Jill Konrath

 

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How Would You Address this Interesting Sales Dilemma?

  
  
  

sales dilemmaI was sitting next to Brian, one of my client's customers. The previous day, I'd led a "Selling to Crazy-Busy Buyers" workshop at their annual sales meeting. Today, he was speaking on how to best work with people just like him.

I was delighted my client was bringing the actual "voice of the customer" into their sales meeting. That is, until I asked Brian how he liked to be approached by new salespeople. He was quick to respond - and very emphatic: 

"When they call, I ask them to send me a brochure. Then, when we're ready to make a decision, if it's close to what we need, I'll invite them in to learn more." 

OMG. Brian's words directly contradicted what I'd told their salespeople to do the day before. Then I realized what he was really saying was this:

"I'm a highly knowledgeable buyer who does significant due diligence before investing time with salespeople. I don't need to waste time getting updated about their latest products or services. When I need information, I'll ask for it."

So what are you supposed to do? Just wait till your prospects are ready? That doesn't work either. Here are three ideas on how to work effectively with the Brians of this world. 

  • Jolt them out of their complacency with the status quo. If your product or service can truly have an impact on their business, make sure you state it loud and clear. Don't hope that they'll somehow figure it out themselves. They're too busy for it.
  • Show them what's possible. Often times they haven't kept up to date on how others are handling similar challenges to theirs. This is highly valuable information that can help them achieve their goals better. Again, don't pussyfoot around it. Speak up. 
  • Keep educating them. The only reason people buy your product or service is because it makes a difference for their business. So take your focus off of your offering and help your prospect understand the business value - through multiple contacts. 

Brian meant what he said. He really truly does want you to send him a brochure. And he does want to do his own research.

But, even more so, Brian has business objective he's expected to achieve. And, if your solution can help him do this, he'll listen - even before he's ready to "make a decision." And to me, what's most amazing is how much this approach can actually shorten that time frame!

YOUR TURN: How do you handle it when a prospect asks you to "send information"?





Jill KonrathJill Konrath is an internationally recognized sales strategist. As author of two bestselling books, SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies, she's a frequent speaker at sales meetings and conferences. For more fresh ideas, download her free Prospecting Toolkit.


Comments

Just like this client, I do my own research before I even think of contacting the client. I want to have a solution ready for a problem (real or possible) I've identified at my client's company. When the client asks me to send information, I don't care why they're asking. I just do it. It's an opportunity for at least two more contacts. I send everything pertinent about how I've solved problems at companies just like his/hers. Then I follow up, seeking to identify the problem my prospect has or will have.
Posted @ Wednesday, May 30, 2012 9:59 PM by Bill
It's really tough to decipher whether this is a valid request, smokescreen, or blowoff. An angle to decipher if you're dealing with the true buyer is to ask "Who cares most about these business challenges in your organization?" If the prospect says me then follow with "what type of information would best help you see if theres a reason for you to continue our conversation?" If he/she is specific then it MAY be a legitimate request. However, you would want to set a date & time for follow-up once you sent correspondence.
Posted @ Wednesday, May 30, 2012 10:31 PM by Brad Gaines
A Sale happens finally when there is a real requirement and there is a product and a service provider who can match that requirement. In most cases the "Real requirement" is never identified by the Sales Executive. It gets even more trickier when the "Real Requirement" is sometimes not even identified by the Customer. The act of doing things ahead of time stands good even here when a sales executive can identify the "real hidden requirement" and start the awareness and education campaigns that will align the customer to acknowledge the "Real requirement" faster.  
If only one were to have statistics of the number of deals that go down the drain, merely because the "Real Requirement" was never ever identified by either the seller or the buyer in the first place.
Posted @ Wednesday, May 30, 2012 10:51 PM by Mu Sha
Jill, 
While this is a sales question, I think the real quesstion is... what is your marketing department doing? Today's buyers are more sophisticated, educated, and further on down the sales funnel that even five years ago. One key to success in this environment is to create a nurturing program that establishes your company as a leader so they contact you rather than the other way around. If sales is simply looking for people already in the buying or evaluation mode they are going to waste a lt of effort. 
Other than that, my favorite response is..."We have so much literature, I wouldn't know what to send you because I don't really understand your business problem and 95% of marketing literature gets trashed anyway. So if this is a problem worth solving for you, maybe we could have a more in depth conversation." Then ask a question. 
 
