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Prospecting & Qualifying

People hate prospecting, and that avoidance leads them away from it as their business grows. Get back to the basics of introductions, getting referrals, networking events, and even making cold calls.

Do you understand the prospect's decision process?  Are you reaching the decision maker?  Mary Crisci shows us how to systematically understand how the decision will be made, who will be involved, and what needs to happen.  The Decision step is step 5 of the Sandler 7-step sales process.

Successful prospecting is the combination of sales behaviors, attitude and techniques. We lead with behavior. And then we ensure our prospecting techniques are effective. Prospecting behaviors include....

Do you know how to hold your prospect accountable for a decision and avoid a think it over?
How do you qualify the prospect before giving a proposal or presentation?

People buy from people they like and trust. As a professional sales person, it's our role to establish that trust quickly and effectively. We use our Bonding and Rapport tool set to establish trust, find the prospect's motivations and drivers, and help the prospect decide if it makes sense to work together.

Prospects don't always share the full picture with you.  Sometimes, they even use you for "free consulting".  Ensure your prospects are qualified before investing the time to provide a quote.  <Go to the Video>

Do A Reality Check
Eliza, a new sales hire, had posted an abysmally low closing ratio in her first 60 days on
the job. She was spending most of her time with prospects who ended up picking her brain
for advice and information … and then disappearing. Frank, her manager, asked her
during a coaching session why she thought that was happening.....

Our goal in prospecting with our 30 second commercial is to uncover a need or challenge from our prospect that we can help solve. When we surface the need, we build conviction, and then set up a meeting.

If you are competing on price, you're in a losing proposition. Avoid the price game by...

Common wisdom is that buyers lie. The reality is... buyers don't lie, prospects lie... 

Using our bonding and rapport tools effectively is vital to developing our prospect's pain points. Thus we need to develop the trust that enables the prospect to reveal their true emotional pains, and then nurture them as we explore the pain. Revealing this pain not only builds the prospect's conviction to do business with us, but also creates an intimate bond between us and our prospect. This is a bond that is sustainable and the basis for a trusted advisor relationship.

Sandler Rule #30. Don't count a prospect as a sale, until the sale is closed. When you're in the sales process, you don't have the sale yet. 

Jim had been working on a big deal for four months. Before he gave his presentation, his sales manager asked, “Is this prospect qualified?”

Jim answered “Yes” with total confidence. The next day, however, he learned that a competitor had gotten the deal – because of a very recent change in his contact’s buying priorities...

In sales, you want to get the "yes" or “no” as soon as possible so you can move forward. Otherwise, your prospect might drag you along for weeks on end without giving a definitive answer. To be an effective salesperson, you must be an effective communicator. This is where Negative Reverse can help

Myra, a sales manager, scheduled a meeting with George, a salesperson who reported to her, to discuss his closing ratios. She was concerned about the high number of presentations George was making that were resulting in a “let’s think it over” response.

Are "selling" ... or "telling?" Highlight a potential problem. Get the prospect talking about it ... then shut up! Here's a reliable selling principle: during any given sales meeting, the prospect should be mostly talking and the salesperson mostly listening. David Sandler suggested that the prospect should be talking about 70 percent of the time. Typically, however, the opposite occurs. The salesperson feels compelled to talk about as many features, benefits, and unique selling points of his product or service as time permits ... in an attempt to "capture the prospect's interest." "Selling" is not about "telling." It's about...

Have you ever answered a prospect's question about a product or service only to wish later that you hadn't? In professional selling answering questions too quickly can hurt us.

Will, a new salesperson, had just begun a face-to-face meeting with Maria, the CEO of a big company that Will’s manager would have dearly loved Will to close. Right after the two sat down in Maria’s conference room, Maria asked:

“So, Will – how much do you know about our firm?”

No sooner did Will hear those words than he embarked on a long monologue about all the research he did to prepare for this meeting. It’s quite a speech. In fact, it takes him about ten minutes to cover everything. If he’d been watching Maria a little more closely, he’d have noticed her eyes beginning to glaze over at about the fourth minute.

Find out how Tim Lambros, of Wealth Smart Trust Advisors, used Sandler Training to double his close rate in less than 3 months. 

While sales folklore says buyers are liars, this is not the case. Prospects lie.... all the time. When prospects become buyers, they stop lying.

How can you close more sales? First priority... ASK BETTER QUESTIONS. But how? 

Ken’s closing ratio had been the lowest on the team for four months running. Juanita, his manager, asked him to meet with her privately so they could figure out, together, what the possible obstacles to better performance might be.

DISC behavior profiles allow us to identify our prospects behaviors and adapt our style to them. This allows us to communicate and influence more effectively and build deeper relationships. We can also understand the prospects triggers and decision process to increase our sales.

The first rule of stalls and objections is avoid them. You avoid them by using a solid sales system that the prospect is fully qualified. If you do get objections, understand there are 4 types. Knowing which type of objections you have helps you navigate through them and close the sale.

