Most people in the sales industry (at least most of a certain age) are familiar with the quote from the movie GelnGarry GlenRoss “A-B-C- Always Be Closing.”
While that may have worked 10-20 years ago, today’s buyer has changed. There is more information than ever out there on products and solutions, as well as rating sites so the buyer needs us, the salesperson, less than ever (at least that’s what they think). Thus, the buyer engages with sales later in the sales cycle than ever before. The good news is that by engaging later in the buying cycle, you may be closer to making the sale. The bad news is the buyer has already formed an idea of what they think they need and you have less chance to build a relationship. So how do we become that trusted advisor and convince the buyer that we offer the best solution?
The answer is that from the moment we engage with the customer, we must always be building credibility. Trust is built out of credibility. Buyers are under more pressure than ever to make the correct decision and because of all the information available they spend less time talking to sales reps and therefore are less willing to take advice.
The big emphasis in sales training is to ask questions. But in order to get to the buyer’s true needs/pain points, the rep has to first establish some credibility. You cannot begin a call by asking your prospect to tell you everything that is ailing their company. That will earn you an immediate disconnect.
So how does the seller establish some quick credibility and get some useful info? The answer is to build up to those big questions by asking short, closed ended questions. These types of questions are relatively disarming, yet can still yield some useful info. The goal is for the buyer to think that you are not just trying to sell them something but instead you are really trying to learn something about their business.
Once you have asked five or six quick questions, the buyer will ease down a bit and you can engage in a more meaningful conversation. A great place to start that conversation is by taking one of those closed ended questions, re-stating it, and then asking them to expand.
For instance, if you are selling a CRM optimization system, you can ask about their sales processes and how much time it takes reps to complete a given process. Hold off on jumping into your solution, ask another question. Ask how it relates to revenue. Once you feel you have enough info to go somewhere, talk about how your industry is solving those issues.
Do not go into your specific solution yet. This first call is all about gathering intelligence (also known as qualifying a lead) and getting permission for the next step. That next step may be a deeper dive into their process, or a demo. Whatever the case, try to close the call with a commitment from the client to take the next step.
By building credibility at the beginning of the sales process, you have a good chance of leaving a favorable impression and more importantly trust. So remember your ABC’s—Always Build credibility.