Lee Stocking 
Prairie Sky Group 
Making Sales Cry With Qualified Leads
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 9:09 AM by Lee Stocking
Okay, here goes. Busy media buyers are buying traditional media like radio, tv, web, print, out of home medium, etc. Our Media Kit is 55 pages long, everything from specifications to contracts to proof sources for our one of a kind unique selling solution, a fleet of advertising airships. Now the media buyer traditionally doesn't work with airships let alone know anything about what we do or the advertising services we provide other than they know what a blimp or airship looks like but their clients aren't calling out for the aerial advertising services of an airship. I send the Media Kit, as well as a press release or two and there's no way they're going to read the Media Kit unless they're thinking so out of the box that they can sell this medium to their client base. The obvious issue is No Need from the Media Buyer unless they realized that the solution to their lack of results from all of the rest of the traditional media is in the form of a better, more effective medium to carry the advertising message, hence a blimp, which breaks through all of the traditional media's clutter. So it's continuing education, follow-up selling and in some cases leveraging what they can't typically get, space on our airships. No matter how much education you do, no matter how good the sales pitch is, they still have to sell their clients on using this medium, and so the only way to sell them the service is to provide proof it's doing better than what they are using now. We'll see how continued follow up, continuing education and demonstrations do with this type of client. Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks.  
 
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 9:54 AM by Ron
Brian sounds like (1) an analytic or (2) a driver...just two of the four "styles" of buyers. Instead of pushing your style, you might want to determine if Brian is an analytic, in which case you send him ALL the information you have because they love to analyze before buying; or a driver, who acts on items when they're needed and not before. The approaches to all four styles are radically different. Better to find out who/what they are and how to approach them based on that. Bob Poole or Bob at Bobpoole.com has some good suggestions, or you can just google social styles and selling to drivers
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 11:44 AM by Becky Blanton
There are a few ways to respond. One would be to tell Brian that my brochure is no different from most of my competitors and then point out that I AM<-b> the reason he would want to do business with my company. I'd also let him know that in a successful sales career that spans four decades I've never gained a single piece of business by sending out a brochure. 
 
 
 
You could also tell Brian that you'd be happy to send the brochure but ask him what he plans to do with it and what would be the next step. If he told me that he was going to look at it when he was in need I'd challenge him by asking if my brochure was really going to influence him one way or the other. In lieu of the the brochure I'd offer to send references from other companies who do business with me. They'll tell him a lot more about us than a brochure will. 
 
 
 
Finally, I wouldn't lose sight of my initial objective which was to secure a meeting with him. So, having overcome the "send me your brochure" objection I'd give him some valid reasons (benefits) to meet with me and ask for the appointment.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 11:50 AM by Bill Paul
Jill, 
 
Simple, before you called Brian you should have fully prepared a "Buyers Matrix" and know what his key drivers are. Then quickly grab his attention by telling him a story about a company similar to his that had a business challenge that you solved to peak his attention. Then always move the discussion forward....demonstration, meeting, etc. If he still asks for a brochure send him a case study (hope you have this).
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 11:57 AM by Scott Svehlak
Every piece of research I have read in the last two years says the exact same thing... 
 
Offer to give them a demo
 
In the Demand Gen Report "The New B2B Path To Purchase" 71% said that a Demo/Product Overview was most useful in the early stage of a buying process - see the bottom of page 5. 
 
The bottom of page 6 of the same report talks about what was most useful in helping support the decision. 
 
I hope this add value to the conversation. 
 
Craig 
 
 
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 11:59 AM by Craig Elias - Creator of Trigger Event Selling
When you’re prospecting you may get someone who, after listening to your presentation says “Just send me the information.” Nine out of 10 times they’re just blowing you off. It’s an easy way to get rid of a “pesky” sales person.  
 
