By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
Statistics show prospects answer about 1 in 25 cold calls. For sellers having made 24 previously unsuccessful calls, when a buyer answers this is an opportunity that shouldn’t be squandered. Many buyers have a tried and true way of ending such calls abruptly and often shutting the seller out.
Early in my sales career I’m embarrassed to admit that when prospects asked for information in the first few minutes of a cold call, I made the erroneous assumption they had a level of interest in whatever offering was being discussed. Worse yet, my tendency was to provide an extensive array of brochures and collateral that nobody could reasonably be expected to review. When following up, the most common buyer response was the dreaded: “I reviewed at the material, but don’t see us doing anything for awhile.”
A few decades later, I was having a phone conversation about sales process/training with the CEO of a temporary housing company. I came in as “Column B” and we’d had limited time to discuss his challenges in hitting top line revenue. I was by far the most expensive alternative (Column B sellers are usually asked for quotes early in the relationship) he was considering. He was trying to end the conversation with a request to send him some information. I challenged him by asking what would be accomplished in doing so and went on to ask if he was just trying to blow me off. He hesitated a few seconds and then agreed his request was a way to end the call and any further consideration of my offerings.
At that point I asked to schedule a detailed conversation about the outcomes he was looking for and what value there would be in achieving them. Rest assured it’s unlikely this story would be shared if it didn’t have a good outcome. I’m pleased to report he wound up doing business with me and got a good return on this investment by having his VP Sales drive the process. The remarkable thing was that in making the request for information he was closing me out and he didn’t even realize that was his objective!
If and when you are asked for information, especially early in relationships, my suggestion is that you try to do two (2) things:
1. Thank the buyer for their interest and ask if you could have a further discussion to better understand his or her needs so that you can send a limited amount of information that would be relevant. If the buyer has any interest, this is a reasonable request and will be granted.
2. Try to execute a “quid pro quo” approach by asking the buyer to provide something to you. Being in the sales process business, I often ask buyers to provide material they would send to prospects. This allows me to get an idea of how they position their offerings as well as how “product focused” the company is. If a buyer doesn’t honor my request, it’s unlikely he or she is interested.
Getting rid of salespeople is analogous to wanting to break up with someone in high school. You want the relationship to end quickly and avoid having things get contentious. For buyers that are two minutes into calls they wish they hadn’t taken, an apparently innocuous request for information is the perfect was to end the call and any chance of starting buying cycles.