One of the biggest challenges we face every day as salespeople is getting prospects not to blow you off on a cold call.
It’s tougher than ever to get their attention. Busy prospects rarely answer their phone, return voice mail, or reply to e-mails. And when you do get through, often you can tell they’re just trying to get you off the phone as soon as possible.
But there’s a solution, says sales coach and author Craig James: Engage prospects in a dialogue that gets them involved from the get-go, and encourages them to open up.
Think about how good movies get you involved and wondering what is going to happen next. That’s the kind of engagement you’re looking for. To move the ball forward, take a page from screenplay writers: Get your prospect to speculate, wonder, and imagine what life might be like with your product or service.
You can do this by asking thought-provoking questions that get them talking about their current state, and then what a better future might look like.
Present and future
Start by exploring the current situation: “I imagine you have a lot of responsibilities. Can you share your top two or three priorities right now?”
If one of those priorities aligns with your solution, get them to start talking: “I’ve been hearing that more and more lately. Is this a new priority for you or something that’s been on your plate for a long time?” or “So what’s going on in your organization to make this a priority?” Or “What have you tried in order to deal with this issue? How successful have your efforts been?”
The key: Asking questions that get prospects thinking, but that aren’t too hard to answer. Questions about their current situation are easier to respond to, because this is what the prospect is thinking about every day.
Next, get them engaged in the end of the story: “What would success on that issue look like? What would that mean for you personally?” Or “Based on what I’m hearing, I suspect we might be able to come up with a way to solve those problems. Would you be interested in hearing my ideas?”
Another script, same ending
What can you do if none of the prospect’s priorities align with your solution? Try using this approach:
“I can see why those are high priorities. How about [an opportunity that using your offering would provide]? Have you ever considered something like that?”
If the answer is no, you might ask: “Well, can you think of what impact it might have on your business?”
If the answer is yes, you can ask: “I’m just curious – why did you decide to not go forward?”
Now you can move them to the end of story — where they envision how much better things could be.
Practice makes perfect
Set up a role play with a colleague playing the prospect. First “call” using your traditional approach. Then try the engagement questions and observe his or her instinctive reaction. Once you get engagement, practice some follow-up questions to keep the conversation going and lead you to the next step of the sale: an appointment, a trial or a sale.
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