Turning a Prospect's No Into a Yes

Customers not biting? Here's how to sell them on your product and close more sales than ever before.

By Tony Parinello

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: Mycompany sells and installs a window safety laminate that, amongother benefits, can prevent break-ins. I believe wholeheartedly inmy product, but I've had some trouble closing the sale withpotential customers. How can I create a sense of urgency in mycustomers to want to protect their business, home and loved oneswith my product?

A:You've touched on a topic that is near and dear to my heart! Icall it the "perched-pen" syndrome. Countless salespeopleexperience the same situation you find yourself in: great product,great benefits, proven track record, reasonable price and, by allreasonable standards, it fits the prospect's needs. But theresult is typically no sale and a constant stream of calls notreturned, appointments canceled and frustration on the part of thesalesperson. Let's stop the madness! I suggest that you takethe advice that follows and place it firmly into your salesprocess. In the end, you'll get more sales sooner and goldenreferrals that are worth their weight in gold.

1. Pre-qualify each and every one of your prospectsbefore you call on them. Make sure they have a lot ofcharacteristics in common with your best customers. This is thefastest way to a sale, as you'll only be approaching prospectslikely to buy your product.

2. Get a firm grip on what motivates your prospects. Iknow that sounds simplistic, but you'd be surprised how manytimes we salespeople forget the simple fact that there are only twomotivators that drive each one of us (including our prospects). Thefirst is moving toward a reward or goal, and the second is movingaway from or avoiding fear or loss. That's it! Therefore,it's essential to establish whether the prospect is movingtoward a goal or away from a fear.

For your business, try this question: "What'spersonally important to you about creating a safer and healthierenvironment for your employees/family/customers?" Say yourprospect responds with something like "It's important forme to provide the best for my people because they are the core ofwhat keeps my business running." Your prospect is movingtoward the reward of having happy and loyal employees. If, on theother hand, your prospect says "If I don't, they'llall leave and go work for my competition!" then you clearlyhave a prospect that wants to avoid fear and loss to theircompetition.

Here's why it matters: A prospect who's moving toward areward will move more slowly and methodically and evaluate all hisoptions. But the prospect who is avoiding fear will grab the firstoption--and usually the lowest price--that's close athand--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 inthis area has been popular since the late '60s), there are fourvery different styles: amiable, analytic, driver and expressive.Merrill refined his research into a model that is extremelyaccurate and effective in pinpointing these different styles.What's this got to do with selling? Everything! You'veheard 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 howto interact and relate to the four different styles. In short:

Amiable: Loves to relate on a personal basis; family andfriends come first. Think warm and fuzzy stuff. When approachingthis type of person, keep everything low-key, safe and secure. Theymove slowly and resist change. Your offer to put your productbetween him and a speeding bullet would make this prospect retreatto a fetal position!

Analytic: Needs facts and figures, statistics, researchand trends with plenty of proof and demonstrations. They are verymethodical in their decision-making process. They'll demandproof for everything! Your offer to demonstrate your product'scapabilities would knock the socks off this prospect.

Expressive: This prospect loves being the center ofattention and anything else that's happening! This socialbutterfly is very opinionated. Name-dropping will impress thisprospect more than anything else. It's best to provide plentyof social proof about your product with reprints of articles andpictures of some "mover and shaker" standing in front ofyour 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 tostate 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 yourdemo!

It's not hard to see that your product pitch and approachmust be different with each of these four styles. This means that"one size fits all" thinking is out of the question whenit comes to selling.

Closing the Sale

4. Coach your prospects; don't sell them. I know thatwe've been taught how to sell. After all, that's our job!Problem is, most people have never been taught how to buy. We needto educate our prospects on our product and on the process ofbuying. Here are three steps to making this happen early in yoursales process:

  • Get the prospect emotionally "connected" to thesituation your product can solve. In your case, you want to getprospects to feel the emotions of their loss or the potential riskof that loss. Example: "I understand that you recently had abreak-in that cost you $22,000 in damages. How did you feel whenyou saw your front window smashed into thousands ofpieces?"
  • Establish the total cost and/or value of the situation.You need to create a total picture of what's at risk by notusing your solution or what the total benefit of your solution is(fear- or reward-based motivation; see above). Example: "Inaddition to the financial loss, what other areas in your businesswere impacted as a result of your break-in?" Now you canintroduce lost business due to the store's closure duringrepairs; the distraction, worry and fear of employees; the badpublicity; and so on. Whatever the case may be, make sure yourprospect agrees with the total that's established here. Inother words, these cannot be your numbers or assumptions; they mustbe your prospect's.
  • Connect your product to the solution of the problem. Nowthe prospect is ready for you to connect the dots. Example:"Would you be interested in eliminating any future (loss ofrevenues, risk of break-ins, worry of employees/customers) with onesimple, inexpensive idea that's guaranteed and is used by 25other store owners here in town?" At this point, I stronglyurge you to follow the golden rule of selling: Simply keep quietand listen to what your prospect says.

Anthony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important TopOfficer. For additional information on his speeches and hisnewest book, Secrets of VITO, call (800) 777-VITO orvisit www.sellingtovito.com.

The opinions expressed in this column are thoseof the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended tobe general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areasor circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consultingan appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

Tony Parinello

Tony Parinello has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program,Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.

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