Is there additional impact that is harder to measure in the life of the sales prospect? What is the “downstream” impact of making, or not making, a change?
- It's imperative to paint a clear picture of a difficult world for you prospect by delivering relevant business insight and then using that insight to quantify the problem for them. These insights, when shared properly, earn you the right to ask questions because you have established the value of doing so in the prospect's mind. Wow. That is a lot of ground to cover. In my experience, if sales people happen to make it this far they stop and immediately try and sell.
That will be the temptation here because by now you've started to realize just how much you can potentially help this prospect. Resist the urge. Now is not the time to start selling. Think of it like this, let's say you're out shopping for a new watch and the sales person asks you a couple of quick questions like, are you looking for digital or analog? Do you want a metal band or leather? And then says, "Oh I have the exact Rolex for you." They might be missing a few key details. You might be looking for a $10 Hello Kitty watch for your daughter.
Yes, we can sometimes get excited about the products that we have and jump in a little too quickly to try to close the deal. Have... patience. One of the key things that we want to get from the prospect is to understand what the downstream impact of their decisions or failure to make those decisions might have on their organization. This requires more preparation on your part. Get to know the industries that you sell in. For those of you assigned to a specific vertical become that vertical expert.
For those that sell in a more general environment, take some time to understand the business needs of the buyer. For example, if you're selling into a company that relies heavily on transportation of their goods, you probably already understand the impact of rising or falling fuel costs. Take that knowledge a step further. What if they fail to make a change and it results in layoffs? What impact will this have on their product fulfillment times or delivery dates? Preparation is key at this stage good questions around the invasiveness of an issue builds your credibility even further and this becomes a step that differentiates you from your competition.
Now by invasiveness, I simply mean asking more questions to uncover a broader impact that a particular problem might have on the organization as a whole. So what kind of questions do we ask here? These are more of a conversation starter than just a question. You might start with something like, So in my experience with your industry, I've noticed that... and then insert an observation. What is your experience with this in your organization Mr. Customer? As an example let's use the insight that according to a reputable sales and marketing research firm, around 58% of qualified pipeline deals end in the dreaded no decision.
After we personalize and quantify this issue for our specific prospect we find that it has a $400,000 per month problem attached to it. If a company's sales people are struggling to consistently hit their number it leads to many downstream problems. You may ask something like, In my experience with other sales organizations there can be a high amount of turnover when sales people are not hitting their numbers and this can be very costly to your company. What impact has turnover had on your organization? See what we're doing here is expanding the scope of the information from just their immediate world to the company as a whole.
We're establishing without stating it outright that failure to act on some of this insight we've provided could have a far reaching devastating impact on their organization. It further drives urgency to act on the part of your prospect. So not surprisingly, this takes a lot of preparation and industry knowledge on your part. Successfully accomplishing this step can be a significant differentiator between you and your competition.