Milt had missed his sales quota for three straight quarters. Maria, his new sales manager, had tried to get Milt’s previous manager, Bob, to share his thoughts on why Milt was consistently failing to hit his targets. Bob’s answer was direct: “The guy just flat-out doesn’t care about hitting quota. He’s not cut out for sales anymore. He used to be committed. Now he’s lost interest. Senior management is giving him one more shot. If he can’t cut it this quarter, with you, the plan is to let him go. This is Milt’s moment of truth.”

Betty’s quarterly numbers were low. Her manager, Milt, asked her to do some role-plays so they could identify potential areas for improvement. They spent about 20 minutes roleplaying through various scenarios – at which point Milt called a time-out and asked, “Betty, do you realize you’re positioning us in exactly the same way with every person to whom you speak?” 

Prospecting is not about selling. When we're prospecting, we're qualifying or disqualifying a prospect, and if they are qualified, setting up a meeting. The meeting gives us enough time to understand their challenges and whether we can help them.

Jane was struggling. Most of her deals weren’t moving forward, and her quarterly income target seemed well out of reach.

Prospecting starts with an initial discussion between you and your potential client. We use a "pattern interrupt" to avoid looking like a stereotypical pushy sales person. Then we proceed with questions to determine if the person we're talking to has a challenge that fits what we do.

Prospecting starts with three key elements: Behavior, Attitude and technique. We develop consistent prospecting behaviors that will help us achieve our new business goals. Combine these behaviors with the right attitude. This means keeping our role separate from our identity, being fearless, and having fun. 

After we've done all the steps to ensure the prospect is not disqualified, then we're ready to provide a proposal or presentation; we call this fulfillment.
We start with an up front contract, we understand their pain, budget and decision process. Now we simply fulfill what they need.

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Have you ever got to the end of a sales call only to find out about the hidden decision maker? One of the key qualifications that we need to establish with our prospects is how the decision will be made. We must determine the "who", "what", "where" , "why", "when", "how" of the decision process. And how we'll handle it if we're not talking to the decision maker.

Actions speak louder than words
Many sales organizations get caught up in the details of educating or convincing their prospect to buy. Some sellers might even ask “What do we need to do to earn your business?” and worry about what they can do to facilitate the buying process. “What do you see as next steps?” is another common question that salespeople ask. These sellers lose sight of the fact that it’s the prospect that needs to do something for a sale to happen.

Juan’s sales numbers for the quarter were sharply down; lately, he felt he was struggling with his prospecting. He asked his manager Anita for help.

Juanita, three months into her first sales job, was having problems with her closing numbers. Her ratio was the lowest on the team, and she was far behind her quota for the month. She asked her boss Cliff for help.

At about the forty-minute mark of a productive coaching discussion – a session in which Juanita had addressed many tough questions – she found herself face to face with what Cliff called “the last difficult question of the day.” Here’s what it sounded like.

Referrals and introductions should be central to building a quality pipeline for our business. However, in my research, most of us are leaving up to 75% of the available referrals and introductions on the table..... 

Prospects have their own system for managing a sales call. And, as a sales professional, if you don't have a system you're probably falling victim to the prospect's system. The four-step prospect's system:

The middle of a selling situation is not the right time to think about what questions to ask. We need to prepare our questions in advance. Start by developing pain indicator questions that help your prospect reveal their challenges.

Rosita had been behind quota before, but never by this much and never for this long. When her manager, Sam, offered to take her out to lunch, she figured she was either looking at very good news ... or very bad news.
“There’s no easy way to say this first part,” Sam said quietly once they were seated at their table, “so I’ll just say it. You’re on probation. You’ve got sixty days to turn things around or we’re letting you go.”

Use Sandler's negative reverse technique to draw your prospects in, and test their conviction.


Have you ever waited for the end of your proposal or presentation to reveal your price to a prospect? Did you surprise your prospect? There is a better way.

Most of us are on a never ending quest to refine our 30 second commercial. Here's a few tips to consider for yours...

Do you have a clear and explicit agreement with your prospect about what's going to happen next? Did you hear 'smoke screen' comments in your exchange and avoided asking for clarity? This is mutual mystification.

People buy emotionally, and justify their decision logically. Use the Sandler Pain Funnel to get beyond surface-level problems down to the emotional reasons for your prospect to buy.

Sandler's "Dummy Curve" is when you act confused or uncertain to help your prospect draw their own conclusions.

How many times have you engaged a prospect, had what you though was a good meeting, maybe even sent a proposal...and then your prospect goes into hiding?

Ask salespeople to list their least favorite selling activities, and you can count on “prospecting” being at the top of the list. And, the least favorite of all prospecting activities is unquestionably making cold calls.

Price becomes a roadblock when you present a product or service with a price tag that is misaligned with the prospect’s expectation. Either you didn’t uncover the prospect’s price expectations prior to your presentation, or if yo did, you ignored it and presented something higher than the prospect's expectations. Either way, price was not the real problem, you are!

