Our last two articles, Part I and Part II, Do You “Show Up and Throw Up” on Your Prospects? shared the importance of following the specific steps of the buying/selling process. Bringing your prospect with you through each of these critical steps is the key to success in sales:
- Gaining Favorable Attention
- Discovering Wants & Needs
- Presenting Benefits & Consequences
- Getting Commitment
- Follow Up/Execution
We have shared the importance of properly introducing yourself and what you do with prospects, along with how to gain favorable attention from them. Next is the all-critical step, Discovering Wants and Needs.
This is the point where most people have trouble. It is often a challenge for many salespeople. If you meet prospects at a networking event or outside their office, schedule some time to sit down and really discuss their business. If within five minutes of sitting down together for the first time, you launch into your sales “pitch” or “presentation, ” you have effectively run a red light in the buying/selling process.
You have the appointment, now you need to find out about your prospect’s needs and / or business. Good questions begin with who, what, where, when, and why. Your questions need to be open-ended. Discard almost all the yes/no questions from your mind and proceed. This is the point where you clear all of the objections that could possibly come up. There should be no stone left unturned. Don’t be afraid of a “no” answer. It’s better to find out something here rather than down the road after a proposal has been generated. The goals of this phase are:
- To reinforce your rapport and credibility
- To gain a complete understanding of the prospect’s situation
- To help the prospect tell you how to help them buy from you
- To stimulate the prospect’s interest and urgency
There are a couple of tips for this stage that are important to meet the goals just discussed and to enable you to get as complete a picture of the situation as possible. Keep the following in mind:
Listen 80% of the time and talk 20%. The more you listen, the smarter you will be
perceived. Most prospects love to talk, and nothing is more engaging than a good
Refrain from evaluating or judging the information the prospect shares. This will help you stay focused and allows you to fully understand all the issues with which your prospect is dealing. You do not want to present a solution too early as you may leave opportunities on the table.
- Most of your questions should be open-ended.
- Be alert to your prospect’s behavior. Their behavior will guide you through the process.
- Resist the urge to talk about solutions.
- Make sure you understand their buying process so you can effectively move to the next step. Having this knowledge will help to eliminate challenges like not talking to the true decision maker.
What are some categories for questioning? There are four general categories of questions. They are:
– What are you trying to accomplish in your organization?
– What kind of challenges do you currently face?
– What are the goals of the department? How do they align with the corporation’s goals and directions?
– What changes have you seen in your industry?
– What can you tell me about your business?
– What have been the significant events that have formed and shaped the organization?
– How will the organization benefit if you are able to meet your goals (Reward)?
– What’s the impact of not meeting your sales goals (Consequence)?
– Please describe the decision making process for this project?
– What do you want to see in a proposal? Who will need to review it?
– Has a budget been established?
– Is there anything else?
You are not solving their problem or fixing something. You are just trying to understand the scope of the issue. Often this brings you to the end of one meeting as you have spent the allotted time. Be sure to ask to schedule a follow up appointment and tell the prospect that you have got some ideas that you want to formalize. Be respectful of their time. They will appreciate it and will schedule more time later. This is a good breaking point as it will give you time to reflect on all the questions asked and determine if you have enough information to move to the next step. Before leaving, ask if you can call or email to clarify information if necessary.
And be sure to set up your next appointment! You are in the home stretch now. In our final article, you’ll learn how to close the sale and, more importantly, open a long-term relationship!
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