It’s easy to sell to prospects who are already interested in your product. They’ve done some preliminary research and decided you’re a potential solution — now all you need to do is answer some questions, get in front of the right people, and make sure they opt for you over the competition.
But the best salespeople are distinguished from the average ones when it comes to uninterested prospects. Starting a relationship with someone who’s never heard of you or isn’t actively looking to solve the relevant challenge is tough.
However, it’s not impossible. I use the following four techniques to kick things off with these kinds of buyers.
1) Sell the dream.
Not everybody you’re selling to will be interested in your product, but I guarantee they’re always interested in themselves. Creating a vision of what will happen to them once they buy your product is a great way to create interest.
Think about Nike’s catch phrase, “Just do it,” or Burger King’s “Have it your way.” These phrases don’t tell you what they sell. They tell you what you can do with the things they sell.
When I call on a VP of Sales at a Fortune 500 company to sell him my firm’s services, I certainly don’t lead with, “Hi! I’m Jeff from Boston, and I sell sales training and consulting in Boston. I’d like to introduce my services. Is this a good time?”
Yawn. That isn’t interesting to him (or me!) and it certainly doesn’t make him curious to want to find out more. Instead, as soon as he picks up the phone, I might say, “Hi. I got you live on my first dial, and when you hire me, I will teach your sales reps how to do the exact same thing.”
Now, I have his attention. You’ll notice I didn’t even introduce myself or describe my services. Instead, I’ve managed to gain his attention and plant the first seed of curiosity. Only after he is interested, will I then take the time to introduce myself and my services. Now that he’s actually listening, of course.
If you sell copy writing services, you might look for errors on your prospect’s website and email them with the corrections, adding, “As your copywriter, I’d ensure your site was 100% typo-free at all times.”
If you provide leadership training, you might say, “It looks like you’ve been hiring a lot of middle managers lately. That often occurs when internal candidates aren’t being properly developed. What would it be like to have an 80% internal promotion rate?”
2) Be biased about your product.
I see far too many reps pretending to be unbiased in an effort to sound “credible.” But your buyer, who is both educated and experienced, knows that as a salesperson, you are biased. In fact, nothing you will ever say will make a customer forget that ultimately, your job is to get them to buy your product.
So stop pretending. If anything, do the opposite: Believe your service is simply the best.
Your buyer is sophisticated. They understand the use of hyperbole. Embrace the fact that you’re excited about your offering and that you love to share your point of view. When you tell prospects that your product is “the best on the market” or that your customer’s sales reps “will be blowing out their numbers after working with us,” you aren’t having an academic discussion relying on survey data and spreadsheets to defend your conclusion — you’re sharing your opinion, and your commitment to that opinion. We trust those that are authentic and genuine, not merely impartial.
3) Pique their curiosity.
Once you’ve gotten your prospect to agree to another call, your goal is keeping their attention. I use this strategy to do just that.
At the beginning of the meeting, I’ll say, “Before I forget, I want to ask you something related to our last conversation. Let’s get into the agenda now, but will you remind me?”
They’ll say, “Sure, no problem.”
At the end of the call, they’ll either ask, “Hey, what was that thing you wanted to talk to me about?”, or they won’t mention it.
If it’s the former, I know they’re engaged and present. I’ve also managed to create a little intrigue. If it’s the latter, I know they don’t really care (and I should either try a different approach or move on).
Wondering what to bring up? I usually ask something I actually want to know that’s too short to include in the agenda, such as, “What percentage of your revenue comes from channel sales versus direct?”
4) Use past successes (not failures) as your guide.
I’ve always found it far more instructive to focus on what went well and try to replicate specific successes, rather than to dwell on mistakes. Our minds often behave like a search engine, displaying the results that reflect your query.
For example, if you Google “don’t show me Chinese food menus” … you are bound to get a massive list of Chinese food menus. Coincidentally, if you only focus on how you have failed in the past, then that is probably all you will ever see.
The good news is that the same rule applies if you focus on the things that have already worked. One way to reinforce that mindset is to reach out to your current customers and ask what were the things that first got them interested in your offering. Look for trends in their responses and then reuse those successful approaches with future prospects. Who knows, they might say, “Hey, that’s not why I took your meeting, I took it for this reason.”
The best answers for how to sell can usually be found from the people you have already closed.