What do you replace "sales" with? Just have a conversation. Executives have conversations all day long, they have conversations with people they don't know, with people that call them to make introductions, with people they meet at events, and with just about anyone that doesn't come off like they are trying to "sell" them something. A conversation is non-threatening, it's not something they need to reject, push back on, or ignore....it's just a conversation.
Most traditional sales training even today is focused on numbers. Treating leads as numbers, calls as numbers, activity as numbers, goals as numbers, all the metrics are impersonal measurements based on numbers--so what that does it also converts the tone of the dialog you are having into something very impersonal. They are 1 of 50 you need to call today, if they don't do what you want them to--then move on to the next one. Ask if there's a budget, are they planning to buy, when, will they meet, and so on.
That worked (kind of) during the era when prospects were highly dependent on sales reps to provide information about the company, they needed a rep to engage with to make the changes they needed at their company.Before the internet became a very sophisticated infrastructure of finding information on just about anything they want to implement, they HAD to talk to a rep before they could get a demo. The HAD to meet with a rep to get more precise information, to get references, to evaluate if your company had the solution they need. Now the tables have turned, and sales reps need prospects to talk to them. However, the prospects don't need a rep until they are very far along in their decision. Up to 75% of the initial sales cycle that reps controlled and were heavily involved in is now in the control of the prospect--which is why they have such a low tolerance for "sales calls" today.
So how do you transition from a selling mindset to a conversation mindset?
- Reframe your mental objectives for an initial call. Is the goal really to know if they have a budget or is it to know if they are planning to do some work in your solution area and are open to further discussions? Two very different discussions.
- Change the dynamic of the conversation from creating an immediate class distinction, i.e.,"am I calling at a bad time?" or "if I can have just 2 minutes of your time?" to "I'm calling to see if it makes sense..." Talk like a peer and you will get treated like one, if you open a discussion by talking up to your prospect, you immediately set the tone you are beneath them and potentially undeserving of their time. It creates a dynamic that is subtle but exists. This is key. If you open a discussion instead of selling, you get responses. Email is a perfect example of missing the point of opening a true peer dialog. Here are a couple opening lines from recent emails I have received that are for enterprise business solutions or services:
- As Chief Executive Officer of The Vanella Group Inc, would you be interested to purchase.
- Don't wait, buy today....
- Register today for 25% off with the coupon codes...
Next time you call a prospect, set your goal to have a conversation and just understand more about them...you'll be surprised the lack of resistance and push-back you'll get, and in return you'll see a much higher level of actual opportunities as a result of removing the "selling" from your call.