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What are your prospects really saying?

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Five minutes. You wouldn’t think it would be difficult to misconstrue those two simple words. However, after many years of marriage, I can assure you that it has two entirely different meanings for my husband and me. To me, it’s about five minutes, give or take a few. To my husband, it’s exactly five minutes. On the dot. Not one second later. (I drive him crazy.)

Same thing for the word “nothing.” When my husband asks, “What’s wrong?” and I say, “Nothing,” he assumes he’s off the hook. Truth is he’s in really deep trouble.

See where I’m going with this? When you’re selling, you and your prospect may have entirely different perceptions of some very common phrases. This disconnect can cause you to do the wrong thing and lose a sale. For example, here are two common things that prospects may say to you:

“We’re happy with our current provider.” You may think “Darn it. Everyone’s ‘happy’ with my competitor. I don’t know how I’m going to meet my quota—especially since I can’t find anyone who’s ready to make a decision.”

When your prospects brush you off with this comment, what they really mean is “You’ve said absolutely nothing that piques my curiosity and makes me want to learn more.” In reality, research shows that more than 70 percent of people who say this to you would change from their current provider—if they had a good reason to do so.

Instead of hanging up the phone frustrated, you might say something such as “I hear that all the time. But if you knew that we’ve helped similar firms reduce their overall printing outlay by up to 29 percent, would that interest you?”

“Is that the best price you have?” You think: “OMG! Another person whose only focus is on how much things cost! That’s all people care about these days.” But when they say this, your prospects usually mean “I need to ensure that my money is well spent. In fact, I’ll even pay more if I’m getting additional value.”

Instead of panicking, you might ask “Are you really looking for the cheapest option? Or, are you focused on making a smart investment?” This leads to an entirely different conversation and, ultimately, outcome.

Here’s the deal: Don’t take your prospects’ words at face value. Think about what they might really be saying. Ask questions to get clarity on what they actually mean. And, if necessary, rephrase what you say in response. Your goal is to read between the lines so that you can have a meaningful conversation about the value you can bring to them.

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Jill Konrath is the author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies. If you’re struggling to set up meetings, click here to get a free Prospecting Tool Kit.