Last month, I attended a one-day Prospecting Boot Camp for salespeople in the heart of downtown London. After nine days of visiting attractions abroad, I decided to let my wife do the final day by herself, so I could endeavor to learn the differences (if any) in the mindset of British salespeople from their American counterparts.
I wondered: Do their prospects act like ours? Do they mislead, gather as much free information as possible, say, “Thanks, that was a great presentation, call me next week,” and then enter the Federal Witness Protection Program? Do they say, “We’re giving your company top consideration, please submit a proposal,” when all they really want is a third quote to support a buying decision they’ve already made? Do British prospects know fourteen ways to encrypt the phrase, “I need to THINK-IT-OVER?” Do they know how to convince a salesperson that “this is the one-in-a-million that really will take my call and give me an order next week,” when actually, they plan to award that sales rep a free lifetime subscription to their voicemail? Do they disrespect sales people’s time?...think nothing of missing scheduled appointments?....treat salespeople in ways they would never want to be treated themselves?
Hmmm, guess what I found out. Prospects are prospects – it matters not what city, continent, or planet they call home. So why do prospects universally engage in this behavior? Because it works – they get all the information and consulting they want without spending a penny. Why does it work? Because salespeople allow it to work. Yes, really now, aren’t we the problem? We allow prospects to treat us this way. Don’t believe it? Fill in the blank: The one constant in every dissatisfying relationship I have ever had, have now, or will have is ___________. The correct answer is ME. In every case where a prospect pulled one of the aforementioned shenanigans on me – the one thing that was always present was – ME. Maybe I’m the problem. That’s bad news. On reconsideration – that’s Good News, because the only thing I CAN fix is myself. I can’t fix prospects.
So how do I fix myself and avoid these problems in the future?
- Take complete responsibility for every sales failure that you experience; don’t blame your prospects. After all, we are all prospects at some time and we’ve all done the same things to salespeople that prospects do to us.
- Understand that many if not most of your sales problems can be tracked to weak or non-existing verbal agreements (Up-Front Contracts) between you and your prospects. When a prospect says,
- “Leave the proposal with me and I’ll call you next week,” and you comply, that’s not an agreement at all, that’s smoke. Flush out your prospect’s true commitment level with serious questions, your most nurturing tone of voice, and your smoke detector turned on. Don’t be afraid to say, “Mr. Prospect, I get the feeling there’s a problem, I’m not comfortable leaving my information with you unless we have a firm commitment on the calendar for our next step.”
- Finally, understand that almost all problems we experience in sales are, at their root, conceptual problems. This means that the real problem is a faulty belief system. For example, your prospect says, “Thanks for the presentation, let me think it over, I’ll call you next week.” Our gut tells us, “Nobody ever calls back and this guy isn’t going to either.” But our belief system says, “If I tell him that, he’s going to think I’m calling him a liar, he’ll get mad at me, and then it will be over for sure.” So fear takes over, we become compliant and do what he says, and another sale bites the dust. If you want to change the way prospects treat you, change your own belief systems first. This takes time, effort, and possibly some outside coaching or mentoring assistance.
Would you like to stop living on the prospect’s system, want to take charge of your sales processes? You can’t change prospects; they’re the same all over the world. But you sure can change the way you deal with them by first changing yourself. If you do that, you can sell in Norfolk, London, or anywhere else on this planet.
Brad McDonald is the president of Sandler Training of Norfolk. He can be reached at 227-9996.
©Sandler Sales Institute 2008