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Prospect Profiling: It is Legal and Deadly Effective

So many sticky situations in sales could have been avoided or neutralized if one were only willing to give their customers easier choices at the onset of a sales call.

So often the obvious is staring us in the face and we are not willing to face reality. That is because our approach is so self-focused and we are not willing to accept anything short of our own agenda.

Mainline sales people generally fault by pressing their agenda to try to advance the call without getting their customer's insight and perspective. With their highly charged information they foolishly believe they can steamroll the intended recipient, change their mind and leave them to the obvious and natural conclusions that they want.

To reverse this scenario sales people would be well advised to educate their customers on their choices. And I do not mean in the typical fashion. Look at it as educating your customers on their choices, alternatives and options, as opposed to the traditional approach of educating your customers on the choices and direction you have best selected for them. In more cases, when done properly and when trust is present, customers are best suited in convincing themselves. Allow them the freedom of choice through the quality of your questions and understanding.

Let us take a look at how this plays out in a typical interaction. Most sales people when given the choice will put promotion of their offering ahead of really getting to the bottom of whether they have a certifiable, qualified prospect. This can be especially tempting and seductive when prospects with the best of intentions lead sales people down the primrose path of false hope; they are in the market and they are ready and willing.

Sales people are only too willing to accommodate, and consequently put themselves in an unenviable position of being led down dark alleys and twisted detours. This happens a lot in my business when I have prospects who state with cheerful affirmations; yes we are very interested; yes we will give this strong consideration; yes we will thoroughly review your material; yes we will give you equal consideration with our board. And my favorite; yes we will get back to you with a definitive answer one way or another.

To neutralize this ever present type of exchange, that invariably leads sales people in the lurch, try questions that nail down your prospect's true intentions. I like to refer to these types of questions as diametrically opposed questions. Have one question that clearly spells out without provocation what a qualified prospect looks like, and have another question that makes it abundantly clear in no uncertain terms specifically what an unqualified prospects looks like.

The whole idea is to isolate and define through opposing questions as to whether your prospect fits your profile. Once they fit your profile you can further qualify them for the value of their problem, the cost of change, timing, authority and means.

Do not be tentative about presenting easy choices for your prospect to choose from; one that fits your profile of an engaged motivated prospect, and one that is invariably wishy-washy, non-committed and a potential time waster. Spell it out to them the type of prospect that you are not interested in doing business with in a very professional, nurturing, constructive and balanced way.

The idea is not to attract everyone. That is a very common mistake for a non-discriminating and non-discerning sales person. Nothing is wrong in repelling prospects who do not fit your profile. Matter of fact it is a great time saver for all parties. Prospect profiling is all about making informed choices on when to fish and when to cut bait. It is being smart about knowing when to hold 'em and fold'em (thanks Kenny Rogers). It is all about intelligent choices about as the Clash used to say, "Should I go or should I stay."

Profiling is only effective when you make your prospect comfortable enough that they have no compunction and regret in laying out bad news to you. Sales is all about efficiency; winning efficiently and losing efficiently. So do not hesitate in being discerning and discriminating as to who you will invest your time with, and who you will allocate your valuable company resources with. Like customers, you need to be very choosy and selective. You need to act like a buyer. Do you buy into your prospect's justifications for changing and moving forward? That is why selling is more about sifting and sorting, as opposed to convincing, persuading and cajoling. That is of course if you do not fit the profile of the elite 1% of the sales population that can sell through charm and charisma DVDs to teenagers, or whole life insurance to unemployed young males living in mom and dad's basement.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com