Can’t Get Your Foot in the Door?
Answer Seven Questions &
Enter Prospect Firms Under
In last week’s blog, I discussed the importance of improving your prospect’s business. Top advisors don’t pitch their products or services. Instead, they constantly focus on the business issues the prospect values. The best advisors become change agents for their clients by bringing to the table new ideas and concepts to increase revenues or lower costs.
This mindset is not easy to achieve. You must subordinate your agenda, park your ego, step back, listen intently, ask smart questions, and engage in a genuine exchange of ideas with prospects on desired outcomes.
Nothing begins, however, until you’ve done your research.
To lay the groundwork for solid research on your target prospect, ask yourself these seven questions. And as you do, you’ll simultaneously begin to identify how you can improve their business.
1. What do you know about the prospect’s industry, competitors, business model and challenges that, if solved, could make a significant difference?
2. What issues is the prospect currently dealing with?
3. What strategic initiatives is the prospect focused on now?
4. What solutions do you offer to improve their situation, and positively impact their business?
5. How does the company deal with issues relative to your products or services?
6. Do you have clients with similar issues to point to as solved?
7. What solutions did she review before moving forward?
Because everything we do at PleinAire simplifies the complex sale, we’ve tested and proven our questioning approach time and again. When you drill down this way, you tap an underground spring filled with natural flow and sustainable action. When you ask better questions, you get better answers, and learn to think like a trusted advisor or consultant, not a salesman.
Keep the Change. Ever wondered why a hot prospect suddenly goes cold? More than likely, it was your initial approach. Until prospects clearly understand that change will bring a positive impact, they won’t commit to change. People hate change. Here’s where you need to find your inner psychologist. Resistance to change shows up in five common behaviors, with partial credit to Psychologist Eve Ash, a prolific writer on psychology of resistance.
Old Habits. It’s been said that it takes 21 days to form a habit, but six months to change an attitude. Old habits die hard because they provide comfort, structure, familiarity. Learn your prospect’s habit profile. Observe. Intuit. Strategize.
No Control. Change can mean loss of control, gripped in fear, anxiety and stress. We look for certainty in an uncertain world. Liberate yourself. Perhaps, the ultimate control comes from knowledge and acceptance we’ve no control over another’s reaction.
Worn Out. As a nation, we’re tired. The workplace has been under siege for nearly five years. Respect that your prospect doesn’t want any more upheaval. Bring down his anxiety, and help him believe the situation can improve. Reassure.
Insecurity. In complex sales, we run into multi-dimensional decision teams. If a member of team makes a wrong decision, takes too big a risk, or causes any kind of loss, his or her job may be on the line. Do your best to ferret out the CYA blockers (Cover Your Anterior) feed them reassurance.
Loss. Fear of loss stalks our reptilian brains daily. Do your best to preempt your prospect’s fear with a risk management analysis. Walk decision makers through the pros and cons of solution risk—with directness, honesty and authenticity.
To overcome resistance, quantify the difference your solution brings. Do the calculations, give them the data. Show how you’ve helped others. At first contact, explain your value loud and clear. Don’t use your canned pitch book or company brochure. If you lead with benefit plans or financial solutions, don’t be surprised to end up stuck in purchasing or human resources.
A case study from my book MERGE illustrates:
A few years ago, I approached a large retail chain. I did my research: the chain was a perfect candidate for my funding solution for their nonqualified plan. I learned its existing plan from public information, and downloaded documents. I identified six areas of potential improvement in their plan design, and a cost-saving strategy of several million dollars with my solution.
But I knew I’d be up against status quo: “We’re-fine,-don’t-need-to-make-a-change.” Anyway, whatever I offered, the chain would go direct to its incumbent who’d deconstruct my solution to his advantage.
In the CEO’s letter to shareholders, he declared a key initiative to grow store locations by 150 in five years. I dug deeper. The chain had a turnover issue with store managers. Armed with questions, and strong research data, I secured an initial meeting. I planned to ask: “Where will the management talent come from to manage these stores?” “What programs are you currently using or considering to attract and retain these managers?”
In the meeting, I verified turnover was a serious issue. We discussed what cost saving the company could realize with a reasonable 20 percent reduction in turnover. My team reviewed and shared peer research on his competitors.
During our collaboration, we designed a retention bonus plan, deferred into the chain’s plan, which provided the platform to launch our six improvements and cost savings to fund the bonuses. Through this interaction, I built the creditability of a trusted advisor.
Instead of trying to change your prospects, remember a humble man who changed a continent.
“Be the change you want to see the world.”