By Keith Rosen, MCC
The Executive Sales Coach™
Here's an interesting statistic: 99.9 percent of every person's DNA is exactly the same. It's only the remaining 0.1 percent that makes each of us different and unique. When it comes to selling, most people focus on what makes them similar to their competition, not what makes them different.
Practically every person I speak with who is responsible for generating new business struggles with capturing someone's attention so succinctly and effectively that they are actually asking for more information. If you are attempting to prospect without sharing the right compelling reasons why a prospect needs to listen to you, then it's no wonder you are finding prospecting to be such a challenging and frustrating experience.
What are the "right" reasons? Probably the reasons that are several layers deeper than the reasons you are currently using. That's what makes this process so challenging. Once salespeople feel they have a "good enough" reason, they stop. It's like quitting the race 20 steps before the finish line. In today's competitive climate, "good enough" is what will keep you one step behind or just neck and neck with your competition, rather than using this as an opportunity to develop a clear competitive edge.
Start by examining what you're currently doing to grab a prospect's attention. What are you saying that's compelling enough to stimulate someone's interest in hearing more about what you have to offer? Chances are, it sounds very similar to the hundreds of other calls that particular prospect receives each week.
If you find that you are not even getting past the first 30 seconds of an initial prospecting conversation before the prospect cuts you off and says, "Not interested," then it's safe to say that the reasons you are currently using could withstand an upgrade.
Develop the Hot Button That Stimulates Interest
One of the first questions you may ask before embarking on your cold-calling initiative is, "How can I get a prospect interested enough to want to listen to me, let alone do business with me?"
The answer is simple — give them a compelling reason to listen to you. The word compelling is synonymous with "convincing, persuasive, undeniable, and gripping." When cold calling or networking, are you providing your prospects with enough of a compelling reason during the first minute of your conversation to want to speak with you and learn more about your product or service?
The intention of a compelling reason is to stimulate interest and open up a conversation. Therefore, you certainly don't want to sound like all the other salespeople who are calling on the same prospects and saying the exact same thing.
Compelling reasons are the secret ingredient that many salespeople know about but don't take the time to refine and develop. If your reasons are not powerful enough to move someone from a state of inertia to interest or action, here's your opportunity to give them an overhaul.
What Do You Think You're Selling?
What is it that you are actually selling? Some professionals believe that their title alone conveys an accurate portrayal of the product or service they offer. Others feel that merely stating the type of product or service they provide reveals what they are selling. If you're selling IT solutions, insurance, advertising, marketing services, financial or legal services, staffing, consumer goods (clothes, jewelry, makeup, etc.), commercial real estate, or widgets, consider that your prospect isn't interested in the actual product, but what it will ultimately do for them.
Craft Your Compelling Reasons
If you are trying to grab a prospect's attention, your compelling reasons should not include:
- your product or service
- features of your product or service
- strategies on how to achieve the desired end result (the "how")
- unsubstantiated or lofty claims and guarantees
So now you may be asking, "Well, Keith, what does it include?"
Whether you're looking to craft a lightning bolt introduction for a networking event, follow-up call, voice mail, presentation, or a cold-calling approach when speaking to new prospects, here are some useful guidelines to follow:
1. Include the End Result of the Benefit
Your compelling reasons should include the benefit of the benefit's benefit. Sound extreme, maybe even a bit silly? You know you have a great compelling reason when you are able to break it down to its core, or identify the specific result that the prospect will be able to take advantage of and — most important — visualize and connect with.
Consider this statistic: Based on a sample group of clients I have surveyed over the years, 14 percent of people made a purchasing decision based on prior knowledge and experience. And 86 percent made a purchasing decision based on a future expectation.
Imagine that your prospects secretly want you to offer something that will make them more successful while making their life easier. Since most people buy based on a future expectation, your prospects will be more inclined to listen to what you have to say if you have an end result they want.
When making an initial cold call, you have mere seconds to grab the attention of the person you are calling. Therefore, you simply don't have the time to explain how you are going to achieve the end result of the benefit, let alone the product or service that will enable you to do so. You'll have the opportunity to discuss your product or the strategy to achieve the desired result later on in your sales process, after you've set an appointment or confirmed interest.
2. Pass the "So What?" Test
You know you have the end result of the benefit when the statement can pass the "so what?" test.
For example, Jill, a client of mine, sells insurance and financial services. When I asked her to list the benefits of her service, she responded with the following statement: "We have an online reporting system that automates your administrative duties." My response? "So what?"
According to old school feature and benefit selling, this is a fit. After all, an online reporting system is a great feature that her clients would surely benefit from. However, in today's economic climate it's no longer enough to evoke interest, let alone action, from a prospect. Since her statement did not pass the "so what?" test, we need to go deeper.
