Don’t kid yourself when you’re trying to bring in that new customer. A lack of objections from your prospect rarely means they’re on the road to becoming a stellar customer. In fact, it probably means the exact opposite.
A good sales person attempts to rip into the sales process and find all potential roadblocks to completing the sale as early as possible—call it the learning stage. A mediocre to poor sales person, tries to circumvent the potential roadblocks and guide the prospect through a manipulative method that’ll lead the prospect to a closing situation. They do this by avoiding the anticipated objections they’ve encountered in past selling experiences.
This is the kind of selling that’ll become an administrative nightmare in the future—the kind of business that doesn’t stick. In insurance sales, agents are evaluated on this point by something called a persistence ratio—the ratio of business that stays on the books as it compares to the business that goes away.
How’s your persistence ratio now? Let’s talk about improving it
You’re filling a need or a want of the individual or company you’re trying to bring onto your client list. Let’s assume you already realize that you can’t genuinely fill the need or want. So, You shouldn’t be talking with the person or company in the first place—a total waste of everyone’s time.
Sell something in this scenario and risk big problems in the future
So, we’ve identified our target market, and we’ve gotten ourselves in front of the prospect. Now, it’s time to learn about them—not the other way around. They’ll ask about you when they’re ready.
Your job is to spend this time establishing rapport and consequently learning about their needs and the roadblocks to completing the sale. With this approach, you’ll know whether you have an opportunity to do business together and the track you’ll want to take in discussing why you are the person or company with whom they should do business.
Remember, it’s about them first
In the beginning of your dialogue, you’ll need to establish your rapport by becoming genuinely interested in not only their function at the company, but with them as individuals. This will clear the path to a high trust environment. Or at least a higher trust environment than if you didn’t show genuine interest in them as individuals. This is Sales School 101—Become genuinely interested in the prospect and subordinate the desire to talk about you.
Even when you’re asked about you, be very careful to not start going crazy and spend the next hour talking about your experiences in college, you kids or what you had for breakfast three days ago. Think that’s a joke? Have you ever caught yourself talking with people about you and realized 15 sentences into it that you’re somewhere you don’t want to be?
No? Actually, I think I’m doing that now—aren’t I.
The point is, let them talk and you listen to customers
When you’re asked a question, answer it and then immediately bring the conversation back around to focus on them. Be careful not to appear controlling, simply make sure they have the spotlight and avoid any personal desire to talk about you. You should only come up when they appear sincerely interested.
Be prepared (preparation automatically implies “in advance”) for your first meeting with a number of different possibilities for facilitating a business relationship building dialogue.
Find an account or project they worked on and ask them about it? What did they enjoy about it? What challenges did they overcome? What did they learn from it? Look around the office and identify possible interests from the pictures and quotations they have in view.
Make no assumptions
Pictures of children don’t automatically indicate a desire to talk about family. A good test statement is, “Wow, three kids. Your house must be incredibly busy.” Or, “Are these very recent pictures?” People who want to talk about their children will usually take any opening given to them and run with it.
If the answer is short and to the point, take the dialogue somewhere else.
See a book on their shelf? “What did you think of this book? I’ve been wanting to read it.” Or, “Is it worth reading?” Get the picture? Just make sure you’ve got these possible approaches worked out in advance. Do not wing it. It won’t sound canned if you are sincerely interested.
Some additional rapport building questions (a starting point only)
- Have you always been in (job or industry)?
- How did you get into (job or industry)?
- How did you make that transition?
- What do you like/dislike about being in (job or industry)?
- What are the next steps for you?
Through the rapport building stage you will likely establish a more trusting environment between you and that individual. Again, the key is to be genuine in your interest otherwise your questions will have the reverse effect on the trust factor.
Without the trust, you’ll be thrown smoke screen after smoke screen, and you’ll never move closer to the sale. A smoke screen is the professional sales term for issues that are thrown out by the prospect to divert your attention to issues that are not of true interest to the buyer.
Logically, you’d think people wouldn’t waste time with these “smoke screens” but the buying process is rarely only logical in its nature.
There are almost always some emotional aspects involved
People have been conditioned to look at the sales process as adversarial. The reason? Trust. Most prospects rarely view a sales effort as something that has their best interest in mind because they have had so many sales experiences where that’s not been the case. So, they naturally resist communicating those issues that are truly important to them because they fear being manipulated later in the process.