Prospecting: Five conversations to have in the first interview

by on July 15, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Top Sales Dog
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In your first in-depth interview with a prospect, you need to cover a lot of ground.

Not only are you trying to identify the buyer’s needs and figure out whether you can help, but also you’re trying to establish trust and rapport. Not to mention figuring out whether this buyer is right for you and your needs.

It’s too much to keep track of without a plan. So before you sit down with the prospect, map out exactly what you want to cover.

Sales consultant Bill Bachrach suggests that you think of that interview as five conversations rolled into one.

1. Values Conversation
This is the first conversation to have – before any discussion of needs or solutions. Here’s why: When people talk about what’s important to them, they get emotionally involved. And when you truly listen to their responses, you create trust.

Trust and emotion will make up the foundation of your sale. Make sure your foundation is solid before you try to build on it.

Prepare one or more open-ended questions that create an opportunity for prospects to open up.

Examples:

  • What’s important about money to you? (if you sell financial services)
  • Why is increased productivity important to you? (if you sell automation software)

The discoveries your prospects make about themselves are even more important than what you learn. They articulate – perhaps for the first time – what will inspire them to buy.

2. Goals
The next conversation translates values into tangible, measurable goals. It often begins with goals that are fuzzy and ill-defined. Your job is to make them more concrete.

Example:

Prospect: “One of my goals is a secure retirement.”
You: “In what year?”
Prospect: “When I’m 65 – that will be in 2030.”
You: “What month in 2030?”

Or:

Prospect: We see automation as a way to improve product quality.
You: What metric will you use to measure quality? What number are you aiming for?

Asking customers to define these concrete goals gives them a profound sense of what is really possible – and that you’re the one who can help them.

3. Current realities
Sales are made from the gap between what can be achieved (goals) and what is being achieved at present. A conversation about current realities creates that gap.

Example:

“Okay, you’d like to turn around orders in 20% less time. Let’s look at where you are now. How much time is being spent in your department processing routine contracts?”

As you begin filling in the blanks, prospects will be one step ahead of you, thinking about what it will take to bridge the gap. That’s exactly where you want them to be.

4. Commitment to a next step
You’ve now established a need (the gap between goals and current reality) and the emotional investment (values). With those elements in place, your conversation can naturally turn to next steps – either an agreement to buy or to advance the sales process.

At this point, a direct approach usually works best: “Would you like me to …?”

If you can’t get commitment at this stage, there’s some misalignment between you and the buyer. Retrace your steps to find out what it is.

5. Commitment to implement
Few sales are closed in a single interview. For the others, a final conversation ensures that the prospects aren’t just being polite when they agree to a next step. Both parties benefit when you establish that a prospect can and will buy if the proposition is right.

Example:

“Could you tell me what will motivate you to implement the solution that we recommend?”

Source: Bill Bachrach is founder of a sales consulting organization for financial planners. Info: www.bachrachvbs.com

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