We’ve all been there. After countless calls, meetings and an endless amount of work, you just can’t get the customer to say “yes” and move forward.
There can be hundreds of theories and ideas as to why this happens more times than we care to admit, says sales consultant Mark Hunter. But let’s put all the theories aside and get to a solution you can use right now to determine if the customer is serious.
The real problem
As a salesperson, you’ve invested time and effort and the last thing you want to do is quit and walk away. So you tell yourself, “The prospect could be very close to saying ‘yes.’ ”
Maybe your pride doesn’t allow you to walk away. Or maybe you’re reluctant to admit that the time you spent with a prospect isn’t going to materialize into any business.
Here are two tests that can help you take a cold hard look at whether the prospect is truly a prospect or nothing more than a suspect in disguise:
TEST #1: Involvement
Get customers involved in the buying process. If they are not willing to be involved, then they are probably just wasting your time.
To gauge commitment, ask buyers to do something for you after you’ve left. Serious buyers will put in time and effort. Those who are just testing the waters probably won’t.
For example, next time a customer stalls you, ask him as a next step to review something. It might be a report you’re going to e-mail to him, a summary of key points from your meeting or a questionnaire about his current situation.
See what kind of input you get back. If buyers are not truly engaged, feedback is likely to be non-existent or superficial.
Their response will not only give you a sense of their level of commitment, but also gives buyers a quick “out” if they are not interested. Either way, it lets you move forward.
TEST #2: The big reveal
Another great tool to gauge how serious prospects are: Ask them to share some proprietary information.
It might be a question you ask about the strategic focus of their business, how their volumes shape up for this month, budgets, or internal processes. It can be almost anything, as long as it involves legitimate “need to know” information for you to provide a recommendation.
You will quickly learn if the customer has confidence in you. Casual buyers, or those who just want to pump you for knowledge, won’t want to share.
Real buyers, on the other hand, will recognize that this information will be critical to help you meet their needs and will give you what you ask for. (They might make you sign a nondisclosure statement. If so, that’s an excellent sign that they’re serious.)
Neither of these two techniques is 100% foolproof, of course. However, they often give you a quick read on your buyer’s true intentions. And they help keep you from convincing yourself that tire-kickers are “just about to buy.”
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