How do you handle a customer who talks all the time?

This is Sales Question and Answer #63 from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.
When you ask a question, you direct the customer's thinking, interrupt his train of thought... Dave Kahle
Q. How do you handle a customer who talks all the time?
A. Your question reminds me of an ex-neighbor – the ultimate non-stop talker. A single guy, he had adopted our family as his, and was in the habit of showing up for dinner at every holiday. One year, he had Thanksgiving dinner at our house. He and I were relaxing afterward in the living room. He was droning on and on. I’m sure you know about the after-Thanksgiving dinner drowses. I nodded off in a short nap. When I woke up, he was still talking. He never slowed down, or even noticed, my ten minute nap. Now that’s a talker.

It might be OK to nod off in the middle of your neighbor’s monologue, but it’s not a good idea on a sales call. There is, however, an easy solution. Politely interrupt with a question. The question should direct the customer to the subject that you want to explore. When you ask a question, you direct the customer’s thinking, interrupt his train of thought, and move him to think and then respond to your direction.

Here’s an example. Let’s say your customer started in on last night’s football game, and has been going on for seven or eight minutes. You’re beginning to get a little groggy, are having a hard time staying awake, and visions of lunch keep popping into your head. In a moment of desperation, you interrupt: “John, excuse me, can I ask how you’re doing with those green widgets you tried last month?”

John pauses, and then launches in on the widget evaluation.

Notice that you were very polite. Notice also that the question stopped his train of thought, and re-directed his thinking to an issue that you wanted to put into the conversation. That’s how the best sales people do it.

This is just one application for the sales person’s most powerful tool: a good question. The incredible power in a question is that it directs the thinking of the person to whom the question is directed. There is something in human beings that, when we are asked a question, we automatically think of the answer.

Conversation proceeds from thought. To stop or change the conversation, you have to interrupt or redirect the thoughts. And, the most powerful tool to do that is a good question.

That’s just one thing that what makes a question such a powerful tool in the hands of a good sales person. A good question has multiple other uses.

So, whenever you want to deal with a customer, or anyone, who is talking on and on, just politely interrupt with a question that directs the customer’s thinking to the area that you want to go.

To learn more about how to yield the power of a good question, check out my book, Question Your Way to Sales Success.

Good luck.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle.
All Rights Reserved.
Originally published at davekahle.com

About the author:

Dave Kahle is a successful entrepreneur who, for over 25 years, has served as an internationally-recognized authority in sales and sales systems. His twelve books have been translated into eight languages and are available in at least 20 countries. His focus now is to share the wisdom and insights he has gained with people who want to grow their businesses, enrich their careers, and live a more fulfilled life. He has presented in 47 states and 10 countries. In addition, he is a chapter president for Truth@Work Christian Business Roundtables, and facilitates both local and virtual executive meetings. He and Coleen split their time between Sarasota, Florida and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Visit his blog here.

Rewriting the sales script

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

Sandler Sales Training Tip

Why Did You Ever Consider Us?

The STORY:

“So,” continued Melinda on the phone, “would it be fair to say that it’s over?”
“I think so,” responded Beth. “But I want you to know that I really appreciate the fact that you’ve been so diligent in getting back to me the past month.”

“This may sound like a dumb thing to ask, but I just want to be clear…” she waited for a response.

“Go ahead, it probably isn’t dumb.”

“You and I are not going to do any business, correct?”

“Not now,” said Beth, “but in the future we will definitely consider you again.”

“Understand. Can I ask you one more dumb question?”

“Sure.”

“Knowing that we aren’t going to do business, why did you ever consider us?”

Melinda planned on waiting for a response however long it took. I took a good 15 seconds.

“Well, I don’t think I ever told you why I called to begin with…you were recommended by John Tate over at Carrier Corporation. He couldn’t say enough about you.”

“That’s interesting; I’ll have to thank him. But now there’s a problem…maybe you could suggest how I deal with it.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, this is kind of embarrassing for me…I’m going to call John, thank him, and then he’s probably going to ask me what happened. What do I tell him?”

Another 15 seconds of silence ensued. “Well, it seemed that we needed better terms with your company than you could give; I don’t suppose you could help us out with that.”

“By better terms, you mean…”

“Well, on the large orders like we talked about, if somehow we could have…”

The RESULT:

Melinda turned this “no” decision into a situation where the prospect is reconsidering. In addition, she learned that the payment plan had to be more flexible. Whether this prospect can be accommodated is something Melinda’s company will have to decide. Melinda turned a “no” into a “Let’s work on it.”

DISCUSSION:

Why do many salespeople bail out when a prospect says that the sale is not going to happen? One reason is that many salespeople expect, before the call is even made, that the prospect will end it. “I call any 10 prospects and nine of them are a waste of time. Nine times out of 10 I lose.”

So they gear themselves up to not succeed. They expect not to succeed. It’s now a lot easier, when the call is headed toward “no interest,” to give up. They know what the prospect is going to say, and they know what they are going to say. Both are following the “no interest” script. Both are comfortable in their respective roles.

Is there any reason why salespeople should act out their role in a script that leads them to give up? Why can’t a salesperson rewrite the script?

