Perhaps the biggest challenge faced by salespeople is the problem of chasing prospects. In this article I’ll explain exactly why that happens, and how you can avoid it entirely and make prospects chase you instead.
I once heard Donald Trump say, “In selling, you must never appear desperate. As soon as you look desperate, it’s over.”
A friend and I were talking about the dynamics of a cold call the other day. When we make that call, we usually hope and expect that the prospect will be receptive to hearing what we have to say. However, salespeople face increasing resistance to cold calling, as well as increasing flakiness on the part of prospects who do meet with them. Instead of thinking, “Ok, this may be interesting,” here’s what most prospects actually think when they receive a cold call: “Great. You don’t know me and I don’t know you. You have no idea what my goals are. You don’t even know if we need what you’re selling, and in spite of all that, you’ve decided to waste my time anyway with this call.”
What is increasingly becoming the norm is to be rejected by the good, solid prospects everyone wants, and to get appointments with flakey time-wasters who will never buy. Flakiness, in particular, is a growing problem thanks to the fact that prospects are increasingly bombarded with endless advertising as well as endless salespeople. When you consider the fact that few prospects actually have the courage to say “no” and instead choose to blow us off and make excuses, it becomes even more frustrating.
One of the main themes I try to teach salespeople is two-fold: 1) You must be supremely confident. 2) You must get into the habit of qualifying prospects OUT instead of merely qualifying them. It is the appropriate response to ever-increasing flakiness and evasiveness on the part of prospects. It’s our way of communicating to them, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” in a non-verbal way. The idea of taking the lead and qualifying prospects out is scary at first, and as a result most salespeople aren’t willing to do it, but it will save you lots of otherwise wasted time with prospects who aren’t really serious, and will free that time up to be spent with prospects who are going to buy.
It’s important to start all sales relationships from a position of power, and you do this in two ways: 1) Through your outward presentation. This is easily accomplished by acting very professional and dressing better than your prospects, rather than taking the wrong advice of “dressing like your prospects.” It’s easy to say “no” to someone with whom you’re comfortable, but much more difficult to say “no” to someone who intimidates you. 2) Through your actions. A great example is someone who is squirrely about agreeing to an appointment with you. In many cases, these are the people who finally agree to meet with you but eventually blow you off without buying. When I found myself in this situation, I discovered a great way to overcome it. It goes back to the idea of confidence bordering on mild arrogance, and puts you in the position of power. When you’re getting the runaround, something like “Well, we’ll let you know when we have time to pencil you in,” say something like, “Great, let me know. I’m very busy so I need to know either way – NOW.” This will get rid of time-wasters, and with serious prospects, will clearly communicate that you’re a serious businessperson, should be taken seriously, and will not tolerate having your time wasted and otherwise being disrespected. It will also set you apart from the competition and greatly increase your chances of getting the sale.
As time goes on and I work with more salespeople, I’m realizing that this idea of being powerful really overrides everything else, and once you can pull it off, it overshadows everything. You can do a poor job of presenting and selling and yet this can carry you all by itself. For anyone who is doubtful about this idea of presenting yourself as overconfident and even a little bit arrogant, I’ll go back to Donald Trump since he’s famous for his giant ego. I saw him on Larry King, and as they were taking live calls, one of the callers openly confronted him about his massive ego and Larry King jumped on and questioned him about it as well. Donald Trump simply replied, “Have you EVER met a successful person who didn’t have a big ego?” After some hemming and hawing from King, Trump repeated the question to him, and King finally said, “No.”
Moving on from the idea of avoiding an appearance of desperation and creating an appearance of power, there’s another very good reason as to why prospects who are uncovered via cold calling are flakey. This one has nothing to do with us and everything to do with a particular prospect’s mindset and level of sales vulnerability to begin with.
Most of us have noticed, at some time or another, that prospects who absolutely refuse to take cold calls and have giant “No Soliciting” signs plastered on their front doors tend to be the easiest to sell to once you manage to get in front of them. There are a few popular theories as to why this is so, the most common one being the idea that since so few salespeople get through to begin with, there is little competition and therefore a better chance of getting the sale. However, I know the real reason behind this.
The reason those people are so defensive against sales pitches and have all those “No Soliciting” signs is quite simple. They are AFRAID of salespeople. They know very well that they have a very difficult time saying “no,” and as such they are highly vulnerable to sales presentations and know very well that if a salesperson gets to them, they’ll probably buy whether they need to or not.
(I never figured this out until I spoke with an expert on social dynamics who has studied the subject of human social interaction in depth. He explained that the people who act the coldest and most unapproachable in social settings do so because they’re overly vulnerable to being seduced and falling in love and therefore are afraid of what someone’s advances may lead to.)
Now that we’ve explained why those people are the easiest to sell to, let’s look at the opposite type of prospect: those who willingly take your call and willingly agree to set an appointment.
If those who are easily sold won’t take your call and won’t agree to meet with you, why would someone be so agreeable to taking your call and meeting with you? Exactly. It’s because they have no fear of salespeople. They know right from the start that there’s little chance of them being sold. Their openness and receptiveness to your call puts us off-guard. We think we have a great shot at a sale, but in reality we’re meeting with someone who is 99% certain not to buy.
Since the people who willingly take cold calls usually don’t buy, and the people who usually buy don’t take cold calls, what’s the solution? Since those who are easily sold almost always meet with salespeople only when they’ve called the salesperson first and not the other way around, you must get your message across to these people in creative and effective ways other than cold calling.
To those highly desirable prospects who are easily sold, all salespeople seem the same. The only way to win with them is to separate yourself from the rest of the crowd.
The first way to accomplish this is to be that powerful businessperson who needs nothing and deserves respect. I think most of us were taught and have gotten into the habit of treating prospects as superiors and as a result we tend to do whatever is convenient for prospects and otherwise kiss up to them. We are used to rearranging our schedules just to meet with that one prospect. Stop this, and start expecting your prospects to treat YOU with the respect and consideration you deserve as someone who is not only a business equal, but who has the knowledge and wisdom to help them and improve their businesses and their lives.
The second way to stand out is to stop cold calling. Nothing will stereotype you as a typical salesperson faster than a cold call. The way to win with prime prospects is to get your message across to them in ways that don’t use cold calling. You’ll get in front of the easy sales, and you won’t have any competition once you get there.