Go to that Awkward Place and Ask Prospects the Tough QuestionsSometimes in sales things have to get a little awkward to produce a mutually beneficial relationship with a prospect.
This idea is counterintuitive to most sales teachings because usually the goal is to make prospects comfortable enough to listen to your presentation or consultative dialogue, and then to make a “yes” decision if they realize it will benefit them. However, in some circumstances, prospects need to come out of their comfort zone to dive deep into their problem or need.
I learned this from the Vice President of my first sales job. Everyone in our training group was blown away, and at first we didn’t understand the concept. However, upon further explanation, we learned that in order to establish a true relationship with a prospect and learn their needs, reps should learn to ask the tough questions that other sales reps are afraid to ask, which might produce a bit of an awkward situation. It’s like a first date: nerves are high, and neither party knows what the other is thinking. It’s an awkward part of any relationship, and only effective communication can forge a lasting, trusting and comfortable rapport.
Changing a no to a yes by going to that awkward place.
Some prospects’ initial reaction may be to say they are not interested, there is no budget, they have started exploring different options, or they are unsure of what the future holds for that particular solution. Many sales people respond to these objections by saying, “OK, thanks for your time. Have a nice day.” Fail. When you don’t dig deeper into the prospects’ environment, you failed them. They may have needed your solution but did not presently see or understand the benefit of the solution.
A sales professional that really cares about the prospects and the solutions they represent needs to go to the “awkward” place by asking the tough questions. These questions are the Who, What, When, Where and Why questions. They can be awkward because both you and the prospect may feel the conversation is over and further communication is a waste of time. In a lot of instances, the conversation is not over if you are willing to ask just one more question.
For example, I recently spoke with a prospect who said they weren’t looking into my particular solution anymore. Keep in mind that emotionally the prospect sounded like he wasn’t the happiest having to speak with a sales person at the time and wanted to get me off the phone! I could have thanked him for his time and dismissed him, but instead I responded, “Why? What happened that changed things in your environment?” After I showed this genuine interest in his company’s goals, he opened up and explained the situation. Apparently, there had been a problem with budget and decisions were put on hold and consequently forgotten about. I asked if they would reconsider for this year’s budget and he said they might if we could show the decision-making team that this would truly benefit their company.
The result: They received help with a solution that will benefit the company, and I made the sale. At the start of our conversation he had said no, but after a few questions and after I showed that I genuinely cared about their company’s future, we forged a mutually beneficial business relationship.
A few guarantees about going to that awkward place and asking the tough questions:
You will get hung up on.
You will feel uncomfortable.
You will close more business, make more money, and bring beneficial solutions to businesses that don’t realize the benefits until your phone call.
What are you doing to ensure your sales reps are going to that “awkward place,” and asking the tough questions?
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