Make the Phone your Best Friend
Do you believe that to close a sale you must ‘get in front of prospects?’ Why? Really. Have you ever asked yourself why? Do you tell yourself that you MUST have that eye contact? That ‘face-to-face’ juice? Do you tell yourself that if you’re not in the field, you’re not selling?
In 1937, Dale Carnegie advocated it. What else are you using from a 1937 playbook?
Untold billions of dollars have been misspent following this industry-wide belief: planes, hotels, time. And? The industry still has a 7% average close rate.
Here is a rule: Don’t use your body as a prospecting tool.
Here is a secret: your sterling personality, your great outfit, your Rolex watch and Prada shoes don’t close an account. Nor does your great insight or knowledge of the buyer, their need, your industry, or your solution. Nor does that great rapport you create over lunch. Otherwise, you would be closing a lot more sales. Amazing how much push-back I get from an industry with such a low success rate.
The problem is that the reason buyers finally choose you is not because you’re smart or well dressed or because they like you. The seller who buyers meet after you is just as smart and well-dressed and adorable. It’s industry standard!
Buyers buy you only when they have put together their entire Buying Decision Team – a process that is far more complex than ‘understanding need’ or having a problem, and is not knowable when the seller meets the buyer – and then, once formed, when the Buying Decision Team has determined that:
- they can’t fix the problem with a known, internal, or familiar solution;
- all of the internal factors that need to buy-in to change are ready, willing, and able to bring in something new that will undoubtedly upset the status quo in some way.
SO WHAT WORKS BETTER?
Those of you who are familiar with my work know what I’m going to say: Until or unless a buyer has managed all of their initially mysterious and unknowable off-line, behind-the-scenes issues that have little to do with their problem, and everything to do with a decision to bring in some sort of agreeable solution, they will not buy. They cannot: the risk to relationships, to initiatives, to personnel, to partnerships, is just too great.
For some unknown reason, sales treats an Identified Problem (need) as if it were an isolated event, rather than one small piece in a sea of tangled policy,politics, and relationship issues that make up any system or culture.
Sales does a great job at needs analysis, and asking somewhat relevant questions, but all in service to solution placement – never discovering the real, behind-the-scenes issues that created and maintain the problem. And trying to ‘uncover’ and ‘understand’ these idiosyncratic issues is impossible, not to mention irrelevant, as outsiders just can’t be ‘in’ there to make the necessary changes.
Enter the telephone. It is possible to use the telephone as a very very effective and cheap prospecting tool. With it, you can help buyers begin the process of figuring out how they are going to buy.
WACHOVIA AND SMALL BUSINESS BANKERS
When I was working with Wachovia, the small business bankers went from using the phone to make appointments (they made 10 appointments for every 100 appointment-getting calls, and then followed the 10 for 11 months, and closed 2 for a 2% closing rate that took far, far too long), to asking:
How are you currently adding new banking resource to the ones you’re already using for those time when your current bank can’t give you what you need?
From that first Facilitative Question, approximately 35% of the prospects invited the bankers to come to meet with them because their bank was regional and couldn’t offer a complete set of resources. Of those, they closed about 15% in 2 months and another percentage over the next 4 months. In other words, from our first contact, we helped buyers figure out how to choose to begin the process of determining if change was needed. And the bankers went from offering product data to actually helping clients determine how to add a new banking resource. And closed a heckof a lot more business in a very short time.
We changed the conversation from a solution-placement activity, to a decision facilitation activity that helped buyers discover how to start getting ready to make changes they would need to make to be excellent.
USE THE PHONE TO ASSIST DISCOVERY
Because buying decisions involve enmassing, and then managing, the entire Buying Decision Team and all of the behind-the-scenes issues that must be involved before they can make the internal shifts necessary to bring in something new without chaos (the activity that all buyers must go through, regardless of the industry or size of the solution), buyers need to do this off-line, and separate from the purchasing process.
The sales model doesn’t handle this.
But Buying Facilitation™ can. Used as a decision facilitation tool to help buyers manage their behind-the-scenes navigation and change management process, it guides buyers through the route they must take anyway. They are going to do this with you or without you. And the time it takes them to uncover their own answers to ensure a seamless change, is the length of the sales cycle.
You do not need your personality or your great clothes to help them achieve this. You can, of course, or you can help them start the process and when they have got many of their answers, and have enmassed the entire Buying Decision Team, THEN you can go visit – and make the sale.