How to Get Your Prospect Talking

Have you ever had a prospect who plays his feelings on your product or service “close to the vest”? Someone who simply won’t share much of their opinion one way or the other? Or should I say how many prospects do you have like that?

These days many prospects hide behind nebulous stalls like, “Let me think about it,” or “I’ll run this by the committee,” etc., and it’s often hard to know where they stand. And then it gets worse when you try to set an appointment to get back with them only to hear, “I’ll get back to you.”

If you’re struggling with prospects like this, then it’s time to learn some advanced closing skills that only the Top 5% are comfortable using: And that’s asking open ended questions and actually giving your prospect a chance to fully answer – negatively or positively. While this may sound easy to do, only the top, top pros know how to fully listen long enough for their prospect to tell them how they really feel. (HINT: they use their MUTE button!)

But to get your prospect to open up, you need some well-crafted scripts that you adapt and make your own so you can deliver them sincerely and not sound salesy. Take some time to review the choices below and do just that – make them your own:

Question One:

“You know ________, we all buy emotionally and go with our gut feelings. Share with me: What is your gut telling you is good about our solution, and what is it telling you isn’t so good?”

[Now hit MUTE and listen – same advice after each rebuttal]

Question Two:

“__________, I’m sure you’re weighing this purchase against some of our competition, so tell me, in what ways are we better than your next option, and in what ways are we weaker?”

Question Three:

“_________, you’ve probably heard of the old Ben Franklin way of making a decision haven’t you? (Wait for a response)

Ben would make a list of all the reasons to make a decision to move forward with something, and all the reasons not to. If the reasons were stronger to move forward, he would.

So tell me, what are the reasons, as you see them, for moving forward with this, and what are the reasons not to?”

Question Four:

“_________, I know there are other people who need to weigh in on the final decision on this, so tell me, if you had to put a wager on it, would you bet that there were more votes on moving forward on this or more votes against it?”

Layer:

“And why is that?”

Question Five:

“Now _________, I know you like what we have, and there are probably some things you don’t like. Tell me, if we could deliver more of what you DO like, what would that be?”

Layer:

“And if we could give you less of what you don’t like, what would that be?”

And then, “And why is that?”

Question Six:

“__________, some people love our solution and some people – believe it or no – hate it. Tell me, what do you LOVE about us, and what do you hate about this that is preventing you from moving forward right now?”

As you can see, these scripts are designed to get someone who is noncommittal to begin opening up and to tell you where they stand – both positively and negatively. Once you know where someone is emotionally and logically with your product or service, you’ll have the leverage to adjust your close and get closer to a sale.

Stop Pitching the Gatekeeper – and What to Do Instead

One of the biggest mistakes many inside sales reps make is pitching the gatekeeper. For some reason they feel compelled to pour their pitch on the first pair of ears they get, and, unfortunately, this usually gets them into trouble.

To start with, the gatekeeper is just that – someone whose job it is to screen salespeople from getting through to the decision maker. The worst thing you can do is immediately identify yourself as a salesperson by pitching them in hopes that they’ll be so moved by your pitch that they’ll want to put you through. Doesn’t happen. Instead, all you do is trigger their automatic response of, “Just email something, and I’ll forward it to my boss.” Or worse…

By identifying yourself as a salesperson, you’ll actually be making it easier for the gatekeeper to just blow you off with, “We’re not interested.” Think about it: They take sales calls like yours all day long, and after a while (like two days on the job), they’re as sick of getting phone calls as you are of making them. So leading with your pitch is the last thing you want to do.

Also, the reason you don’t want to pitch the gatekeeper is because they don’t care what you’re selling and they usually have zero say in whether to buy from you or not. Again, they are gatekeepers – not decision makers. Pitching them will mean nothing, and all it will do is annoy them and waste your time.

