This is one of a series of blogs written specifically for those people in small businesses who are responsible for winning sales. These people will often have other roles and responsibilities which requires them to be very time-efficient during their selling activities. Larger businesses are likely to employ one or more full-time salespeople and this blog series is also written to help these people.
Last time, I introduced the first two of five traps that are very easy to fall into and which will turn off prospects in an instant, resulting in a lost sale. The remaining three traps you should watch out for are given below.
Trap 3. You come across as a salesperson in search of some commission
A senior executive will have a highly developed sense for identifying self-serving salespeople. Their time can be wasted by these individuals, who often refer to their role as providing solutions or solution selling. In many cases all they appear to have is a solution looking for a problem to solve.
To busy executives, all salespeople are assumed to be in this category unless and until they prove otherwise. It is to your immediate benefit to demonstrate you will be respectful of your prospect’s time. Know what questions you need to ask so you can find out whether or not you could help this prospect. If you can’t, say so and leave. Don’t waste your prospect’s time.
This may not get you an immediate sale, but it will get you the prospect’s respect. If you ask, it may even get you a referral to someone the prospect knows who could use your product/service.
IMPORTANT: You have to be different to all the other salespeople. Don’t do what everyone else does.
Try these 6 ways to stand out from the crowd and come across as different to all the other salespeople your prospect meets:
▪ Focus on your prospect’s company not on your own
▪ Ask pre-prepared questions to open up the discussion
▪ Keep conversations business-like
▪ Use stories about your successes with other clients
▪ Be professional, polite and patient.
▪ Walk away as soon as you know you can help the prospect
Trap 4. You fail to offer anything of value during the meeting
This is another prevalent sales-killer. Busy executives look to get value from all their meetings and it is up to you, the salesperson, to deliver this value. Be sure you have some answers for the key (but always unasked) question “what’s in it for me?”
There are many ways you can deliver this value. It could be by providing some information about the trends in your marketplace that your prospect will be affected by or a report by independent consultants comparing your product/service with those provided by your competitors. You may have existing clients who have previously achieved what your prospect is looking to achieve and you can introduce your prospect to them.
If you have written one or more eBooks, you could send one to your prospect (provided it is relevant). If you produce a regular eZine, you could offer a complementary subscription to your prospect. Likewise, if you regularly post to your Blog, you might suggest your prospect visits it and browses through your historic postings.
There are many ways you can deliver value your prospect, it’s a matter of finding what are the most appropriate for your prospects. For some suppliers, a “try-before-you-buy” offer might be appropriate as a way to entice prospects to look more closely at taking their product/service on a trial-basis.
Trap 5. You use manipulative sales techniques and push them into a corner
Using manipulative techniques to manoeuvre your prospect into a sale might well result in an order, unless your prospect can get out of it. However, there will be no follow on business. As an account development strategy, this is fundamentally flawed.
Nobody likes being bounced into placing an order. When you do this to a busy executive you do an immense amount of damage to your personal reputation and to the image of your company. The old adage that bad news travels faster than good news will be proved true as the word goes out to the executive’s network about what has happened.
There is no long-term benefit in manipulating your prospect into buying something he or she is not comfortable with. Better to demonstrate the value your product / service offers and show, using ROI calculations, the compelling nature of your offer.
These 5 traps are certainly not the only ones that salespeople must be aware of when interacting with prospects. They are, however, the ones I commonly encounter when looking at sales issues within small businesses. By avoiding them, your chances of developing a good relationship with prospects are much improved from your first meeting.
Achieve successful first meetings
The secret to a successful first meeting is simple:
▪ Keep the discussion at a business level.
▪ Ask questions. Very good questions.
▪ Focus on the prospect’s situation / business / issues.
Do not focus on your company; how big you are; how long you’ve been in business etc. This is of no interest to the person you are meeting at this stage. If you can show that your product / service can improve the lot of your prospect, there’s a good chance you will get ongoing engagement. Your initial meeting will mark the start of an ongoing sales campaign. You will get an opportunity in later meetings to talk about how good your company is, what makes it different and how the prospect will benefit as a result of buying from you.
If you focus your attention on what the prospect will get out of the first meeting, you will begin to differentiate yourself from the other salespeople seen by the prospect.
- Develop a series of good questions that you can memorise and use in your first meetings with new prospects. Make them relevant and thought-provoking.
- Ensure you arrive at every meeting having researched both the person you are meeting and their organisation. By being fully prepared you are less likely to ask dumb questions which will switch off your prospect.
- Focus your attention during the first meeting on the other person and search for ways to give them something of value. Make them want to see you again.