No question about it; your company provides the best software around. So, what’s the problem? Only that without an ongoing and ever-increasing number of quality prospects, you’ll eventually run out of prospects. That thought can be downright discouraging, can’t it? Then again, that doesn’t have to happen . . . ever!
One major reason many salespeople are intimidated by the prospecting process is because they feel they must put on their “prospecting hats” before they step out the door. As though they must continually knock on doors or spend hours “dialing for dollars” on that “seemingly 50-pound object of intimidation” known as the telephone.
Perhaps you attend trade shows, social events or even business mixers where you can meet new prospects. Then, of course, once the conversation takes place, you must ask pointed, personal questions in order to discover needs. What this typically accomplishes, more than anything else, is to make a prospect nervous and defensive and you the same. Instead, let prospecting happen naturally, and in such a way that the prospect enjoys the conversation as much as, if not more, then you do.
How? Ask questions. But not just any questions. Ask Feel-Good Questions. Feel-Good Questions are simply questions designed to put your prospect at ease, to make him or her feel good about themselves, about the conversation, and most importantly, about you! These are questions that will not come off as invasive, or “prospecting” in nature.
Feel-Good Questions, by their very nature, will make your prospect feel good; about themselves, about the conversation, and about you. That is key because the fact is – and please internalize this:
“All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.”
Asking Feel-Good Questions is the first step to accomplishing that goal.
So what are some of these Feel-Good Questions? Again, keep in mind that they have no purpose other than to elicit good feelings toward you from the other person. In other words, you won’t ask this person about problems with current software. And, you won’t ask questions meant to discover any other pains, either in their life or business.
The first question is, “How did you get started in the ‘widget’ business?” I call this the “Movie-of-the-Week” question because most people love the opportunity to “tell their story” to someone. This, in a world where most people don’t care enough to want to know their story. Be sure and actively listen, and be interested in what they are saying.
A good second question is simply, “What do you enjoy most about what you do?” Again, you are giving them something very positive to associate with you and your conversation. This is much better then asking the alternative question, “So, what do you just hate most about what you do . . . not to mention the wretched life you are so obviously living?” (Yep – jus’ kidding . . . kind of).
You’ve begun to establish a nice rapport with your new prospect. You are focusing on him or her, as opposed to you and your awesome products, as most salespeople do. This person is starting to feel good about you and has enjoyed answering your first two Feel-Good Questions. Now it’s time for the “One key question,” and here it is:
“Gary, how can I know if someone I speaking with would be a good prospect for you?” What have you accomplished by asking that question? Two things; First, you’ve continued to establish yourself as being different from all others they meet who are in business, who only seem to want to know, “How can you help me.” People might not come right out and say that, but isn’t that what they imply when they hand the person 10 business cards, telling them to “keep one for yourself and give the rest to your closest friends.”? Instead, you are letting them know that your interest is in helping them. And that is always acceptable to a person (so long as you are, and are perceived, sincere).
Secondly, since you are asking for help in identifying their prospects, she will gladly supply you with an answer. And the fact is, nothing builds trust and credibility with a prospect than actually referring business to them whenever possible.
Of course, if they are not in sales, per se, your question might be more along the lines of “How can I know if someone I’m speaking with could be of benefit to you?” (in other words, you’re focusing on them. The exact words are not as important as the intent, and that you communicate that intent in a way that shows that person you desire to “add increase” to their life).
Your conversation has ended and you never even brought up your excellent products. Good, since your relationship with this new prospect may not be far enough along for him or her to be receptive to it (at other times it’s VERY advisable to bring it up, but that is after the “Know you, like you, trust you” relationship has been established).
That’s fine. Hopefully, you’ve asked for and received your prospect’s business card. Notice I did not say, “Hopefully, you’ve ‘given’ your prospect your business card.” Why not offer him yours? Because he doesn’t need it or want it right now (unless he directly asks for it – then, of course, you’ll give it to him), and since you have his, you are in the position to follow up correctly and systematically.
Meeting New Prospect
First though, if you are at a public gathering where you met this new prospect (Chamber of Commerce function, charity event, social gathering) make sure to introduce him or her to others who you already know or have met. Give each person a nice introduction, describe what each does for a living, and suggest how they can each know how to know who would be a good prospect for the other. Do all this without ever mentioning your products or business. You are now positioning yourself in their minds as a true “center of influence.” People are very receptive to meeting with, and receiving business advice from, centers of influence.
Whether meeting new people in a one-on-one situation during any day and for whatever reason, or meeting people at small or large gatherings, following the above will help you to very quickly build your names list with high-quality people, and in a way that is fun for both you and your prospect. You’ll never again have to feel the “discomfort” in the pit of your stomach, knowing that you have to nervously and clumsily approach someone who you don’t want to approach, and whom you can just sense, does not want to be approached.
*This article was previously published in the September 2006 issue of Software Sales Journal.