During the past year, many peoples financial situations have changed dramatically.
Cutbacks, downsizing and a need to do more with fewer resources dominate todays
economic climate. As a result, many networkers and salespeople are either getting
more nos or theyre getting no response at all from prospects.
The more nos we hear, the more we tend to develop a fear of rejection and to dread prospecting in general. Thats when prospecting procrastination sets in: wed rather spend our time answering e-mails and tweaking sales flyers than spend face time with potential customers.
To counter this problem, many sales training programs tout a secret formula that will make prospecting easier. They teach how to lead prospects, how to counter objections and how to close the sale. The problem is that all those suggestions are focused on the salesperson and not on the one person who matters the most in the interactionthe prospect.
To be great at prospecting when economic times are unstable, you need to reach beyond yourself and your fears and focus on the prospect. Here are some suggestions to help you revitalize your prospecting efforts.
1. Shift Your Internal Dialogue
What usually stops us in our tracks from performing is our internal dialogue. You know the messages:
Why should I bother? Hes just going to tell me no.
Shes probably satisfied with her current situation, so why waste my time?
The last ten people told me no, so why should this prospecting call be any different?
Such internal messages are called negative projection. Realize that whenever you approach a prospect and believe he or she is going to blow you off or tell you no, thats exactly the result youll get. People pick up on what youre projecting and will respond accordingly.
So whats the solution? Set positive expectations. When you have a genuinely positive thought about someone and believe your interaction will work out well, then you cant fail. Even if the prospect doesnt want to take your help, thats okay; his or her reply has nothing to do with you. As long as you believe that the call will go well and you think well of the other person, youll no longer fear the actual act of prospectingand thats the main objective.
To put it another way, if you think youre going to be rejected, youre already in the experience of being rejected, which is what youll ultimately end up with. But if you expect a positive outcome, youre creating the experience of success. Shift your internal dialogue to create the kind of experiences you want to have.
2. Make Selling about Your Prospects
In sales, you get paid in proportion to the number of people you serve and the degree to which you serve them. Therefore, the more you focus on your prospects and make the interaction about them, the higher your chances for success. Unfortunately, many salespeople are confused about what this means. Theyll open conversations by saying, Hey, hows it going? Id like to tell you about a cutting-edge natural vitamin drink that can boost your energy while helping you lose weight. While on the surface, such an approach might seem like its focused on the prospect, prospects know it for exactly what it is: a sales pitch, which is precisely what they dont want to hear.
What do prospects want? They want to feel respected. They dont want salespeople to begin a presentation with their own agenda. The first way to respect a prospect is to respect his or her time. A better way to open the prospecting call or visit is to simply ask, Would it be okay if I asked you a question? or Is this a good time for us to meet? Respecting your prospect from the first contact sets the stage for success. Therefore, always give a respectful introduction and make the initial contact about the person in front of you.
3. Listen to Validate
Good salespeople listen more than they talk, especially in the beginning of a presentation. Great salespeople take it a step further and practice whats known as listening validation. In addition to simply listening to the prospect, they feed her back what she just said in a way that makes her feel understood. When you listen to validate, you listen for the feelings behind the prospects wordsthe intent and the motivationand then replay the emotions back to the speaker.
Heres an example of how listening validation works. Suppose youre meeting with a couple in their home and youve just discussed your companys new water filtering system. Your prospect says, So were really looking for three things: one, pricewe want a high-performing water filter that is competitively priced; two, reliabilitywe look for a company and representative we can trust; and three, a strong money-back guaranteewe cant afford risk right now.
If you were employing listening validation, your response would be, I heard you say that price, reliability and warranty are important, Mr. Prospect. But what Im sensing from youand please correct me if Im wrongis that based on what youve shared, your family is going through some financial changes, so getting the best price and having that twelve-month money-back guarantee would really help you feel like youre being taken care of. Am I catching that right?
Everyone wants to be understood; its a basic human need. When you show understanding and care about your prospects situation, you build trust, which is the foundation of any sale.
Successful prospecting in todays economy requires that salespeople make a paradigm shift in their way of thinking. This shift happens when you release your fear of rejection and satisfy your security instincts by putting your thoughts solely on the best intentions for your prospects. Only then will you be at ease when prospecting, and being at ease is a powerfuland profitableplace to be.
STEVE McCANN is a sales trainer and consultant
committed to redefining the link between prospecting and profitability.
He is founder of McCann Research Corporation, a company that
helps individuals increase sales motivation and maximize selling activities.