The disqualified "yes"
As salespeople, we live on enthusiasm. The roar of success pumps us up like nothing else. The cha-ching of a great sales commission marks our progress and our value to the companies we work for and even, to some extent, supports our healthy self image.
Yet, with that enthusiasm, there also needs to be a strong dose of skepticism when adding prospects to our sales pipeline. Payrolls depend on our accuracy. When we fail in this crucial area of our work, others become angry about our lack of performance, our forecasts become laughable and we're held in contempt. Our very jobs are at risk.
And the big deals we promised? We were wearing rose-colored glasses in our assessment of their closing probability. We wasted our time and our company's money on something that never materialized, while possibly letting the real big one get away.
We didn't use the phone properly!
We didn't DISqualify our yes prospects. We didn't make those yeses earn their way into our sales forecasts. They've been saying yes all along, but acting out a no that the smart salesperson learns to recognize and respond to.
As a professional with more than 20 years' experience using the phone, I understand your pain, and want to help. I've been there with the frustration of sure things walking away from sales closes, and have made a study of why we might be rejected. Are you ready to take off those rose colored glasses and disqualify your yeses a little earlier in the process? Are you ready to save time and effort chasing the wrong prospects? Here's how:
AVOID THE FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY
For telephone sales professionals, there is a great mantra I recommend:
Don't mistake curiosity for interest, and don't mistake interest for commitment.
It's that simple, or at least simply said. When you reach out, make so many calls in a day, listen for specific buy signals and see that a majority of demographic qualifiers are in place, it's easy to think you have your quota of leads. Many sales people will mark that down as a win for the day and move on.
Here is the point I want you to stop and look for red flags. Red flags are subtle signals that you're being strung along.
LOOKING FOR RED FLAGS
It's no one's fault. Many buyers aren't very good at saying no. They don't want to disappoint anyone, or perhaps they don't have the buying authority they've led you to believe they have. Sometimes, you've engaged them in a new way of looking at their old problems and you've sparked a totally different solution than that which you have to offer. The game strings along like a bad dating experience.
Cut the cord. Move on. You know this, and in print it looks easy. Except then you find yourself stuck in the middle of this bad pre-sales relationship, and are desperately looking for ways to make the sale happen, or you'll miss your sales target for the quarter.
Avoid the red-flag prospects. Sometimes you have to be prepared to say no yourself. Here are some ways prospects may be saying yes but acting in ways that indicate this prospect isn't for you:
- More than one decision maker – You can't please everyone, and the more people there are in the decision-making process, the less likely a close is in your near future. The prospect is still in the curiosity stage at this point. Disqualify your prospect by letting your closest ally at the prospect's company know you'll be ready to talk when the decision-making team is more fully formed with a lead decision-maker.
- They balk at the pricing – You have a valuable solution. If you didn't, you wouldn't waste time trying to sell it. While every deal may have elements of negotiation, if your prospect leads with a how much, and this is way out of budget (the budget they wouldn't disclose in the first place), walk away. This is a situation where they may be interested, but they are definitely not committed.
- They ask for more, more, more – You've spend three to five calls on this prospect and each time you connect, they're enthusiastic. But they keep putting you off with more qualifiers of their own. They ask for more references, another demo, can you throw in extra services, what guarantees can they get? These are all red flags and after one or two requests, mark them on your sales sheet as disqualified. Again, they are interested, but have no commitment to your solution.
- They give you a disappearing act – This is the prospect that just doesn't have the ability to say no face-to-face (or in the case of the telephone, ear-to-ear). They cannot be reached easily, they don't return your calls promptly, and they don't follow through with information commitments you've requested. It doesn't matter whether they were just curious or interested. They simply can't find the words no thanks in their vocabulary and you pay the price. Walk away and put them down as a permanent no. These are not professional buyers and you'll waste too much time on them, even if you do get the sale.
- They ask you to re-sell them on your solution – Let's face it. There are people who have a need to feel important. They'll string a sales professional along for weeks without a commitment. Then suddenly, just as you're getting out the contracts for them to sign, they shake their heads and say something like, "I'm not sure. What you offer sounds good, but maybe you should show me something more." Don't walk. Run away from this red-flag prospect. They definitely have commitment issues.
Even though telephone prospecting cuts face-to-face and video conferencing sales time tremendously, use it to your best advantage. Don't rely on the words you hear alone. Evaluate every call for what is said and what isn't. Disqualify your yeses and your pipeline will be cleaner. You'll build an internal reputation for producing on your commitments, and you'll be celebrating more successes than ever before.