I’m sitting in Panera Bread last Friday talking with a very nice and interesting man about selling. He has been a top performer at all of the national and international companies he has worked for. His name is Jeff. Jeff now owns his own consulting company and is using his business expertise to help companies be efficient and save money in their mail systems.
Jeff related a story about a sale he almost didn’t get. Jeff is a master at fact finding and knows his industry extremely well. He had done his homework for this prospect and had put together a solution that was literally a no brainer. The company would save enough money from the efficiencies gained from his solution to pay for the new mail system in a very short period of time. In addition, the company would also improve customer service. The only problem was the owner of the company keep saying “no!” Jeff tried everything he knew about selling, which was vast, to powerfully convey why the prospect should implement his solution. Yet the prospect wouldn’t budge.
Jeff finally determined that he was not going to make the sale and told the prospect he was sorry he had not done his job. He went on to say that what he was proposing was right for the company. He finalized his comments by stating the only reason the company was not going to benefit from his solution was because he had not done his job well enough of conveying the value of his solution. After making his heart felt apology the prospect told him to sit down. The prospect then said he wanted to buy.
Jeff asked me what I thought happened that caused the prospect to change his mind. I told Jeff that something shifted for the prospect when he apologized; he got that Jeff really had his best interest in mind. Jeff was not out to just sell his products and services, he recognized his solutions made a difference in companies that implemented his solutions. His apology was not about making the prospect wrong for not buying. Instead, in his apology he took responsibility for the prospect not buying and that triggered something in the prospect. My guess is that what got triggered is: “here is a sales person who has given me a solution that meets my needs, saves me money, and improves my customer service. He has shown me in a compelling way what this solution will do for me and I haven’t committed to implement and he is apologizing for not doing his job. If he is willing to take responsibility like that, I would have a very good relationship with him and his company.”
There is a big lesson to be learned from this story. If your prospect isn’t buying, you, the sales person, have to take responsibility for the prospect not buying. Taking responsibility clears a space to help you and your prospect see what can be done to move the sale forward.
If you have been in the sales game for any length of time you have heard that you need to establish credibility with your prospects. Unless you establish credibility, your sales efforts are in vain no matter how much you do or how sincere you are in trying to serve your prospect. The prospect will not accept your statements as facts or view your actions to be in their best interest.
You want to establish credibility early in the sales process. When you establish credibility you earn the right to continue in the sales process. So now that the importance of credibility has been established, how do you establish credibility and how do you know when you have?
The first step in establishing credibility starts with your mindset or attitude about your company and prospect. You first have to believe your company is providing the best solution possible for your prospect. Secondly, your mindset has to be: focused on assisting the prospect to reach their goals. If your mindset is I’m going to sell them something regardless of whether it’s the best solution or not, you will not be successful in establishing credibility.
The second step in establishing credibility is having the right kind of conversations with your prospect. All too often sales people talk too much about themselves, their company, and their products or services before they even know why their having a conversation with the prospect in the first place. It seems there is “hello” and then it’s a me talk (sales person) you listen (prospect) deal. While it is important to tell about yourself, your company, and your products or services, the timing of these conversations is always best after you have established credibility. Start your conversations centered around your prospect’s concerns, issues, and interests. Ask your prospect about the challenges they are facing in their business, the trends they see, and the value they bring to their customers. When you focus on the prospect they get that you are interested in them. This focus helps you establish credibility.
You’ll know when you have established a level of creditability when your prospect is forthcoming and you get the sense that the prospect really wants you to understand what they want to achieve if they were to do business with you. This is not a commitment to do business with you. You’ve established credibility when you get the sense they want to really explore the possibility of doing business with you. You can see if you are not at this level of credibility with a prospect it really is a waste of time telling them how great you, your company and your products and services are.
Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you can push forward in the sales process without establishing credibility. Take the time to establish credibility and you will benefit in the long run.
I’m riding my motorcycle down the interstate in the far right lane and I see a care ahead that is pulled off on the shoulder of the expressway. I notice the driver is still in the car and I anticipated that this person may pull out in front of me. This was a problem because I had a car immediately to my left and I was fast approaching the car that was on the shoulder. So I slowed down to let the car pass me on my left just in case this guy pulls out. That way I could move over into the other lane. And guess what? The guy pulled out; no blinker or warning of any kind. By anticipating the car may pull out into my lane, I avoided disaster.
I like to ride my motorcycle. To me it is the most fun you can have on two wheels. I have a Harley Davidson Street Glide (105 anniversary edition). It’s really cool. One thing about motorcycle riding is you have to anticipate what other drivers may do. You really can’t take it for granted that someone will not pull out in front of you or not run a read light. I’m convinced that car drivers are not trying to run motorcycles off the road (well for most drivers…some I’m not so sure). But, at the end of the day if I don’t want to eat asphalt, I had better pay attention to what is going on around me and anticipate what others will do.
Sales is similar in that to sell more business you have to anticipate what can happen. Before a sales call you want to visualize what will happen in the call. Play out all of the scenarios in your head and develop a strategy for each scenario. Anticipate the questions that could be asked and know how you’re going to respond to each one. This should be part of your sales call preparation.
Each time you make a sales call develop a pre-sales call plan. Know exactly what you want to accomplish, what you want them to do, how you’re going to approach the call, etc. Laying this out in advance puts you in a better position to actually have the outcome you want.