If they are not a good prospect, you don’t want to spend your time on them. Here are some ways to verify they really are interested.  
 
After the person tells you to just send the information you say, “Steve, I would be glad to. As you may know our product has a ton of great features and benefits which can be overwhelming. I don’t want to just dump all that on you. Can you tell me exactly which features in <your product> would be most valuable for me to send?” Now Steve can start to show his cards if he is indeed trying to get rid of you by saying, “Just send everything.” At this point just send an email with your contact information and a link to your web site or information. You should already have this email template prepared so it should not take you more than a few minutes to get it out. And who knows, maybe Steve will find something that really grabs him on your web site. But don’t hold your breath. 
 
You may get lucky and Steve will respond to your last question with “Send me information on <some features of your product>.” You respond with, “That sounds great, Steve. I will get that to you right away. Before I do, let’s set a date we can go over the information.” Now you’re at decision time. Set a date and send the prospect and yourself an electronic reminder. If he won’t set a time with you, or says he is too busy politely say, “Steve, thank you for your time. I will send you the information.” Then simply send him the same email suggested above. 
 
Your time is too valuable to waste with someone who is not interested enough to spend a few minutes going over something they told you is of value to them.  
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:00 PM by Louie Bernstein
I always remind customers of the benefits of my product or service and the results they can achieve. Customers don't buy products, they buy results. What does my product do for them, how can it help their business, how do I support them both at the point of sale and afterwards? In today's huge marketplace there are many products available so I can help customers make the purchase decision when they know what I can do to help them and what they can expect. Sure, the sale is important but so is developing a long term relationship and delivering results the customer can benefit from and be happy with.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:08 PM by Jennifer Hoffman
Jill, I think the key with all sales calls, but especially with buyers like this, is to be armed with relevant industry and company information BEFORE the call. For example, cite a recent stat related to an industry-wide problem and then ask the buyer if he/she is also experiencing that issue. Then share a relevant story on how you've solved it for others. Or quote an article or presentation given by the buyer's boss (e.g., CEO) where the boss was quoted talking about a new direction the company is taking, company objectives, etc. Then again, share a relevant story on how you've helped another company achieve a similar objective.  
 
 
 
In my opinion, any time a buyer says "send me information, I'll contact you when I'm ready" what that really means is the seller hasn't planted the right seed in the buyer's mind.  
 
 
 
Instead, what you as the seller want the buyer to be thinking is something like "wow ... I never really thought about it that way before,” or "yes ... that really is a problem that we're having," or "yes ... my CEO has said that's a core objective and yes, I probably do need help with that."  
 
 
 
Again, it all comes down to the seller doing his/her homework.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:13 PM by Sam Richter
I am one of the toughest sells there is, whether it be by telephone or from emails. Yet, that is what I do for my clients by providing agressive yet attractive, well designed brochures, catalogs and websites. Ironic. But, my time is so limited, I often cannot afford to take the time to learn, evaluate and decide if the caller's product or service will add value to my clients collateral materials or functionality to their website. 
 
 
 
If it is a phone call and they get past my first reaction to hang up after telling them "No Thanks", I ask them to send me an email with all the information I need to decide if their product/service is worth considering. Usually they would follow up in a few days with another email, not a call. 
 
 
 
So Becky, which type of buyer do I fall under? :) 
 
 
 
Most of my purchases result from online blogs and referrels or emails I get from various resellers who sell software and untilities, scripts and code created by programmers. I am always seeking the latest widgets or coding that enhances my client's web site experience.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:19 PM by Bob Murphree
Some REALLY good comments here - thanks to everyone for sharing. Which is an important point. We need to be continually learning, educating ourselves on the best ways to reach all types of buyers. 
 
I relate to this guy because I do all the research before I buy as well. The web makes it easy. So how do I reach me? Relationship. After 20 years of doing this, that factor never seems to change with the different marketing winds that blow. People do business with people they know, like and trust. If I have that kind of relationship with my clients, I know they will call me when they have a need and I don't have to work so hard to stay in front of them, just occasionally "hello"s to see if they have any projects I can help them with. 
 
