All Buyers are Liars?

Earlier this week in the Prospecting Mastery live group mentoring program, one of the participants posed this question: “Wendy, is it true that all buyers are liars?”

I thought this was a great question that some of you might also be asking yourselves, so I decided to share my response with my Opening Doors & Closing Sales readers:

Many sales professionals certainly believe this statement to be true. By simple logic, however, the statement, “All buyers are liars,” cannot possibly be true. While it can be true that some buyers might be liars they cannot all be liars.

More importantly, the mindset that every prospect with whom you speak is lying to you is not a mindset that supports you. And, it is not a belief that will help you become successful. Instead, the mindset that every prospect is lying to you is depressing and demoralizing and keeps you from asking the questions you might otherwise ask to dig deeply and clarify the needs of that prospect. If they are all lying to you, why bother?

A prospecting call is an interruption. Sadly, our prospects are not all sitting by the phone waiting for our calls… They are all doing something else when that phone rings. In addition, a prospecting call is an introduction. Once you introduce yourself to a new prospect it takes some time to build trust and to build a relationship. At the beginning of your relationship, your prospect may not tell you everything – this is a very natural and a very human response.

My recommendation to the participants in the Prospecting Mastery program was to remain neutral – no jumping to conclusions, no mind-reading, and no assumptions about what the prospect is “really thinking”…. Instead, I recommended that they listen to what the prospect has to say and then ask relevant questions. Buyers are not liars, they are simply human beings.

Change the status quo now

The biggest obstacle to gaining a new customer or closing a sale is the status quo. Most people (and that includes prospects) don’t like change. It’s really that simple. In order to get a prospect into your pipeline it’s imperative to offer that prospect a compelling reason to think about making a change.

Prospects can be so resistant to change that they are unwilling to even discuss other possibilities. That is why it can be so difficult to get in the door to set up that very first appointment.

Here is an email I recently received from an Opening Doors & Closing Sales reader who is in the insurance industry:

Wendy,

“I’m wondering if you can help me with my script. Our company offers a range of products, whole life, disability, long term care… so when I introduce myself that’s what I say:”

“‘Our company offers a range of products; whole life, disability, long term care… and I’d like to drop by for a quick 15 minute meeting…’”

“I always get cut off right there without having a chance to offer a time.”

It’s not surprising that this reader gets cut off. He’s making himself and the company he represents into a commodity by simply listing all of the “things” his company offers, “whole life, disability, long term care.” If a prospect already has that “thing” they have no need for another.

He would be so much better off identifying a problem that these offerings solve and leading with that. Does he work with business owners and help them attract quality employees because they can offer better benefits packages? Does he work with young married couples who are starting a family and want to ensure they can send their kids to college? Does he work with middle-aged individuals who want to ensure they have a happy and secure future?

Here’s the rule: Identify the problem that you solve and the population that you solve it for. Then, when speaking with a new prospect, lead with that. Prospects will stop interrupting and start listening.

Time to Follow the Money Trail

I just got off the phone with one of my coaching clients. There are a handful of sales professionals, all high achievers, that I mentor. I love working with them because they are all people that strive to excel.

Today my client was struggling. She was feeling overwhelmed. High achievers get that way sometimes: So many things to accomplish, so many deadlines, so little time.

When you have too much to do and not enough time to do it, how do you decide what to do first? And, if you’re like a lot of high achievers, everything on your list is marked “High Priority.” What then?

I shared with my coaching client my main tool for budgeting time successfully. (I can get a little overwhelmed too.) Now I want to share that tool with you. The tool is easy to use and does not require complicated instructions. Nor does it require that you whip out your charge card. Here is the secret to managing and prioritizing time: “Follow the Money.”

Make a list of every single thing you need to do. Then prioritize that list according to which “to do” is closest to putting money in your pocket. Which ever is closest to putting money in your pocket, do that first. Then, look at your list again and determine which next “to do” is closest to putting money in your pocket. Do that next. And so on.

Following up on a proposal for example, is closer to money in your pocket than making a cold call. Calling an existing customer to ask for an additional order is closer to money in your pocket than calling a referral to introduce yourself. Making a cold call is closer to the money than doing your administrative tasks.