Because the original script is the way it is? Because that’s what you’ve been doing in the past? Because it’s easier to give up than try something different? Because that’s what the prospect expects you to do and who are you to disappoint the prospect?

None of these reasons seem valid, especially if the salesperson wants to go to the bank.

Who should make the decision to end it? The prospect or the salesperson? If you let the prospect make it, you bailed out, and worst of all, you know that. If you make the decision to end it, you leave without any doubts in your mind. That’s a much healthier mental attitude to go away with.

APPROACH:

If the prospect figures that the pressure for her to make a buying decision is over, just about any question you ask her at that point will be answered. Once she makes that “no” decision, she’s relieved. Once you seem to accept the “no” decision, she’s even more relieved. “Thank God that’s over with.”

Yes, it may be over. No matter what you do now, you won’t make the sale. But you need to try one last time so that the “end it” decision is yours.

“Why did you ever consider us?” you ask.

As you saw in the story, the prospect began reciting all of the reasons why she should be doing business with the salesperson. Isn’t that what you want?

THOUGHT:

You have nothing to lose by asking a prospect, who has told you “No, thanks,” to give you one more chance to get back in and do business.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website to register for a FREE Sales Training Workshop. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development. Lunch is included in this workshop.

How to entice prospects to call back

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

Sales Cold Calling Tip: Get Prospects to Call Back

By Dave Kahle

Q. We use the phone for keeping contact with many accounts. I also use it for cold calling phone prospects. Any hints on how to entice prospects to call back, since over 60 percent of calls are answered by voice mail?

A. Welcome to the bane of 21st Century sales people – Voice Mail! Yes, I have a number of ideas.

1. Give up thinking that there is a fool-proof magic set of words that are guaranteed to work. Nothing you do is going to be guaranteed, nor will any set of words work with everyone. You are going to have to steel yourself for a long-term frustrating experience, where success is defined as a few more returned calls this week than you got last week. It’s going to be a constantly moving, never-ending challenge.

2. Compare notes. Get together with your colleagues and brainstorm this question. What has worked for someone? Anyone have any success stories to share? Sometimes a word or story from someone else will generate a successful idea for you. A small group of sales people, working together, may be able to generate some ideas that will work for you and them.

3. Always remember WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?” Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are trying to call and ask yourself why they (you) should return the call. What’s in it for them? I know why you want them to return the call, but when looked at from the prospective of your customer, why should he/she devote five or ten minutes of valuable time to a phone conversation with someone he doesn’t know?

4. Don’t try to sell your product over voice mail, instead sell the return call. Your position should be that you are not trying to sell him anything; you just want to talk with him. At this point, the issue isn’t the price or product; it is the time it takes to talk with you. Give him a reason to talk to you.

5. The most powerful voice mail messages typically do one of these things:

a. reference a person you both know, perhaps someone who referred him to you.

b. reference a company that he knows for whom you have done some good things

c. mention a problem he is likely to have, for which you may have some ideas.

d. mention a specific benefit that would likely be important to him that he would gain from talking to you

6. Study your results. Keep good records, and constantly review your experience in order to learn from it. You may discover, for example, that you have a better chance of reaching CEOs if you call at 7:45 in the morning, rather than at 8:30. Or that a certain phrase or question works better than another.

Hope this helps. You have identified one of the top challenges for every sales person in the 21st century. There are no simple answers, only slight improvements. If you are really serious about improving in this skill, I have two resources to recommend. Check out my one-hour training audio training seminar entitled: Victory over Voice Mail If you have a group of sales people frustrated by the same problem, consider my small-group video training program by the same title. Good luck.

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.”

Does the Prospect Have the Need?

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

The BEST Prospects are motivated by NEED not Price.

The STORY:

Nick sat in his company’s car at the nearby regional shopping mall. Seven o’clock at night, he glumly thought to himself, been on the road since this morning calling on people. Not one lousy sale, couple of nibbles, no closes.

Nick had set out in the morning to call on as many of the “call me back in three months” prospects as he could. He figured that maybe physically showing up might get some interest in what he had to offer.

His first call at seven in the morning was with a small manufacturing plant. Even though the owner gave him two minutes in the outer office, all he heard was “could you leave some literature?”

He left it, thinking to himself as he handed it over that before he sat in his car, it would hit the circular file. The next stop, just down the street, was no better. No one had any time to see him; “leave a business card.” Along with all the rest, he thought.

Fortunately, he thought at the time, I’ll use the car phone to make some calls since I’ve got at least an hour ride to the next stop. With the voice mail, the “she’s on vacation,” and “Does Mr. Smith know you?” typed responses, calling from the car was zero for fifteen.

Nick stopped for lunch and wondered just how those other salespeople in the restaurant managed to “do lunch” with clients and get orders. The two times he had done it, the prospects had a great lunch and promised to get back to him. They never did, and when he called them, they were always “unavailable” or “in a meeting.”

There were 12 stores in the mall that he had been phoning for the past eight months. He figured this would be the best use of his afternoon. At eight of the stores, all purchasing was done out-of-state. The rest all had suppliers and, as one lady manager put it, “We’re absolutely delighted with their service. Never had the need to change.”

