Professional salespeople use a selling system to work a repeatable sale process and are accountable to checking all of the boxes in their process to qualify their prospect before doing a proposal or a presentation.
Where we go offside is when we weaponize our system or our process and make our prospect feel not-OK because we asked a question that we “had to ask” to check a box in our process.
This is where context is important in our qualifying conversations. We may need to check a “budget” box in our process, but we first need to judge the level of rapport we have with our prospect and the environment in which we’re talking to our prospect.
For example, if we’re talking to our prospect in a private environment and we believe we have a good level of rapport with our prospect we might be okay saying something like, “so Prospect, curious how much money has been set aside for this project.” In a private environment our prospect is likely to remain comfortable and give us some kind of answer, even if that answer is a stall or objection.
On the other hand, if we’re talking to that same prospect in a more public environment, say a trade show or networking event, and we have the same level of rapport that same question will likely make our prospect feel very uncomfortable, which damages or breaks rapport and puts us squarely in the “vendor” instead of “trusted adviser” category.
As professional salespeople we need to check that “budget” box, but considering the context we might say, “Prospect, I need to ask you a question that might be a little awkward given that we’re in a public place... it’s about money.” As David Sandler said, “the best presentation you ever give your prospect never sees.” In this example we just asked our prospect about money without asking them directly.
Depending on our prospect’s comfort level with their environment they will likely answer in one of two ways to “it’s about money.” If they are uncomfortable talking about money in a public place they’ll probably say something like, “yeah, I don’t really want to talk about that here. I’ve got a budget…” On the other hand, if they’re okay to discuss money in public they might say something like, “sure. What do you want to know about my budget?” Either way we gather information to qualify our prospect.
To effectively balance between qualifying and keeping our prospect okay we need to be aware of our prospect’s tonality, body language, how they’re communicating and the environment in which we’re visiting with them. At the same time we must be unattached to using a particular tactic like a hammer and instead focus on using the right tactic at the right time in the right context to continue qualifying our prospect while maintaining rapport. Those skills are honed over time with practice and the courage to make a sales conversation about our prospect instead of about us.
Until next time… go sell something.