We want our prospects to agree with us, right? So why am I suggesting that the last thing you want is for your prospect to start by sharing your point of view - at least in the first call? Because there’s a hidden problem if that first conversation goes too smoothly.
You see, your prospect appears to be agreeing easily with everything you have to say, one of two things is probably happening - either they have already switched off and have chosen the path of least resistance, or you have failed to bring any new ideas to them.
There is, of course, a third possibility - that somehow by luck or judgement you’ve managed to stumble across the perfect prospect who is about to grab the pen out of your hand there and then to sign the order. But the chances of that happening, let’s admit it, are infinitesimally small.
Why different is better than same
Here’s the problem: if all you do is to reflect the prospects already-held beliefs, if you say nothing that causes them - even for a moment - to stop and think, if all you do is to say what they already believe, how is that going to set you apart from the next sales person who says exactly the same thing?
Your prospects hate being sold to, but they love to learn. Even if they might not admit it, they are desperate for someone to tell them something they don’t already know. They want their curiosity aroused. They want to say, at the end of a stimulating discussion, that they had never thought of the matter from your perspective before.
Act like a teacher, not a sales person
If you want your sales conversation to be memorable, if you want the prospect to look forward to the next conversation because they expect to learn more that will be of value to them, if you want to stand out from the crowd of sales people that can do nothing more than bang on about how great their product or company is, you would be wise to act like a teacher, rather than a sales person.
Before you make your next sales call, think carefully about how you can introduce a fact or an insight that could make your prospect stop and think for a moment, acknowledge that they had never looked at the issue from that angle before, lean forward in their chair and want to learn more.
Direct the conversation
But choose your topic carefully. Your goal is not to show off the breadth and depth of your learning, but to intentionally lead the conversation towards the recognition of an issue or goal that your organisation can deal with better than any other option available to the prospect.
Sales people that have the confidence and the ability to challenge their prospect to think differently outperform their peers - particularly in complex sales environments - by a factor of nearly three-fold.
Everyone can learn
Now some sales people clearly are naturally gifted in this regard. But the good news is that these capabilities can be coached and developed - and that the whole organisation can play their part.
In fact, there’s a particularly important role for marketing in researching and preparing constructively provocative points of view that every sales person can feel confident in bringing to their prospects.
Creating a challenger organisation
If you’re in sales, and your organisation isn’t equipping you to bring a fresh perspective to the sales conversation, then I suggest that persuade your sales and marketing leadership to buy copies of "Insight Selling" for every member of the team.
If you’re in marketing, and your materials are still all or mostly about your product or service offerings, don’t produce another sales tool until you’ve rethought your role - and created tools that enable your sales people to take control of the customer conversation.
Move off the same page - open a new chapter
Next time you walk away from a first prospect conversation thinking that everything went well because you seemed to be on the same page in every respect, think again. It’s time to move them off that page, and to help your prospect to open up a new chapter in their thinking.
One last thing: if you haven't already done so, please spend 5 minutes completing our latest self-assessment checklist - it will allow you to compare your current sales and marketing practices with the best-in-class, and help you identify some immediately actionable ideas for improvement. Why not take the test right now?