In 1991, I wrote a series of articles called "I Love to Prospect." I titled it that because most people hate prospecting and would rather get deep root cleaning than prospect for new business.
If you have not converted over to the "Good Way," the reason you hate it is you have been trained to apply hateful methods. You have been taught to grind on people, overcome their objections, not to believe them until they have said "No!" three, six or 27 times. I've spilled countess buckets of pixels writing against this approach.
When you apply the "Good Way" prospecting methods, you don't hate it. Maybe you'll never love it, but you can do it without all the angst.
Many in the same crowd who hate prospecting also hate selling. You go through a mental flogging of the flesh when sales are lost. You are nervous going into a big presentation, and you are mytified why this sale works and that one does not.
So I've decided to write "I Love to Sell."
Personally, I love it. It's exciting to engage another person and gradually bring them to understand that they really will benefit from buying my product.
I love the rough-and-tumble of it, the contact and in many cases the lifelong clients who become lifelong friends.
A Definition: "Selling"
Selling is a step-by-step process intended to increase desire to own the benefits of a product or service to the point the desire outweighs fear of change.
In selling, you are dealing with emotion, which is undoubtedly the raw material of life itself. You're dealing with times they've been burned in the past, unstated history between husband and wife, disagreements between them, and a nearly overwhelming lack of knowledge in the area in which you have decided to build a career.
From this perspective, it should be completely obvious that sales must be a process, if it has any chance of being effective. If you study the people who are effective in this business, you will find, one for one, they have a process. There's no flying by the seat of their pants, not with these boys and girls.
The people who make it work have a process.
Prospecting vs. Selling
Prospecting and selling are not the same thing. Ideally, they should not be done by the same person.
Salespeople should not prospect. Entire teams of people should exist to ensure the salesperson only sells.
Duh. Sales professionals are worth at least $1,000 an hour in gross revenue to the firm when meeting with and talking to interested, qualfied clients and prospects.
So where does the prospecting end and the sale begin?
Prospecting ends with the production of a hot prospect.
A hot prospect is someone who is very interested, qualified as regards to money and ability to buy, and is willing to set an appointment to begin the sales process.
In an ideal world, salespeople should spend full time doing what they came into this business to do, and not do other things, like prospect, handle service, set up seminars or process paperwork.
The frame of mind of a prospector is totally different from that of the sales professional. The prospector is discarding the non-buyers. He or she understands that when a hot prospect is turned over to a salesperson, the most valuable resource of many companies is being spent. So the prospector discards the sand, gravel, grit and mud, keeping only that which glitters.
Some of the glitter of course is fool's gold, but we can say for certain: If it does not glitter, it is not gold and should be discarded.
When the salesperson takes over from the prospector, the frame of mind changes. Now we're going to use all our persuasive power to convert this prospect into a client. We'll deal with procrastination, objections, ignorance, misunderstanding and stupidity, and do so with a smile.
Yet another reason why salespeople should not prospect is this: They tend to apply selling skills to prospecting and wind up talking with people whom a good prospector would have long since chucked.
So in this series, we're going to talk about the core set of skills that make up selling.
Core Selling Skills
Here are the selling skills we will be covering in this series. I've ranked them in order of importance, which, interestingly, is also the sequence they occur in the process I will recommend to you.
1. Profiling with written questionnaire. By far, this is the most important selling skill. Without a good profile, you probably won't even make it to the close. With a good profile, especially if it's written, you have a much better chance. I will explain in my next article why the profile should be in writing.
2. Product presentation skills. Here is where you build excitement and get the prospect to visualize owning the benefits of a product or service, thereby increasing the prospect's desire to do business with you.
3. Trial closing skills. A trial close tests the water. If it's too cold or too hot, you back up and fix the problem and then go forward to another trial close. This testing and re-testing of the water is nearly guaranteed to give you a high close-rate for the simple reason you can discover problems in your presentation and fix them before you commit the troops. If you ask for the order and then fail, it can be very difficult to recover. So the solution is: Don't fail. The key is trial closes.
4. Question-answering skills. Almost always, after a successful trial close, the prospect will ask a series of questions. These questions are almost always clarifications about one or more of the products you have recommended. The way in which you answer these can ease you into a close, or derail your train.
5. Closing skills. Most writers on sales act like selling and closing are the same thing. "Always Be Closing," some nitwit wrote. So let me correct the error: Sales is not closing. Closing is but one step in the sales process. It's an important one but not the most important.
The above-listed skills can be considered a recipe to sales success. You can't decide, "Oh, I don't like profiling. I won't do that one." Short-change one of them and the recipe doesn't work. It's like baking a chocolate cake without the sugar.
If you follow the "Good Way," in many cases, as you will see, the prospect will ask to buy.
6. Objection-handling skills. This is an extremely overrated step. Mostly if you do the other steps correctly, you don't have objections. But we will talk about these.
We will dig into profiling in the next issue. I recommend you take each of the skills we will cover and work on them for a month. Even if you're already tops, you can be better.
Questions Are the Answer
Two articles in my upcoming "I Love to Sell" series will cover profiling. I need your help.
I am going to build a profile for you. It will certainly not be designed to replace various questionnaires required by your firm. Rather, it picks up where these leave off.
This profile will be designed to find out the two most important things you need to know before making your recommendations:
1. What your client or prospect wants; and
2. What they don't want.
The profile will not only be designed to provide you with this information, it will bring these two things to the forefront of the clients' minds.
What I need from you is up to three of your favorite questions. The ones I really want are the ones that cause the client to pause and say, "Well, I never thought about that before."
If you contribute at least one question, I will send you not only the profile, but the list of all the good questions to help you tailor the profile to your use.
The only people who get all the questions will be the contributors.
To contribute, point your browser to www.billgood.com/survey.
Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing Systems in Draper, Utah; see www.billgood.com.