The benefit Jill shared with me was, "Automates your administrative duties." Well, we're getting closer but this still doesn't pass the "so what?" test. Let's peel away a few more layers to uncover the end result of this benefit. While we're doing so, notice the questions I ask Jill and the process she goes through to finally uncover a true compelling reason, since this is a process you will also have to walk yourself through.
I asked Jill to tell me what the advantage was to automating administrative duties. She told me that by doing so, her clients could streamline their operations. I challenged her again by asking her to share with me what the end result would be if her clients were able to streamline their operations and become efficient. "They would be able to save a tremendous amount of time," she answered.
Finally, here's what Jill and I came up with: "We have a system that will eliminate three hours of your workload every day." Now this passes the "so what?" test, since it demonstrates the end result of the benefit the prospect could realize, plus it's compelling enough to grab their attention.
If we were to break down this example, this is what it would look like:
Feature: An online reporting system
Benefit: Automates your administrative duties
Jill's Compelling Reason and the End Result of the Benefit: Eliminate three hours of your workload every day.
Notice that Jill's compelling reason (which is also the end result of the benefit) didn't mention what she sells that would enable her prospects to achieve this desirable end result. At this point, the prospect cares more about the end result than your product.
You know you have come up with a great compelling reason when your prospects respond with a question that sounds like, "How are you going to do that?"
3. Speak to Their Ear (Make It Personal)
It's one thing to tout the intoxicating benefits of your product that the company as a whole would want to realize. However, if you're speaking to one person in HR, they may not do cartwheels when you tell them that your product or service will save the company money or increase company profitability. As important as this may be, it may fall upon deaf ears. Therefore, you want to have a buffet of benefits that you can use depending upon the scenario and the person you are talking with.
What does your product or service do for them, specifically? It's one thing to share the benefits that the company may experience, but what about the person you are face-to-face with or who is on the other end of the phone? After all, it's not every individual in the company you're looking to get a response from; it's the person who's making the decision to explore your offering in more detail.
What would capture the ear of the person you are speaking with? How does your product benefit them? Speak to their unique personal interests. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine what their day is like, the responsibilities they have, the problems or pressures they face.
Think back to the compelling reason that Jill created for her specific prospect: "We have a system that will eliminate three hours of your workload every day."
Jill can then expand upon this compelling reason during the conversation with her prospect, an overwhelmed manager in HR who is juggling a variety of tasks and responsibilities with few resources to get it all done. Here's an example: "That's 15 additional hours that you would have available each week. Mr. Prospect, what would you do with the additional 15 hours each week?"
Notice how this example speaks directly to that prospect's specific role, responsibilities, current situation, and desired outcome.
To help craft your compelling reasons as they relate to each prospect, research your audience. Speak with some of your past and current clients. Ask them questions to determine what captured their ear and caused them to do business with you in the first place.
To develop compelling reasons that have the greatest impact, you are much better off asking your clients why they bought from you, rather than formulating your own conclusions. Remember, there's a big difference between what your prospects think is important and what you think is important. After all, people buy based on their reasons, not yours.
4. Include Testimonials or Measurable Results
The more you can offer and demonstrate measurable results that other customers have realized, the more of an impact it will have. It adds to the clarity of the visual picture and experience you are trying to paint regarding what can be expected from your service, rather than the generally vague picture of "making them money" or "saving them money."
Quantify your results. Use statistics, percentages, numbers, or testimonials. If you can save a client money, how much might you be able to save them? When it comes to saving time; decreasing client attrition; increasing employee retention; experiencing greater levels of personal satisfaction, peace of mind, and happiness; or boosting sales, productivity, and efficiency, you will dramatically increase the impact of the statement by attaching a measurement to it.
If you don't know exactly what you can do for the prospect until you learn more about their business, use phrases such as, "Depending on your situation, we may be able to reduce your overhead by as much as 20 percent." You can also weave in what you have done for other customers. Whom else have you helped?
If you've done something great for a client and have a success story to share, now is not the time to be humble. Here are some examples:
- "Depending on what you are currently doing, we can show you how to eliminate three hours of your workload every day."
- "XYZ Company increased their sales 300 percent as a result of using our system."
- "Depending on your situation, I can show you how to turn a one-hour meeting with your clients into an additional $30,000 dollars in income."
- "Jane Doe, a neighbor in your community, lost 30 pounds in three weeks."