So, what to do? Your job, believe it or not, is to get past the gatekeeper with as little interrogation as possible (and with as little pitching as possible), and connect with the decision maker. That is the person you want to give your brief pitch to… So here are a copy of ways to avoid pitching the gatekeeper, and, instead, getting to the decision maker:

1) By now, you’ve already read about my “Please, please, please” technique. Some of you are already using it and isn’t it great? For those of you who missed it, it’s simple. To avoid 65% (or more) of any screening, simply open your call with:

“Hi, this is (your name) with (your company), could you please connect me with (DM’s name) please?”

That’s it. To read the whole technique, simply check out my blog here: http://mrinsidesales.com/insidesalestrainingblog/

2) If you don’t know the name of the person you’re looking for, simply say:

“Hi, this is (your name) with (your company) and I need a little bit of help please.”

After they ask how they can help you, you say, “I’m looking for the person who handles X – who would that be please?”

That’s it. No pitching, no pleading to be put through, instead you’re simply asking for their help and then directing them to put you through. If you ask this in a polite way, you’ll get through 65% of the time.

3) Now here comes the tricky part: In some cases, the gatekeeper has a little more authority, like an office manager, or executive assistant, etc. In this case it’s O.K. to deliver your opening value statement – just so they know what it’s about – but then it’s highly important to try to get through to the decision maker as soon as possible. Here are a few ways to do that:

The best way is to quickly qualify for decision maker status. As soon as you ask if they make the decision on what you’re selling, and are told that someone else makes the decision, that is your cue to ask to be put through to the actual DM. Try:

“Oh, I see, tell you what: If you’d put me through to (boss) briefly, I’ll explain what this is about and if he (or she) is interested in learning more, I can make an appointment that fits his/her schedule. I’ll be happy to hold on while you connect me…”

OR

“It sounds like the best thing to do before I send something is to have just a few words with (DM), and that way I can save us both a lot of time depending on their level of interest. Could you please let (DM) know I’m holding please?”

OR

“Before I bother you with emails and then follow up calls, why don’t you put me in touch with your (boss) briefly, and I’ll see if there’s an interest on his/her side. If so, I’ll take the appropriate action, if not, we’ll save us all a lot of time. Could you let (the boss) know I’m holding, please?”

4) Sometimes the gatekeeper or office manager will want a little more information on what it is you’re offering, and in this case it’s O.K. to give them more details, but just make sure that you qualify for their role in the decision process and that you ask for the best way to connect with the other decisions makers if possible. Sample questions include:

“And beside yourself, who makes the decision on this?”

Layer with:

“Great, can I connect briefly with them to make sure this is something they’d like to know more about?”

OR

“If this is something you like, how much influence do you have in the decision process?”

If they tell you their boss would make the final decision, then layer with:

“I understand completely. Tell you what, so we don’t waste your time or his/hers, let me have a brief word with them, and I’ll see if this is something they even want to learn more about. I’ll be happy to hold on…”

If you’re then told they aren’t available, try to get their name or direct email address or extension, and when you call back if the assistant isn’t available, ask for the DM directly.

The major lesson here is that you must resist the temptation to pitch the gatekeeper, or to give too much of your pitch to the assistant if they aren’t the final DM. Give just enough to qualify for interest, and then try to get through to the actual DM. This will save you a lot of time and headache later on.

15 Ways to Handle the Competition Objection

Targets hit in the center by arrows
Targets hit in the center by arrows

We all face competition. There is always someone who can do it cheaper, or faster, or better (at least in the mind of your prospect). Because of this, prospects – and even customers – are constantly on the search for a better deal. Knowing how to handle the competition objection effectively can mean the difference between winning the sale or suffering that sinking feeling of having lost the business to someone else.

There are several times you can handle the competition objection, but surprisingly most sales reps wait until it comes up at the end of their closing presentation. This is the worse time to handle it because you have already given your pricing and options and sometimes even your best deal. While you may have to handle the objection of competition during the close – and I’ll give you some scripting to do just that later in this article – the best time to handle it is in the beginning, while qualifying. Here are some ways you can do that:

Qualifying for competition:

Option #1:
“_________, let’s talk a little bit about who else you’re looking at for this – who’s top of your list right now?”

