Back in the later half of the 2000s when I started assembling my current crew, I attended a Dale Carnegie session in which the future leader of my inside sales team was enrolled. During that session, I heard her deliver a remarkable story about opening a sales call, displaying exceptional sales acumen for someone just starting their sales career.
My new inside sales rep had been trying for months to get some time with the HR manager at a local manufacturer to discuss our company’s latest offering, a new assessment service. Despite her best efforts, the manager kept giving her put-offs.
Responding Effectively to Prospect’s Put-Offs
If you’ve been active in sales for any time, you’ve probably heard similar put-offs:
- I’m busy right now. I don’t have time.
- We aren’t buying anything right now.
- I’m on my way out the door.
- Now is not a good time.
In this particular instance, she caught the manager “at an inconvenient time” just like she had all of the previous times.
However, this time Jessica had given some thought about the daily challenges that her prospect faced. She said, “Let me ask you a question. I know that you spend a lot of time pouring over resumes trying to find the right person to fill a position. And you have to go through several rounds before you find a few suitable candidates who will potentially accept. What would it be worth to you if you could reduce the time you spend searching through resumes, and increase your certainty of finding the right person for a position in your first round of searches?”
Apparently, Jessica hit a raw nerve. There was a long pause before her prospect said, “We need to talk. Do you have some time now?”
The Affinity Rule in Adaptive Selling
In our training sessions, sales reps are always searching for that “magic bullet” that will give them an edge. They ask questions like:
- “How do I open a sales call?”
- “What do I do to keep my contact on the phone when making a cold call?”
- “My contact says that they aren’t buying anything in this economy. What do I say?”
In every case, my response is the same:
When you open a sales call, don’t talk about you, your company, or your product. Instead, talk about what’s of interest to your prospect.
This is such an important part of opening your sales call that in our Adaptive Sales training, we call it the Affinity Rule, governing the first stage in the Adaptive Sales process:
Get your prospect’s attention by talking about things that they are interested in.
Discover Your Prospect’s Interest before Opening a Sales Call
Prior to the year 2000, before technology drastically changed the way clients interacted with their sales reps, you could get away with opening a sales call by talking about the picture of the boat on your prospect’s wall or that fantastic restaurant down the street.
Today, your prospects don’t have time to waste talking about minor interests. In today’s economic climate, where the internet allows businesses to compete globally, the tolerance for wasted time is less than zero.
So what’s of interest to your prospects today? Try the following on for size:
- “How can I save time and get more done?”
- “What can I do to create even a small amount of job security for myself?”
- “Tell me how I can increase my cash flow using my current resources.”
Your B2B prospects want to talk with someone who can provide relief from their challenging issues. Those issues are what’s occupying their minds and has their attention. So you need to be able to put aside your own mental challenges, get out of your head, and get into your prospect’s head where the sale really takes place.
If you can’t get in their head and talk about something that’s of interest to them, they will boot you out the door. Meanwhile, someone who has that capability will walk away with the business.
Do you want an unfair advantage? Follow Jessica’s lead. Take the time to discover the challenges your prospects face daily. Listen to them. See the world through their eyes. Then, open your sales call by talking about the things in which they are interested.
Remember, selling is an away game. It happens in your prospect’s head. So get out of your own head and go make something happen.