Be careful when using testimonials. Make sure you get permission from the client before using their name in your marketing and sales efforts. In addition, it's important that you know the type of prospect you're talking to when sharing a testimonial. Some prospects may feel it's important to "keep up with the Joneses." Some may know what their competition and the leaders in their industry are doing, and they may be motivated to buy based on that alone. However, for some prospects the opposite may be true. Instead, these prospects want to position themselves as distinct from their competitors based on their size, reputation, product, or service. After all, not everyone wants to be a Microsoft.
5. Identify Their Greatest Pain
I know this may sound a bit harsh, but the fact is that pain is often a greater motivator than pleasure. Many of us are driven to avoid potential consequences or eliminate problems rather than create or take advantage of a benefit. After all, we typically don't go to the doctor when we're feeling healthy.
Think about the greatest pain, challenge, or headache that some of your clients have experienced as a result of using another vendor. What do they most want to avoid? What is the personal pain that you will solve if they use your product or service? What are the main problems, personal stresses, or triggers of anxiety that they experience in their job that you could eliminate?
If, during a conversation, you can pinpoint and then articulate their greatest challenges or concerns, you demonstrate your knowledge about their specific problems, that you really get what their situation looks like through their own eyes. This will foster a deeper connection with each prospect you speak to.
Once you verbalize a prospect's greatest pain or problem, they are more willing and ready to resolve it.
The Shotgun Approach
Now, some of my clients have asked, "Keith, why develop a minimum of five compelling reasons?" Well, think of it this way: If you are calling on someone for the first time, do you know exactly what this prospect's hot button is or what will motivate the prospect to listen to you? No, not exactly.
With several compelling reasons in your arsenal, however, you can tailor the one you use around each prospect that you're calling on, based on their position and what you feel is most important to them.
If you're using the same old benefit statement every time you cold call rather than a selection of compelling reasons, there's a chance that the benefit you are using may not be important to the prospect. If it's not a benefit to the prospect, they won't be interested in hearing about it. If this is the case, you have succeeded in continually reinforcing the wrong message with every prospect you contact.
As we discussed, there's a difference between what you think is important and what your prospect thinks is important. You just have to work on putting yourself in their position to uncover what they want and need to hear, rather than assuming what you think they need to hear or saying the same thing every other salesperson is saying.
There are many benefits to crafting your compelling reasons. First, you are going to weave them into your prospecting template, cover letter, presentation, e-mails, networking strategy, elevator speech, follow-up calls, and voice mails.
Second, you will be using these compelling reasons during your pre-call planning. Reviewing your compelling reasons before you begin to prospect will put you in the right mindset, refocus your efforts towards the value you can deliver, and remind you why your prospects need to speak with you!
If you find that you're having difficulty creating your own compelling reasons, that's perfectly normal. The fact is, this is a challenging exercise that requires some creative thinking and the ability to peel away at the traditional benefit statements in order to get to the core compelling reason. Enroll your boss or supervisor to assist you. Hire your own sales coach. If you are part of a salesforce then make this a team effort. Having an entire sales team cocreate these compelling reasons can be a great exercise for your next sales meeting.
WARNING: Perfection is paralysis. Do not attempt to make your compelling reasons "perfect" the first time around. Remember, they are not etched in stone. The more you use them, the more they will evolve. You will always have the opportunity to refine them after you begin using them and have a chance to gauge their effectiveness, as well as the reactions from your prospects and customers.
Take a Test Drive
At this point you may be thinking, "How will I know if my compelling reasons are, in fact, compelling enough?" Here are a few barometers you can use to gauge their effectiveness:
Share them with a coworker, supervisor, or even one of your clients that you have a great relationship with and ask for this person's opinion. Most of all, try them out on yourself! After all, if these reasons motivate and excite you enough to want to share them with your prospects, then you are on the right path.
Finally, get out there and try them on some new prospects. Remember, the more you use them, the quicker they will evolve into something better. The point is, just get out there and start using them. You can always fine-tune as you go.
Developing your top five compelling reasons why a prospect should speak with you provides a unique opportunity to reconnect with your product, to reinvent and reposition what it is you are selling, and discover a greater value you can offer that your prospects can connect with on a deeper level.
About Keith Rosen, MCC — The Executive Sales Coach
Keith Rosen is the executive sales coach that top corporations, executives, and sales professionals call first. As an engaging speaker, Master Coach, and well-known author of many books and articles, Keith is one of the foremost authorities on coaching people to achieve positive change in their attitude, behavior, and results. For his work as a pioneer and leader in the coaching profession, Inc. magazine and Fast Company named Keith one of the five most respected and influential executive coaches in the country.
If you're ready for better results quickly, contact Keith about personal or team coaching and training at 1-888-262-2450 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Keith Rosen online at Profit Builders and be sure to sign up for his free newsletter The Winners Path.