then it’s simple arithmetic: do this plus that to arrive at your goals.
But it’s not always that easy to stay motivated over time. Imagine brick-laying. It’s easy to look at each brick as identical to the last, and look at bricklaying as drudgery, meanwhile forgetting that – together, one by one – those bricks are building a great edifice. By establishing a goals program, we help ourselves to look beyond the day-to-day “bricklaying” to see our progress in relation to the overall goal.
After all, even an eagle must build its nest one twig at a time. Only then can its nest become its launching pad!
By keeping our goals in sight, and our daily grind in perspective, we keep ourselves motivated through the dark days when we feel like we’re slipping backwards. And, by establishing intermediate goals, or milestones, we provide ourselves with opportunities to enjoy an occasional high, days when we can look back and see that we are making significant progress, moments when we can look ahead and see that we are on course. These moments of celebration give us renewed enthusiasm for moving through obstacles, and not around them. They answer the question, “Why?”
Goals do not have to be glamorous or earthshaking. They do not have to reach into the next decade. They just have to be ours – small goals. Goals that take us through tomorrow into next week, next month, and as far into the future as we dare to dream.
But, they must exist if we are to be motivated to achieve. We can’t borrow goals from our neighbours. We can’t order them out of a catalogue. So where do we obtain goals? They are in our minds, intimately woven into the fabric of our personalities.
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 1-866-645-2047or view his website at www.glennon.sandler.com
It’s a generally accepted notion that acquiring a new customer is more expensive than retaining an existing customer. Add to that fact a sluggish economy where businesses are scrutinizing budgets and considering alternative suppliers, and it’s easy to understand why it’s important to have a customer retention strategy in place. After all, current customers (as well as past customers) have already demonstrated that they want and are willing to pay for your products and services. It makes good sense to hold onto them. Doing so is crucial to the growth and success of your business.
A sales guru once described a five-step magical process for customer retention. The five steps are: 1) Follow Up; 2) Follow Up; 3) Follow Up; 4) Follow Up; and (you guessed it) 5) Follow Up.
OK, there’s nothing magical, or even remarkable, about the process. I suppose the guru was trying to drive home the point that if you don’t want your customers to drift away, then, in addition to normal buyer-seller interactions, you should maintain regular contact with them throughout the year.
Makes good sense.
But simply “following up” is not enough. The real “magic” is how, when, and in what manner you maintain contact. Making monthly “keep-in-touch” phone calls is not sufficient. So, let’s look at five follow-up strategies you can implement to cultivate a closer relationship with your customers.
1. Send a “Thank You” card to new clients. (Yes, a card…not an e-mail.) An elaborate pre-printed card with a foil-stamped company logo isn’t necessary…or desired. A simple card with your hand-written message, “I look forward to working with you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any reason,” is all that’s needed. Make sure to include your cell phone number and e-mail address.
2. At regular intervals, send to your customers a printed copy of your company’s newsletter, or an article or white paper that is relevant to their businesses or industries. Add a hand-written note—“Thought you’d find this interesting.”
3. Send birthday cards to your customers. (You do know their birthdays, don’t you?) Again, no elaborate card with a company logo or imprint. A simple birthday card with your hand-written note, “Enjoy your day,” is sufficient.
4. Send information about new products or services to your customers. Add a handwritten call-to-action note. For example, “Let’s discuss. I’ll call on Tuesday at 10am.”
5. Send customers printed copies of articles relevant to their personal interests. (Yes, you should know something about your clients’ personal interests.) And, as you’ve already guessed, add a personal note like, “Saw this in the Business Journal…thought you’d like to have it.”
The underlying theme is: communicate in a personal manner. Most salespeople are so focused on their work that they don’t take enough time to meet with, talk to, and listen to their customers. Much of their communication takes place in a most impersonal manner—via e-mail. While that’s a valid means of communication for day-to-day business interactions, there’s little room for it in a customer retention program.
Little things that you do throughout the year remind your customers that you are thinking about them and you care about and appreciate their business. Customers who feel appreciated are much less likely to jump ship when your competitors come knocking at their doors.
Read more Sales Meeting Minute articles
- Stay out of sales limbo! Mar 25
- Arrogance sank the Titanic Mar 11
- Are you asking the right questions? Feb 25
- Don't tolerate weak links Feb 11
- Service fit makes happy employees Jan 28
- Is this service? Jan 14
- Salesperson's failures Dec 31
- Managing your sales team Dec 17
- Before you cut your price Dec 3
- Be quiet already! Nov 19
- Are you dealing with difficult customers? Oct 3
- Manage your behaviour Sep 2
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