Once you start following the money it is immediately obvious what you need to do next, and then next, and then next…

Summertime Blues

Summertime really kicks off after the July 4th holiday. That does not mean you should stop building your sales pipeline.  This post is so important we wanted to publish again.
It’s summertime!
  1. No one wants to be bothered. 
  2. It’s too hot. 
  3. It’s a beautiful day; everyone is out. 
  4. No one is thinking about work. 
  5. Prospects are getting ready to go on vacation. 
  6. Everyone is on vacation. 
  7. Prospects are just returning from their vacations. 
  8. I’m preparing to go on vacation. 
  9. I’m on vacation. 
  10. I’ve just returned from vacation. 
  11. My assistant is on vacation. 
  12. Their assistant is on vacation. 
  13. No one is in on Mondays. 
  14. No one is in on Fridays. 
  15. Prospects are catching up midweek. 
  16. Prospects leave the office early. 
  17. Prospects go to the office late. 
  18. Prospects take long lunches. 
  19. No one makes appointments till after July 4th. 
  20. No one makes appointments till after Labor Day. 
Copy the list above and email it to your competition. Then, get on the telephone! Life and work continue, even in the summer. If it’s too hot, then your prospects will be in their nice, air-conditioned offices—where you should be, too, making calls. If it is a beautiful day, some people may be out. The rest will not. 

Everyone is not on vacation every day. If you happen to call someone who is on vacation, call them back when they return. If they are planning a vacation, schedule the meeting for when they return. If they have just returned from their vacation, schedule for a time when they say they will be caught up. If you are going on vacation, schedule for when you return. 

Prospects are in the office on Mondays and Fridays, early and late. They are frequently at their desks during lunch—especially when you are calling the boss. 

Prospects make appointments all summer long, just as they do in the fall, winter and spring. If a prospect asks you to call back after a holiday, suggest that you “pencil in a meeting for after the holiday.” Promise that you will call to confirm it. Do so. 

Have a wonderful prospecting summer!

Cold Calling: The Warrior Madness

Here is an email that we recently received from a new reader of this newsletter:

“Wendy, I want to let you know that I apparently suck at cold calling. I’m not a very good bullshitter.”

Wow! I feel for her. Talk about starting out from a difficult place…

But it’s not really her fault. Cold calling has been so demonized, people believe so many negative myths about cold calling that sometimes it’s almost impossible to see beyond the murkiness of the various stereotypes about what is essentially just a phone call.

This new reader unfortunately seems to believe that she needs to make stuff up and be incredibly manipulative in order to succeed at cold calling. Not true.

Here are some of the things that people believe about cold calling:

1. It’s a numbers game. This myth goes: “Make 100 dials every day. If you’re not getting traction, make 200 dials every day. If you’re not getting traction with 200 dials, then make 300 dials every day. And so on… Unfortunately, these days sheer volume of calls is not enough to help you succeed. It’s simply too hard to get people on the telephone. Today you have to be targeted, strategic and skilled. The real numbers game is conversion: Conversion of dials into conversations with decision-makers and then the conversion of those conversations into appointments.

2. Cold calling is manipulation. Many people (see email from reader, above) believe that cold calling is about manipulating people into buying things they neither want nor need. Not true. Your cold call is simply your introduction. There are many ways to meet a prospect, this is one of them.

3. Go through the ‘no’s’ and hang ups until someone finally says, ‘yes’ to you. This is my personal favorite. Who in their right mind would want to do this? I call this myth the “Warrior Madness” because a lot of cold calling training centers on how to deal with rejection. Instead, of learning to handle the ‘no’s,’ it’s a much better idea to learn the skills that you need so that prospects say ‘yes.’ Couple that with some strategic thinking and targeting and you’re in a much better place to succeed.

4. The Born Sales Person. This is a very insidious myth because it keeps people from taking action. (See the email from reader, above.) No one is born knowing how to cold call. It’s a communication skill and like any communication skill it can be learned and improved upon. (The Queen was lucky. Early in her career she learned this skill and it enabled her to build a business. You can learn it too.)

Bottom line what we’re talking about is a phone call—the basic tool of any sales professional. It doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be brutal. It’s simply a phone call.

