Solution Selling Essentials: How to Stimulate Buyer Interest (1/2)
Parts of this post adapted from the Solution Selling Fieldbook (2005, McGraw-Hill, ISBN 978-0071456074 by Eades, Touchstone, and Sullivan).
The ability to stimulate the interest of prospective buyers is the lifeblood of sales and marketing professionals. Those that can’t master this ability will always find their sales pipeline wanting more. As important as stimulating prospect interest is to sustained success in business, it continues to be one of the most pressing challenges for everyone.
A survey commissioned by Sales Performance International and conducted by Equation Research polled sales professionals about the most critical job challenges they faced on a consistent basis. Over 50% of those surveyed said that “prospecting for new opportunities” was one of their top barriers to success. In a separate survey of sales executives, CSO Insights found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of sales teams need improvement in generating new leads.
Sales Teams’ Ability to Generate New Leads
(Copyright 2009, CSO Insights, used with permission.)
Many sales professionals hate prospecting. They call it all sorts of different names – “business development,” “interest creation,” “demand generation” – because just the mere mention of the word “prospecting” causes people to become uncomfortable.
People who find prospecting to be a challenge usually do so because of one of four factors:
- They don’t properly define prospecting in the first place. Prospecting should be viewed as the ability to create and stimulate interest. Calling a buyer and asking “Are you looking to buy what I’m selling?” isn’t stimulating interest – that’s polling.
- They forget “No pain, no change.” Their message doesn’t target a potential pain of the prospect, but rather focuses on the selling organization’s product or service.
- They create tension, not interest. If their goal is strictly to sell something instead of earning the right to have a conversation, distrust and discomfort arise for both parties.
- They have a fear of rejection. Some rejections would go away by avoiding the three factors just mentioned. However, some rejections simply come with the territory – not all prospects will be interested in your message or your offering.
Levels of Buyer Need
You will find buyers at one of three different levels of need. By recognizing the level of need of your buyer, you can determine the best tactics for developing the opportunity.
- Level 1: Latent Pain – The buyer is not actively attempting to address their pain and may be unaware that a potential solution even exists. They may have failed at previous attempts to resolve the pain and therefore, have rationalized that other solutions as too expensive, complicated, or risky. In other cases, they may simply be ignorant that they have a pain.
- Level 2: Admitted Pain – The buyer is willing to discuss pain, difficulty, or dissatisfaction with their existing situation. The buyer admits their pain but does not know how to address it.
- Level 3: Vision of a Solution – The buyer has admitted their pain, accepts responsibility for solving it, can visualize the details of a solution, and understands how it will address their pain.
Effective Prospecting Messages
To stimulate the interest of your prospects, you must incorporate their pain into your messages. Consider whether your approach stands up to this Business Development Checklist:
Do your initial messages to prospects:
- Take less than 30 seconds to deliver?
- Avoid sounding scripted and insincere?
- Target a pain the prospect might have or can relate to?
- Imply that you have helped peers of the prospect resolve a potentially similar situation?
- Avoid a detailed description of your company history?
- Avoid in-depth descriptions of your products and/or services?
- Exclude asking the prospect to buy anything or to schedule a meeting?
- Avoid asking the prospect to admit an assumed pain?
A simple way to ensure that your messages meet these criteria is to use an effective template for a prospecting telephone call, as follows:
This is __________________ (your name) with __________________ (your organization). You and I haven’t spoken before, but we have been working with __________________ (target industry) companies like yours for the last _____ (#) years. One of the chief concerns we are hearing (lately) from other __________________ (job title similar to prospect’s) is their frustration with __________________ (job title’s likely critical issue/pain). We have been able to help our customers address this issue. Would you like to know how?
Note several things about this simple template, which is called a Business Development Prompter:
- First, it telegraphs that this is a sales call: “You and I haven’t spoken before…”. This is deliberate – too many salespeople attempt to fool prospects into listening by obscuring the reason for the call. Our research shows that this rarely works. It’s better to be honest and straightforward, and get to the heart of the matter. Real prospects appreciate this – the one thing buyers abhor the most is salespeople who waste their time with irrelevant pitches.
- It provides a basis for credibility: “We have been working with companies like yours.” If you have the relevant experience, use it as the basis for your prospecting calls. In fact, if you specialize in a particular industry niche, you should say so – it explains clearly why you are calling the prospect.
- It focuses on a customer business issue – their probable pain: “One of the chief concerns we are hearing…”. If you’ve done the proper pre-call research, you can make a good guess about what this pain may be and greatly increase the relevancy of your call to the prospect.
- It provides a benefit for speaking further: “Would you like to know how?” You are offering useful information in exchange for further dialogue – a fair trade.
- It is designed to stimulate curiosity. Note that it does not ask for a meeting or further commitment from the prospect. It only asks if the prospect would like to know more. This is a much easier step for a prospect to agree with – it is certainly easier than to take the “leap of faith” that most salespeople ask of prospects with a meeting or further commitment of valuable time.
This kind of customer-focused, solution-centric message is much more effective than the usual, product-oriented, hard charging “sales pitch” used by most salespeople. And, it makes an effective script for voice mail messages, too.
If you find that you are having trouble stimulating the interest of potential prospects, then perhaps your messages need to be more focused. Use the Business Development Checklist and the template for an effective Business Development Prompter message, and see how your success rate improves.