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Opening Closed Doors

Written By: Keith Rosen

You are ready for a spectacular year. The resolution has been made to strengthen your business relationships, attract more customers and advance your career.

You began reviewing the list of prospects who said "No" to you in the past. Sure, they may have turned you down before, but you know that change occurs throughout the year - in the economy, in technology and in your prospects' business. If your approach is merely to "touch base" and see if they are in a better position to make a purchasing decision, you have the same "plan" as every other salesperson.

Before making your next contact, spend some time evaluating the history of the account. Chances are, there were things you missed during your initial interaction that cost you the sale. Uncovering these areas you need to strengthen, realigning your thinking and then developing a unique strategy to follow will enable you to generate the results you are seeking. Here are a few ideas:

1. Determine why they really didn't buy.

This is better done immediately after you are turned down, but it's also a good way to get back in front of someone. The key is to get your prospects to speak with you openly. This can be difficult, since many prospects feel the need to disguise the truth in order to avoid "hurting your feelings." Instead, they use generic reasoning, such as "high price, no need to change current vender, no budget available or bad timing."

Uncover the real reason by asking questions about their goals this year, problems they are facing with their current vender, product or service, etc. This often leads to a conversation about the potential purchase of your product/service that you would never have opened up otherwise. Ask questions such as, "If you could create the ideal (solution/product/service), what about your current product/service would you like to improve or change?" Or "What solution would my product/service have to offer that would motivate you enough to explore working with us?"

2. Do your homework.

It isn't enough to simply understand the problem and provide a solution. Anticipate your prospect's future needs. Where do they rank within their respective industries and how does that compare to past years? What changes are expected for their industries? Will the economy or technology have an effect on their businesses? What are some of the problems they will face this year? How will utilizing your product/service help alleviate these issues? Read up on press releases, annual reports or articles on the company that you're calling on. If you want to create a new purchasing opportunity, determine your prospects' current as well as future needs-- needs that your prospects may not even be able to identify themselves.

3. Get their attention.

What is the prospect's primary motivation to listen to you another time? Determine a particular advantage that your product/service will provide them. To stimulate the prospect's attention, develop a short, concise message you can send them (letter, email, etc) or deliver in a conversation describing the specific problems that can be solved or results that they can expect through utilizing your product/service. Be creative. There are probably dozens of features you could promote. It is up to you to uncover the one that would motivate each prospect to speak to you again. Here's an example you can use to open up the conversation. "After reflecting back upon our prior conversation, I have some new ideas that I'd like to share with you regarding how our (product, service) may actually complement and enhance what you're currently doing" Or "I was thinking about another client who was in a similar situation as yours and thought that you might be interested in hearing about how we were able to defuse (eliminate) the challenges they had."

4. Become more than simply a salesperson; become a resource.

When following up, don't simply call to 'follow up.' In other words, stay away from calling with the intention to see if they've received your information or to 'check in' to ask if they have any immediate needs for your product/service. Take some extra time and weave in a compelling reason for your call. How can you deliver value to them? Is there something timely that you can share with them about your product/service or about their industry? Is there something newsworthy that you can discuss which applies to them; a success story with a client you've worked with?

Determine how you can contribute to the growth of a prospect's business aside from the product or service you are offering. It could be supplying them with a free newsletter or educational seminar, a better service plan or connecting them with other people in your circle of influence that can contribute to the success of their business. Create a contest amongst your staff to develop ideas that will add value to your product/service without increasing your prices or fees. More service and value at a perceived lower price creates a new interest. Adding value to your product or service at no additional cost to the customer is exceeding your customer's expectations.

5. Stop selling products and start selling measurable results.

Feature and benefit selling is a dying strategy. Most companies are no longer in the business of selling products, but of providing solutions. In order to provide a solution, you must first understand the problem. Prospects are more interested in what the end result or advantage your product or service will produce for them as opposed to what your product does. It can be greater productivity, lower overhead, monetary savings, or an increase in their quality of life. What problems are solved by your product or service? What end result or value will they experience from what you are offering? Can it be quantified?

When cold calling, following up or networking, are you providing the prospect with enough of a compelling reason to want to speak with you and learn more about your product or service? If your reasons are not powerful enough to move someone from a state of inertia to interest or action, here's your opportunity to give them an overhaul.

Interview past and current customers. Ask questions up front to get a complete understanding of your customer's position and why they bought from you in the first place. What would make them look great in terms of how they are evaluated in their job? Remember, people buy based on their reasons, not yours. You can then look ahead and create a strategy that will accurately pinpoint how your product or service can assist your future customers and the measurable results they can expect.

6. Stop chasing dead opportunities.

Are you making too many follow-up calls? Whether it's because of a stubborn attitude or resistance to accepting that a sale is truly dead, salespeople sometimes spend too much time chasing accounts that simply don't qualify as potential sales. This should have been detected during the first (qualifying) stage of your selling process. If it was not, ask questions to determine exactly where the prospect stands. When discussing the possibility of earning a prospect's business, it is crucial that you give them the opportunity to not only say "Yes" but "No" as well. Getting turned down can make you feel rejected, but it also allows you to move on to more promising prospects.

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