Have you ever had to say, “I wasn’t prepared for that;” or “I didn’t see that coming?” I see you nodding your head up and down, using the universal sign for yes, because unexpected situations and circumstances pop up like whack-a-moles on an all-to-regular basis. Here’s one that happened to my wife and me.
We were returning to our mountain home from the courthouse eight miles away after early voting during the mid-term election in 2014. As we passed through the stone entrance to Walnut Mountain we encountered three men on foot, and one was signaling for us to decrease our already slow speed on that narrow 2-lane winding road. I complied, coasting alongside this guy as our vehicle crept around the first curve. I lowered my window and asked him what was going on. I expected to see a fender bender or part of a vehicle dangling above Turniptown Creek but all I saw was an old man and woman walking single-file along the shoulder of the road up ahead. He pointed to them and said, “I wanted you to slow down because I didn’t know whether they were going to cross the road or not.”
I said OK, and turned to my wife and said, so who is “they?” We looked again and rather than just two old people, there was 90 year old ex-President Jimmy Carter in overalls, and first lady Rosalynn, getting their exercise for the day, while being closely watched by the “three guys,” who were obviously secret service agents. As we inched past the ambling pair I respectfully spoke from the car window, “Hello Mr. President.” He glanced toward us and flashed that ageless toothy smile while responding with his own, “Hello”. That encounter was made even more unusual considering that my wife and I were returning from voting against his grandson who was running for Governor of Georgia. That was certainly a black swan event we didn’t see coming!
We were aware that, for 50 years, the Carters’ had a getaway cabin on Turniptown Creek (inaccessible to the public) near where our mountain home was located, and they both have been and are still avid trout fishermen. I’ve heard stories that as President he entertained many world leaders there in the beautiful north Georgia mountains.
My point in sharing this short story is to remind you to prepare, as much as possible, for surprises that all too often pop up on your prospecting and selling horizon. I don’t mean far-fetched improbabilities like being hit by a meteor, but simply devoting some time toward thinking through a self-made what-if list of common sense contingencies; for example:
- A prospect who responds to your initial approach by saying, “We used to do business with your company until we caught your service guy stealing printer cartridges from one of our storerooms.”
- “Our current vendor for handling the stuff you sell is my brother-in-law, Zach.”
- “Where did you get that ‘wheel of fortune’ price?”
- “Decisions like you are asking about are all made by our home office in WhoShotJohn, TX.”
Although your list might vary from this one, the point is that prospect and buyer responses similar to these must be processed and responded to intelligently AND immediately. In addition, you will need to be prepared with some questions of your own in order to remind them if and why they’re unhappy or dissatisfied.
I could provide you with a ton, but I think you’ll get a pretty good idea from these few I’ll share here. You might want to burn these into your brain for quick recall:
- What problem do you need to solve? The buyer might be focused on a different pain point than you. Use this question to determine the right track, as sometimes buyers try to address symptoms rather than causes.
- Have you had this problem before? This will help determine just how chronic the issue is.
- Does this problem affect lots of people? If they haven’t yet considered it, this could get your prospect thinking how widespread the effects are, and therefore the seriousness of it.
- How would solving this problem affect you personally? Knowing the buyer’s individual motivators might make or break the deal, such as a commendation or raise, vs. a demotion or a decreased bonus check.
- What happens if you keep doing what you are doing? The status quo is always easier than making a change, so the purpose here is to get them thinking about the dangers of ignoring the issue.
- What one thing could we do quickly that would have the biggest impact for your company? Once you’ve pinpointed a major opportunity to help, urgency will follow much more quickly.
- How does this problem affect your revenue and profitability? This question highlights the larger implications of what’s going wrong and will help you focus on the right issue.
- How quickly must this problem be solved to avoid negative impact on the business? This answer provides you a firm deadline for the purchase, and may help you during the selling process if you hear a “Think about it,” or “The buying committee needs to look further…” You know where the goal line is.
The more you are prepared for off-the-wall comments and questions, the less frequently you will feel those bright headlights shining into your eyes!
————HAPPY NEW YEAR————
As you swap your old calendar for a new 2018 version, let me recommend two new habits to ensure your sales performance continues to improve: Subscribe to this FREE weekly newsletter and have it sent to your email inbox every week, and then read it and apply it. Order your copy of Sell is NOT a Four Letter Word using this link and then read and apply 2 (of the 116) coaching segments from the book each week during 2018. Enjoy your commission increase…You’re welcome!
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