Sales and Sales Management Blog

February 5, 2015

Objection? Buying Signal? Maybe Neither–Maybe You’re Being Put Under the Microscope

A few years ago I wrote an article titled “How to Take the Sting Out of the Price Question Early in the Sale.”  In the course of the article I argued that it is natural for a prospect to ask about price–and often to do so too early in the sale, before the seller has had an opportunity to create real value for the prospect—because price is one of the factors prospects use as they seek to qualify the seller and the purchasing opportunity.

In response to that article I received numerous emails and comments from salespeople and sales leaders that they had never thought about the idea that the prospect is qualifying them and their offering at the same time they are trying to qualify the prospect.

Yet the prospect’s qualifying the seller and the seller’s value/solution is the crux of the whole sales process.

We are all familiar with the concepts of qualifying the prospect, investigating needs, developing a solution and creating real value for the prospect, overcoming objections, and the other aspects of making a sale.  All of these concepts are views of the sales process from the seller’s perspective.  These are the constructs that we as sellers tend to concentrate on.

We then view the prospect’s questions as either worrisome objections that are nothing but a smokescreen or are out-n-out buying signals.  For many of us, the questions and actions of the prospect are either those of an enemy or those of someone telling us they are ready to buy.

What if neither of those choices is true?

What if all of those questions and the statements by the prospect, instead of being obstacles to our sale or indications of their desire to consummate the purchase, are simply questions and statements to help them qualify us and our offering? 

What if they are doing the same to us as we are doing to them?

If that is the case, then that means we’re neither dealing with an enemy to be overcome nor are we dealing with someone asking us to close them.  Instead we’re dealing with a human being who wants to know whether or not we’re trustworthy, whether or not our offering is appropriate for them, whether or not we’re wasting their time.

In other words, they are in the process of qualifying us just as much as we’re qualifying them.  When we qualify a prospect we ask questions and probe to discover who we’re dealing with and what we might be able to do for them.  When we’re asking questions we’re not trying to play the ‘gotcha’ game.  Most of us aren’t trying to trap them into a sale.  We’re honestly seeking information that allows us to know whether or not we are in front of a real prospect with a real need that we can help solve in a way that produces real value for them.

The prospect is going through the same process with us.  Whether they are conscious of it or not, they’re trying to determine whether or not we are someone they want to do business with, and then, whether or not our product/service/company presents any real solid worthwhile value for them.

The traditional terms sellers think in—overcoming objections, closing the sale, etc.—tend to set up an adversarial relationship where we are on the lookout for the dreaded objection and the opportunity to pounce with the closing question.

However, if we recognize that the sales process involves both parties qualifying one another and that the qualifying process involves the investigation and questioning of each party, we can relax and begin to address the prospect’s questions for what they really are—a legitimate desire to find out who we are and whether or not we are someone they want to work with.

Go forth and qualify—and let yourself be qualified.  It’s a whole lot more fun to sell when you’re working with a prospect to mutually qualify one another than it is to try to out fox and overcome an adversary.

 

January 14, 2013

Are You Really The One Being Qualified?

Every seller is concerned about qualifying their prospects.  We all want to be in front of prospects who can buy—that is, who not only have a need or desire but also the means to consummate the purchase.  Qualifying a prospect can be simple or complex depending on how many criteria a suspect must meet in order to be classified as a quality prospect. 

Consequently we sellers try to use as many tools at our disposal as possible to learn about and quality those we think could be quality prospects for us.  And one of the most important and oft used tools is the question, open ended, probing questions in particular.

Unfortunately we seldom, if ever, consider that the prospect is doing exactly the same thing to us—they are actively trying to determine if we are someone they would buy from.    

Many of us have been taught that our sequence of events should be: qualify, present, close, answer objections, close again.  This sequence has a number of variations, some quite complex, but in the end, this is the format a great many of use have been taught.

Although we view our questions as important discovery questions, we tend to view the prospect’s questions as either worrisome objections or diversions that are nothing but a smokescreen or are out-n-out buying signals. For many of us, the questions and actions of the prospect are either those of an enemy or those of someone telling us they are ready to buy.