Each prospect has a different level of discomfort or desire for your good solution. Let’s call that motivation whether positive or negative--“pain.”

Prospects lie. Not because their bad people, but because they're defensive against overly aggressive sales people. Don't take it personally. Just learn how to help your prospect feel at ease and build trust and rapport.

Sometimes we find a problem that won’t make your prospect or customer happy. It could be a missed deadline, an error, a price increase...anything. Too often we don’t want to come clean. ....

The first thing you need to remember in your sales process is that your questions just begin when the prospect first tells you what they believe to be their "problem." When you treat their first symptoms with some skepticism, and follow up with carefully selected questions, you'll find that the real problem will later reveal itself.

Too often you may hear “let’s see what you’ve got” or "send me a proposal", which turns into a premature presentation (aka, free consulting). Maybe it matches your prospect’s desires—maybe not. It can be a wild shot in the dark. Try a better way. Get some answers first…

Ask salespeople to list their least favorite selling activities, and “cold calling” is at the top of the list. Why? Because prospects hate getting cold calls, and most sales people do them 100% wrong. Cold calling is not a selling activity, it’s a marketing activity...

As a pro in your business, you need to be skeptical (in a kind way) and diagnose the symptoms the prospect brings you. Play doctor—by asking the questions to reveal the underlying causes.

Isn’t it curious how we as prospects have been trained by our sales culture? Even most of us who value honesty lie to salespeople. It’s become part of the sales game…to act really interested…don’t give up real information…maybe to lie about how much I have to spend or how I’m already wowed by your product. We forget, prospects lie.

Your prospect should be the one talking.

We often think we have to overcome a prospect's objections. Instead, we need to ask better questions, get clarity and lead the prospect to overcome their own objections.

When you go on a sales call, you bring your "box of candy." Your box of candy is your knowledge and expertise. Many salespeople are eager to show how smart they are, and they're excited about how great their product or service is. As soon as the prospect expresses a need that can be addressed by the salesperson's product or service, the salesperson moves into presentation mode, highlighting features and benefits. They spill their "Candy,". There's a time for all that "candy,": during a formal presentation, demonstration, or proposal review. But not before you've fully qualified your prospect and identified their true emotional reasons for buying. -Video-

Have you ever had a prospect tell you, "I need to think it over?" What does "let me think about it" mean? It usually means a "slow no". Here's how to avoid the dreaded think it over. Give people permission to say "No."

You’ve had a series of great discussions with a prospect, taken lots of great notes, and you’ve developed the proverbial “killer presentation.” You’ve started to deliver that presentation, and you’ve gotten all kinds of positive signals from the prospect: encouraging body language, words of approval, that kind of thing. Things seemed promising. Then you got to the final slide, the slide everything else was supposed to justify: the price. And all the positive signals stopped cold.

Two four letter words that make both sales people and prospects shiver. No one likes to make them and those who say they do probably haven’t made any.

When was the last time you bought something because a salesperson told you to? Not often. Great salespeople help prospects to discover, explore and dream of their wants.

Have you ever had a potential customer suddenly go dark, after weeks or months of engagement? You’ve been building a relationship. The prospect has demonstrated interest in your product. They even asked for a presentation and then a proposal. All of the sudden…. Nothing. Calls go to voice mail. Emails go unanswered. What happened? ...

When you’ve tried all the things you know how to do, and your prospect won’t move forward. There’s still an option. Take on the role of a “consultant.”

Have you ever answered a prospects question only to find out that your answer actually stalled the sales process? Some questions you are better off getting clarification on before responding. At Sandler Training, we use the REVERSING technique to achieve this.

How many times have you left a sales call thinking something was going to happen only to find out later that your prospect pulled a vanishing act? Did you have "happy ears"? As a group, salespeople have a common flaw: They tend to only hear things they want to hear, and seem to struggle with just coming right out and asking a prospect exactly what they want to know. -Video-

You have a prospect who has “applied the brakes” in the sales process. Maybe your phone calls don’t get returned. Maybe you get stalls. “Think it overs.” Maybe you realize that you’re chasing your prospect.....

Are you are ready to expand your online presence and start building your LinkedIn network strategically? If so, you should know that there are two ways you can approach your connections. You can either take the marketing approach, and build as many connections as possible, and expand your reach to as many people as possible … or you can take the sales approach, and limit your network connections to people you actually know and can build relationships with.

Have you ever been in the middle of delivering a presentation to a prospect ... when you noticed that he or she seemed to have completely tuned out of whatever it was you were saying? What did you do? Did you “sell harder”? Did you give up?

Have you ever put off prospecting and faced an income crisis as a result? The salesperson that claims to “like” prospecting hasn’t prospected. Often, when salespeople say the like prospecting what they mean is: “I don’t mind paying the price of prospecting to reach my objectives.” However, prospecting doesn't have to be as painful as many people make it.....