How to switch off prospects – Part 1

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.

Selling business-to-business in the current marketplace is not for the faint-hearted. Company executives are time-poor and are swamped with approaches from salespeople, either by telephone, by post or by email. They are constantly battling to get control of their email inboxes and voicemails.

Have you ever wondered how successful you have actually been when you finally set up appointments with these people? This is a huge achievement in itself. Senior management in organisations you would like to do business with are all very protective of their time. They will not give up even 30 minutes to meet you for exploratory discussions about your products/services without there being a very good reason. It is critically important you unearth the reason why they have agreed to meet with you. If you don’t, your discussions won’t last long.

Imagine you have finally secured a face-to-face meeting with a senior executive who you have been trying to meet for months. Finally, your persistence has paid off and you’ve got a 30 minute appointment. You’ve tried everything to get your foot in the door and have finally succeeded. It is a great achievement.

However, if you get things wrong at this meeting you will be effectively locked out of this prospect for many months, or until a new executive moves in. It is very easy to get it wrong; do whatever you can to avoid falling into one of 5 traps which causes your key prospect to switch off.

The first two traps are described below. I’ll give you the remaining three traps next time.


Trap 1. You give them a sales pitch

If you give a sales pitch, you will lose the sale. Simple. Here’s why:

At the end of your pitch your prospect, assuming he is still awake, will ask something like “How much is it?”

You might think this means the prospect is interested in your product / service. In fact, in the vast majority of cases this indicates the imminent end of your discussions. You know you shouldn’t give a price because you have no idea about your prospect’s situation. You’ve spent the meeting talking / presenting and have learned very little about your prospect, their situation, problems and priorities.

However you have been asked a direct question which requires an answer.

You might try to dodge the question by giving a price range. However you decide to respond, your prospect will indicate that this range is higher than he has in mind and that there is little point in continuing with the discussions. If you respond to this with a lower price in an attempt to rescue the situation, your reputation is shot to pieces.

The result? A lost sale. Never turn up and give a sales pitch without knowing your prospect’s situation, their problems and priorities.

Trap 2. You ask them to tell you about their business

You’ve secured a short initial meeting with your busy prospect. Do not waste their time asking for general information about their business. Find this out before the meeting. There are plenty of sources of data about companies, especially for larger companies.

Always undertake some pre-call research & analysis. This will help you to identify aspects of the prospect company that your product / service can impact and improve. Arm yourself with background information and use this to demonstrate how knowledgeable you are about their industry and their markets.

In the unlikely event that you can’t find any information about their business via Google you will have to become something of a detective to hunt down the background you need to prepare for your meeting. How you do this will depend on the nature of the company you are investigating.

For example, if the company runs a fleet of delivery vehicles you might be able to get talking to their drivers or the fork-truck drivers who are doing the loading. If it is a service company, there might be a regular bar, restaurant or coffee shop that staff go to after work. It is surprising how much you can find out for the cost of a round of coffee or beer.

These are the first two of the five traps you might fall into which will turn off prospects in an instant and result in a lost sale. The remaining three traps will follow next time.

Posted in Sales / Business Growth