Salespeople: The Lack Of This One Thing Is Killing Your Deals and Wasting Your Time

Working with B2B business owners all over the globe, the number 1 challenge I come across is sales. In particular, closing new deals and gaining new clients.

It’s no surprise that the most popular sales articles and books are all about closing. For many a frustrated salesperson and business owner, closing seems to be the most challenging aspect of the sales process.

But in fact, closing is not the most important element of sales. Every closing tactic and technique in the world is useless without having one key element in place.

Qualification.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the most polished, practised and professional salesperson on the planet. If you’re not speaking with a qualified prospect you will not be successful.

What is true qualification?

For an individual to be qualified, they need to be:

  • Experiencing an immediate challenge related to your service.
  • Actively in the market for a solution.
  • Open and receptive to speaking with you.
  • Able to make a final decision on purchasing your solution.
  • Able to afford your services.

Without these 5 pillars in place, your time is wasted.

So the goal of increasing sales, should not focus on the end of the funnel i.e closing, it should focus on the beginning of the funnel i.e qualifying leads as quickly as possible and filling your pipeline with these qualified leads.

In the book 80/20 Sales and Marketing by Perry Marshall, he states that cold calling is a cardinal sin of sales. Whilst I believe there is plenty of merit in the value of cold calling as a tool for finding qualified leads, I agree that senior salespeople or business owners should not be spending their time on cold calling or speaking with prospects who do not fit their qualification metrics.

By only speaking with qualified prospects, much of the sales process takes care of itself because you are only speaking with people you can genuinely help with your service. All that is needed once qualification is in place is a solid sales process, a keen listening ear and dedication to finding the right solution to the challenge at hand for the prospect.

Remember, sales is service and once you have a qualified lead in front of you, it’s your duty to serve them with your solution.

So the question arises, how do we find qualified leads?

I recently took a trip to Greece, exploring the old town markets. Walking the cobbled streets, around every rustic corner and down every passage there were salespeople in their rawest form. They aggressively clamoured towards anyone and everyone that walked past their Taverna, “Hey, come in for a drink I’ll give you a great deal” or “Do you want to eat something, come in for some Gyros or Souvlaki”.

I know that this prospecting is the lifeblood of these small businesses and I admired the persistence of some of the salespeople, bold in the face of rejection after rejection.

The problem was, almost every approach was the same. They were simply pitching without understanding my needs. Nobody was differentiating themselves. The repetitive approaches immediately led me to put my guard up against anyone who approached me with a polite “no thanks”. Continuing our exploration of the old town, eventually, we perused past a small, intimate looking Taverna…

This time it was different. Instead of an aggressive pitch, an old Greek man caught me with a warm smile. After a casual hello, he said, “It’s hot today right? (I agreed, sweat beginning to form on my brow in the 33 degrees heat) “Would you like to take a break from walking and get some shade?”. Hmm, actually now you mention it, yes I would (by asking this question, he began to qualify me as a customer).

“Ah! You are English, whereabouts are you from, London? Manchester?” Yes! From Oxford actually, do you know it?

Now I’m beginning to sense that this guy actually has an interest in me, he cares enough to learn some more about his potential customer, by asking this question he builds some rapport, and activates my self-disclosure feedback loop to keep me engaged in the conversation, just enough to ask another well-placed question.

“Are you thirsty? Would you like to drink, maybe an ice cold draught beer? Or a glass of wine? We have some seats right here, under the shade.” Actually, yes I am thirsty, thanks for asking… Hey Kate, let’s take a seat here and get a drink… Sold!

Simply by taking the time to show that he understood my pain points (too hot, thirsty, tired from walking) and ask some questions to make an effort to qualify me as a customer, not only did he get to the heart of my challenge and make me realise I needed a solution (it was hot, and I wanted a nice cold beer to cool me down and get out of the sun).

But as a positive side effect of asking qualifying questions, he built rapport and trust. He proved that he cared about me as a customer and not just my wallet. Yamas!

Simply by asking how he could best serve my needs, we chose his Taverna instead of the dozens of others offering the same thing. The difference was, instead of “pitch slapping” me, he diligently qualified me by leading with the challenges at hand, instead of a solution with no context.

Needless to say, the service was great, I thoroughly enjoyed an ice cold pint of Mythos and we even got upsold on some food too!

Why is this story relevant? Because the same thing that happens on the old town streets of Rhodes, happens every day on social media, in telemarketing and sales.

People pitch blindly without taking the time to set the context, showcase the challenges they solve, ask well-placed questions to qualify their prospects. And in turn, by not following this process they only show their potential customers that they do not genuinely care about serving their needs, but instead just about making the sale.

Always ask two questions before pitching…

  1. What are the biggest challenges this person faces?
  2. How can I set the context by leading with these challenges, to prove I understand them?

This change in approach to marketing and lead generation, not only increases your likelihood of generating qualified leads through social, email, telemarketing or face to face sales. But it saves you the effort of speaking for too long with people that are not a good fit for your service and wasting both yours and the prospects time.

It also builds huge rapport from the start of your relationship and positions you, the salesperson or business owner as somebody that genuinely cares about helping your customer.

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