What if neither of those choices is true?

What if all of those questions and the statements by the prospect, instead of being obstacles to our sale or indications of their desire to consummate the purchase, are simply questions and statements to help them qualify us and our offering?

What if they are doing the same to us as we are doing to them?

If that is the case, then that means we’re neither dealing with an enemy to be overcome nor are we dealing with someone asking us to close them. Instead we’re dealing with a human being who wants to know whether or not we’re trustworthy, whether or not our offering is appropriate for them, whether or not we’re wasting their time.

In other words, they are in the process of qualifying us just as much as we’re qualifying them. When we qualify a prospect we ask questions and probe to discover who we’re dealing with and what we might be able to do for them. When we’re asking questions we’re not trying to play the ‘gotcha’ game. Most of us aren’t trying to trap them into a sale. We’re honestly seeking information that allows us to know whether or not we are in front of a real prospect with a real need that we can help solve in a way that produces real value for them.

The prospect is going through the same process with us. Whether they are conscious of it or not, they’re trying to determine whether or not we are someone they want to do business with and then, whether or not our product/service/company presents any real solid worthwhile value for them.

The traditional terms sellers think in—overcoming objections, closing the sale, etc.—tend to set up an adversarial relationship where we are on the lookout for the dreaded objection and the opportunity to pounce with the closing question.

However, if we recognize that the sales process involves both parties qualifying one another and that the qualifying process involves the investigation and questioning of each party, we can relax and begin to address the prospect’s questions for what they really are—a legitimate desire to find out who we are and whether or not we are someone they want to work with.

Recognize an honest qualifying question for what it is.  Maybe those questions you are trying to overcome, especially about price or quantity or delivery or usage, aren’t objections or buying signals at all but are just honest discovery questions.

Go forth and qualify—and let yourself be qualified. It’s a whole lot more fun to sell when you’re working with a prospect to mutually qualify one another than it is to try to out fox and overcome an adversary.

 

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October 19, 2012

A Critical Lesson in Relationship Selling From Mr. B.J.

Mr. B.J. (that’s him in the photo) is one of the best sellers I’ve ever seen in action.  In fact, I’ve discussed how he and his sister Chloe sell and produce an incredible close ratio.  But just as Mr. B.J. is an exceptional seller and can teach us a great deal about selling, he can teach us one of the primary lessons about relationship building.

In my years as a sales leader and trainer I’ve had the opportunity to go on thousands of sales calls with sellers.  During these calls I’ve observed how the sellers interact with their prospect, their questioning and presentation style, and how they handle objections and difficult questions.  I’ve also noticed how they deal with the other people they encounter during these calls.

It often isn’t pretty. 

When we sellers encounter people such as receptionists, personal assistants, non-decision makers attending the sales meeting, and others that we tend to think of as ancellary during our sales calls, we often have a tendency to give them slight attention, or, worse, completely ignore them without giving the slightest thought to what message that is sending to them or how that impacts their view of us.  Our attention is fixed upon the prize, not on the potted plants sitting at the reception desk or to the side of the decision maker.

So, back to Mr. B.J.

When anyone—friend, family, stranger, or Debbie and I when we get home from being gone from the house—enters our home, they are greeted by our three dogs.  Although all three dogs are excited, Lola and Chloe are willing to be ignored if you choose to ignore them. 

Not so with B.J. 

If you come into our house Mr. B.J. demands that you look at him, speak to him, and bend down and pet him.  He only demands a few seconds of your time, but you will acknowledge and greet him or you’ll pay the consequences.

And what are the consequences?

If you choose to ignore him he will follow you around the house, hopping on your leg and barking at you until you acknowledge him. 

I’ve seen—and heard—him demanding to be paid attention to for up to 15 minutes straight. 

He wants to be a part of the action. 

He demands to be acknowledged. 

Unlike Chloe and Lola who will accept being ignored, B.J. won’t let you get away with it.

All of our family and friends have learned to greet B.J. at the door just as they greet Debbie or I.