Again, though, thanks for sharing all the great ideas, everyone.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:26 PM by Sandee
What he is ssying is you haven't given me enough to consider you or your product - drip marketing is the only way to get to these people - not with price cutting (price cutting doesn't do it until after all terms & conditions are settled) - education about what products or services can provide the buyer are the only things that actually work.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:26 PM by Lynn Ellis Miller
When asked to send a brochure I state that I have information specific to different problems they may have. I then ask them, "If you think about where you'll be a little later this year, what areas do you see as being potential problems for you? That way I can send you the brochure that is most relevant to what you may be dealing with." 
 
That will also get them talking a little more about upcoming milestones and allows me to ask for an appropriate time to follow up with them.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:32 PM by Jeff King
Hi Jill, 
 
 
 
Busy business executives do not like to talk about products and services, they like to talk about business ideas and issues. If you are going to approach a busy executive about a product or service, you are only offering him alternatives. The executive doesn't want to talk about alternatives until he is looking for a product or service like you are offering, hence his request for a brochure. 
 
 
 
If you are going to talk about business issues and strategies, this is where executives like to spend their time. This is a higher level call and when executives are engaged here, they won't ask for brochures. 
 
 
 
Trevor Hamilton 
 
More Meetings Now
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:32 PM by Trevor
I'd say something like, "Our solution helps companies like yours in a variety of different ways. And we've produced no less than 1,000s of pages of educational content. Can I ask you a question so that I can send you the right things that will be help you see how we can help with your goals and challenges?"  
 
If i was being sassy, I might say something like, "Do people still make brochures and do actually still find them helpful?"
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:33 PM by Peter Caputa
Bob, you fall under "Busy, Successful and Focused," in my book! :-) So I'd guess you're a driver. You like to direct the conversation, you stay on focus, you like awards and recognition and being visible among your peers. You have a strong sense of self-esteem, one that's rightly deserved I might add. You know where you're going, what you want. In a group you are the one most likely to know and decide where the group will eat lunch while the amiables are saying, "I don't know, what do you like? What do you want?" You hear the choices and instantly pick a place and people go along. You're a leader and people look to you for the first answer when a tough question is asked. You use these abilities well in your profession since most of us creatives are wishy-washy amiables...or, like me, an "expressive." Close?
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:37 PM by Becky Blanton
Now that my hat no longer fits, yes. and Thanks.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:53 PM by Bob Murphree
Drivers are AWESOME people. They get stuff done. Many people are intimidated by them because they're direct and intense, but when paired with a creative bent, they are almost always successful people. When they learn to interact with all the social styles, they are unstoppable. My friend Bob Poole is a driver and a very successful sales manager and coach. He taught me everything I know and is a gem. He made me see drivers in a whole new light! You're blessed and you're welcome.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 1:00 PM by Becky Blanton
Great comments from everyone. I wrote mine before reading them, and there might be a bit of similarity with some already posted. In my opinion, if you have a true analytical buyer, and you, and your product, can stand up to their evaluation, you have the best possible customer there is. One who realizes the value, and reason for doing business with you. 
1. Make sure you're the one they think of when they realize there is a problem. Be their 'expert' on your product line and industry. 
2. If budget is a problem, get creative. Make their problem yours, and figure out a way to solve it, or at least start down the road to building a relationship where they will find the money for your solution. (i.e. leasing, ROI examples, partial purchase of your products or services, creative financing, etc....) 
3. When a new feature or product is successfully used to address a problem others have had which may be similar to theirs, send them the information in a short email. Get them thinking in terms of the solution, and the business benefits it provides. 
4. When there are changes in their industry which affect their business, share that information. 
5. When there are 'triggering events' which make a decision more likely to be forthcoming, get in front of them with how you can help. 
Many of the projects I did for a Fortune 100 company were with people who probably didn't even remember my name. They simply were told that the 'barcode guy' was going to be in the building, and to make sure they brought their projects to me while I was there. It became a bit like they were visiting the doctor, and I took them in succession. It was really a lot of fun. I got every deal. 
 