7 Tips for Building Relationships & Guaranteeing Repeat Business

1) Ask all of the questions that you need to ask to ensure that you truly understand your prospect’s needs. Don’t assume that you know what your customer wants or that all customers have the same issues and/or concerns. Ask. This way you’ll be sure.

2) Give your customers exactly what they ask for. “Sort of” doesn’t count. Deliver quality and service each and every time. In addition, don’t oversell. Persuading a customer to take more product than they actually need will quickly make you a one-time resource.

3) Be absolutely certain that your offering will solve your customer’s problems or help them in the way they need to be helped. If your offering is not truly a solution, tell the truth. Selling a product or service that does not solve the problem it was purchased to solve may put money in your pocket in the short term but in the long term, it will guarantee that you lose the customer.

4) Do everything that you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Nothing builds trust and credibility like doing what you say you’re going to do. And tell the truth no matter what. While sometimes being truthful might cost you a sale, in the long run the trust that you build will more than make up for any lost revenue.

5) Keep your customer informed every step of the way. If something changes, if there is a delay, a pricing issue, a mistake or any potential problem, let your customer know about it as soon as you know. Do not wait. They will find out eventually and not telling them personally and/or allowing them to discover it on their own will lose you business.

6) Become a valued team member and go above and beyond your prospect’s expectations. Show your customer that you are interested in their business. Invest time thinking about their needs and how you can help.

7) Show appreciation for your customer’s business by saying, “Thank you.”

When to Take the Money…

There is an internet marketing guru I’ve been following for some time. A fair amount of my business is done online and this guru is one of a number that I follow. I needed some help with a project and so contacted his office to set up an initial consultation.

After an exhaustive amount of hard work trying to reach someone in his customer support team to set up the consultation I did finally manage to reach ‘Mary Anne.’

I told ‘Mary Anne’ that I’d been a fan of The Guru’s for quite some time and then said: “How do I set up a consultation with The Guru?”

‘Mary Anne’ then started to pitch. She told me The Guru was an internationally-renowned expert. He’s in great demand. He speaks all over the world… and on and on and on…

Meanwhile, there I was with my credit card clutched in my hand…

When ‘Mary Anne’ paused for breath, I foolishly asked her some questions. I say, ‘foolishly,’ because she never actually answered my questions she simply started pitching again. The questions I asked were: “Should I send material in advance for The Guru to review?” and “Should I book more than one consultation to start?”

These are the type of question that sales trainers call “Buying Signals.” “Buying Signals” are things that prospects say that tell a listener that the prospect is ready to buy. Statements like, “Should I send material in advance for The Guru to review?” or “Should I book more than one consultation to start?” definitely fall into this category.

Instead ‘Mary Anne’ continued her pitch. She told me that The Guru is smart, he’s resourceful and he’s a problem-solver…

I finally interrupted ‘Mary Anne’ and tried to move her to scheduling the consultation. (I say, ‘tried’ because I may or may not have a consultation lined up.) Not all prospects will be that single-minded in trying to buy when they are being blocked by a sales pitch. They might, reasonably be turned off.

So what are the lessons learned here?

Lesson #1: Listen to what your prospect is saying. I was telling Mary Anne loud and clear (“How do I set up a consultation with The Guru?”) that I was ready to buy. She just wasn’t paying attention.

Lesson #2: If you keep talking at your prospect when they have very clearly indicated they are ready to buy, (“Should I book more than one consultation to start?”) you run the very real risk of them changing their minds. Bottom line: Take the money when your prospect is offering it

Stop the Madness Now!

Many years ago it was easy to reach prospects directly. If a prospect said, “Send me some information and call me back,” you could send the information, call your prospect and actually reach that prospect directly to continue your conversation.

Today, however, that does not work. If a prospects says, “Send me some information and call me back,” the sad truth is that you may never actually speak with that prospect ever again.

Or take the situation where you’ve had what you thought was a good discovery conversation and your prospect asks for more detailed information or even a proposal. They say, “Send me the proposal and call me back.” You send off that proposal, call your prospect and never, ever connect again.

What to do?

The answer is simple: Always, always, always schedule the next step. When your prospect asks you for information:

“I’d be happy to send that to you. I’ll get it out to you right away. Let’s set up a time to go over it together. What does your calendar look like?”

