OK, this month we'll cover a very common mistake that costs salespeople and offices more wasted time, unnecessary grief, and lost sales than anything else. It's the dreaded "maybe" or "blah blah blah, follow up with me"! You can substitute any excuse you want for the blah, blah. It normally goes like this;
Prospect: "We're not ready yet. Give me a call back after the first of the year."
Sales Rep: "How about the beginning of January?"
Prospect:: "We're still giving it some consideration we're just not ready yet."
Sales Rep: "OK, how about if I call you back in a couple of months?"
In any organization those expected sales that don't ever come about really hurt. But for the smaller office or independent agent this can lead to a lot of work and a lot of anticipated sales with no results! No results mean failure when you're just starting out or training new agents. Where I come from failure is not an option.
Let's take the example conversations above. The agent would probably project quite a bit of business for the future since there was so much "working" in his pipeline. But without further qualification this could be the furthest thing from the truth.
Perhaps you, too, have had prospects try to string you along with something like, "The timing is not right, give me a call back." Interpreting this as a sign of interest without further questioning means you are in a worse position after the call since you have now scheduled a follow-up call to a person who may never buy anything.
Art Sobczak, calls this "validating the blow-off" by simply setting a date for the next time they can stall-if you can even reach them, that is. This is why some salespeople are always busy, but never show any real results. This method compounds over time, wasting more and more time following up with people who just don't want to say no. This is time that should be spent contacting people who may say yes.
In the examples above, the sales rep validated the delay by suggesting a call back time, instead of focusing on the reason for any interest, and the delay.
What To Say To Address It
Here's a step-by-step way to address the objection/stall of, "The time just isn't right, right now." As with any resistance, you need to break it down gradually with a series of questions. What you do not want to say at this point is, "Oh, OK, when can I call you back?" A date is of little use if they're not interested, because then they've only given you the next date when they'll brush you off again.
- Get Agreement They are Sold on Buying From You. Or, at least that there is some interest present. Your first move needs to be, "I see. Let's talk about that. First, do you agree that the system/product/service is something that you would see yourself using?" This is critical. It confirms that they're not just putting you off. No use wasting a series of frustrating follow-up calls to hear the same, or a more creative objection again. If you're going to get a definitive "no," get it now.
- Learn Their Specific Time Frame. "When would you see yourself using/getting involved/joining/buying?" Notice the wording here. Speak in terms of their action, what they will do: buy from you. If you just say, "When can I call you back?" you're simply asking them for permission to dial the phone again, and that's not as desirable as the alternative.
- Why Is the Future Better Than Now? After confirmation of interest find out about the delay. "What's going to make (date) a better time for you?" Or, "What's going to happen between now and then that will make it a better time?" This not only helps to further qualify their intentions (a fuzzy answer here might mean they are not that hot of a prospect), but it gives you ammunition to work with in case they're mistaken about what you've presented, they don't have all the facts yet, or if they aren't convinced about the value of what you've offered.
- Listen and Respond Accordingly. For example, here is a possible response from them, and a route you could take. They say, "We'll have more money available then." You could revisit the reasons they're interested. Ask questions to help them tell you what the missed opportunity would be by waiting. Try to lead them to quantifying it. For example, "What would you say that is costing you now?" Or, "If the situation isn't fixed, how much extra expense will you incur?"
When It Is Worth Calling/Calling Back
Let's say you've concluded that they do have a valid reason for waiting, and they agree that they want to work with you. Firm it up at this point. "OK, if anything changes between now and our next scheduled conversation, will you please call me?" Or, "Great, so I'm assuming that the next time we speak we can discuss details of implementing the program?" Notice how you're pre-closing the sale.
After finishing the call, confirm your understanding with a letter or email detailing the points. Then schedulereminders to keep your name in front of them: post-cards, hand-written notes, emails, even after-hours voice mail information messages with tidbits of interest to them.
It's ok to call back, just be sure you have a good reason to do so! Remember that those who say no as well as those who say yes will make you rich! It's the "maybes" that will erase your earning power.