By Bill Gager
Everyone in sales talks about the prospect’s best interests, but few salespeople actually act on them. In reality, the money and effort call centers devote to sales training are usually focused on the salesperson’s best interests. As a result, salespeople are trained to approach prospects from the call center’s point of view and they don’t pay much attention to the prospect’s perspective. But the only way to maximize every sales opportunity is to focus on the factors that drive every buying decision.
So what does this mean for call center sales professionals? It means they must change their mindset from that of being self-centered to becoming prospect-centered. But first, consider the current selling situation in most companies.
Current Sales Approaches: Behavioral Sciences Research Press, Inc. of Dallas, TX has identified six selling styles as the ones used by over 90% of sales professionals:
1. Service-Oriented Selling – This style is based on a commitment to providing excellent service as part of the sales process and after the sales experience.
2. Competition-Oriented Selling – This style emphasizes the use of persuasion and the ability to influence others and convince them to buy. You might recognize this style in the typical fast-talking sales person.
3. Image-Oriented Selling – This style emphasizes the professional image of the sales person. A sales person with expensive accessories who always looks organized and well put together is using their professional image to sell to their clients.
4. Need-Oriented Selling – This style focuses on uncovering the prospect’s existing need for service, but doesn’t engage in the development of those needs.
5. Product-Oriented Selling – This style highlights the features and benefits of the product.
6. Rapport-Oriented Selling – This style establishes trust and comfort, emphasizing the relationship between the sales professional and the client.
Sales people typically incorporate two of these selling styles into their approaches. Regardless of how they combine them, the problem with all these selling styles is that the salesperson is focused on how they are comfortable selling and not on how the prospect is comfortable buying.
When looking at a sales situation from the prospects’ perspective, it is vital to realize that to make a sale you are asking the prospect to change. If they are not currently using your service, then buying it involves a change. If they are using a competitor’s service, then buying from you involves a change. People change or buy for only one reason, to prevent or fix discomfort. The stronger the existing or potential discomfort the prospect feels, the stronger the motivation for them to change or buy. But the way salespeople are trained and managed assumes that every prospect has a need and the need is the reason to buy. The need is never the reason, it is only the means to an end, being either avoiding or fixing the prospect’s source of discomfort. Many times a prospect has some source of discomfort that your call center can help them with but they don’t know it yet. If you focus on the following five keys to develop an approach that’s flexible and focused on the prospect, you can maximize the potential for every sales situation.
Identify the Areas of Discomfort for the Prospect (Dominant Motivators): The most important step in this process requires that you identify the prospect’s areas of discomfort. You may have a prospect who is ready, willing, and able to buy your service, or you may end up in front of someone who has the need for your service, but isn’t aware that the need exists. You must be able to find out where they are experiencing discomfort in order to provide you with the key to understanding their motivation to buy your service.
All the sales training, techniques, and efforts boil down to that point of contact between the salesperson and the prospect. The success of the sale rests on what that salesperson does and how they do it when interacting with that prospect. You must determine the prospect’s underlying motivation to be able to approach them in a way that will create the greatest motivation to take the action of buying your call center services.
Determine Their Top of Mind Issues (Causes of Discomfort): Regardless of whether the prospect has an established need for your call center services, you need to identify the prospect’s critical or “top-of-mind” issues. These issues are the key to uncovering the prospect’s source of discomfort. Research shows that people have anywhere from five to nine top-of-mind issues they think about at any given time. These are the thoughts that keep them awake at night. People are motivated to resolve their top-of-mind issues because they are connected to the underlying source of discomfort. So as a salesperson, if you can identify the prospect’s top-of-mind issues and alleviate them, you can build a relationship with that person. Even if you can’t solve an actual top-of-mind issue, prospects will tend to view you as having their best interests at heart.
If you’re in front of the prospect, you can easily ask them about these issues. An important key to top-of-mind issues is that people are usually willing to bring them up in conversation, enabling you to find out why the issue is important to them to uncover their dominant motivators.
Fully Define the Need: You must also get the prospect to form a mental link between your services as a potential solution to their top-of-mind issues and dominant motivators. A need is nothing more than a defined solution for an existing issue. For example, if a person says they need to buy a new car, they don’t actually need it. In other words, they won’t die without a new car. But if you ask this person why they need a new car, they might explain issues such as getting to work, or taking care of their kids, or poor public transportation. The car is actually a solution to all these issues. The need, the car, is defined as the solution to a discomfort, having to sit on a crowded bus. To realize your potential in a selling situation you must get the prospect to perceive your call center services as the solution to their situation.
Determine Who Will Provide the Solution: Once the need has been defined, it is critical to determine the prospect’s perception as to who will fill the need. The first question to be answered is whether the prospect is looking for outside help. If the prospect is looking for outside help, then you must work with them to view you as the better solution over your competition.
Define the Decision Criteria: Every prospect makes every buying decision based on certain factors. These factors may include price, timing, payment terms, rate of return, quality of service, data security, and so forth. This decision criterion varies greatly. The key is to get the prospect to define their decision criterion and to factor your strengths into that decision.
Maximize Opportunities in the Future: Salespeople are motivated to sell, which in reality is what needs to happen. But the problem is that people take a logical approach to selling. Unfortunately, a sale isn’t logical; it’s psychological. So anytime you want to get someone to buy your services, you must define all of the above factors and try to influence the prospect’s perception of those factors. You must find out what will move the prospect forward with the buying decision and create a win-win situation. If you can do all those things in your sales approach, then every time you go face-to-face with a prospect, you can work the full potential of that opportunity.
Bill Gager is President of Gager International, a sales consulting and coaching firm. You can call him at 860-526-5922.
[From Connection Magazine – October 2005]