It’s easy for most of us, including your sales reps, to fall into the mindset of believing that life happens to them. If your reps build a ledge during the sales process, they can change their mindset and understand they can make their lives happen. That’s the message from Justin Weeder, a Manage Smarter podcast guest and the owner of The Covert Closer.
Successful Doesn’t Mean Pushy
Too many sales professionals have been trained to believe they need to talk nonstop and be pushy in order to close deals. This kind of thinking reduces credibility in the eyes of the buyer. Recent research shows that sales professionals rank poorly against other professionals when it comes to credibility. Possessing poor credibility also negatively impacts the chances of closing deals.
Weeder spent many years as a sales rep and carefully studied his path to success. He realized the most successful reps weren’t pushy. Instead, they asked questions and talked their prospects through the decision-making process. Reps with enough natural curiosity about a prospect’s process do very well with this style of selling. They want to understand what the prospect is thinking. And during discovery, because they are paying attention and listening carefully, they ask questions that seem natural to the prospect.
Reps who shift their selling style from aggressive pitching to careful listening can increase their closing rate from 10% of opportunities to 60%, according to Weeder. But how can they methodically change their approach?
Build a Ledge
Prospects are not foolish. But many sales pros are so intent on delivering their pitch, they don’t think about the impression they are marking. If your reps ask a line of questions that leads a prospect down the sales funnel, that person will feel boxed in. And when your rep asks for the business, they’ll likely hear the answer, “I want to think about it.”
Your rep can build a ledge into the sales situation at this point. A ledge is all about creating “a little room into the conversation.” Your rep knows that some other objection is really behind the “think-about-it” delay at this point. To succeed, they need to uncover the objection. They can continue the conversation by asking if the price is too high.
The prospect will likely come back with the truth. They might say they’re hesitant to buy because they doubt your ability to deliver within the required timeframe. At this point, reps should verify that the prospect will truly benefit from buying the product or service. If so, their job is to “make the customer feel good about making the decision now.” To do this, your reps should shift their questioning sequence to focus on what, why and how. Once the prospect takes a ‘deep dive’ into their reasoning along with the rep’s guidance, the deal will begin to turn in their favor. In Weeder’s example, the rep should discuss what an on-time delivery means and ask what the implications for the prospect are if a delivery is missed.
Weeder’s concept for helping reps succeed is based on enhanced listening. If you’ve given your sales reps a comprehensive sales competency assessment, you’ll know who needs to work on their listening skills. To effectively coach reps who struggle in this area, get a commitment from them. Make sure they’re willing to accept coaching and to improve. Weeder likes to spend anywhere from two weeks to a month coaching on that skill and nothing else. The intense focus during a call review means pointing out every chance where your rep had a chance to listen harder. And together, you should discuss what they could have done differently. Encourage them to practice during a role-playing session with another rep.
They may not improve immediately. But with their new mindset about success and their new listening skills, they can begin to have the career they’ve always wanted.