You know what your prospects are thinking — all the time? Every time you interact with them, they're evaluating you and asking themselves: "Is this a person (company) I want to work with on a long-term basis?"
If they feel pressure from you, the answer is no.
If they feel like you're trying too hard to be liked, the answer is no.
If they don't think you understand their business, the answer is no.
If they get overwhelmed by what you're saying, the answer is no.
So what makes them say, "Yes, I want to work with you!"
To be most effective in sales today, it's imperative to drop your "sales" mentality and start working with your prospects as if they've already hired you. When you do, it shifts your relationship to a whole new level from the very start.
Case in point. Several years ago a regional engineering firm contacted me about helping with an upcoming presentation. They'd been invited to make a presentation to a buying team, along with five other companies. As a regional firm, they were delighted to be included with all the industry giants.
When I first met with the lead engineer and business developer, they truthfully didn't believe they could win the business. Their goal was simply to make the final three. They asked me to help them make a good showing. (Of course, my goal was to help them win!)
We began by reviewing the Request for Proposal (RFP) that the prospect had issued. They wanted tons of information about the company, its background, their qualifications, clients, and more.
It was clear to me that their competitors were going to come into that meeting with a whole deck of PowerPoint slides and cover that information in excruciating detail. Borrrrring! And just imagine their prospects sitting through six of those presentations in one day.
I told my client, "We're going to do something different. Your job is to go into the meeting as if they were already your customer."
They didn't understand what I meant. I explained it more: "Let's assume they gave you the contract. What would you do next?"
"Well," they said. "We still have lots of unanswered questions based on reading their RFP. Plus, it seems like there are some contradictions. And, we're not exactly sure that what they're asking for is the best way for them to achieve their goals."
"Great!" I answered. "Then that's what your meeting will be about."
Flash forward two weeks.
My clients flew to Chicago for the big meeting-their one and only chance to make it to the finals. They entered a room, filled with stern-faced decision makers seated grimly around the table. Clearly these people were already bored to tears.
To kick off the meeting, my client said:
"All the information you requested about our company is in this handout. We'll gladly answer any questions you might have about it.
"But what we'd really like to do today is focus more on your challenge and what it's going to take to resolve it. We have some questions that we believe may have an impact on achieving your desired outcome."
With that opening, he caught their undivided attention. The first slides focused on their current situation. My client asked pre-planned questions on vital topics to verify his understanding of the status quo and learn more in-depth information. These simple-to-answer questions were designed to get the prospects talking.
After that, my client brought up several key issues they'd uncovered in reviewing the RFP. This led to a discussion on root causes versus presenting symptoms. My client then offered new ways to tackle the problem that were less disruptive.
Finally, they challenged the prospects' thinking on some "must have" criteria, suggesting options they thought might work better. This stirred up another highly engaging conversation.
In short, they started working on this $400,000 project during their presentation.
The results? Remember, my client hoped to make it to the final three and had never even competed against the biggies before.
But the actual outcome was even more surprising. Instead of going to a second round of more intensive presentations with the finalists, my client was awarded the contract within the week. Because everyone on the committee wanted to work with them, they canceled their final presentations.
So many people are afraid to give away their ideas before a contract is signed. But often that's the best way to win the business.
What would you do for a customer that you'd never think about doing for a prospect?
Are you holding back something because you're afraid they'll steal it? Are you approaching your meetings as a chance to really "strut your stuff" or are you getting to work?
For many sellers, this is a new concept. Think about how you can be more collegial-even before you start working together. It's worth it.