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What Making Assumptions in Sales Does to Your Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jun 16, 2022

Doing research and preparing for a prospect meeting so that you know what questions to ask is important. However, it is even more important to have a healthy level of skepticism and not assume anything about what they may or may not need.

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Since Alex and her husband moved just around the corner from me and Linda, twice a week I ride my mower over to their place to mow their yard. I have time to do it, I like doing it, they are busy moving in and chasing their 21-month-old around, so why not.

Not too long ago on the way back to our house, I noticed a neighbor’s yard had not been mowed in a while.

I had a flashback to 24 years ago- Anthony, our son had a cardiac arrest and was in a coma and in Children’s hospital for over 90 days. It was the fall of the year. The grass was still growing and eventually leaves started falling. Our neighbors, without saying a word would occasionally pitch in. We would come home from an almost 24-hour a day and the grass was mowed and/or leaves were gone.

I thought that perhaps the same thing had happened to our neighbor, so I took a few moments to mow their front yard.

The next day I was driving home, drove down our street, and saw a sign that said; “Stop mowing our lawn, Karen!”

I’m not up on the whole “Karen” thing so I didn’t understand what the intended message meant. I just thought that perhaps there was a neighbor-type of dispute going on and one of the participants was named Karen. I come to find out that they were talking about me.

As I thought about it more, there are 2 sales & selling messages here:

Salespeople making assumptions. I assumed that there was a need when there wasn’t one. How often have you gone out on a call assuming that the prospect was compelled to buy something, was willing to spend money, and could fire their current relationship? Oh, you may not have assumed that in the very beginning but when:
    1. The prospects say they are unhappy, thinking about, considering, looking into, and you automatically start thinking they are looking to buy. This happens because you were either taught about “buying signals” or do not have a healthy skepticism of prospects.
    2. They said, “I’m the decision-maker” you took them at their word.
    3. They talked about mistakes made, lousy service, and price increases, you thought they were willing to leave the incumbent.
    4. The prospect said, “This looks great, I really like what you’ve done here” you figured that they were ready to buy, and were surprised when they said they wanted to think it over
Prospects make assumptions. My neighbor assumed that someone mowed their yard because the grass was really getting long, and perhaps was offended because it looked unkempt. How often do prospects make assumptions about you, and how you may go about doing business?
    1. They have been brainwashed by advertising that everything is about price.
    2. They believe that all insurance brokers, bankers, and investment advisors are only out there to make commissions and couldn’t possibly care about them and their needs.
    3. They figure that you are in the business of providing free information and quotes because that is what they experienced from all the other bad salespeople they’ve dealt with.
    4. They assume they can take their time because chances are you didn’t uncover any urgency by what you said and did.
    5. They think you are like all the rest because your pitch sounded like all the rest:
      • We have great service
      • Our products are industry-leading edge
      • We care about our clients
      • Our pricing is competitive

NOTE: No one in the marketplace says; our service sucks, our products are middle of the pack, our clients are secondary, or our prices are incredibly high.

So, the next time you make a call or go out on an appointment, pretend this is the first time ever that you sold to a farmer, doctor, department head, or CEO. Do your homework ahead of time about their industry so that you know the right questions to ask and understand their potential concerns but do not assume anything about what they may or may not need. Have the curiosity of a child BUT have a healthy level of skepticism as well.

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Topics: sales succes, think it overs

Terminating “Think it Over”

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jun 09, 2022

In the profession of selling there is a response or an answer we are often confronted with that causes great distress, delays in decision-making, or loss of opportunities. That response is: “I need to think it over”.

There are three major areas that "think it over" typically appear- the initial phone call, the first appointment, and the presentation. 

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In the profession of selling there is a response or an answer we are often confronted with that causes great distress, delays in decision-making, or loss of opportunities. The response is: “I need to think it over”, or what we at Anthony Cole Training refer to as “TIOs”. Today I am going to do my best to help you minimize and or eliminate TIOs in your professional selling career.

Keep in mind that TIOs don’t just show up after you’ve presented a product or business solution. TIOs can and do occur when you first call someone in an attempt to convince them to meet with you. TIOs also show up after you’ve met the first time, delivered a bit of a pitch, and asked the prospect what they think. They may respond with, “let me think about it and I’ll get back to you”. Or, “let me run this past my team and I’ll get back to you”.

So, let’s take the three major areas: The phone call, the first appointment, and the presentation, and help you TERMINATE TIOs!

The phone call: You’ve made contact with your intended target, had a discussion about your offerings, benefits, or products, and the prospect has expressed some interest. But when you ask for the appointment or get invited to meet, they tell you they want to think it over or they ask you to give them a call next week. Here are your options:

  • Ask the prospect if you can make the decision easy for them, they will say yes and then say, “Why don’t you just tell me no”.
  • Tell the prospect that you hear that a lot and what most people are trying to do is just get you off of the phone without hurting your feelings and ask if that is what is happening here.
  • Suggest to the prospect that you’ve had others make this request, and when you follow up as requested, the prospect never takes your call or answers your email. Ask the question, “how do we keep that from happening here?”

