Can you tell which leads will turn into sales and which will fizzle?
When you’re in the thick of a sale, how can you know if things are going well or if you’ve already blown it?
How do you know that this deal won’t go through… ever?
Until something goes wrong, every prospective situation appears to be proceeding smoothly. You put a lot of effort into identifying the lead with the right combination of need and interest. You make sure to check everything out first. You make a polished case for the product in your pitch. You go through the standard motions of delays, protests, and surprises. To your manager’s chagrin, you even predict when the deal will be finalized. And this time, you hope beyond hope your efforts will bear fruit. It’s just a wild guess, though.
There appears to be no way to predict which leads will convert and which will be lost forever due to factors beyond your control.
IGNORE THE NEWS
How come you’re always completely wrong? It is estimated that only about 7 percent of people you contact during the prospecting phase will buy from you. If that’s the case, or even close to it, you’re throwing away at least 90% of your life. Even worse, you keep fooling yourself into thinking you will succeed until it’s too late.
I’m guilty of ignoring or dismissing warning indications that a sale is stalling since I’m sure I can turn things around.
But as an outsider, all you have is whatever information the prospect voluntarily gives you or your best-educated assumption based on experience or other factors.
Your best guesses and hopes are based on past behavior, such as customers who purchased when presented with similar information or an issue your product seemed tailor-made to answer. The new prospect should buy if they want their issue resolved.
Since you do not share the buyer’s everyday experiences or mental models, you cannot enter the buyer’s team or their Problem Space to offer assistance. You can’t know all the hidden agendas, office politics, and historical problems that must be resolved before a purchasing decision can be made; you can’t know precisely what is maintaining the problem that your product can solve; you can’t know precisely what is keeping the problem that your product can solve; you can’t know exactly what is holding the problem that your product can solve.
IMPROVING FUTURE OPTIONS
I want to share a tale illustrating how making assumptions can lead to problems. The story isn’t about a lost transaction without the seller understanding why it was lost; instead, it’s about a sale never made because the sales strategy was flawed, and the seller had the insight to identify the flaws. The same flawed premise underlies both processes: assuming the seller ‘knows’ what’s happening and failing to see how his approach contributes to the problem.
This story hits close to home for me because it involved a newly trained team member still trying to wrap his head around the distinction between selling and assisting a customer in juggling all the factors involved in purchasing.
My sales rep told me he wasn’t receiving much of a response from cold calls to a particular sector of the economy. He was upset that he could only make so many calls and wondered what he would do if he went through them all without making a sale. Given the reactions he was getting, he knew we were in the wrong industry.
When I inquired as to his activities, he related a story that illustrated his use of standard sales methods and the predictable results he obtained. An example of one of his talks goes like this:
Seller/John: Hello. Hello, my name is John, and I’m with Morgen Facilitations. This is a business pitch. Is now a good time to make your point? [Everything seems fine]
Client: OK. I can spare a little time. The product(s) you’re peddling are…
John: Changing the way salespeople are taught. How are you currently encouraging creative thinking among your staff members? (Well done, John. [Right on target.]
Client: We acquire brand-new screenplays that are written just for us. We have been pleased with this scripting service for many years. They help us achieve our goals.
John: What I gather from what you’ve said so far is that you’re content with an outcome that may fall short of your expectations if you employed a different sales strategy [LOST IT.]. I called the guy foolish.]
Client: I am pleased with our outcomes and do not wish to alter our approach. We are not in the market for new training, but perhaps in a year or two, when we are, we would be interested in hearing from you again. We appreciate your call.
John did what so many sellers do: he tried to persuade the buyer that they needed his product while ignoring the buyer’s achievements, past decisions, internal processes, business politics, vendor relationships, and staff comfort. And now we’ve lost that potential customer.
The buyer wasn’t interested, John concluded. He had no idea what was going on in his head, so it never occurred to him that his actions might have triggered the reaction. John couldn’t even guess if anyone was interested. The buyer’s response was typical of someone who an unknown person has told that the choices they have made in the past are foolish. He had to do what he could, so he ended the conversation. John orchestrated the buyer’s reaction and then made the buyer responsible.
PROMOTE THE CONCEPT OF A SOLUTION
But think of all the options that open up when you let the buyer factor in the factors that would make him think about making a change. Here is a summary and set of questions I would have asked if I were facilitating the purchase:
I’ve heard you’ve settled on a method you’re delighted with because it’s proven effective over time. Before adding a new skill set to your current approaches, is there anything you need to consider to see if you can achieve even greater success?
Additional Questions to Help the Conversation Proceed
How much research into a new model would be necessary before you could decide whether or not it would complement your existing brand identity?
How could you tell if cutting-edge resources like those we’ve developed would apply to your workplace?
