July 07, 2009

‘Am I wasting my time with this account?’ Some techniques to help you find out.

The more time you have invested in a sales cycle the more determined you are to close the deal. The danger

however is that you can easily cross the point of no return, becoming blind to signals that perhaps the buyer is not really that keen, becoming increasingly reluctant to hear a ‘no’ answer and resistant to prequalifying the buyer in case the answer suggests you are wasting your time.

A ‘no’ is not a problem if it comes early, that is before the salesperson has had to invest too much time in meetings, follow-ups, proposals, etc. So it makes sense to make it easy for the customer to say no at any stage of the sales process.

That ‘no’ can take a number of forms, for example ‘no not quite’, ‘no not at all’, ‘no at this time’. It will either redirect your effort towards a yes, or point you in the direction of finding your next potential customer elsewhere. Either way – ‘yes’ or ‘now’ you will be better off with an answer.

Take away your solution.

So, here a good technique to use to ensure that you are selling to a buyer who is interested and able to buy, it is what is called ‘taking away the solution’. Here is how it works, you have been selling your solution to the customer and suddenly you realize that perhaps he, or she is not as ‘gun ho’ about what you are selling, as you thought. You want to put their commitment to the test so you say something like this:

‘You know I was thinking, and I am not sure if I am right, but…’’ and you continue with a sentence such as any of the following:

…there seems to be a lot happening your company at the moment perhaps there are more immediate priorities…

…maybe the problem is not as great, or as urgent as maybe I though…

…maybe this is not the right time for you to be making this decision…

…perhaps a different approach would suit your business…

Then you wrap up with a ‘…what do you think?’

Then you shut up. You have preempted a no by the customer, providing him with an easy out and even offering to open the door for him, or her on the way. The reaction will either be, ‘yes I think you are right’ and it is clear that it is time to move on, at least for now. Otherwise it may be ‘no we need your solution’, or some version of this.

Why getting an answer is important.

As buyers sometimes we don’t appreciate what we are getting until it is taken away. We can happily sit back and leave it to the salesperson to do all the running, taking their enthusiasm for granted. So being put on the spot by having our solution taken away can be effective in forcing us to make the call on what is important and what is not.

In an ideal sense buyers would tell you what they are really thinking, but as we all know that is not the case in reality. All too often buyers are reluctant to ‘burst your bubble’ and will likely let you continue chasing the bone until you finally give up and go away of your own accord.

Boxing clever like the above is also important in trying to uncover any unspoken concerns on the part of the buyer.

What reaction will presenting the legals have?

Another technique a former colleagues uses has the similar effect in terms of measuring the head of steam build up behind a sale. He presents the legals to his sponsor and waits to see what is said. The buyer will either say ‘I will pass them on to my colleague’, or will inform you that ‘it is too early for legals at this stage’. La voila you have an instant proxy for the likelihood and timing of a sale.

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