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That’s how an initial meeting ended recently with a technology sales person.
In general, I liked the way this sales person ran the meeting with us. She started the meeting by asking questions to discover our needs and problems. We gave a bunch of a feedback and the seller collected our responses.
Probably because I’m so keen on helping sales people I tend to be a pretty “open” buyer. I don’t play my cards close to my chest at all. I try to guide the sales person to the best outcome pretty quickly. I usually lay it out there and make the situation pretty clear.
So I might say something like “I think it will be a real long shot for me to get funding for that project”. And I mean it. As a marketing director, there are always projects I’d like to do but my company is not going to be able to fund or provide me the resources to get them all done. And maybe that’s a good thing for our bottom line.
Or I may say “I don’t think we’re going to get a good ROI out of using your technology given our situation–or our customer base”. And I mean it. I’m not making that up.
Now and I’m not saying every buyer is as open as me but I’d have to say many are honestly trying to tell you (usually in real-time) how they see the fit between your offering and their reality.
What I’ve noticed is that many sales people don’t want to listen when the prospect’s answer is not 100% positive. It’s almost like they suffer from selective hearing loss if you tell them this is not going to work for us right now.
I think the problem is that we have drilled sales people so much about being persistent that they believe if they take “no” for an answer they are screwing up. The concept is that buyers don’t know what’s good for them. That if you never give up you will always succeed.
I do believe in polite persistence in sales but I also believe buyers in general are smart. Some of the sales approaches we talk don’t give buyers enough credit for how smart they are. And given they are smart, maybe, just maybe, we, as sales people, should listen to them.
I’m a huge believer in time management. If there’s one job where time is limited it’s sales. In sales there’s always something more you can do to make another sale. Your income is essentially dictated by how you deploy your time.
If you spend your pursuing “account A” because you won’t accept that they told you there is not a fit then you can’t spend that time on prospecting for some new accounts where there may be a great fit for your product.
Pursuing an account involves a lot of work that takes a lot of time. People in organizations like me (I’d call me a “gatekeeper” and a “user” in this case) need lots of information to verify and validate their buying decisions. Gathering all that information and packaging it for your prospect can take a big chunk out of your sales week.
As you may know I’m a big fan of “covering the bases” when you’re trying to sell a solution. This means unearthing who all the decision makers are and making sure you’ve identified and addressed the needs of all of them. Very time consuming but very necessary unless you just want to gamble your commission check.
And I didn’t even mention writing proposals. If you’ve read much of my stuff or hung out with me you will know I have several allergies to writing proposals. Proposal writing soaks up immense amount of time (and resources.) I’ve seen sales people in my teams spend a day generating a proposal. A day they did not spend prospecting. It makes me shudder just thinking about sales people writing proposals for accounts that aren’t totally qualified.
So if you refuse to accept that your solution is not a fit for a prospect you’re going to spend a lot of time trying to win their business. And if they’ve honestly told you that you’ve got minimal chance of winning it, should you be spending all this time on them or should you be off looking for better prospects where there’s a strong fit?
So next time a prospect expresses doubt about a fit with your product or service process that rationally. Think about all the time you will need to put in between now and the deal closing (and then all the time to service the account after they are a customer.) And think about whether all the time you will need to invest with this account makes sense.
Persistence is a good trait when it’s leading you in the right direction. Unfortunately being persistent on every long shot may just leave you with no time to find your ideal clients.