The appointment: The best way to avoid TIO at the end of your first appointment is to do the following:

  • When you attempt to close for the appointment, your close should sound something like this: “Can I make a suggestion? Why don’t you invite me out to see you and we will ask each other a lot of questions. I will find out more about your current situation/challenges and ask you for more detail about some of the things we discussed today. You will be able to ask me lots of questions about what we do, how we do it, and some possible solutions. When we are finished talking, we will both know if it makes sense to go any further. If we should take the next step we will, if it doesn’t make sense, you can just tell me no and we won’t worry about meeting again. What objections do you have to that process?”
  • When you start the meeting, review what you discussed on the phone and the agreement to decide at the end of the meeting if you will move forward or not.

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At time of presentation: Let me make this perfectly clear. It is unreasonable for me to think that you will completely terminate think it overs at this stage. The idea of asking to eliminate think-it-overs is really a strategy to help you more clearly understand the decision-making process of the prospect and possibly terminate think-it-overs. At the very least, you will get more clarity on a timeframe for a decision. Here are the steps:

  • In the meeting prior to the presentation review everything you’ve covered with regards to:
    • Compelling reasons to act, make a change, purchase
    • The monetized value of not taking action, changing, or making the purchase
    • The capacity to invest time, money, and/or resources to fund the purchase, gather, and deliver additional information to proceed to the proposal, and willingness to invest the time required
    • The ability and willingness to undo any current relationships
    • The timeframe for action
    • The decision-making process within the organization
  • Once you’ve completed the review, you share with your prospect what you are prepared to do:
    • Provide a solution to eliminate their problem or help them leverage the opportunity they have
    • You will provide a solution within their budget
    • You will be able to answer ALL of their questions at time of presentation
    • IF you can’t solve the problem within their parameters, you will not need to meet again
  • Share with them how you will finish the meeting:
    • When I finish, I will ask you three questions;
      • Do you believe we understand what you are trying to accomplish?
      • Given how we’ve presented our solution and our company, do you feel we can help?
      • Do you want our help?
    • When I ask the third question you can tell me yes or no, I’d rather hear yes but no is okay. What objections do you have to that process?

So again, you will not completely eliminate all TIOs but think about the very last question. What objections do you have? That question will help you uncover anything you missed especially about money, decision-making, and the ability to leave their current relationship!

Last bit of advice: These suggested solutions will help you get started. I will warn you though that to execute this kind of out of the comfort zone response you will need to have: 

So why am I in the hazmat suit you might be asking. Simple answer: I’m trying to terminate the squirrels in my attic!

Topics: increase sales, think it overs

Stop Accepting Think It Overs (TIO)

Posted by Walt Gerano on Thu, Aug 15, 2019

Facing stalls and objections throughout the sales process is a common occurrence for many salespeople. What we find is that, often, it is due to ineffective qualifying and not asking for the prospects commitment to take action prior to presenting a solution.

In this blog, we will cover the 10 common symptoms that suggest you may accept put-offs from prospects and how that is affecting the strength and quality of your sales pipeline.

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While we are hoping to hear yes after our presentation, sometimes we hear a no. But how many times are you hearing “I need to think it over”?

Think about the last 10 sales opportunities in your pipeline that didn't convert to a "yes."  How many of them are still in the pipeline because you are “hoping” for a yes while they “think it over” and get back to you? 

Now ask yourself what percentage of the time when you allow “TIO”, do you actually get the business? My guess is that, if you are like the rest of us, that number is pretty small. So let’s stop kidding ourselves about the strength of our pipeline and quit accepting “think it over” as an answer.

Since we agree that “TIO” is not the most effective strategy for closing more business, let’s look at some of the symptoms.  You may not identify with all of these but it only takes one to derail your sales effectiveness.

  1. Do you keep going on appointments with prospects that don’t fit your ideal profile?
  2. Are you answering more questions than you are asking?
  3. Are you completing a pre-call plan for every sales call with questions you will ask and curve balls you expect?
  4. Do you rely on cold calls instead of introductions and referrals?
  5. Do you think “running faster” is a strategy?
  6. Are you too trusting of prospects and what they say?
  7. Are doing most of the talking on your sales calls?
  8. Are you talking too much about products and not enough about problems?
  9. Do you go on any appointment because you don’t have enough in your pipeline?
  10. Are you asking for the prospect’s commitment to a “Yes” or “No” answer before you come back, present your solution and answer all of their questions?

Eliminating “TIO” is easier than you think.  First, let’s agree that it’s OUR fault.  If you have a sales process that allows for “think it over”, then you are going to get the “think it over" response every single time. 

If you don’t have an effective sales process, then what are you waiting for?  It's time to get one and follow it consistently.  