When your prospect asks for a proposal:

“I’d be happy to get a proposal to you. I’ll get it out to you by (fill in time frame). Let’s set up a time to go over it together. What does your calendar look like?”

If a prospect is unwilling to take this next step, to go through the information you’ve sent or more importantly, review the proposal you’ve sent, they may not actually be such a good prospect. Unfortunately, too many prospects say, “Send me information” or “Send me a proposal” when they don’t actually mean that they’re going to read your information or take action on your proposal. If this happens to you a lot, you probably need to take a step back and look at how you’re handling these conversations with prospects (and this is a topic for another newsletter article). For the time being it’s enough to, “Stop the Madness” and start scheduling your follow up.

Eliminate Prospect Objections Before They Happen

Many sales professionals hear prospect objections as personal rejection. Rather than being something scary, however, the truth is that an objection from your prospect is important information. You are learning about your prospect, how that prospect thinks and feels and what is important to them. Listen carefully.

That said, however, you do not necessarily have to hear every prospect objection. There are some that you can and should eliminate at the very start of your sales process.

The very best way to not hear prospect objections is to have a great introduction. If you have a great introduction, you will hear far fewer objections. If, however, there are objections that you routinely hear, the way to eliminate those objections is to bring them up first before your prospect has a chance to do so.

For example: A frequent objection sales professionals hear is: “It’s too expensive” as in “I’ve heard about your product/service and it’s too expensive.”

If indeed your offering is more expensive than the competition, there is probably a reason for that additional expense. What is the reason? Does your company use superior quality products in manufacturing? Does your company offer a special level of service above and beyond what the competition offers? Identify the reason that your offering is more expensive than your competitors’. Then bring it up yourself. An example:

“Our product/service is certainly not the cheapest. That’s because we use superior quality materials and 24/7 service. None of our competitors can say that.”

When you bring up an objection first and address it, you not only eliminate the objection, you are able to position the objection the way that you want it to be perceived. This enables you to turn that objection from a negative into a positive.

Review all of the prospect objections that you frequently hear and brain storm ways to bring them up first. If you do this well you will be in a much stronger place to be able to move your sales process forward.

Why Your Calls Aren’t Working

This morning I took a ballet class with world renowned ballet teacher, Finis Jhung. (My previous career was as a ballet dancer and I still take dance classes.) During the class we were working on pirouettes—one of the most difficult moves for most dancers.

A pirouette is a turn. You turn multiple times on one leg without ever putting the other leg down. (And the women are doing this on their toes.) Dancers must be able to perform a minimum of two turns and more often than not the expectation is for three, four or more. A perfect pirouette is a combination of rhythm, timing, coordination and strength.

Young dancers start learning turns early in their training. Later, there are entire classes devoted to learning to execute multiple turns. Pirouettes are simply one of the ‘must have’ tricks of any successful dancer. And hard as they are to execute, most dancers are able to execute multiple pirouettes flawlessly.

But sometimes you don’t turn perfectly. Some times you fall down. When that happens, there is a reason. The reason is, as Finis Jhung said this morning, “If you fall down, you are doing it wrong.”

Such a simple concept. True for ballet and also true for cold calling. If you are making prospecting calls and prospects berate you, say, “I’m not interested” and/or hang up on you, to quote Finis, “…you are doing it wrong.”

Talking to prospects on the telephone is the same skill set whether you’re speaking with a referral, a networking contact, a lead you’ve met through social media or a cold call. In each of these instances you need to quickly get the prospect’s attention, build rapport, help that prospect understand the value you offer and most importantly get that prospect’s commitment to taking that all important next step. While having a referral or having met someone through social media may buy you an extra 30 seconds, the reality is that if you are not able to quickly do those things, that prospect will hang up just as quickly as a prospect on a cold call. That is why skills are so very important and why a label (warm or cold) is not.

The really good news here is that prospecting is a communication skill and like any communication skill it can be learned and improved on. If your calls aren’t working, improve your skills. It’s as simple as that. And I can tell you from personal experience with both that it is much easier to improve your prospecting skills than it is to execute multiple pirouettes.

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