I was riding my bike the other day thinking about some calls I've had with different sales producers over the last several days. Several of the producers I work with were struggling with the same challenge. Each was doing a great job of setting up the initial meeting with a new prospect, but finding it difficult to move the relationship forward to a next step.
As I was warming up at the beginning of the ride it occurred to me we often present our process or solutions before we have created any sort of demand for our process or solutions! This can be such a huge disconnect in the mind of a prospect.
Then, when it comes time to ask for the next step in our sales process the prospect hesitates and puts us off! Why? We haven't developed any urgency and so any solution or process falls on deaf ears. We hear things like:
“I am really busy right now. Call me back after Christmas.”
“We are happy where we are.”
“This looks great. If we ever have a problem we will consider giving you a call.”
This isn’t to say there aren’t legitimate timing issues preventing a near future meeting, but it happens far too often.
Here are some ideas on how to create demand:
Ask great questions
Strategic questions about the direction of the business, understanding what differentiates the business from their competitor and grasping it’s biggest dangers help you align your capabilities with the prospect. The ability to ask great questions doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Spend time building and practicing great questions.
Create an emotional connection
One of the best ways to build an emotional connection is through the questions you ask. But, just asking a question isn’t enough. You have to learn to listen. And not just listen to the words; you must hear what the prospect is saying. When you hear what they are saying you are tied to their gestures, their body language and their demeanor.
Remember, people won’t always remember what you say, but they remember how you make them feel. The stories you tell, the ability to tie what they are saying to your message to their goals and objectives can put you in the right position to connect with them emotionally. Studies show customers are loyal because of an emotional connection. I would argue that before they are willing to buy we have to create an emotional connection.
When I speak of educating, I am not speaking of education in the sense of a banal transfer of information. We educate in many ways: stories, questions, client success and other things can educate a prospect. But, at the end of the day, we have to find ways to introduce new ways of thinking to our prospects to create demand.
One of the best statements you can hear from a prospect is some version of, “I’ve never heard that before or I’ve never thought about that.” It is a great indication we are doing our job to bring them new ideas and not sound like every other sales person out there!
In today’s environment, business owners do not want to feel like they are being sold! They want to feel like they are in a collaborative and educating environment. Additionally, when a producer can give them the feeling they WON’T do business with everyone, if gives the sense their approach has some exclusivity to it. And, reality is, that is the way every producer ought to feel anyhow.
I teach producers to say something like this at some point in the first meeting. “Mr. or Ms. Prospect, we are not a right fit for everyone and not everyone is a right fit for us. Our goal is to work with companies that understand the importance of properly managing risk. Also, our values as an organization are such that if we can’t identify ways in which we will bring tangible value to the relationship, we won’t work with that company. Ultimately that would ruin our reputation in the marketplace and be detrimental to that company.”
What does this do? It puts the prospect in a position where they realize we have some requirements of companies we work with. It also let’s them know we are committed to our values and won’t compromise them just to get a deal.
Make it your goal to create demand before you start talking through all of your solutions or the next step in the process. If you don’t, you will hear a lot of excuses and ultimately will struggle to move prospects to the next step!
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