There are a lot of things that go into a prospecting call, be that by phone, web, or live, with one key objective being to be perceived differently enough from the outset by the prospect that you gain engagement and conversion to an opportunity. While it is important to believe in your product, it is facile to believe that your product and “messaging” will drive that differentiation and achieve the desired results. There are a number of other factors at play that impact the message - factors that will determine whether the message will get to the prospect in the way you want, or miss them entirely.
First, as much as you think you have your act down in the prospecting drama, so do the buyers, and they are ultimately the ones who say “Yay” or “Nay” to going further with you down the buying path. I want you to think of someone you are currently targeting, and ask yourself how many unsolicited approaches that individual gets every day. Don’t just think about your product - think of all the other things people are trying to sell this person. Telco, IT, hardware, software, consultants, window cleaners, coffee supply - think of all the potential sellers trying to reach this person. They have probably made anywhere from 5 to 25 calls per day.
If we take the lower end of the range, five calls a day, in a 48-week year (everyone gets holidays), that’s 1,200 calls. If the individual has been in their “role” for five years, that is 6,000 calls. My question to you then: “What are you going to do to sound differently enough to have a chance of landing your message?”
They had 6,000 opportunities to practice and perfect their craft. Furthermore, and this should get you to think - they have had variety in their training. Most sales people fall into a prospecting style and occasionally change their content, but the process they follow remains consistent, unless they are retrained. So while you may have made thousands of calls in the same five years, the calls themselves follow a similar flow. In contrast, the prospect has fielded calls from hundreds, if not thousands of different sellers, each adding to their ability to efficiently end the call (and to do so quickly).
Next is the propensity of sales people to use words we think are effective, but our prospects have gone deaf to. Words like Solutions, Productivity, Efficiencies, and others. While these words may have had some impact early on, after about the first few hundred times they begin to have diminishing returns. They become words that trigger a gag or hang-up reflex in prospects. Now I know that these words may be hard to avoid, but if you are going to use them, do so in a way that brings down barriers rather than leading to them.
To do that, all you need to do is define what you mean by “productivity.” Most sellers assume that the prospect will fill in the blank in a way that suits their reality; they don’t. So paint a picture for them. You know what they say, it’s worth 1,000 words. This means you don’t have to use that many words, but can communicate specific productivity gains. Just review how you have been able to positively deliver productivity to similar clients. Use those outcomes to illustrate an area of improvement, and the impact that had on your clients’ business as a means of helping the prospect focus on particulars, with specifics over generalities. Just remember, you want to do your selling once they engaged, and the picture you paint is like a movie trailer - one sentence with highlights, short, and focused on outcomes (not product).
The other important factor is the prospect’s state at the time they receive our call. Since most prospecting messaging is built on the notion of “solution”, how can you help them solve a problem, address a need, or take away a pain, if you don’t identify with the problem? While the specific percentage will vary across verticals, here is how markets generally break down. About 10% will have an immediate pain, need, or require a solution - it is not always bad, they may have just landed a big order, and need to expand capacity. These people will relate to the usual call, but they are also the ones looking at you, your competitors, and more, and will either be price shoppers, or ready to go, which is good. Another 20% or so are not as ready as the previous group. This may be someone who has 18 months left on a contract; they could be could be someone who knows they will need new shelving because they will be moving in two years, or anyone else who has the luxury to defer a purchase decision. They may recognize the pains and needs you are talking about, they are just not feeling it now, and therefore may be less responsive, unless you adjust your message.
This leaves us with the remaining 70%, the Status Quo, and we all know why they call them that. The usual pain, need, solution, and messaging not only goes over their head - it just irritates them because they are being interrupted with irrelevant things. Don’t get me wrong, you may indeed have a product or service they want to buy, even if it is just switching vendors for a similar product. It is just that they don’t relate to it in terms of pain or need, etc. They relate to outcomes, and a call that strays from that - and let’s be real, most do - will suffer a familiar fate.
Tibor Shanto has been a sales leader for over 25 years, helping companies improve their revenue goals. He is the co-author of the award winning book Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers. Tibor was ranked 8th on the list of The Top 30 Social Salespeople In The World, as presented on Forbes.com. He received the Gold Medal Top Sales & Marketing Blog award, and was named OpenView’s Top 25 Sales Influencers and Top Sales’ Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers for 2014.