Our prospects have been trained, by salespeople seeking to get their needs met at the expense of rather than in service to their clients, not to trust salespeople so they developed mechanisms to reduce the “influence” that salespeople have in the buying process. One of the most common is to put up a (virtual) paper wall by requesting a proposal/quote/information from us before we’ve even gotten to “hello.”
Unfortunately for us and our prospects people buy from people not paper. Removing the human element in a sales process does both of us a disservice.
As the Sandler Rule goes, “the problem the prospect brings you is never the real problem.” If our prospects knew what their real problem was, they wouldn’t need a salesperson. Professional salespeople support their prospects and clients by being disarmingly honest and genuinely curious about not only what their prospect says is their problem, but also the impacts on their prospect’s business (whether the whole or a part) and the personal payoff(s) their prospect would realize when their problem is resolved.
Professional salespeople also (respectfully) maintain control of their sales cycle for as long as possible understanding that the minute they hit “send” or “submit” they have lost control. Yes, there are instances when either regulations or a prospect’s internal processes require a proposal be submitted, but when we hit “send” we can be confident that we have said and done everything under our control to position ourselves to win, which is the meaning of Sandler’s Rule “there are no bad prospects only bad salespeople.”
If we allow our prospect to push us to paper before we’ve qualified them then we have commoditized ourselves and it’s our fault if we don’t earn their business or earn it at a less than ideal margin.
Sandler said, “always be happy to do whatever your prospect wants under your terms and conditions.” For us that means not just having a sales process documented and using a consistent selling system to work that process from “hello” to “closed, ‘but owning that process with our prospects.
Other professionals – doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers – have processes that they follow to not only create successful outcomes for them and their clients, but to disqualify potential bad fits early. Publishing our process on our website for our prospects to find helps us qualify from the moment we say “hello,” but a process isn’t meant to be handcuffs. If our prospects feel trapped during our qualifying conversations, we will break rapport and likely lose that sale.
Re-training our prospects to allow a human element into their buying process requires deft management of communication preferences and expectations while also clearly laying out the road ahead for our prospect so neither of us end up upset whether we work together or not.
Until next time… go sell something.