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Gerry Weinberg & Associates, Inc. | Southfield, Michigan

1.  You don’t tightly target your prospects. When business is slow, the temptation to tell your story to whomever will listen is great.  After all, talking to someone—anyone—is more productive than sitting at your desk waiting for a potential customer to call.  Right?

Maybe not.

Be choosy about the people to whom you “tell your story.”  Use your existing customer base to identify the characteristics of your best customers.  With that information, develop a profile of your “ideal” customer.  Then, search out prospects that most closely fit the profile.  You may meet with fewer people, but you’ll close more sales.

2.  You’re not sufficiently selective about the prospects with whom you meet. Expressing an “interest” in your product or service is not a strong enough reason to schedule an appointment with a potential prospect.   

Find out why prospects are interested and what sparked their interests before you schedule appointments. 

If prospects’ “interests” aren’t backed by recognized needs or desires for your product or service—now or in the immediate future—then there’s no compelling reasons to meet with them.  The objective of scheduling appointments is to start the selling process…not to make friends or have pleasant conversations.
3. You don’t command control of prospect conversations.  Prospects must not only have recognized needs or desires for your product or service, but they must be willing to discuss the reasons behind the needs or desires. 

To prevent the conversations from meandering in several different directions, make it clear at the time you schedule appointments that the primary objective of the meetings is to determine if your product or service is appropriate to meet the prospects’ needs, and that the focal point of the conversations will be to explore and understand those needs.

4.  You’re not properly prepared for meetings. All too frequently, salespeople schedule appointments…and then forget about them until the day before the scheduled dates.  For them, preparation is a last-minute activity often consisting of nothing more than a quick review of the notes from the original phone conversations when the appointments were scheduled…and perhaps a review of the prospects’ web sites, advertising, or marketing materials.

Can you answer the following questions about your next prospect appointment?

  • What are the first three questions you’ll ask the prospect after you say, “Hello”?
  • What questions will you ask to create rapport and get to know the prospect?
  • What questions will you ask to explore the prospect’s need and home in on the underlying reasons for or events that precipitated the need?
  • What commitment(s) will you ask for if there is a fit between what the prospect needs and what you can provide?

If you haven’t identified and rehearsed the questions you’ll need to ask to start the meeting, explore the prospect’s requirements, qualify the opportunity, and systematically move the meeting to an appropriate conclusion, then you’re NOT prepared.

5.  You neither establish credibility nor demonstrate expertise. When meeting with prospects, your job is to help them view their situations from different perspectives…and discover elements or aspects of their situations they didn’t previously recognize.  To accomplish that, you must not only be knowledgeable about your product or service, but also about the specific reasons people would need it, the situations that would create the need, and the consequences of not adequately or appropriately addressing the needs. 

And most importantly, you must be able to ask questions in such a manner as to help prospects make those “discoveries.”  Here’s an example:

When you asked your production manager to measure the injection pressure differential between the beginning and end of the production cycle and determine to what extent it contributed to the casting inconsistencies, what did he report?

Educating your prospects with appropriate questions that demonstrate your understanding of their problems or their needs and your grasp of what it takes to appropriately solve those problems or fulfill those needs is perhaps the single most important skill to master.  
6. You don’t ask “tough” questions. To thoroughly qualify opportunities, you must be able to identify core aspects of situations, define elements at the center of controversies, uncover root causes of problems, discover carefully guarded information, and obtain rarely volunteered commitments.  You won’t be able to accomplish any of those tasks without asking tough questions. 

And, you must be willing and able to ask those tough questions confidently and consistently, knowing that you may not like the answers you obtain…because they may serve to disqualify the opportunity.  But, knowing sooner, rather than later, that continuing to invest your time will lead to a dead end will permit you to disengage and move on to seek out better opportunities.

7. You rush to make presentations. Many salespeople are too eager to make presentations.  They view them as opportunities to establish the value of their products or services by demonstrating their unique aspects.  You can’t establish value, however, until you have determined which aspects, if any, are relevant to the prospects’ situations.

The real purpose of presentations is to confirm your ability to deliver the solutions prospects are predisposed to buy.  How do you know what prospects are predisposed to buy?  You determine it by thoroughly qualifying the opportunities. 

Until you have learned the specific reasons prospects would buy your product or service (rather than a competitor’s), uncovered the resources they have available to make the purchases, discovered the criteria by which they will make their decisions, and (assuming you are willing and able to meet their decision criteria) obtained their commitments to make those decisions, you should refrain from making presentations. 

Making presentations before thoroughly qualifying opportunities will almost surely guarantee that you leave those presentations not with decisions, but only prospects’ promises to “think it over.”

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