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Common Questions and Answers
Every salesperson has experienced those annoying situations where you’ve set up an appointment, given a great presentation, the prospect expresses interest, and then… that’s the last you hear from the prospect. These breakdowns are particularly frustrating because they often happen after the salesperson is sure the sale will close and after he has invested plenty of time and energy into making it happen. Here are four of the most common causes for sales failure and how to prevent each.
No Urgent Need
If a prospect thinks that your super-fast widget is really cool but he has a perfectly serviceable widget already, he may not be willing to buy it despite his interest. Such a prospect may schedule an appointment with a salesperson out of simple curiosity, even though he doesn’t really intend to buy the product.
If the prospect truly doesn’t have a need for your product, you’re not going to close that sale (today). Careful questioning early on in the sales process can uncover how motivated your prospect really is. Asking questions like, “Have you owned a product like this before? How is your previous purchase working out for you?” and so on will help you to identify the window-shopping prospect. When this situation arises, find out when your prospect WILL be ready to buy (for example, when the warranty on his current widget expires) and schedule a call or appointment with him at that time.
Sometimes your product just won’t have the features or options that your prospect requires. If Mr. Prospect needs a widget made of titanium and your widgets are all made of steel, there’s not much you can do to close the sale. Of course, misunderstandings do happen, so it’s possible that the prospect thinks your product isn’t right for him when it truly does have the features he needs.
As with reason #1, doing some qualifying before the appointment can help weed out these prospects in advance. Ask which features are important to the prospect, and if your product doesn’t have those features, tell him so. If your product does have all of the features he wants, then be sure to bring up each of the features he lists during your presentation so that he’ll know you can give him what he needs.
Never Planned on Buying
Some people like to check out their current supplier’s competitors now and then, just to make sure that they’re getting a good deal. They will set up appointments with salespeople and go through the entire process without ever intending to buy. Particularly savvy and price-conscious buyers may even run through the sales process with the intention of squeezing a better deal out of your competitor (“As you see, Mr. Salesperson, John Jones from Company X is offering me a 10% discount. What can you do for me?”).
Unfortunately these tricky folks can be hard to spot, because it’s a game they’ve usually played often. If you suspect that you’ve been set up into this no-win situation, you can always ask the buyer flat-out if he’s just using you as a price check. By then, the sale is a goner anyway, so you’ve nothing to lose — and you may impress him with your perceptiveness, possibly opening the door for a future sale.
Building trust between yourself and the prospect is a crucial part of the sales process. If you fail to create enough rapport between you, your prospect may be unable to overcome his natural fear of making a mistake. He’ll probably tell you at the end of the appointment that he needs to “think it over,” and then never return another message.
In this case, you haven’t spent enough time or effort showing the prospect that you’re trustworthy, and/or you haven’t fully handled all of his objections. You’ll need to uncover the concern that’s holding him back and show him how your product can improve things for him. This will probably entail setting up another appointment (if you can manage to reach him). A no-pressure, relaxed approach will work best. Remember, fear is what’s holding the prospect back from buying, so if you try a hard sell approach you’ll only drive him further away.
About the author
My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.
As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.