All too often sales people do an exorbitant amount of work on the front end for a prospect only to find the prospect not going with there product or service for various reasons. We’ve all been there. I’ve been there. It’s tough to be an effective sales person if you haven’t been there. This can be extremely frustrating and decelerate the momentum it takes to be in sales on a daily basis. Customers expect this however, they feel their business should be fought over, put out to bid, or many versions of proposals should be drawn up. Rightly so, they have put in their blood, sweat and tears and their business is an extension of themsleves. It has been said many times in this day and age and is very true, people don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.
How do I as a sales person embrace this fact and increase closing percentages?
The answer: Hold customers accountable, let them take some of the work load
Early in my career I had the pleasure of dealing with a very well known business owner (Tom) in the area and was at the point of presenting our findings for his company and had a meeting scheduled. This gentlemen was very well connected in the area I’m sure he took the time to research my company and services we provided prior to getting to this point in the sales process. I had (2) proposals becuase he had (2) locations, one was $20,000 and the other was $6,000. As we sat down I put of them on the table and we started to discuss, the first phrase out of his mouth was “Brandon, I can tell you right now we’re not going to do anyting with the $20,000 proposal.” A little taken back I moved it aside and replied, “O.K.” As I did my obligatory discussion of terms and conditions for the other proposal, Tom took the paper work and stared at it. Silently. This went on for minutes, which when you’re in a presentation can seem like years.
What should sales people do at the point of uncomfortable silences? Dump product knowledge? Ask for the sale? Point out more information on the contract?
The answer: Keep their mouths shut
Sales people do a lot of free work for prospects whether it be a market analysis, barriers to entry, designs, marketing plans, forcasts, ROI or the vast versions of financial reports. How do we get the customer to do some work?
Back to the awkward silence-Tom stared at the proposal and I remianed silent throughout the process, he looked up periodically to ask a few questions and I answered them, as briefly as possible. He then gave me the very unpoetic objection of “Well this looks good but I have to talk to my Accountant about the monthly payment terms, and I’ll get back to you.” I asked, “If your Accountant on site, how could we discuss this today?.” “Yes he is, I’ll be back in a minute.” Tom came back and forth a few times asking questions which I sometimes answered with open-ended questions and again there were more awkwardly silent moments where I sat saying nothing, just watching the gears in his head turn. ”O.K., we’ll do the 12-month payment on the $6,000 project, and 24-month payments on the $20,000 project.” I said, “O.K.” I didn’t act surprised that he went with both, but in my head there were fireworks going off.
There was a lot a lot of upfront work done to bring these proposals to frutition and very little work getting them signed. Tom did a lot of the work becuase he was held accountable. I was able to ask him easily answered questions that led him to the conclusion that this was good for his business, and I kept my mouth shut the rest of the time. THere were (3) main points I learned from this experience that I teach and train new employees on today:
1. The most important characteristic or ability a sales person should possess is to be able to listen.
2. Being able to ask good questions and close a sale with a question, not a statement, is the most effective tool you can have on your belt.
3. Know when to talk, know when to shut up, and let the customer work through it themselves, and do a lot of the work.
Sell more, by saying Less