Q: My company sells and installs a window safety laminate that, among other benefits, can prevent break-ins. I believe wholeheartedly in my product, but I've had some trouble closing the sale with potential customers. How can I create a sense of urgency in my customers to want to protect their business, home and loved ones with my product?
A: You've touched on a topic that is near and dear to my heart! I call it the "perched-pen" syndrome. Countless salespeople experience the same situation you find yourself in: great product, great benefits, proven track record, reasonable price and, by all reasonable standards, it fits the prospect's needs. But the result is typically no sale and a constant stream of calls not returned, appointments canceled and frustration on the part of the salesperson. Let's stop the madness! I suggest that you take the advice that follows and place it firmly into your sales process. In the end, you'll get more sales sooner and golden referrals that are worth their weight in gold.
1. Pre-qualify each and every one of your prospects before you call on them. Make sure they have a lot of characteristics in common with your best customers. This is the fastest way to a sale, as you'll only be approaching prospects likely to buy your product.
2. Get a firm grip on what motivates your prospects. I know that sounds simplistic, but you'd be surprised how many times we salespeople forget the simple fact that there are only two motivators that drive each one of us (including our prospects). The first is moving toward a reward or goal, and the second is moving away from or avoiding fear or loss. That's it! Therefore, it's essential to establish whether the prospect is moving toward a goal or away from a fear.
For your business, try this question: "What's personally important to you about creating a safer and healthier environment for your employees/family/customers?" Say your prospect responds with something like "It's important for me to provide the best for my people because they are the core of what keeps my business running." Your prospect is moving toward the reward of having happy and loyal employees. If, on the other hand, your prospect says "If I don't, they'll all leave and go work for my competition!" then you clearly have a prospect that wants to avoid fear and loss to their competition.
Here's why it matters: A prospect who's moving toward a reward will move more slowly and methodically and evaluate all his options. But the prospect who is avoiding fear will grab the first option--and usually the lowest price--that's close at hand--which, by the way, may be nothing at all!
3. Know what your prospect's personality style is. According to personality theorist David Merrill (his research in this area has been popular since the late '60s), there are four very different styles: amiable, analytic, driver and expressive. Merrill refined his research into a model that is extremely accurate and effective in pinpointing these different styles. What's this got to do with selling? Everything! You've heard the adages "People buy from people they like," and "If you're like someone, they'll like you." Well, Merrill has taken this a step further in helping us understand how to interact and relate to the four different styles. In short:
Amiable: Loves to relate on a personal basis; family and friends come first. Think warm and fuzzy stuff. When approaching this type of person, keep everything low-key, safe and secure. They move slowly and resist change. Your offer to put your product between him and a speeding bullet would make this prospect retreat to a fetal position!
Analytic: Needs facts and figures, statistics, research and trends with plenty of proof and demonstrations. They are very methodical in their decision-making process. They'll demand proof for everything! Your offer to demonstrate your product's capabilities would knock the socks off this prospect.
Expressive: This prospect loves being the center of attention and anything else that's happening! This social butterfly is very opinionated. Name-dropping will impress this prospect more than anything else. It's best to provide plenty of social proof about your product with reprints of articles and pictures of some "mover and shaker" standing in front of your product. Your proposed demo would likely be met with a "let me invite a few of my business partners to see this" response.
Driver: Demanding, fast-moving and quick to decide. Whatever they say, they stick to it. You'd best be prepared to state your case in less than 10 seconds to any prospect who is a "driver." When you find yourself working with a driver, all you need to do is quickly state what this person would lose (fear motivator) or gain (reward motivator) by using your product. The driver would want to "pull the trigger" during your demo!
It's not hard to see that your product pitch and approach must be different with each of these four styles. This means that "one size fits all" thinking is out of the question when it comes to selling.
Closing the Sale
4. Coach your prospects; don't sell them. I know that we've been taught how to sell. After all, that's our job! Problem is, most people have never been taught how to buy. We need to educate our prospects on our product and on the process of buying. Here are three steps to making this happen early in your sales process:
- Get the prospect emotionally "connected" to the situation your product can solve. In your case, you want to get prospects to feel the emotions of their loss or the potential risk of that loss. Example: "I understand that you recently had a break-in that cost you $22,000 in damages. How did you feel when you saw your front window smashed into thousands of pieces?"
- Establish the total cost and/or value of the situation. You need to create a total picture of what's at risk by not using your solution or what the total benefit of your solution is (fear- or reward-based motivation; see above). Example: "In addition to the financial loss, what other areas in your business were impacted as a result of your break-in?" Now you can introduce lost business due to the store's closure during repairs; the distraction, worry and fear of employees; the bad publicity; and so on. Whatever the case may be, make sure your prospect agrees with the total that's established here. In other words, these cannot be your numbers or assumptions; they must be your prospect's.
- Connect your product to the solution of the problem. Now the prospect is ready for you to connect the dots. Example: "Would you be interested in eliminating any future (loss of revenues, risk of break-ins, worry of employees/customers) with one simple, inexpensive idea that's guaranteed and is used by 25 other store owners here in town?" At this point, I strongly urge you to follow the golden rule of selling: Simply keep quiet and listen to what your prospect says.
Anthony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer. For additional information on his speeches and his newest book, Secrets of VITO, call (800) 777-VITO or visit www.sellingtovito.com.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.