Inherently, most people are good people. We believe that other people are basically good people too. But even good people behave badly once in a while.
Prospects believe that most salespeople are bad. They believe they are out to trick or to manipulate them.
So prospects become defensive to salespeople. They tell little white lies at the mall: "I’m just looking, thanks." They tell group lies after the presentation: "This was a great presentation, thanks for telling us your solution. If everything works in your favor, we'll give you a call." Then, nothing. They lie to make salespeople go away.
Prospects ask questions, but don’t ask about what they really want. They say things like, "We want to work with a competent firm," but avoid explaining what it means to be competent. They throw out industry jargon, but may or may not be using it in the same way as the salespeople. I mean, what does "quality" really mean?
Salespeople need to be seekers of clarity. Every word, every question, every statement has a meaning that is only known by the prospect. Salespeople must seek the meaning and the meat behind the words.
"We have the budget to do this." Ask, "How much did you budget for?"
"I am the decision maker." Ask, "Okay, who says no when everyone else says yes?"
"We want a quality service." Ask, "Can you define how you will know when it is quality?"
Stop making assumptions. Ask about everything. The more you know, the more you know how to keep things moving.
One assumption salespeople make is that after hearing all of the reasons to buy, they’ll simply accept whatever price they name. That assumption – or blind hope, really – is partly based in fear.
Most people did not grow up wealthy. Growing up we learned things from our parents about money, one of which was that we shouldn’t talk about it. Whether we learned that it was impolite to ask, or simply none of our business how much money someone had, it is still imprinted into our brains.
But how productive is it for salespeople to avoid talking about money with their prospects? One of the biggest issues in sales is that the majority of salespeople are afraid to talk about money and price, because we’re raised to think it’s impolite. So some salespeople shy away from it and wait until the end of the process to talk money.
By waiting to discuss price and money, though, we are playing right into the prospects’ hands – it’s easier to negotiate with more information, after all. You know you have this problem when people are shocked by your price when you propose, start cherry picking your proposal, or question the value against your price.
The best way to handle this is to move conversations about money, budgets, and price earlier in the conversation, so the prospect is forced to talk about it. The best time to have the conversation is somewhere shortly after we have found their compelling reasons to use us or buy from us, and before we tell them if and how we can help them. You must qualify that the prospect is both willing and able to spend money on you before you tell them how. If the “how” comes too early, they will pick it apart in an effort to reduce the price.
Assumptions are dangerous in all parts of life, but they can absolutely kill a sale in progress. Make sure both sides have the information they need, at the appropriate times. That way, the outcome is more likely to be beneficial for salesperson and for prospect.