But even though Lola and Chloe accept being ignored, they get even more excited and get a great deal of pleasure when acknowledged and greeted.  If you choose to ignore them they’ll slink off, feelings hurt.

What does Mr. B.J. have to do with relationships and selling?

If being acknowledged and greeted is that important to a dog, what can we conclude about the human beings we encounter?  Do we think they are less aware of how we treat them than Mr. B.J. is?  Hardly.

Stop thinking of the non-decision makers you meet as obstacles or potted plants to be ignored, and realize that not only do they have feelings but that they influence the very people you’re trying to influence–and they just might have a lot more influence with those people than you do.

Take a lesson from Mr. B.J.—people want to be acknowledged and greeted.  Most won’t be like B.J. and demand that you acknowledge them, instead most will be like Lola and Chloe and go away without ever letting you know that you blew it, but they just might let the decision make know what they think of you.

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August 9, 2012

Nobody Likes to be Sold? Au, Contraire

One of the sales truisms today is that no one likes to be sold but people love to buy.  This phrase is tossed around with such casualness and is so oft repeated that it has become accepted without question.

And why wouldn’t it be accepted since its pithy, it sounds so common sense and a ton of salespeople don’t like it when another salesperson tries to sell them and they naturally feel that everyone else will have the same reaction?

The problem is it isn’t common sense—and it isn’t true.

I know lots of people who love to be sold.  My wife likes to be sold.  A couple of my good friends like to be sold.  I have clients who like to be sold.

If nobody likes to be sold how come I know quite a few people who like to be sold?

The answer is quite simple—people aren’t all the same.  We don’t live in a world where everyone has the same likes, the same wants, the same needs, the same anything including the same way to shop.

Some people want to buy, others want to be sold.

What a wonderful world where there’s variety in opinions and wants and needs—and desires when it comes to buying or being sold.

But the very fact that people are different is what makes selling so difficult.

If we want to be successful in sales we have to know our prospect—and that means knowing how they shop—by buying or being sold.

If you buy into the myth that no one wants to be sold and thus treat everyone as “buyers” you run the risk of missing the sale to those who want to be sold.

Likewise, if you treat everyone as a prospect who needs to be sold, you’ll blow your opportunity with those who want to buy.

Making assumptions about the prospect is the real issue.  Allowing yourself time to get to know and understand your prospect will tell you who the prospect is and what they want from the relationship.  They’ll let you know if they want to buy or to be sold.

Once they let you know it’s your job to meet them where they are and deal with them on their terms, not where you wish they were.

August 3, 2012

Guest Article: “The False Dichotomy of Caring or Salesmanship,” by S. Anthony Iannarino

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The False Dichotomy of Caring or Salesmanship
by S. Anthony Iannarino

Salespeople are getting soft. Like marshmallows.

Many haven’t embraced sales. Many more that share the title “salesperson” don’t believe in their hearts that selling is meaningful work. Some have adopted the belief that there is something wrong with the activities that make up selling. They believe and behave as if these activities are somehow dirty, beneath them, unjust, or unnecessarily manipulative. They believe and behave as if taking some sales activities means that you can’t really care about your clients, that you are completely self-oriented.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Cold Calling and Prospecting

Proactively calling your dream clients could be seen as aggressive, self-oriented behavior. After all, you do want to make a sale, and making a sale would certainly benefit you and your company. But the funny thing about this Western, free-market capitalism is that, in order for you to collect the benefit of your bargain, the person or entity you are bargaining with also expects to receive the benefit of their bargain.

The truth of the matter is that your dream client needs you—or someone with a real interest in helping them—to take their business results to the next level. Your dream client is waiting.

Prospecting is how you determine who it is that you can help and how you might do so.

Prospecting and caring are not mutually exclusive.

Gaining Commitments

Asking for the commitments you need from your dream client can also seem to be assertive or self-interested. You need your dream client’s agreement to create and move an opportunity forward, and moving the opportunity will certainly benefit you and your company. But this is only a half the story.

If you create value at each stage of your sales process, and if you truly care enough to help your dream client succeed, then you create value by guiding them through their buying process. They expect you to know how to move them from where they are to where they need to go. You are offending no one by asking for the information that you need to help your client or by asking for the access to the team whose consensus you will later need.

