One of the many challenges of sales is that we are often forced to pursue contradictory goals. For example, nearly all sales systems advocate some version of building rapport with your prospect. Make them comfortable with you. Begin sowing the seeds for a deeper relationship. Get to know the prospect for who they are before launching into your pitch.
(Related: The Value of Prospects Who Don’t Close)
And then, we have to find pain. In order to make the sale, we have to identify and illuminate the problem that we can solve. That means challenging our prospect to look at the dark corners of his or her business. That means uncovering missed opportunities, exploring past failures, and reopening old wounds of regret.
We typically need both dynamics to move the sale forward, but the transition can feel abrupt and unnatural for the prospect.
I look to the future to both build rapport and frame conversations around opportunity.
Early in my career, I would ask a question like, “What concerns you most about your current financial situation?” That put a stake in the ground and immediately made the conversation about angst and fear. Now, after I’ve shaken hands with the prospect and talked shop about who they are and what their background might be, I ask, “What has you excited about the next three years of your business?”
Eventually, we will arrive at the same place if either question works, but when you make the conversation about the future, the tone you set is far more hopeful. Yes, you will eventually dig into the past to talk about what the prospect could do differently, but beginning that conversation with a look ahead pulls you away from the bitterness of failure and the discomfort of fear. The dialog that you are having with your prospect is not about all the things that have gone wrong. Instead, it’s about what could go right if the prospect makes the right choices in his or her business.
This tone for the sales meeting not only grounds the conversation in a positive outlook, it opens the door for you, as the advisor, to begin building trust as there is a common vision moving forward.