Remember the movie, “He’s Just Not That Into You?” It should be required viewing for all salespeople. The movie demonstrated all the excuses women make during the dating process, hanging on to unqualified ‘prospects’ way too long. (They don’t ever plan on getting married!)
It’s very similar to salespeople that hang onto prospects too long. They keep them in the sales pipeline, hoping that someday, they will actually change vendors, upgrade processes and invest money.
These bad dates, I mean sales prospects, usually start with this type of meeting. The salesperson meets with the prospect and runs an effective meeting. The prospect seems engaged and interested. He says all the right things. “This looks really interesting. We are always looking to improve. We need to do something.”
Emotions start running the meeting, rather than effective selling skills. You believe the prospect wants to change–without any hard evidence of their commitment to change. You follow-up with the prospect and hear radio silence. Phone calls and emails are not returned. Has your prospect retired or moved to Antarctica? Unfortunately, you are now in ‘chase mode.’ How did you end up here?
Many salespeople need to develop an emotional intelligence skill called reality testing. This is the ability to see things as they are rather than how you would like them to be. Here are three tips to help you improve the emotional intelligence skill of reality testing to qualify who is ‘really into you.’
#1: Interest is not to be confused with taking action. I have never seen a prospect invest time or money because of interest. Unfortunately, when salespeople hear that the prospect is interested, they stop asking questions. They don’t realize the prospect has only made a statement regarding the need to change. The salesperson hasn’t gathered any hard evidence to support that need.
A salesperson with high reality testing goes on high alert when they hear fake buying signals. They know they are nothing more than statements. They put on their qualifier hat and start asking questions. “What makes this interesting? What have you done thus far? What is the reason you haven’t done anything?”
Great salespeople know that the prospect must convince them that they are more than interested. They are committed to changing, growing and improving. And with that commitment is the ability to allocate time and money.
#2: Listen. Do not confuse information for evidence. For example, your prospect shares, “We are tired of poor customer service.” Apply your reality testing skills. You heard information; however, you have no evidence that the prospect is really experiencing poor customer service. The evidence based salesperson asks more questions. She wants to know if this prospect is an ‘eternal bachelor’ or really someone that wants to get married at some point!
Here’s a quick exercise to conduct to see if have gathered information or evidence. Pretend you are a lawyer preparing for trial. You are going to present the prospect’s challenge to a sales jury of twelve. Could you prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your prospect really has a problem with too much downtime due to outdated technology? Is your evidence circumstantial or do you have proof?
Without asking further questions, it’s easy to miss questions that just might uncover that the problem isn’t the existing vendor. It’s your potential client. His company might be placing orders too late to hit agreed upon delivery dates. If it’s a consulting project, key decision makers keep missing meetings and deadlines are missed.
#3: Set and get a clear next step. Here’s a reality check. You don’t have a clear next step unless it’s on both parties calendar. Has anyone been guilty of accepting a vague request from prospects such as, “Give me a call next week.”
Vague next steps lead to chase mode and vague sales pipelines. Apply another emotional intelligence skill, assertiveness, and book a specific date and time to call. “Sarah, I don’t have next week on my calendar. However, I do have Wednesday at 3:00 pm available. Does that work for you? Serious prospects have no problem scheduling the next appointment.
Apply the emotional intelligence skill of reality testing and consultative skills during your sales process. Eliminate chase mode and wasted time. You deserve to work with prospects that are “into you.”