By Bill McCrary
Published Nov. 16, 2015
Susan is a new salesperson at TaskFlow, an enterprise software firm that designs customized project management applications. She’s been making prospecting calls for about two weeks. Her numbers are terrible, and she hasn’t scheduled a single appointment.
She’s been using the prospecting script she was given at orientation. It tells her to ask each person she calls this question: “Are you interested in improving order acquisition and delivery schedules?”
As you can guess, Susan’s appointment drought isn’t her fault. It’s the fault of her script. You see, her script is based on a common selling misconception: Prospects like nothing more than to talk about their business challenges.
In fact, prospects are most eager to talk about the outcome they’re after. Their desire for that positive outcome is the incentive to face their challenge (solving a problem or achieving a goal) in the first place. Their desire for that positive outcome drives all their actions related to meeting their challenge, including purchasing products and services.
The prospect’s desired outcome is a powerful motivating force, so it’s a critical component of any effective prospecting discussion. Susan’s prospecting efforts would be more productive if she put her script aside, stopped making calls for a while, and thought about the outcome her company can deliver from the perspective of its most loyal customers.
Project managers who already use her company’s software tend to describe their positive experience with TaskFlow like this: “By automating and coordinating order acquisition and delivery schedules with TaskFlow’s customized solution, I can complete projects on time and under budget.”
Yes, improving order acquisition and delivery schedules is the challenge these project managers face, but the positive outcome they want is completing projects on time and under budget. Susan’s company script doesn’t even mention an outcome.
Another problem with Susan’s script is that it calls for her to make a mini-presentation over the phone, rather than allowing her to ask questions and have a meaningful, peer to peer discussion with her prospect. Too often, when salespeople hear a prospect say, “I need X,” or “We’re trying to accomplish Y,” they go right into “sell” or “presentation” mode. They explain in detail their products that achieve X or their services that allow prospects to obtain Y, without first having a conversation with the prospect to identify the ultimate outcome the prospect wants.
Here’s an example of a better approach: If a prospect says something like, “I need X,” don’t launch into a discussion about your products or services related to X. Instead, ask some questions to identify the true outcome the prospect is after:
- Suppose you had X. What would that enable you to do?
- What would that mean to the company?
- What would that mean to you?
When you know your prospect’s desired outcome, you can position your product or service as the best way to face their challenge AND achieve the desired outcome. If Susan would structure her prospecting calls around both components—the challenge of coordinating schedules and the outcome of bringing projects in on time and under budget—she would better understand what her prospects hope to accomplish by working with her. She’d have better prospecting conversations. And she’d schedule more appointments.