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Sandler Training in Calgary | Calgary, AB

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Prospects who play “close to the vest” can be incredibly frustrating. No matter how we frame our questions they respond with “sure,” “I don’t know,” or “tell me more and I’ll tell you if I like it.”

When we’re attempting to communicate with this type of prospect, we often have the impulse to either a) feature-and-benefit dump (bad) or b) end the sales call prematurely (also bad). Both of those impulses focus on us instead of focusing on our prospect.

This type of prospect has probably had a bad experience with a salesperson, so they are using a heuristic, which unfortunately lumps us into the broad category of “salespeople,” who our prospect distrusts.

Instead of taking either of the (bad) self-centered approaches above we can get our close-to-the-vest prospect by giving a little information.

In practice that might sound like:

  • Salesperson – happy to share all about our product. We’ll need to cover A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Where do you want to start?
  • Prospect – tell me about C.
  • Salesperson – great place to start. What about C is important to you?
  • Prospect – because I need to know more about that.
  • Salesperson – fair enough. In my experience C addresses Problem 1 or Problem 2. Either of those relevant to you?
  • Prospect – yes, Problem 2.
  • Salesperson – thank you. What does Problem 2 look like for you? It tends to be different for each of my clients.
  • Prospect – well I….

A lot of salespeople would bail out and start presenting after their prospect said, “because I need to know.” David Sandler said, “it typically takes three or more questions to get to the truth.” In the example above the salesperson asked four questions before their close-to-the-vest prospect would even share a little information.

David Sandler also said, “your product knowledge is demonstrated by the quality of your questions.” In the example above the salesperson demonstrated their product knowledge through a question about Problem 1 or Problem 2 being present when someone asks about “C,” which got them a little bit of information from their prospect.

Of course, there’s the prospect who still won’t share even if we use the above plan. In that case fall back to David Sandler’s rule, “if you feel it, say it (gently).” Might sound like, “Prospect, I get the sense that I stepped offside somewhere, and I apologize for that. Would you help me understand where I went offside?” Our prospect only has two answers – “yes, you did and here’s what you said” or “no, you didn’t.” In the latter case our prospects usually realize that they are the ones offside in the way they’ve been treating us so far, which causes their walls to come down (at least a little).

By resisting the urge to FAB dump or bail out, owning our process and letting our prospect feel in control while we maintain control we sell more, more easily.

Until next time… go sell something.

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