Getting in the Door: The Key to Convincing Decision Makers You’re Worthy of a Conversation
By Jill Konrath, Contributing Editor
Don’t get me wrong! I love being a consultative seller. It’s literally a part of my sales DNA. But a few years ago, I discovered that “being consultative” didn’t convince decision makers that it was worth their valuable time to meet with me.
To show you what I mean, let me take you into their world and put you center stage as the designated future client.
* * *
You’re busy working at your desk—and have been since 7 a.m. this morning. The phone rings. You glance at the clock and see that it’s 2:57 p.m. You can’t believe that it’s so late already. Your “to do” list is longer now than it was when you started.
But you’re expecting a very important call at the top of the hour so, without even a glance at the originating number, you pick it up.
“Hello,” you say.
“Pat,” the voice on the other end of the phone answers. “This is Terry. I’m the account executive from Global Solutions. I’m glad to finally catch you in. Do you have a few minutes?”
You shudder. You’d have never answered the phone if you thought you’d end up talking to a salesperson. “I’m expecting a call at 3 p.m.” you reply tersely, hoping to shake yourself free from this unexpected interruption.
“Not to worry,” says the voice. “I’ll be brief. As I said, I’m from Global Solutions. We specialize in state-of-the-art services to help companies like yours with all your solution needs. I’d like to set up a time to meet with you to find out how you’re handling your needs in this area—and share with you how Global might be able to help you out. I’m wondering how your schedule looks next Thursday?”
“You’ve got to kidding!” you blurt out. “You expect me to take my precious time to meet with you and tell you how we’re doing things here? I’ve been slaving at my desk since bright and early this morning without even a break for lunch.
“Yet you have the audacity to request a meeting with me when you can’t even give me a valid business reason for doing so?”
The voice jumps in, “Pat, I would never assume to know your needs. Every business is different. And I couldn’t possibly recommend anything without learning more about your goals this year and how you’re currently handling things.
“Plus, I’d like to understand the problems you’re facing, as well as their impact on your organization. It would be presumptuous of me to assume.”
“And,” you butt in, “You’d don’t think it’s presumptuous to request a meeting with me when you haven’t even taken time to learn about my company. Sorry, that just doesn’t work with me. If I meet with you, you better bring something to the table.”
The voice on the other end stammers, “I would never want to assume anything.”
“You just don’t get it!” you say emphatically as you slam down the phone, disgusted with another so-called ‘consultative salesperson.’ As far as you’re concerned, all they’re doing is wasting your valuable time without offering anything in return.
* * *
What just happened here? It’s the end of a consultative sales era as we know it. Prospective clients simply don’t have time for it today.
Instead, they need you to be assumptive! That’s right. You need to assume—even though you were trained that to do so was to make an ASS-out-of-U-and-ME.
In short, you need to demonstrate expertise right up front in order to earn the right to be consultative.
So how should you approach a prospective customer? How about something like this:
“Pat. Terry from Global Sales. I know how much the economy is having an impact on manufacturing companies like yours. What we’ve found is that way too many organizations are paying way too much on their software licenses.
“We’ve been able to trim their expenses by up to 22.7% in the first year. If you’re like other CFOs, you’re looking for dollars everywhere in your budget. Let’s set up a time to see how we can cut your costs in this area. Sound good?”
Feels completely different, right? You’ll get appointments—not brush-offs—when you start assuming.
To be effective in today’s crazy business environment, you need to be assumptive to demonstrate your value. Yes, you have to spend time doing research up front. Yes, you need to craft a personalized message.
But that’s what it takes to get in the door. And after that, you can put your consultative sales skills to good use.
Jill Konrath is a Contributing Editor for RainToday.com and is a recognized expert in complex sales strategies and creating business value for B2B sales organizations. She is also founder of SellingtoBigCompanies – a web resource that helps professional services providers, consultants and salespeople win big contracts in the corporate market. E-mail Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org.