If you’re uncomfortable bringing up potential competition, let me assure you of two things: One, if they are shopping you, they are most likely shopping others, so don’t be surprised, and Two, trust me, it’s better to know in advance who you’re up against so you can position yourself to win the business during the close. And always ask this in an assumptive way…

Option #2:
“How many companies are you getting quotes on for this?”

Once again, don’t worry about introducing the concept of getting quotes, if they are going to do this (and most are), it’s better to get an idea of it now. If they tell you they are getting three quotes (doesn’t matter how many), layer this with: “And who have you liked so far?” Again, be assumptive with this.

Option #3:
“_________, how does your current supplier fit into all this?”

This is a nice opened ended, assumptive way to get your prospect to reveal why they might be moving away from their current vendor – or why they might still be considering using them. A great way to layer this is to ask:

Option #4:
“And if you find that we can give you a better deal than you’re getting right now, what will you do next?”

Obviously you want them to reveal that they’ll take it back to their current vendor to get them to lower their price, and this is what you want to know in advance. Asking this question in an opened ended way like this often gets them to tell you this. You can also ask this in a more direct way:

Option #5:
“________, if we can show you how we can take care of what you’re doing now, and do so for less than you’re paying your current vendor, what will prevent you from taking it back to them and getting them to just drop their price to keep your business?”

Listen carefully to not only what your prospect says here, but how they say it. If they hesitate or if their voice goes up or wavers a bit, then you’re in trouble. You can also handle it this way:

Option #6:
“Now _________, after we do our analysis, I’m pretty convinced that we’ll be able to save you money just like we do our other clients. But ________, I have a concern and I need you to level with me: Sometimes we go through this work to find these savings, and after we do, some companies use them to get their current vendor to lower their prices. Do you see what I mean?”

[Wait for response]

“So I’m happy to do the work for you and show you some savings, but let me ask you: what is the chance that you’ll take these back to your current vendor and do the same?”

OR

“Let me ask you: if we can also show you savings, what would prevent you from doing the same?”

Option #7:
“________, what is going to be the deciding factor on who wins your business on this?”

And if it’s price, then layer with:

“O.K., then after you get all the quotes, will you at least let me compete against the lowest quote to see if I can do better?”

Handling competition during the close: If after you’ve presented your product or service your prospect says they want or need to check on other offers/estimates/quotes, then use the questions below to get your prospect to open up and possibly reveal what it might take for you to win the business:

Option #1:
“I understand, which way are you leaning right now?”

Option #2:
“What would it take for someone else to win your business?”

Option #3:
“What would it honestly take for you to choose us for this?”

Option #4:
“What don’t you see with our proposal that you see in others?”

Option #5:
“Are we in the running with what else you’ve seen out there?”

[If yes]

“What about us would take us out of the running?”

OR

“What would you need to see to choose using us?”

AND

“What can I do right now to insure that we win your business?”

Option #6:
“Obviously you’re going to show this quote to your current vendor – if they match the price, will you just stick with them?”

[If yes]

“What can I do to prevent that?”

Option #7:
“How many times have you taken other quotes to your current vendor?”

[If they tell you]:

“And what do they usually do?”

[If they say they lower their price to keep the business]:

“How can we break that cycle and get you the right pricing from the start?”

Option #8:
“_________, let’s take your lowest bid right now and compare it – services to services – to what we’re offing you. If I find you’re getting a better deal, I’ll tell you so. If I can beat it, then I’ll let you know that as well. Either way – You’ll Win! Do you have that other quote nearby?”

Remember, competition will always exist, but you can beat it and win business if you’re prepared with proven and effective scripts like those above. Pick your favorite ones and tailor them to your particular sale.