This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).
From Chapter 1 – The Core Attributes of Sales Failure
When I started selling, over 20 years ago now, I read a lot of sales books and listened to plenty of audio programs. I can’t remember where I heard this little gem, but it always served me well. Paraphrased as best I can remember, it went something like this:
“Sometimes the job of a salesperson is to protect a prospective client from their own procrastination”
Making decisions can be hard for people. Deciding to change something that is less than completely broken can be even harder. When sales is done properly, it is the art of helping a prospect uncover a need that can be solved by what the salesperson is selling, then concluding a transaction so that the prospect can enjoy the benefits of the solution to the need or problem.
But that requires a decision ─ and often change.
Prospects almost always will find reasons to avoiding saying yes, despite knowing it is a good decision to do so. Stalling can occur at any stage along the process regardless of what steps have been well-executed. Stalls come in the form of reasons and excuses, some valid, some ridiculous. It is important to recognize the difference and think about the possible motives when trying to overcome stalls.
Maybe they are too busy with other things? Maybe they are afraid of something new? Maybe they are afraid of making a bad decision? Maybe they are afraid of making a decision on their own? Maybe they have yet to be convinced of the value of the solution? In any case, prospects will stall.
There are a lot of ways to get past a stall, but the best come from a genuine belief on the part of the salesperson that the solution is needed by the prospect. When this belief is deeply held, then the internal response to a stall is as follows:
“I don’t understand?”
This sounds patently ridiculous by itself, so let’s expand it a little bit. What is really going through the mind of the salesperson should be something like:
“Wow, I don’t understand. We’ve determined together that a real need exists, that the solution I’m offering fixes it, and that the person I am talking to is both capable and ready to make a decision to fix the problem. There must be something that I didn’t explain clearly enough, so I’ll have to find out what that is and try again. I am sure that once the prospect sees this from the same perspective as I do, it will be equally obvious to him that the best course of action is to move forward together as we tentatively agreed to do already.”
The best way to test this with your current salespeople is to go on calls with them and watch. Prospects will stall. Does your salesperson accept the stall or keep selling?
If the stall is accepted, what happens from there? Usually this means a long exchange of follow-ups that don’t go anywhere. If your salespeople don’t believe this, then use your CRM or sales tracking system to prove it. The signs are obvious; bloated pipelines and long follow-up sessions that go nowhere. Don’t have a tracking system? Shame on you! We’ll get to that later, but you need to fix that!
For salespeople you want to hire, the test is easy. They are selling themselves to you, so stall on them late in the process and see what they do. Those that push through the stall, one way or another, are potentially strong salespeople. There is no one right way to push past a stall, but if you as the prospect are kept engaged and not put off by the effort to do so, then it was successful. Look for function here, not form. Are they still selling? Then it worked.
Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)
So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.
If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:
The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.
Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.
The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.
If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.
Here’s to your success!