There has to be a better way, he thought. Starting his car, he headed back to his condo, hoping tomorrow would be better.

The RESULT:

Nick isn’t going to sell any of these people anything because he has not established if they will ever need what he is selling. They will buy, but they will buy from someone who sees their need and sets up a situation where they express it.

DISCUSSION:

Why do salespeople have a multitude of prospects that they have repeatedly contacted but who have never bought? The old sales adage of “someday they will” is why. Also this type of prospecting activity is considered appropriate by sales managers and upper management. The problem is that occasionally someone does buy with this method.

The basic problem, the fallacy with this thinking, is that this type of sale makes money for the salesperson and the company. If you tracked the amount of time spent in this process, you would painfully find out that the cost of making the sale wiped out the profit. Add up the phone bill, allocate some of the overhead and figure in an hourly rate for the salesperson. Also add in postage and the cost to print the literature. Now divide the net from the sales by this figure. Painful.

So does it make sense to keep doing it?

But someone is saying, “But what else can we do? This is the way we have done it for umpteen years.”

There is another way.

APPROACH:

Understand that if you are calling the appropriate prospects for your product, that someday every one of them will buy that product. While it may not be from you, they will buy. There are, however, a certain number of prospects who will buy within the next two months. You need to uncover them.

What makes them buy within the next two months is not price, but need. If they don’t buy, they will be in pain. Someone in their company, someone at home, or they themselves will suffer unless they have what you sell. These are the prospects you need to quickly find before they go and buy from someone else.

Approaches? By reversing questions, bringing the past and future into the present, by asking questions and waiting for a response however long it takes, by using many of the “prospecting” TACTICS cards, by seeking their needs and not your needs, all of these will uncover those prospects who are in pain and have a need today.

“Call me in a couple of months” is a brush-off.

What’s going to change in a couple of months that causes you to need my product? Nothing? Why should ever call you back and waste my time and my money?

THOUGHT:

There are prospects out there right now, who need to buy what you sell. Sell them!

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website to register for a FREE Sales Training Workshop. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development. Lunch is included in this workshop.

To view the latest Sales Tip click on the link below:

WEEKLY SALES TIP

Commence CRM Leapfrogs Competition

Adds Weighted Probability for More Accurate Sales Forecast

The majority of CRM software systems today provide a standard model for reporting monthly and quarterly forecasts. It is based on where each opportunity is in the sales cycle and how likely the sales representative believes they are to win the business. The forecasted amount remains the same unless the representative manually changes it. The probability of winning the business however increases as the opportunity moves through the sales cycle.

Example 1: Considering only Forecasts with a High Probability

In the example below, we have a new business opportunity for $5,000 dollars. As the opportunity moves from the introductory to the proposal stage, the probability that the representative will win the business increases from 20 to 80 percent. Our forecast will show that there is an 80% chance of winning this deal for a total of $5,000 dollars.

Sales Stage
Discovery
Proposal
Probability Percent
20%
80%
Forecast Amount
$5000
$5000

 

 


Using this model, Sales Managers typically report on sales with a high probability of closure. While this approach (based solely on probability of winning the sale) may be suitable for some, it does not always provide management with an accurate representation of the monthly or quarterly revenue the company will realize.

Example 2: Using Weighted Forecast Amounts

Let’s say you are in the office furniture business and you have a new business opportunity for that same $5,000 dollars. You are in the proposal stage and give it an 80% probability of winning the sale, but this opportunity is a bit different. It is a sale for five new desks, five new chairs, and three bookcases. You are pretty confident that you are going to win the sale for the desks and chairs, but the bookcases are a ‘nice to have’ and the client has expressed a reluctance to buy them. In example one, you have given the sale an 80 percent chance of closing for the full $5,000 dollars, but this is no longer accurate. The bookcases are $1,000 dollars and the client indicated they might not purchase them so unless the sales representative manually goes into the system and changes the dollar amount to $4,000 dollars you have an inaccurate forecast.

Commence CRM provides you with the ability to use a weighted average for the sale and calculates the dollar value for you.

Sales Opportunity Detail in Commence CRM

In this example, 80% is the weighted average for the actual dollar value of the sale (i.e the percentage of business you expect to win). A weighted average of 80% on a $5,000 sale is, you guessed it, $4,000 dollars. The system automatically lists this as the forecasted amount and updates the reports and sales funnel resulting in a more accurate representation of the company’s monthly and quarterly revenue.

Sales Stage
Discovery
Proposal
Probability Percent
20%
80%
Forecast Amount
$1000
$4000

 

 


What’s nice about Commence CRM is that each new opportunity can be managed the way you prefer, some based solely on probability of closure and some on weighted average.  Very few CRM solutions offer this level of functionality for sales.

About Commence:

Commence Corporation is a leading provider of CRM software for small to mid-size businesses.  The company offers a robust suite of business applications that rival enterprise level products costing much more.  Capterra.com and Business-Software.com recently listed Commence CRM as one of the “Most Popular” CRM products in the industry.