By Scott Dailey
Every year your sales manager adds up your ÂYesÂsÂ and your ÂNoÂs.Â And in both of these buckets resides a few of each. I mean after all, thatÂs sales. ThereÂs always a few when compared against the hundreds or even thousands you tried all year to persuade.
But thereÂs another bucket, another category of leads that needs to be measured with far greater emphasis then were your wins and losses.
ItÂs that category of lead that, year after year, actually by contrast to the other two, is filled to the point that itÂs spilling over and out of its container.
ItÂs the ÂUnknowns.Â
What came of those perpetually silent buyers you doggedly pursued?
You know the ones. YouÂd try tirelessly to apply the techniques outlined in your latest Dale Carnegie read, only to see each of your efforts met with a roaring silence that seemed to grow antagonistically louder with each try? Not even a ÂNoÂ out of them. Just silence. A screaming, nagging and endless quiet.
So there you are, each year adding up the wins and losses, and examining in some decidedly perfunctory and obligatory manner, those very leads we learned little from because they unceremoniously escaped our grasp like air casually fizzles out of a balloon.
And off we go to do it all again another year.
ÂWhy not, ÂNoÂ?Â, you ask yourself over and over again. And I agree. Why didnÂt you get at least a ÂNo?Â HereÂs why: you didnÂt insist on one. You were so concerned with being polite, ginger and careful, that youÂve forgotten that you have a right to clarity. YouÂve forgotten that youÂve earned the right to demand clarity.
If this describes you, you have fallen for one of the biggest traps I see sales reps fall into most: the ÂIÂm only a sales repÂ trap.
Let me explain.
I have a 10-year-old. If you were to ask him three or more years ago what Daddy does, he would have told you, ÂMy dad fixes computers.Â As a matter of fact, his mother would have also added that Daddy also fixes hair driers, TVs or blenders Â or for that matter, anything with wires attached to it. Three or more years ago, this explanation sufficed nicely. If I told my son then what I really do, he would have never understood. ItÂs too complicated for a child that young. So I waited.
Fast-forward to today. Only recently my now 10-year-old son asked me again, ÂDad, what do you do at work.Â This time I told him the truth. I said, ÂFin, Dad makes sure people have jobs, so they can pay their mortgage, their rent and feed their kids.Â
LetÂs get something straight: you are not a sales person.
DonÂt let your silent prospects lull you into thinking thatÂs what you are either. You are a facilitator of commerce. Your job is to make sure your buyers have revenue, which creates paychecks, which keeps the rain off of their heads. ThatÂs mighty damn important work! Letting your buyerÂs silence marginalize the importance you play in their lives is not only narrow-minded, itÂs also extraordinarily selfish of you. How dare you keep your buyers from the success your solutions can produce for them.
Force your buyer with everything you have to commit to something.
A ÂYesÂ is a commitment. A ÂNo,Â while far less desirable, is also a commitment. Here are three key ways I attempt with every pitch to get a commitment from my buyers.
1. Remind them that clarity is your goal, not the sale.
Early, youÂre likely busy pledging time to building trust. Those initial efforts should be led by declarative statements that convey your desire for clarity, over the sale. A few things happen when you take this approach: (a), you send a disarming message to the buyer that youÂre actually happy to walk away promptly if it doesnÂt fit. (B), youÂre conversing! YouÂve engaged your buyer in conversation that has nothing to do with your proposal, but rather the ease with which communicating with you occurs. This is a wonderful and organic way to establish a trusting partnership. And (c), YouÂre standing out. Imagine how many pressure sales situations your buyers have seen throughout their careers. Now imagine how unlike theirs is by comparison to yours. Nice job! YouÂre now rising above the noise.
2. If your initial attempts are met with silence, double down.
Weakness gets you nowhere. Buyers are busy, in demand and frankly probably have a lot of bad habits that cause your email to drop to the bottom of their inbox.
TheyÂre not saying, ÂNoÂ because they know your service is important to them. YouÂre just not important enough to move up their poorly conceived list of priorities. Get them to commit by asking them tough questions about the very things that matter to them: their legacy with their firm, cash flow, payroll.
Be direct and respectful. Believe it or not, those two characteristics can reside within the same conversation Â written or spoken. You can be both frank and professional. Is your buyer so swimming in success that five minutes with you would constitute a colossal and categorical waste of their time? Of course not. And this leads me to #3.
3. Reduce the scale and grandiosity of your ÂAsk.Â
Stop leading with, ÂOMG, I gotta get this sale!Â Try downgrading the size and requirements of your ÂAsk.Â Instead of asking to present, ask for an appointment. Better yet, instead of the appointment, ask for five minutes. Compel them to give you five minutes. Say something like, ÂyouÂll know in two minutes, if the additional three will be worth your time.Â Or perhaps combine ideas #2 and #3 to form something like this: ÂSurely youÂve blown five minutes professionally on tasks far less important than how to generate new revenue channels.Â Heck, I bet your buyers have wasted more time thinking of reasons not to give you those five measly minutes.
Remember, you are not a sales person. ThatÂs just a label lazy people give to people skilled enough to create revenue. You are a facilitator of commerce. You direct revenue from your buyerÂs customers into your buyerÂs hands. I can think of few vocations more honorable, more integral and frankly, more worthy of your time.
Obligate your buyers to commit to their future. A ÂNoÂ is a commitment to an outcome, same as is a ÂYes.Â Stop letting them enjoy the view from the cheap seats and help them see the outcome of their decision to say, ÂYesÂ or their decision to say, ÂNo.Â
So, next month if you continue to have a bucket overflowing with ÂUnknowns,Â stop believing what can be done, has been done. Demand clarity. Get them to commit to an answer. If they want you, but canÂt find a way to prioritize you, then help them see the loss in their silence. Help them see the enormity of the decision to answer with silence. And in those less complex cases when they simply donÂt want you, make them declare that to you.
Make them say it: ÂI. DonÂt. Want. You.Â
Image via Flickr creative commons by marfis75.