9 Ways to Crack the Prospect Code

Why do so many meetings with prospects fizzle out and go nowhere?

The key to getting prospects to buy what you’re selling starts with getting them to buy you. Here are nine ways to do it:

1) Abandon the urge to impress. Sure, you want prospects to like you, but trying too hard can give the wrong impression by sending the message that you’re less interested in understanding the prospect’s situation and more interested in selling yourself.

Don’t use confusing terminology, dominate the conversation, speak too fast or otherwise make prospects feel inadequate. It’s the perfect prescription for rejection.

2) Issue a challenge. This is what it takes for prospects to clarify their thinking and commitment to making a prudent purchasing decision—and avoid experiencing buyer’s regret.

Ask what some may consider a risky question: “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” If the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure,” it’s time to stop and probe until doubts are explored and resolved to the prospect’s satisfaction. This is how you develop trust.

3) Second-guess yourself. It’s tough to recover when you’re put on the defensive while making a sales presentation. Even if you’re fast on your feet, it’s difficult
enough to think clearly, let alone organize an effective response.

Avoid getting caught with the unexpected by second-guessing yourself. Anticipate possible objections and disagreements that could undermine your proposal, then unearth their deficiencies and a reason for why your position is still the best solution.

4) Solicit honesty. Ask your prospect what customer satisfaction means to them and what they expect from you as a salesperson. Besides providing helpful information, it lets prospects know you want them to become satisfied customers.

It can also help to ask what’s bothersome about salespeople. Urge them to be candid. The more a salesperson knows, the better.

5) Don’t leave feedback to chance. “We need your feedback” or some other iteration of those overused words is tacked onto the end of countless marketing messages. Some call it the electronic “complaint box.” But feedback is too valuable to be left to chance.

Nothing is more important than making sure you and your prospects are on the same page. Think of presentations as an opportunity to ask, “Is something not clear? Am I missing something that’s important to you?”

6) Set the stage for success. Productive sales calls don’t just happen. They are carefully choreographed to give you an edge in getting the order. The first step is disarming the prospect—neutralizing their natural reaction to become defensive.

To accomplish this, you must figure out and focus on what the prospect wants and what satisfies them.

7) Focus on why, not what. Consider a few examples of how to make the why work for you:

  • A solar energy company says its installations do more than lower energy costs. They help reduce the carbon footprint.
  • A janitorial services company builds its case for clean facilities by offering to reduce lost time due to illness, increase employee satisfaction, and help improve productivity.
  • British engineer James Dyson, who invented the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner, sells a cordless version. In a TV ad, he explains, It’s right to do something better.”

8) Stay with them. No one wants to feel ignored, abandoned or rejected, so don’t make an “exit” after deciding a prospect isn’t going to buy. Your prospect may react negatively and try to get even by badmouthing you or your agency.

Let them know you appreciate the opportunity to help them, but you also recognize it doesn’t always work out.

9) Rise to the occasion. Getting bored with what we do every day is inevitable, even for those who say they love their work. The test is your ability to push aside the monotony and meet the expectations of others.

If there’s one quality prospects look for in a salesperson, it’s vigor—an alive feeling. It’s catching, and it moves prospects to action. It should be as much a part of a successful sales presentation as the words said.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer.