HOPE is a four letter word!

Have you ever found yourself working with a prospect for any extended period of time?  All of your interactions have been positive; they appear to like you and by all indications are interested in your ideas. They request a proposal (RFP) and you spend hours creating one. You give them your – unique selling proposition (USP) and they respond with the magic words (be honest now … you’ve heard it before, perhaps many times before!)

“Everything looks great. Let me get back to you in a few days and we can move forward.”

“Boom” (followed with the corresponding fist pump) … “it’s all over but the shout.” Back to the paperwork – you update your sales funnel forecast and then begin that dreaded wait for the “big” call.

A couple of days go by … nothing … a few more days – still no call. You tell yourself “He’s probably busy…no time to become a pest …I’m sure he’ll reach out soon.” Days turn into a week and still – nothing. You finally decide to follow up but are surprised that calls aren’t returned and your texts and emails seem to have been intercepted by the NSA.

Sound familiar?

What went wrong?

How can you prevent this from happening again?

Here’s some practical advice to help you kick the “Hopeium” habit and begin filling your sales funnel with real opportunities!

Start by asking fewer “hopeful” questions. They add little value and make it too easy for your customer to be agreeable. When salesmen “probe” and only look for good news that’s typically what they find. Asking hopeful questions like “Are we still on track to get the contract signed this week?” or “Do you have everything you need?”  These questions might make YOU feel better but they don’t encourage honest feedback from the prospect.

Let’s eliminate “Hopeium” from your approach.  Start by asking questions focused on uncovering the real problems/issues in the prospects mind about the proposal you’ve presented.  Questions like “I sense that this RFP has you nervous, does it?” give the prospect permission to share their concerns (“Yes, I’m still a little nervous”). This way they don’t feel the pressure of having to introduce bad news to you because you’ve already broken that ground for them.

Some of you may be thinking its risky business to introduce negativity, fears, uncertainties or doubts during the selling process.  And odds are pretty good that your funnels are full of stalled opportunities right now – wrapped in nothing but good news. You don’t have a clue as to why the deal isn’t moving forward and you keep “hoping” that something will happen.  It’s time – you need to re-evaluate your approach.

When you ask questions focused on flushing out bad news, one of two things will happen. Your prospect will either validate the bad news (“Yes, I’m still a little nervous about price”) or they will push back and defend their position (“No I’m not nervous about the pricing model, as a matter of fact, this looks like something we can do”) … either reply is good; you’ve encouraged them to share their reality and that’s where sincere opportunities are created.

Your success is a function of how well you discover, probe and resolve your prospects concerns. The critical piece that most reps overlook is creating an environment where it’s safe for buyers to share their uneasiness. If the customer thinks you will resist or balk at bad news, there is a good chance that you’re not going to hear any. At least not until it is too late.

You can build a sales career by knowing how to get customers to say “yes.”  BUT you get to the top by making it easier for them to say “no.”

How’s that “hope and change” … working out for you now???

Just a thought … brought to you by your local Coach.

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