What do sales and law have in common? Not enough. I am married to a prosecutor, and the more I learn about his business, the more I realize how much the sales profession can learn from the legal profession.
What would happen if we adapted best practices from law to sales? What would happen if your sales team had to present its latest proposal to a sales jury of 12? Would the sales jury determine, beyond reasonable doubt, that there is enough evidence from the prospect to:
- Determine if the problem presented by the prospect is a big enough problem to fix?
- Invest time and money in fixing the problem?
- Make necessary changes to go to the next level?
If your answers are no, you may be open to learning about skills taught in Sales Prosecution 101.
Skill No. 1: Skepticism
Trial lawyers are trained in gathering information. They are trained to question everything twice. An investigator brings a case to a prosecutor. The prosecutor questions the investigator. The police department brings a case to a prosecutor. The prosecutor questions the police force.
Why? They are making sure the evidence presented is solid, without holes.
Salespeople by nature are not skeptical. They are trusting and optimistic. When the prospect throws out a problem, the salesperson automatically believes them. They start buying "the buying signal." As a result, they stop questioning, start believing and begin presenting solutions to a prospect that hasn't produced enough evidence the problem is big enough to fix. The result: No conviction, no close.
Sales managers can help their team develop this skeptical mindset by being skeptical. Ask:
- Why do you believe this is a big enough problem for the prospect to fix?
- What happens if the prospect doesn't fix the problem?
- How much is the problem costing them? Today? In one year?
- Why are they looking to solve the problem now?
Skill No. 2: Critical thinking skills
Prior to marrying a prosecutor, I thought law school was all about learning the law. I since have learned it's more about learning to think and apply knowledge. The information age requires that the sales force of the future possess critical-thinking skills.
In the old days of selling, salespeople were valued because of their product knowledge. Today, product knowledge is viewed as a commodity. The Web has made it easy to access information at a low cost.
Prospects need and value sales consultants who take a plethora of information, create a new solution and help them look at their business from a 360-degree view. In other words, they are looking for a trusted adviser relationship, not a sales relationship.
Sales managers help develop critical-thinking skills and trusted adviser relationships by asking their sales team to focus on big-picture questions vs. problem-focused questions. A trusted adviser knows the following about their prospect:
- Best customer profile.
- Trends in the industry.
- Biggest competition; new players on the horizon.
- Marketing strategy.
- Products or services providing the greatest growth for the future.
- How it is positioning itself in the market.
Skill No. 3: Seek the truth
Prosecutors will ask the questions, apply critical-thinking skills and seek the truth. If a prosecutor discovers there is not enough evidence or proof to take the case to trial, they don't.
The sales profession has a reputation of not caring about prospects and trying to sell at all costs. The salesperson earns this reputation by presenting proposals when there isn't enough evidence the problem is big enough to solve, or trying to sell a solution that is not the company's expertise, such as sales trainers teaching time management.
Sales managers can grow the integrity of their team by coaching the salesperson to "call it." If there is not enough evidence being shared by the prospect, seek the truth. Be up front with your prospects and state, "I am not hearing enough reasons for you to switch. What am I missing?"
Or, "I have to be up front with you. It sounds like you need this. That is not our specialty. I will be happy to refer you to someone that can serve you better."
You may lose the sale today, but you will build a relationship forever. Be skeptical, develop your critical-thinking skills and seek the truth. Your team will uncover more evidence and better evidence, and prove beyond reasonable doubt your solution is the best.
For your next sales meeting, schedule an evening watching "Law and Order." It could be your best sales training class to date.
Colleen Stanley, Chief Selling Officer