And then a little while later:
Given the length of time the scripts have been in place, how would you manage the team’s learning to ensure they could add something new without causing the existing customers any discomfort or revenue loss?
A prospect’s response to this discussion would be reflective, cause him to reevaluate previous decisions, and introduce exciting new opportunities without jeopardizing any current internal structures.
By asking the right sorts of questions before making a call, The Facilitation process guides the prospect through the variety of decisions he would need to manage regardless if he were to make a move and buy your goods.
This is the piece of the selling’ paradigm that isn’t being addressed, and it’s keeping sellers in the dark: buyers are struggling with monsters that reside within their minds, systems, and routines, and they can’t buy until they face this head-on. Anything that arises must be dealt with, and anything used in place of your product — whether it is people, regulations, relationships, politics, or previous institutions — will prevent the process from moving forward.
Because all of your interactions with the prospect center on selling them something, and because all of the data you collect and the bonds you forge are geared toward making that sale, you’ll miss out on opportunities to influence the prospect’s environment. You can only point the customer toward the problems your product can solve; you can’t enter his world and assist him in developing a strategy for improvement.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU REALIZE IT ISN’T WORKING
When a sale is going poorly, you’ll hear this:
* One of our collaborators has recently contacted us and may be able to assist us in solving the issue;
* A brand-new project is about to launch. Until we’ve made further progress with the implementation, we can’t move forward;
So much has shifted around here. In six months, when things have settled down here, I’d like to have another conversation with you;
For now, I believe we will make do with what we have. Can you check in with us in three months to determine if we’re prepared?
*The developers of our present version of X are working on a new product that may be able to fulfill our needs. We’ll have to wait two months until it’s released before trying it.
* I need to consult with a larger group of individuals on this.
* We have to make sure we have enough money for this.
A solution that is even easier to implement than what you and I have thought of was on our minds. Either cut costs or put this off until next year when we have more money.
Whatever the rationale, it rests on an invisible structure that can spring unexpected features on you. You can only perceive a problem that has to be fixed by your product. A conventional salesperson I know recently expressed doubt that he would have missed a long-standing problem that delayed a large sale by years, even though the people who missed this issue were five very, very senior partners of a well-established international consulting group who were partnering with every single “C” level executive. The arrogance of our field, alas.
Any arguments above (or more) can be overcome using the Buying Choice Funnel to guide the prospect through the various considerations they’ll need to weigh before making a new purchase choice. The Funnel will guide the opportunity through strategic and tactical decisions affecting her entire system. This is more than finding a solution; it’s about making a CHANGE.
Remember that the prospect isn’t looking for your product per se; instead, she is trying to solve an issue that has arisen for her company, and your product could be the solution. Read up on the buyer’s decision-making sequence at [http://www.newsalesparadigm.com/buyfac.html]. She won’t even think about buying until she’s exhausted all other options for resolving the issue independently. Currently, it is not your role to provide the prospect with knowledge about your product but to ask systems-based questions to guide her to her answers. If you want to learn more about this topic, you can get a copy of my ebook, Buying Facilitation: the new approach to Selling that Extends and impacts decisions, at
When you hear that a sale is stuck, try using the following strategies to help the prospect progress through their decisions:
What I get from what you’re saying is X, and the timing we initially stated may not be accurate. What would you need to know or do differently to be prepared to handle whatever comes up and move forward when appropriate?
Is there any way for me to guarantee that my product’s proposed solution is one that your team will gladly embrace as an improvement over the status quo?
Since Facilitative Questions should be crafted in light of the ongoing conversation, I obviously can’t list all of them here. It’s important to remember that YOU aren’t the only one who needs answers to these questions; the systemic factors surrounding the apparent problem (such as roles, rules, relationships, politics, vendor management, etc.) must also be considered. Always remember that the prospect’s situation is much deeper than what your product can address and that the company already employs the only person to help them.
Buying Facilitation isn’t rocket science, but it does need a shift in perspective because it aids at the previously unnoticed beginning of the sales cycle. It’s not a technique for making a sale but rather a methodology for facilitating group decision-making.
Since you can’t control the system in which your prospects work, you’ve got to rely on the prospects’ actual words when making closing forecasts. But now, you may assist customers in managing their internal buying decision process. By adopting this strategy, you may join the buyer’s team, find three times as many leads, and close deals 600% more quickly than traditional sales methods.
Want to get rid of it? Alternatively, you might have someone else purchase it.
Author of the New York Times bestsellers Selling with Integrity, Sales on the Line, and Buying Facilitation: the new way to Sell, as well as more than 400 articles, Sharon Drew Morgen is a recognized authority in her field. She created the groundbreaking Morgen Buying Facilitation Method in sales. Sharon Drew, the creator of a groundbreaking sales methodology, has challenged, inspired, and energized thousands of salespeople worldwide.
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