Stop Doing Free Consulting

As small business owners we often have to “sell” ourselves and our products or services in order to make a living. Traditional sales techniques involve talking about the features and benefits of what we have to offer as well as handling stalls and objections. Some skilled salespeople have some sophisticated moves while others are programmed responses—all of which the prospect has heard before and knows how to respond. Many small business owners that do not have a sales background are often uncomfortable with the whole process because it doesn’t feel natural and they don’t like rejection.

I recently sought out some sales training to help me fill some gaps in my work experience and to better be able to meet the needs of my clients. I found that I was doing a lot of free consulting and wasting a lot of time in meetings only to learn that the client was either not ready to do business, did not have the funds for my services, or was shopping around for the best price. After doing some research, I found that the Sandler sales training was best for me because of it’s honest, straightforward approach, individual and group coaching, and well thought out, time-tested system for selling. One of the keys to more successful selling in the Sandler training system is eliminating stalls and objections early in the selling process, rather than “handling” them later. Doing this will save you much wasted time and effort and help qualify the prospect.

Accordingly, if the stall or objection can’t be eliminated, you will not get that business, And, if it’s going to be over, isn’t it better to know sooner rather than later?

So, how do we do a better job of qualifying people?

It is important to do the following when meeting with prospects:

  • Ask the prospects questions of the Sandler “pain funnel” such as: “Can you tell me more about that? Could you be more specific?
Why do you suppose that is happening? How long has that been a problem?
 How much has that cost you in lost sales, time?
What have you done to try and solve that? Make sure that you spend more time asking questions than taking about what you have to offer
  • Understand, acknowledge and respond with a solution to their pain you simply will not get the sale. You need to know the details about the surface problem, the underlying reasons for the problem, and the impact on the individual.Once you know this you can create a solution to address their needs
  • Bring up potential roadblocks early in the process and ask the prospect how he or she would like to deal with it if it surfaces later. If you can’t come up with a mutually beneficial way to deal with it before it happens, it’s unlikely that you will be able to do so later.
  • Find out what kind of investment they are prepared to make to solve the problem. Do not give any quotes or presentations until you know the budget and understand the pain. Doing this will identify those that are just shopping you for price, or to trying to get a detailed solution to their problem so they can then shop around.

Find out their decision making process for proposals. Some questions to ask are:

Who is involved in the decision? Always present to the decision makers, and present last

What specifically is involved?

Where is the decision made?
When are they planning to make a decision?

How do they make their final decision?

Sandler’s selling system is ideal for small business owners – especially those uncomfortable with selling. Instead of pushy, high-pressure sales techniques Sandler teaches more interactive, honest, and conversational selling styles that are much better for businesses that are based on long-term relationships. So stop doing free consulting. By asking the right questions you can better understand the client’s needs, better tailor a winning proposal, and better qualify a prospect; saving time and money.

For further reading: You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar : The Sandler Sales Institute’s 7-Step System for Successful Selling, By David H. Sandler, John Hayes, PhD., David H. Sandler

For Sandler training details locally, in Greater Boston, Massachusetts speak with Kevin Hallinan, Winning, Inc. 781-407-9999, for a national or international training center visit http://www.sandler.com

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