Finally... Do not forget that even your best customers have other vendors who do what you do. I could kick myself, when a good customer bought what they deemed was a nuisance order from a competitor, because a secretary simply processed it, and they didn't think I'd be interested, or simply forgot to tell her to direct it my way. 
 
Here's my biggest lesson learned. Let them evaluate. Help the process, and keep it moving along. However, when they finally move, (for reasons others have mentioned above, and a slew of others) be sure that you are the ONLY vendor left standing.  
 
If you’re good at your job, you’ll ‘educate’ your customers for free. Something I have always hated, but felt was part of being of value to my customers. If you’ve done it correctly, there won’t be any eleventh hour surprises, and doing business with you will simply be a foregone conclusion in a natural problem solving exercise. 
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 1:16 PM by Barcodeguy
As evidenced by the comments: "In a world of hammers...every problem is a nail." I would have to say that there isn't going to be any one right answer to this situation. Most here seem to see the problem faced as one of defining a business problem for the prospect as the way to kick down the door. That only works if one exists...in the peripheral vision of the prospect. There are transaction sales, there are consultative sales, there are enterprise sales and the UltimateSellingProposition or win-win is defined differently in each. It then has to be framed around the specifics of the buyer. If a solution sell (true consultative selling), you need a dialog to open doors that applies individually to coaches, user buyers, technical buyers and financial buyers. In an enterprise sale...there is no brochure or marketing piece...it's all about the partnership being able to create differentiation in the marketplace. 
 
In the end...those with experience will get more face than those without...no matter how much you teach them the 'right way'. Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want. It either makes you smarter....or relocated.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 1:18 PM by daryl lucien
Raised as a sales manager's daughter and now head of a private career management advisory firm for 16 years, I adapted the professional sales process to jobhunting, so my clients [the talent] acquire higher perceived value because they are seen as the one choice who understands the business issues to be resolved. I have them pitch a meeting to the best few prospective bosses whom they should work for next, highlighting only that type of company's likely challenges, not their own career history. If asked for a resume as a precondition or a routine before meeting, they reply they have several accomplishments that made a difference to a company as this and for both their sakes would want to concentrate their time together on the items that could advance this boss' specific situ best, so recommend they draw up some info after the meeting instead. Executives or owners appreciate this and my client's credibility earns him/her one of 2 desirable outcomes, a discussion of working for the exec, or a gold-plated referral into his network of similar decision makers in that industry. This method can shorten a career move down to as few as 3-5 attempts before generating an offer and being positioned to negotiate it upwards by 25% or more.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 1:33 PM by Mary-Frances Fox
Definitely great comments from people who have thought about this question before. For my business, which sells a consultative solution, I explain that I do not have a brochure, but would be happy to include the prospect's name in our mailing list because we occasionally send out information which he might find useful. Then ask, what information he would find useful. Is there really a good fit here? 
 
I agree with Sam and others who say do your homework first, but sometimes it doesn't happen. You may be meeting at a social event or trade show and think you can help this person. Of course, what really works at trade shows is to offer attendees and exhibitors a FREE trial--of whatever you have to offer. Arrange to call them back at a specific time. Now you have time to research the prospect and have an allotted, even if it's short, to talk with someone you've already met.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 2:51 PM by Josh Margolis
Brian evidently treats sales professionals as a commodity.  
 
I would respond say something like "Brian, I can appreciate you are in the research mode and value your time, as I do mine. It would be unprofessional of me to send a brochure without knowing a few basics about what you do or do not need.  
 
Then I would shut up. 
 
