On a recent coaching call, I was explaining how to handle the prospect who doesn't admit to having an issue with which they need help. During a first call where the salesperson is taking a consultative approach, it's not unusual for a prospect to become protective or defensive by denying having issues. At this point, most (74% according to Objective Management Group) salespeople will choose one of the following three paths:
- They hang up - no problem means no solution - good bye.
- They get combative - of course there's a problem - we just haven't found it yet, so let's fight.
- They revert to selling their features and benefits, hoping to generate interest.
It should be obvious that options 1 and 2 don't work. Option 3 will generate some interest, but only when salespeople are fortunate enough to stumble upon the combination of good timing and luck. It's the missing option 4 that salespeople should choose. Of course, only 26% have the DNA and skills to effectively utilize option 4. So, what exactly is option 4? It's a second effort, and it's the art of selling.
As I explained on the coaching call, option 4 is much like talking with your kids or grandkids. Let me provide an example:
Me: How was school today?
My Kid: Good.
Me: Really? What made it so good?
My Kid: We played football, I was the quarterback, I made two great plays, they served pizza for lunch, it was so-and-so's birthday so he brought in cupcakes, and I got to draw a baseball diamond in art class.
Me: That's terrific. It sounds like it was a fantastic day and you have a lot to be excited about. So what part of the school day didn't you tell me about?
Some prospects need to feel proud of what they have accomplished. Let them brag. Let them say they're all set. Let them tell you that they're doing great. Congratulate them. Praise them. And follow that up with, "So that's the good part of the story. What's the part you haven't told me about?"
Only four things could happen next:
- It's possible that there simply isn't another part of the story. No problem. No solution. No prospect. But your salespeople can feel good because they made a second effort.
- It's possible that the prospect isn't ready to share the rest of the story yet. No problem. Use that as an excuse to schedule a get-acquainted meeting so the prospect can feel more comfortable about sharing. That is a much more acceptable outcome than taking a put-off.
- The prospect doesn't like the question and ends the call. Salespeople with Need for Approval or Difficulty Recovering from Rejection won't like this, but that's how this sport works.
- The prospect begins sharing a challenge or issue and the salesperson can schedule a first meeting or call.
The most likely outcome from these four options is option 4. Salespeople won't be able to accomplish this outcome though, unless they can imagine that they are talking with their kids, make the second effort, and have the patience to take baby steps until they get the desired level of engagement.