When some people think about the act of selling something, they often think that the salesperson is going through a process of convincing the prospect to buy what they have to offer – that they are “talking them into it”. With this frame of mind, the belief is created that the best salespeople are the slickest and most cunning.
Not the easiest and most ethical path
For the most part, this view of the profession of sales is wrong. To close a sale, it is not to be a con artist and smooth-talking someone into something that they do not want to do. It is not about performing magic and manipulation.
Selling by talking someone into buying something they do not need or want is not only more difficult and requires someone to be a little slick and manipulative, but it does not foster a healthy customer experience and relationship. And if someone is persuaded to purchase something that they don’t need, there can be an end result of dissatisfaction and that can have a number of negative implications.
Where the problem starts
With this skewed view of sales that we mentioned, it is often both prospects and salespeople that see things this way. For prospects, they often see salespeople as sneaky individuals that are hard to trust and will likely try to sell them something that they do not need.
But the bigger problem here is that many salespeople have this same view as they operate thinking that in order to be successful, they are going to have to convince people to buy what they have to offer. And that will often lead to selling to prospects that do not need or want what the salesperson has to offer.
This type of mentality not only leads the salesperson down a less effective path, it also contributes to them looking like one of those sneaky and untrustworthy salespeople.
A better way to go
There is a small change in perspective that can take a salesperson in a much more positive and productive direction and that is to simply stop trying to convince everybody to buy and focus more on finding the people that need to buy.
That might sound like a “no brainer” or that it is easier said than done. Here are a few very practical steps to take to go in this direction.
Step 1: Stop trying to sell to everybody
A common mistake that a salesperson can make is by trying to sell to everybody. Or stated another way, not being focused enough on selling to a particular type of prospect.
An example of this is a salesperson that ends up spending time pursuing and meeting with a prospect that does not fit at all with what the salesperson is trying to sell.
Below is a very simple pie chart. The big portion is everybody else. The smaller portion is the ideal prospects.
The ideal prospects are those that have some characteristics that align well with what the salesperson is selling. These characteristics could be demographic details like industry, location, title, or financial details or they could be some current state and environmental details like current processes, tools, challenges, etc.
These characteristics can be pulled together to become the profile of your ideal propsects. Do you know what your ideal prospect looks like? Knowing this can help you to stop wasting your time on the “everybody else” portion of the above pie.
Step 2: Pre-qualify everybody
Once you know what your ideal prospect looks like, you will only want to spend most of your valuable time pursuing and meeting these individuals. In order to help you to do that, you will need to pre-qualify everybody.
This refers to making a quick assessment to determine if the prospect is close to being an ideal prospect. In some ways, you can pre-qualify through research before pursuing the prospect. But in most cases, you will accomplish this best by asking when you talk with them. Their answers will tell you how well they fit and if it is worth your valuable time to even talk with them.
Step 3: Separate those that need from those that need right now
Just because a prospect is an “ideal prospect” does not mean that they are a done deal in terms of someone you can easily sell to. They might fit really well and even need what you have, but they may not need what you have right now.
Once we get focused on our ideal prospects, we can end up with a pie chart like below. The majority of the pie is prospects that fit well. But there is that smaller slice of those that fit well and also need to make a change now.
Examples of those that might fit well but not need to purchase right now might be a prospect that just purchased something similar to what you are selling making it tough for them to purchase again for some time or a prospect that needs what you have but they will not have the budget available until next year, or they would like to make a change but they are locked into a contract until next year.
When you find out that an ideal prospect is not really a prospect that needs what you have right now, this is not a horrible revelation. Simply move them down in your pipeline and level of priority and put the right tools and processes in place in order to stay fresh in their mind so that when “no, not right now” becomes “I am ready”, you will be someone that they reach out to.
Step 4: Focus on those that need right now
Once you have separated the ideal prospects to find those that need what you have right now, you then have your key list of prospects to focus on and close.
Do you think you will need to use magic and manipulation to close and convince these prospects? Of course not – these prospects need what you have to offer and they need to make a change now.
In reality, if you do enough of the right things during the sales process, will be the easiest thing that you have to do and will almost take care of itself in many instances.
Bringing it all together
If you try to sell to everybody, you will end up in situations where you do have to perform magic and manipulation in order to sell your products and services. You will need to be smooth and you will also need to be a little sneaky at times. This makes selling very difficult and a direction that has less odds for success.
But it does not need to be so difficult. If you focus more on selling to those that fit well and those that need what you have to offer right now, selling becomes much easier and you will not need to pull any tricks out of a hat in order to be successful.
An objection to this might be “Well, I don’t have enough ideal prospects in my pipeline so I have no choice but to sell to everybody.”
That is understandable but if you become more aware of what your ideal prospects look like and what “everybody else” looks like, you can then improve your ability to know when you are spending your valuable time on someone that is not an ideal prospect. This is an important moment of awareness and if you change your actions so you walk away from the poor quality prospect when you recognize this, you will then end up saving yourself time that might have been wasted.
If you are able to repurpose this saved time and redirect it toward finding new and potentially better quality prospects, you can end up over time with a pipeline that is more full with ideal prospects.