I was privy to a conversation recently between two people who have both had a lot of experience and a lot of success in selling business to business. The heart of their discussion dealt with handling new prospects who call in for the first time and want information about your product or service. One of them said “never give price information or try to sell over the phone!” The other said “wrong!”
It was an interesting discussion!
I can see good reasons on both sides of the discussion. On one hand, you’re almost always better off if you meet a prospect in person. This gives you a better opportunity to connect with them and develop some rapport. Also, many prospects do not have all the information they need to make the best buying decision. They often think they do. But I have found someone who knows their product or service well and is good at asking relevant questions can often help them see things they have not thought of.
And, this is a primary role for a salesperson. You need to help a customer make the best decision they can. You do this by helping them understand how your product or service may or may not fit with their situation and their goals.
But to do this you need to be able to communicate with them. And face to face meetings reduce barriers and make better communications possible.
On the other hand, valuable relationships can be started on the phone. These days people are more used to doing entire deals on the phone, without ever meeting face to face. For many people, their time is better spent in other ways than meeting with a salesperson.
Also, the idea that you’re going to try to force someone to meet with you is not a good way to start a business relationship. It says you want the relationship to be based on your terms, your goals and your needs. It’s all about you.
This is exactly how NOT to start a relationship, business or otherwise.
As a customer or potential customer, I HATE when the person on the other end of the phone does not listen to what I’m saying. If they refuse to answer my questions and they continue to focus only on what they want, I will end the conversation. And I certainly would not do business with them.
I understand, both people are trying to accomplish a certain outcome. And this is often where the problem begins. If their goals are not aligned, you have the potential for trouble.
Too many salespeople who say “never give your price over the phone” are looking to simply make a sale. They’re focused on getting what they want, how they want it.
Too many buyers are focused on getting information in the context of their current understanding. What they forget is they don’t necessarily have enough information to ask the right questions.
The key to getting a business deal done is to get the goals of both people aligned. Then they can work together and both accomplish their goals.
A better goal for the salesperson might be to: “develop a valuable business relationship with someone who wants and needs what my product or service can do for them.”
This way they are not focused only on making a sale. They are focused on discovering if this lead is a legitimate prospect. They discover this by communicating with them and learning about them. To do this requires they develop some rapport and a relationship. It requires they earn some trust from the potential customer.
You do this by being helpful, open, honest, friendly and not by controlling or manipulating the situation to meet only your needs. It also requires a service mentality and a long-term focus. By focusing on serving the other person, you help a relationship develop naturally. You give them a good reason to trust you. By having a long-term outlook, you understand that this person might not become a customer right away but that’s okay. If you help them and work with them, you have a much better chance they will do business with you at some point in the future.
A better goal for the buyer might be to: “acquire all the information I need to make a good buying decision.”
This way they are focused on getting useful, accurate information before they decide to buy. It means they are open to learning as much as they can about the product or service rather than just wanting answers to their current questions. It means they understand they might not know the right questions to ask yet so they’ll take time to learn them.
So, rather than have a rigid rule like “never sell over the phone” it’s better to focus on your goal. Who do you want to do business with? How can your product or service help them meet their goals? How can you help them learn enough about your product or service to make the best buying decision they can?
Be of service and focus on the long-term. You’ll have more quality customers who will stay with you and who will tell others about you.