We can’t do anything about the buyer’s objectives, but we can certainly investigate and even alter our own objectives and behaviors.

Why do they do what they do?

Let’s assume that you are meeting with a prospect for the first time. There may be several reasons for this meeting. The prospect may be gathering information, still undecided if he is even going to buy anything. Or he may want to compare your products or services, features and pricing with others he is considering. Or he may be trying to keep a current provider “honest” by getting another bid or two. Maybe he is thinking about undoing a current relationship and is considering other vendors. Perhaps he has a new position and wants to impress his boss so he is doing an analysis of this product/service. Will he offer any of this? And if he does, will he tell you everything? Usually not.

One thing is clear. He wants to get your information, possibly for many different reasons. It could be he is looking to get better pricing for the product he is purchasing today. Or he may want better service than he is getting. Or he is looking to defend a current (already made) decision and demonstrate he has done his due diligence. The bottom line is that he is using you. And he is getting your information. For free.

Obviously, we can’t do anything about the buyer’s objectives, but we can certainly investigate and even alter our own objectives/ behaviors. Let’s first look at our primary objective of “making a sale”. It could be that this focus is taking us off track. Let me explain.

If we focus on the objective of making the sale, we could be hurrying through or skipping all the important steps in between. Do we take the time to fully qualify the prospect? Do we find out whether the prospect has “pain”? Or money? Or resources to buy? Does the prospect really want to fix the problem? Is the prospect actually the decision maker?

Let’s be honest with ourselves.

When a prospect says, “I’ve got a problem with…” I’m unhappy with…” or “We’re looking at…”, you think you have a live prospect. You get excited and think “Yeah- I’ve got one!”

However, I want you to imagine that you are selling cars. A gentleman comes into the showroom and you ask, “What brings you into the store today?”

Many, maybe most, people respond with “I’m looking for…” Sometimes they might say “I’m thinking about…” or “I’m interested in…” However, what they have not added is “My lease isn’t up for another six months.” Or “I’ve been driving a GM car for 15 years and have been happy and don’t plan on changing but I thought I should test drive some other cars and see what kind of pricing I can get so I can make a better deal with the GM dealer.” And so they lure you into their own process. Through nondisclosure. By not telling everything.

A prospect cannot get you involved unless they give you something called “hope”.

Obviously, they can’t come out and tell you exactly what their objectives are because they know you won’t engage. So, they hide the truth. This starts at the first point of contact.

The buyer tells you enough to get you interested so they can get to the next step in their buying process which is to gather information. How do they gather information? They ask you questions. What do we, as salespeople, do? We answer the questions. After we answer the questions, what do they do? They ask more questions. What do we do? We answer those questions.

Do you think a demonstration of your knowledge will instill trust in the prospect?

Imagine that you are a salesperson meeting a prospect whom you briefly interviewed on the phone. You are now in the third step of your selling process when you get a chance to visit face-to-face. The prospect begins to ask you questions about your business, products and solutions and you tell him everything you know because you have been trained to answer and because you think a demonstration of your knowledge will instill trust in the prospect.

Who has gained from this meeting?

The buyer– because he now has all your information! Hopefully, you have also gathered some information, but is it factual information? Have you taken the time to find out about the buyer’s current relationships or his willingness and ability to invest time, money and resources? Do you know if he feels the problems are bad enough to prompt him to take action?

Chances are, when you got involved in the buyer’s process, you didn’t continue to ask questions because “hope” got in the way. Since the prospect appeared to be interested and engaged, you assumed he was going down the same path you were. But he wasn’t.

If you stop and think about all the reasons a prospect doesn’t buy from you, they all relate back to the disconnect between your objectives and those of the prospect. In other words, if you took the time to qualify a potential prospect, you might find that he was never going to buy.

Qualify the Prospect

In any case, I would suggest that you learn to qualify, qualify, qualify (Q3) and remain emotionally uninvolved so that you are able to adequately qualify the prospect.

While this may seem drastic, I assure you of two things. First, you will spend less time getting through the “tire kickers” because you are going to find out who qualifies. Secondly, you will find that those who do qualify and want to buy, will buy from you more quickly.


About the author

Tony Cole

Tony has a lifelong focus on helping people and organizations achieve their personal best.As…

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