By Jill Konrath
Call me a prude if you will, but I’ve had it with sellers who are totally clueless that they’re going too far, too fast in their initial meeting with me. The worst thing is, they have no idea how their actions are perceived.
Could you possibly be guilty of this promiscuous behaviour? If so, do you have any idea what it’s doing to your reputation?
Let’s say I’m your ideal prospect. You call me up, catch me on the phone, deliver a message that piques my curiosity and I agree to meet.
Sounds like the perfect scenario, right? If you’re like most sellers, you’re probably pretty excited about our upcoming meeting. After all, I’m one hot prospect who’s interested in what you’ve got.
So what happens when we finally get together? Initially you focus on building a relationship with me. You thank me for agreeing to meet. We chitchat for a few minutes about little things. Then you ask me about my company to get me talking about business.
After you’ve warmed me up, it’s time to get serious. Since I agreed to meet, clearly I want to learn about your company and offering, so an overview comes next. You want to make sure I understand all the salient details about your organization, its history and more.
Then it’s time for a few questions. Perhaps you start by assessing if I’m a qualified buyer with money in my budget. Or, you might focus on my very specific needs so you can determine the appropriate solution.
Following that, you present information on the products or services you think I’d be most interested in. When I start asking questions, you get more excited. We’re connecting, bonding, getting closer to consummating the business relationship.
But the truth is, you are dead wrong! You’ve totally misjudged my interest level and thus, lost the opportunity to do business with me.
Why? You don’t understand how I (your prospect) think. You assumed that my interest meant one thing, when it fact it signifies something entirely different.
In SNAP Selling (coming in May), I’ve structured the whole book around the three primary decisions your prospects make:
- First Decision: Allow Access
When you approach a prospect with an enticing message, they’ll agree to meet-perhaps by phone, web conference or in person. They’re willing to invest a small bit of time with you. You’ve moved them from being oblivious about your existence to curious.
- Second Decision: Initiate Change
In the second decision, your prospect evaluates if it’s worth it to change from the status quo. They’d prefer not to because it takes a lot of extra time and effort. But, if they can see that all the hassle and pain leads to a better outcome, they’ll do it.
- Third Decision: Select Resources
Once your prospect decides that change is worthwhile, then they want to learn about your product or service. Understanding your differentiators becomes important to them. Even the risk of doing business with you is considered. At the end of this decision, they pick the option they determine is best for them.
Understanding the difference between these three decisions is imperative to your sales success. At each stage of the process, your sales behaviours must change if you want to keep advancing your relationship. Failure to get it right means you get dumped.
So Here’s the Deal
Over 90% of the people you meet with are in the Second Decision phase. They’re trying to determine if they want to change.
But there you are, trying to seduce them with all the cool things about your product, service or solution. That’s Third Decision behaviour. It’s way too much information about your offering much too quickly. And, it’s coming at a time when the focus should be on helping your prospect assess the ROI for moving off the status quo
When you prematurely elaborate, you set up a lose/lose situation. Prospects don’t want to have anything more to do with you, even if you could have made a difference to their business. From their perspective, you’re only concern is making a quick sale. While that wasn’t your intent, that is how you’re perceived.
Anytime you meet with new prospects, first find out if they’ve already decided to change. If not, don’t talk for more than a few minutes about your offering or company.
Instead say, “While many of our customers have realized significant value from changing, what we really need to do is determine if it makes sense for you.” Then, be prepared to ask questions that lead to that outcome.
Don’t sabotage your chances of sales success by trying to move too quickly. Slow down. Way down. Ensure your prospect has made the Second Decision, before you jump into Third Decision behaviors – or suffer the consequences. You can’t rush a relationship!
Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies and SNAP Selling, helps sellers crack into corporate accounts, shorten sales cycles and win big contracts. She is a frequent speaker at annual sales meetings and association events.