Gaining commitments and caring are not mutually exclusive.

Resolving Concerns

Asking for meetings to help resolve your dream client’s concerns at the end of the sales cycle can certainly be perceived as self-serving. You want one last bite at the apple, and you want to make certain that you are chosen over your competitors and over the status quo. That’s one way of looking at it.

A more thoughtful and mature view might be that your dream client is going the natural resistance to pulling the trigger that accompanies every major decision. You create value for them by helping them to resolve their concerns and assuring them that will achieve the outcomes you are selling. You provide them with answers, proof, and confidence to move forward to a future state they both need and desire.

Resolving your dream clients concerns and caring are not mutually exclusive. Not even close.

There Is No Choice to Make

Are there still some salespeople that are self-oriented and selfish, only selling so that they can receive the benefit of their bargain without caring about their customers? Sure there are. But if you are here and reading this, it isn’t likely that you are old school salespersons.

There is no choice to make. You can, should, and must be confident and comfortable with the activities that succeeding in sales requires of you. You must take these activities and you must care deeply about helping your clients to succeed.

It is your intentions that make the difference. Your intentions are the difference. If your intentions are good, then you don’t need to worry about being “non-salesy” (whatever that means).

Questions

Can the same activity be different when taken by two different people with different intentions?

Is it selfish to want to help your dream client if you also benefit?

What do you have to believe about your clients in order to prospect and cold call?

What beliefs do you have about asking for and gaining commitments?

What beliefs do you have about overcoming objections and resolving concerns?

S. Anthony Iannarino is President and Chief Sales Officer of Solutions Selling a best-in-class staffing firm and Director of B2B Sales Coach and Consultancy.   Find and connect with Anthony at The Sales Blog.

July 30, 2012

Guest Article: “The Explosion of Robot Selling to Increase Sales,” by Leanne Hoagland-Smith

The Explosion of Robot Selling to Increase Sales
by Leanne Hoagland-Smith

It may be just me, but the explosion of robot selling arena appears to be contradictory to the goal to increase sales. Every day I receive messages from robots, oops I mean salespeople, wanting me to buy this or try that.

Just yesterday I got this one:

Hi Leanne,

I was checking on this.

This ends at 5pm today.

Let me know if you would be interested. Regards,

What he was checking on was a previous marketing message that I had personally answered, but his “robot” sales process did not even read my email because he was engaged in “robot selling.”

Over at LinkedIn, second connections who share similar groups believe they, too, can engage in “robot selling.” These folks send out broadcast emails with the hope to snag one or two likely sales leads, while ignoring the fact they potentially alienated a whole lot more folks with their intrusive marketing messages.

Now there are email marketing to social media firms who assure their clients that email and social media marketing works.  Maybe it does, but my sense is small business owners are becoming more and more savvy when it comes to their buying decisions.

People buy from people, not robots.

This is why the term is relationship selling not robot selling.

People also buy from people, not robots, they know and trust.  When businesses and more specifically professional sales people are engaged in robot selling (think automatic emails, robo calls, recorded voice mail messages,  etc.), they ignore the human factor.

Automation type marketing tools are great especially when you are posting content.  However, there still must be some personal interaction from you as the human being unless your target market is robots if you truly wish to increase sales.

This human or personal interaction may be a handwritten note or postcard, a phone call, something that differentiates you from all those other gray suited robots. Additionally, thanking or liking postings to actually leaving a message shows you have some real interest in others and it is not just about you wanting to sell.

So continue with the robot selling if that is working for you meaning you are securing your goal to increase sales. However, for this old Swede, I will continue with my focus on relationship selling and building those critical relationships necessary to increase sales. My sense is at the end of the day, I will have ticked off far less people, enhanced my personal credibility and built some new relationships based on trust.


Leanne Hoagland-Smith is the Chief Results Officer for her executive coaching and consulting company.  She brings a no nonsense approach to her clients that is results focused.  You can read more from Leanne at the Increase Sales Blog.

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