Stop fooling around with prospects that want to “think it over” and go sell something!

Topics: sales commitment, think it overs, extra mile, yes or no

Go for the “No” Early in the Sales Process

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jun 10, 2019

 In this article, we discuss the theory that a prospect might want what you are selling, if you (as the salesperson) are willing to walk away from the table first.  It may sound counterintuitive but one of the keys for more effective selling is going for the ‘no’ early in the sales process. 

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I learned this concept years ago especially when I was vulnerable to Think it Overs’ (TIO). I would get ‘think it overs’ at several stages in the sales process and maybe you get them as well:

  • On the initial phone call when you’re trying to get an appointment – “Let me think it over, give me a call next week.
  • At the end of your initial meeting – “This sounds really good and something I should consider. Let me think it over and I’ll get back to you in the next couple of days.”
  • When you finish your presentation and you ask for the sale  “You made a very compelling presentation and we are impressed with your depth of knowledge and your very creative solutions to our problems. Let us meet as a group and go over this one more time and crunch some numbers.  Let’s plan on talking next week.

Sound familiar?

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Of course it does and these ‘think it overs’ are what is keeping you from being more effective in your sales process. That’s nice to know or consider but the question becomes, “What do I do about it?” (click here to listen to a 3-minute audio clip on eliminating TIO)

What is important to understand about getting ‘think it overs’ is the mindset of your potential buyer. Your potential buyer will tell you that they need to think it over because:

  • They really don’t intend on making any changes but you impressed them with some information that they want to take to their current provider and see if they can do what you can do.
  • They have a need for approval and instead of telling you they are not interested they want to let you down easy. Telling you they want to think it over gives you hope and get’s them off of the hook until the next time you talk.

To fix the problem, eliminate ‘think it over’ as an option. Let your prospect know that when you finish the next meeting, next conversation, the final presentation, they will have everything they need to make a decision. You can tell them that you will be prepared to answer all of their questions and when you are finished, they will be in a position to make a decision- yes or no. Then simply ask what objections they have to that process.

This one key will help you close more business, more quickly at higher margins.

For more tips on how to uncover a prospects real reason for wanting to 'TIO' watch our Sales Guy Unplugged video on the "Question Behind the Question".

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Topics: sales techniques, effective sales process, sales champion, think it overs, go for the no

Is Your Current Sales Opportunity Real?

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Feb 21, 2019

In this article, we discuss and identify the three main reasons why salespeople get duped into believing a specific opportunity will close and why some deals are not worth chasing.

They are:

  1. Weak pipeline
  2. Failure to ask tough questions
  3. Afraid to pull the plug

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“Reality is merely an illusion.  Albeit a persistent one.” - Albert Einstein

Throughout my sales coaching career, I have yet to meet a salesperson who does not understand that sales will require hard work.  Yes, they might all have a different willingness to put in that hard work, but they understand that selling is not for the faint of heart.  They know that there will be some rough days.  They also understand that when they accomplish what they need to each week, they will generally be tired come Friday afternoon.  They don’t mind working hard.

But what they do mind (and this is universal), is chasing hard after a deal that, as it turns out, they had no chance to win.  They were punching above their weight class.  And as a result, they wasted their time.  In my opinion, there is nothing more expensive to you as a sales professional than spending time pursuing an opportunity that you have no chance to win.  Simply put, you can’t get the time back.

So why does it happen so frequently?  If you knew you were lost, when would you want to know that?  I am guessing before you wasted more gas going in the wrong direction.  Right?

I believe we can identify three main reasons why salespeople get fooled:

  1. Weak pipeline – We know that weak pipelines "make cowards of us all."  If you have not eaten in a while, any food looks good to you.  It won’t matter if it is the right food…or if it is good food.  It is food so you will eat it.  Which is precisely why you should not go grocery shopping while you are hungry.
  2. Failure to ask the tough questions – The best day to lose an opportunity is the first day. The second best day to lose one is today.  Are you asking the tough questions of your prospect that will allow them the opportunity to self-select out of the decision?  Or are you asking the easy questions to get you to the next step in the process?  What are you pretending not to know?
  3. Afraid to pull the plug – Sometimes opportunities start well, but then the salesperson is met with radio silence from the prospect. And rather than “politely” confront the prospect with what the radio silence means, the salesperson keeps chasing.  Radio silence can mean the problem has gone away, the problem has been swallowed up by other priorities, or the prospect has solved the problem with someone else.

So, is it time for you to “get real” with a prospect in your pipeline?  The time you save is yours.

 

Topics: sales competency, how to improve sales results, sales advice, think it overs, salespeople, sales interjection, sales opportunity, radio silence

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    Anthony Cole Training Group has been working with financial firms for close to 30 years helping them become more effective in their markets and closing their sales opportunity gap.  ACTG has mastered the art of using science-based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss our weekly sales management blog insights from our team of expert contributors.

     

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