What I wouldn't do is send a brochure without knowing if I had a viable prospect. 
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 4:10 PM by Alan Allard
Ok, how many really believes he is reading a brochure. Isn't he filling in the blank on google search with "high temp thing a ma bobs" and seeing what pops up. 
If we are really to believe in a new paradigm for sales and marketing, you're going to have to be seen when he types that out. 
I'm not saying I'm a seo expert or content marketing genius but we need to be in that page of view when he types those words out. 
After his contact then talk about nurturing, expertise etc. but I think the focus is on getting him to contact. 
Behold all things are passed away and all things become new, brochures, driver/driver, cold calls are a thing of the past. Being relevant and value perceived in the search moment is all that matters.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 4:40 PM by joe
no sh@@##
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 7:38 PM by ellie
Mary-Frances Fox & I see eye to eye because we are in the same kind of business. We assist people in getting past barriers to reach decision makers. Sending a generic resume or "one size fits all brochure" by all rights should not work and it doesn't fast enough to make a living selling. As stated by others, that action is passive and tantamount to a cold boot or junk mail. Think of yourself as a successful radio ad sales person in a market with 35 other radio stations, 7 of which might be considered competitive. If you don't make ten (10) in person presentations per day equally 50 per week, minimum, you will not earn your commission and you won't be paid by your radio station owner. Pre-selling in a myriad of ways, yes, sending out glossy station promo kits...not. Summarize this and other replies, Jill, and you'll have a manifesto of decent answers. You asked. That's my view. Lettuce (sic) what you think. Now it's your turn again.
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 7:48 PM by stephen "steve" Q shannon
I sell solutions to process problems so maybe I'm more of a consultant than a salesman. People generally call me for a good reason and so if I don't at least find out what the basics of that are I'm not really doing my job. When I'm asked to send them info (a brochure, linecard, or cut sheet/drawing/etc) I always like to ask what they are going to do with it. Usually it catches them a bit off-guard but I always get a response - IE Oh, I am going to read it over the weekend and get back to you with any questions. So I let them know I'll get in touch early in the week. If you give your time in typing something up, emailing it, or even letting them pick your brain a bit over the phone you should always get something in return (we were taught to share in Kindergarten, right?), even if that is valuable info/feedback/meeting or that the project is a no-go because what you offer just doesn't match what they need or budgeted for. 
In many cases, customers don't realize the true costs in doing a job right the first time until they have done it wrong at least once - unfortunately. In order to avoid this, it's also pretty darn important to be on the same page as far as expectations, from before the first meeting to after the machinery is installed.
Posted @ Friday, June 01, 2012 3:26 AM by Will
All very good, relevant comments. In short concetrate expression I liked Sandee
Posted @ Friday, June 01, 2012 6:38 AM by Gints
Most of these answers seem designed to make the salesperson feel better about themself, not help the prospect buy. They want a brochure, confirm you will do that. Then ask if it makes sense to follow up in 6 months or would some time sooner be better. Then do what they ask. In addition, sure, send them a monthly educational email or letter that helps them learn more.  
 
 
 
This isn't about you, or your quota, or sales goals. It's about helping them. If sales aren't what you want, find a way to increase your outreach efforts. But don't pretend your failure to reach your sales target is a failure of your prospect.
Posted @ Friday, June 01, 2012 1:57 PM by Patrick Kilhoffer
I agree that in today's ever-changing business climate, key decision makers' time is pressed; having said so, it is imperative to provide a beneficial "call to action" in order to spark an interest. Many sales people these days overlook the importance of providing a value add to the customer. Great advice...thanks! 
 
Posted @ Wednesday, June 13, 2012 12:10 PM by Mike Golembeski
Jill 
I would respond that our brochure is 6foot 2 big and hairy and can be in their office tomorrow morning,... it's me..... 
love the blog 
murray
Posted @ Tuesday, July 24, 2012 4:33 PM by Murray fitzpatrick
Hi Jill, 
 
We get lots of this when we cold and sometimes even warm call people. I tell my sales people to ask the following question (or a variation thereof) and then shut up: 
 
"Jill, let's say I send you this information - and you really love what you see, - What is the next step?" 
 
This usually gets the real objection closer to the surface e.g. I am too busy or not really interested or I am not he decision maker. This won't suit everyone's style but it is effective when presented by the sales person in their language/terminology
Posted @ Monday, May 13, 2013 9:42 PM by John
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