If you’ve been in sales for even a little while you’ve been caught in this situation. You’re talking to a prospective client and they seem detached, disinterested, not really there. They give 1 word answers to questions and don’t seem very excited. They’re not asking you any questions, not contributing to the conversation, not willing to commit to clear next steps.
At other times, you thought that you had great engagement with prospect and then…silence? The first few calls went well, but seemingly all of a sudden the prospect disappeared and a few weeks later you’re considering filing a missing person’s report? They’re gone. No show-ed the last meeting. Not answering your calls or replying to your emails. You’re left thinking, ‘’What the hell happened, things were going so well?’’
To better understand what’s really going on here let’s go back a couple thousand years and rip a page out of the Confucian philosopher Xun Kuang’s opus, Xunzi.
Tell me and I forget.
Teach me and I may remember.
Involve me and I learn.
Consultative sales people do not sell and close. We collaborate, earn trust and gain agreement. We help people learn. And effective collaboration and learning is rarely achieved through the 1-way communications. Both sides need to contribute. To achieve better engagement with your prospect, the key ingredient is involvement. To pull prospective clients into the process of analyzing problems and building solutions as participants, not spectators.
10 Hacks for Better Engagement with Prospect
Step 1. Be enthusiastic. Years ago my grandma taught me an age-old word in the Sicilian dialect. Calteplassima. Direct translation – someone with ‘’dead blood.’’ It was how she described people with no energy, no life, no zeal. Tone is infectious. If you’re low others will lower themselves. If you’re up, other will rise up around you. Check your energy level before each interaction. Bring the excitement. Don’t be a Calteplassima.
Step 2. Be Human. It’s been talked about and written about a lot…largely because it’s true. All sales people work H-to-H sales, Human-to-Human. Don’t be scripted. Scripts aren’t human and it’s easy for someone to tune you out and disconnect. Don’t use robotic tone or phrasing. Robots clearly aren’t human. Essentially, be yourself. People are quick to pick up on disingenuous behavior, so keep it real.
Step 3. Focus on their world early. This means deliver value. In order to deliver value you must first define value. Value is not what we as sales consultants believe to be valuable, but what the perspective client deems valuable. It’s our job to involve the client early in the definition of value, then connect how we help to that definition. Be curious and use the 3 Key Types of Sales Questions to understand their world deeply.
Step 4. Get to the heart of the matter. People make decisions based on emotion (their hearts) and support those decisions with logic (their heads). So while understanding the nuts and bolts of problems (needs, pains, challenges, goals, etc.) are important, the meaning and emotions tied to that information is far more powerful in their decision making process. (Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask ‘’So what does that mean to you personally?’’ when you learn about challenges and goals. In competitive sales, instead of “What criteria will you base your decision on who you choose?” try, ‘’What do you need to feel good about the company you decide to work with?’’ Trust, confidence, belief and comfort are emotions, not logical decisions and are the gateways to better engagement with prospects.)
Step 5. Present from their world, with their words. If you have done an effective job of learning and discovery then you already have the prospect involved. Maintain that involvement by connecting what they contributed to everything you present. (Pro Tip: To guarantee you are maintaining your prospect’s involvement, allow yourself to present new material only with the beginning phrase ‘’You told me…’’ This will force you to start first in their world with their words, then connect it back to yours with new value or information.)
Step 6. Ask for involvement regularly. First, if you are using the phrase “Does that make sense?’’ to confirm and check in during presentations I will ask that you stop reading this article right now, find a mirror, slap yourself across the face and tell yourself you will never do this again. Confirming information with the question ‘’Does that make sense?’’ does not make sense. People almost always say yes and we have no idea if that yes is real. Does the point really make sense to them? If it does make sense, does it make sense with the same value to them as it makes to us? We have no idea. Worse still, the closed question stifles the all so important involvement we need in order to achieve better engagement with prospects. (Pro Tip: Instead of closed question check-ins, try using opened or investigative questions after presenting new information. ‘’Tell me how you see this impacting your business based on what we’ve been talking about.’’)
Step 7. Pause. Yes, pause. Allow for open spaces during conversations. Open spaces allow people to think and add more value. Open spaces in dialogue give people the opportunity for provide more detail and thus increases involvement, deeper learning ultimately a higher level of engagement.
Step 8. Schedule next steps. Welcome to Sales Club. There are just 2 rules of Sales Club. Rule #1. Always have a clearly defined next step scheduled in YOUR prospect’s calendar. Rule #2. ALWAYS HAVE A CLEARLY DEFINED NEXT STEP SCHEDULED IN YOUR PROSPECT’S CALENDAR. You need to be the Taylor Durdin of maintaining the next steps; unflinching, unbending, make no exceptions about it. People are creatures of habit and will easily allow themselves to just go on living with a problem if you let them. If you truly care about helping them, you won’t let this happen. The next step commitment is another small way of asking for involvement and encouraging engagement.
Step 9. Step back. No matter how much effort you put in with these first 8 steps, you will still fail at achieving better engagement with prospects some of the time. If you notice this, be willing to step out of the smaller details of your process and enter into a higher level conversation of ‘’Why are we talking right now?’’ (Pro-tip: Try full, complete, 100% transparency. ‘’I think we should take a minute to stop right now. In my experience when someone I am consulting is not asking me questions and answering mine without much substance it usually means that there isn’t much interest or engagement about this issue. At least not at this moment. What do you think?’’ This will not only draw a line in the sand on the engagement topic, it will humanize you and make you a real person. The real person you show them could be someone they appreciate for transparency and reengage or…keep reading).
Step 10. Be willing to walk away. If you have executed effectively on engagement best practice and still not getting the level of involvement needed for a productive conversation, be willing to walk away. Forcing learning is like forcing open the petals of a flower. You can do it, but it usually ends badly. If the prospect is truly shut down and not staying engaged, your time is likely better spent elsewhere.