Prospecting can be tough and so can getting calls returned. When a sales person finally gets that prospect’s call, many fail to quickly establish credibility and ultimately lose the sale, without ever realizing their fatal flaw.
Whenever I begin working with sales teams and leaders struggling in areas like prospecting and quickly establishing credibility, I typically look at their first phone conversation with prospects, and where the reps begin.
Reps who struggle with establishing credibility and getting to deeper business issues are starting at the wrong level!
If you are a sales rep, consider your typical opening statement and question to a prospect and consider what level of expertise your question says about you. For the Sales Manager, consider how you are advising your reps to begin conversations with prospects.
Are your questions killing your opportunities?
Whether you realize it or not, your opening question suggests a lot about your ability to be a credible solution for the prospect. Consider it this way – When it comes to demonstrating your knowledge about customers [similar to the prospect], their industry, and the biggest issues they face, does your opening question suggest you know…
1. More about these areas than the prospect?
2. Equal to the prospect?
3. Less than the prospect?
Considering the picture above, if what the prospect knows about their own circumstances and how to solve them is the upper hand, the questions asked by so many reps comes in at a much lower level. In other words, the rep’s beginning questions are probing and exploratory, suggesting “I don’t know you, so let me ask you a number of questions that will allow me to better understand you. Once I know enough, I can help you.” If you are unsure if your questions fit the criteria, the questions typically start with, “Tell me about…” or the Five W’s.
The Challenger Sale [appropriately] refers to this as Solutions Fatigue.
Keep in mind that while the rep has already implied that they don’t know the prospect, the prospect doesn’t know the rep either. Since the opening question suggested that they know less than the prospect on business issues similar to theirs and their industry, the prospect has one goal in mind… be brief and share as little as possible to get off the phone as quickly as possible.
After all, for the rep to be able to help, the prospect would first need to bring the rep up to speed, train on where their problems occur and why, then expect the rep’s learning to surpass their own, so that the rep can lead them to better outcomes with the supplier’s solutions.
Talk about a tough sell. There is a better way.
In my next post, so as not to leave you hanging with the problem and no proposed solution, I will address what The Challenger Sale refers to as the Warmer. This is where the aim is to build credibility quickly without being a supplier-centric monologue about yourself or your company.
As a preview of the next post, the aim will be to give a practical example of leading to questions at a higher level – one which suggests you know more about customers just like them, and their industry and typical problems they are encountering…or about to encounter.
Jeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.