Prospecting is a challenge for many salespeople, and it can be really uncomfortable! And if you're not careful, uncomfortable situations can lead to something we at Sandler like to call verbal vomiting. In other words, you stop asking all the right questions and start talking too much instead. You end up sharing features and benefits instead of really uncovering if you're a good fit or not.
A while back, one of my clients ran into an uncomfortable situation that had just that effect. Fortunately I was able to debrief with him afterward and help him learn some valuable lessons that can likely help you as well.
Let's take a look at the story and what he learned, and then I'll share some resources that can probably help you with prospecting and qualifying.
A sketchy neighborhood
A client of ours owns a dog training business. When we started working with them, one of the first things we had them do was stop offering free assessments and start charging for them. That would help them stop wasting time with people that had little intention of paying for anything, which meant they could spend that time with more qualified prospects.
Soon after they started charging, they booked an assessment with a prospect. Since he paid up front, they assumed he was well qualified to do business with them.
On the day of the assessment, my client pulled up to the address and immediately started getting a bad feeling. It was a bad part of town, and the building was a warehouse with boarded up windows. My client went in and met the dog's owner, who also made him feel uncomfortable.
"He was looking at me like he wanted to kill me," my client shared. "I was already nervous about the area of town, so I just started talking."
My client felt intimidated during the entire interaction, and his reaction was to start verbally vomiting features and benefits. Needless to say, he didn't sell anything beyond that initial assessment.
The real problem
So what was the problem? It wasn't a qualifying problem, believe it or not. It wasn't about the part of town my client was in or how uncomfortable the interaction made him. It's about how he reacted to the situation.
There are times we have all met with someone and felt awkward or uncomfortable. Maybe it was the part of town, maybe it was their physical stature, maybe it was their role in their organization versus our role in ours. Maybe it happened when we were prospecting, or maybe we were doing something else.
Under pressure, we tend to fill silence by talking! And that's not a good thing. A salesperson should be asking questions when they meet with a prospect and listening far more than they talk.
I advised my client to spend some time debriefing either mentally, on paper, or with someone else on his team. As with all situations, I suggested he ask himself, "What could I have done differently?"
In my client's case, he came away with a major insight. He needed to be more aware of the times he was verbally vomiting features and benefits. If he noticed it happening, he could slow down, stop, then ask a related question and listen to the answer.
Have you ever had that problem? Have you ever attempted to fill silence with a prospect by talking too much?
Improve your prospecting and qualifying
If you're anything like most of our clients when we start working with them, you have a lot of room for improvement in your prospecting and qualifying. Fortunately, we have a number of tactics and concepts that can help you, if you take time to really understand them.
Here are a few of those tactics and concepts:
- The importance of personal impact
- Speaking your prospect's language
- Kill the sales script
- Money is different for everyone
- Guts to ask questions up front
We also have plenty of tools available to help with prospecting and qualifying. First up is a video to help you better understand the prospect's side of things during most sales interactions.
Next, Asking Questions the Sandler Way is a book that shows how to get both buyer and seller to the right situation faster, more efficiently, and with less stress—by asking the right questions, in the right way, at the right time, for the right reason.
You can read more and download a free sample chapter here:
Finally, we frequently help companies create or improve their prospecting systems. If your team needs help with prospecting and qualifying, we'd be happy to talk and see if we might be a good fit.