The questions I suggested in my last message can be tailored to fit any service or product you are selling. With these questions, you are throwing the ball into the prospect’s court and asking him to define his hot button.
Here are a few more ideas: Ask your prospect what service is most attractive/important when selecting a travel agency. Among the many possible answers are: proximity, years of experience of agents, international capabilities, other major clients currently served, Internet booking capabilities, payment plans, meeting and conference capabilities, etc.
Once you find a potential hot button, probe it with more questions.
Salesperson: “What do you mean by international capabilities?”
Prospect: “We look for somebody who is familiar with the airports in France and Germany, and who can help us with international customs regulations, exchange rates, and visa and passport paperwork.”
Salesperson: “Of all the important factors you could have named, what made you choose this one?”
(Some very specific reasoning is about to surface.)
Prospect: “Because ninety-nine percent of our travel is overseas.” By asking these questions, you learn the customer’s concerns and focus, which allow you to start forming a strategy to address these specific needs. Here are a few more fact-finding questions you can ask:
- How do you handle your travel presently?
- What is it you like most about your present agency?
- What was the service or attribute that determined your selection of your present agency?
- Is there anything you don’t like about the way your travel is being handled?
Clarify & Confirm
This may sound like a cliché, but not too many people do it — you have to listen to and understand what the prospect says. More importantly, you should always clarify any ambiguity or trace of a hot button by saying:
Salesperson: “Mr. Jones, let me see if I’m hearing you correctly. Your most pressing concern is . . .”
Repeat your current understanding of the prospect’s needs and get confirmation. Then you can address the need accurately. While doing so, salt in your qualifications and experience as they relate to his need.
Life After Death
Remember, there are only two kinds of people — those who are (or can become) interested in what you represent and those who are (or will) not. The latter group might have given you a slot on their calendar because they didn’t know how to say no. Most experienced salespeople know within ten minutes if they are on the same wavelength as a prospective client. As you get more familiar with The System and your confidence level builds, you will get better at distinguishing the two before you go to the meeting phase. Meanwhile, view these dead-end meetings as a great place to practice your presentation and meeting skills.
Reading body language is another skill you will want to develop over time. As you grow more confident in what you are saying, you will gain the flexibility to focus at the same time on the other person’s non-verbal communications. Often this is quite enlightening (and amusing).
If a prospect picks up a pencil and starts tapping it, you can bet your burger that this guy has tuned out. If he picks up the mail and begins opening envelopes, you have burned your welcome to a crisp. Other telltale signs of your imminent demise: glancing at a watch, or quickly answering an incoming phone call. If they begin texting to their Great Aunt Sallie, it may be time for you to pack your parachute.
Early in your career, you may witness all these “obscenities” of body language. These episodes of embarrassment and frustration come with the territory. When these occur, your agenda (or your presentation of it) is not working. The best advice: either move through the remainder of the meeting quickly, or be disarmingly honest by telling the prospect you feel like you are not addressing his concerns. Ask again what they are. Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
No Thanks, Dr. Kervorkian
A slow form of suicide is the act of trying to sell somebody something when they clearly and steadfastly are refusing to be sold. Yes, tenacity is a virtue in the sales business. But as Kenny Rodgers said: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” Don’t keep spending time with somebody who is not interested in you and/or your product. Life is too short. Part company amicably and move on. Tomorrow is another day.
The Follow Up
You’ve made it your business to talk with more people, gone in with an agenda, and run your MRI. Now that you have all the information you need, ask if you can come back with some suggestions (your “proposal”) after having an opportunity to think about what you have learned. You are now poised for the last act before the close.
In closing this series of messages, I want you to remember these final three rules when it comes to giving a first-class presentation:
Be Bright. Be Brief. Be Gone.
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