The order taking salesperson is quickly disappearing due to the internet. Many websites make it easy to order from them on-line than with a “live human being.” Their e-commerce site remembers your address, credit card number and gives you free shipping to boot. They don’t bore you with 101 ways to close or try to sell you something you don’t want in order to hit a quota. There are some sales pundits predicting that the profession of sales, as we know it, may disappear by the year 2020.
So what type of salesperson will survive and not join the ranks of the sales dinosaurs? It is the salesperson that can make their prospects think and look at their business from a different perspective. Our favorite phrase when teaching this concept is, “Make your prospect’s brain hurt.” In other words, make them think and challenge them on their current business model and beliefs. Ask the tough questions that other salespeople are afraid to bring up.
For example, when a prospect shares a “pain,” the common response from an order taking salesperson is to believe that the prospect has a problem that is big enough to fix AND is committed to investing time and money to improve. Their emotions take over the call, they get excited, ask a few questions and then launch into solutions and recommendations.
The “make their brains hurt” salesperson doesn’t believe so quickly. It’s not that she thinks the prospect is lying, she want to show up as a consultant so she pushes back and looks for evidence that the prospect’s pain is important enough to solve.
In our business, we might hear a prospect state this goal: “I want to grow the company 20% for the next three years.” The order taking salesperson hears a loud “cha-ching” with that statement and starts preparing a pitch for achieving that growth. The “make their brain hurt” approach redirects with questions such as:
- What’s the reason you want to grow 20%?
- What’s wrong with the current 10% growth you are experiencing?
- Are you committed to dealing with some of the issues that growth brings? Infrastructure, staffing, training, finding money for expansion?
- Is this the right time to grow? How do you know?
- Should you be looking at 30% growth? Is 20% shooting too low?
When you read the above, it might sound as if we are trying to talk the prospect out of the idea of growth. Not necessarily the case. What we are trying to do is engage the prospect’s brain and test his commitment level to growing his company.
This prospect doesn’t need one more adoring fan telling him how great his ideas are. (He has enough people at his company, trying to get a promotion, doing that.) He needs a truth teller that will push back, test his assumptions and make him think.
When’s the last time you made your prospect’s brain hurt? Make yourself relevant to prospects and customers by questioning the status quo. Get off auto pilot and ask the tough questions. It’s what you get paid to do.