Most salespeople are following strategic approaches that were developed before the Internet became an omnipresent tool for our customers  
Winning full engagement from your prospects is tougher today than ever before thanks to the Internet  

For months, maybe years, you’ve worked to secure an appointment with a prospective customer.  You’ve utilised your network, and shown persistence. You’ve consulted with your boss, brainstormed with your peers, and even asked for advice from your friends. You’ve given it every ounce of energy you have, and finally… finally, they’ve agreed to an appointment.  

The day arrives. You’re prepared. You have a list of great questions. You deliver your presentation based on their unique scenario. They laugh at your jokes. You establish action items. And then… they never return your call.

Has something like this every happened to you? This type of outcome is more and more common today among security integrators and others involved in sales. Most salespeople are following strategic approaches that were developed before the Internet became an omnipresent tool for our customers. Whether you’re working with security, IT, facilities, or upper management, your customers’ perception is that they don’t need you. They’ve got Google – why do they need you?  You could perform perfectly in an introductory sales meeting, but if you don’t get your customers emotionally engaged, you’ll lose.  

In today’s marketplace where prospective customers don’t think they need us, you have to create fully engaged customers. Below I’ve outlined four strategies to help security industry salespeople achieve this goal. If you follow these steps, you will create complete engagement with your customers.

Understand your customer is thinking about everything except you

When you scheduled a sales meeting 15 years ago, your prospective customers were prepared and ready to learn. Whether they purchased from you or not, you were a source of information for them. Today, they think they don’t need you. Again, they’ve got Google.  

When you arrive for an appointment today, your prospects are thinking about everything except you: the email they just sent, the meeting they have scheduled at 3:30 with their boss, the argument they had last night with their spouse, etc. When the receptionist notifies your contact that you’ve arrived for your meeting, your contact is probably thinking “Damn, I thought maybe he’d forget.”  

Know that your prospective
customers are thinking about
everything except you when
you arrive, and it’s your job to
shift their attention

Our perception is opposite. We woke up thinking about this appointment. We’ve been preparing for days. We’re ready to roll.

This causes a huge disconnect, and it’s made possible by your customers’ acting skills. They’ve learned to smile when they greet you, laugh at statements that are supposed to be jokes, and nod incessantly throughout your presentation.  You think they love you, but they didn’t hear a word. They’re really good.

The key to our first strategy is that you understand this reality. Know that your prospective customers are thinking about everything except you when you arrive, and it’s your job to shift their attention.  

Shift their attention within three minutes of shaking hands

Sales are won between the lobby and the conference room. If you’re going to win, you have to shift their attention away from that email they just sent and to something else. Please notice that I didn’t state that you should shift their attention to you – that’s impossible in the first three minutes. Shift it to something else, and then bring it back to you. How?

The “how” is easy. It’s understanding the process that seems to be hard. Most salespeople want to shift right to the meeting, and the prospects give the impression that they’ve succeeded because of their acting skills – nodding, laughing, etc. Below are a few ways to shift your prospects’ attention from their current thoughts to something else. Once we get them to “something else,” we can bring them to our agenda much easier. First, we’ve got to get their mind off that email or the meeting with their boss.

  • You’ve done your homework. You know what interests them. Ask them about it, and be transparent. “I saw on LinkedIn that you graduated from Vanderbilt. Do you ever get back to Nashville?”  

  • Ask them about something happening in their marketplace. Put the burden on them to teach you. “I’ve been reading about the new HIPAA regulations that affect video surveillance. How does that impact you? I’m not a HIPAA expert.”

  • Finally, if everything else fails, and you’re not prepared, ask this simple question: “Are you ready for …?”  You can fill in the blank any time of the year.  “Are you ready for school to start / warmer weather / ISC West / etc.”  You’ll be shocked how many open-ended discussions result from this one question. Also, this question magically tells you whether your prospect is in socialising mode or task mode – which will help you in your presentation.    
Shift your prospects’ attention from their current thoughts to something else
You could perform perfectly in an introductory sales meeting, but if you don’t get your customers emotionally engaged, you’ll lose

Position yourself with authority before asking questions

For decades, we’ve been told to ask questions of our prospects and shut up.  It’s about them, and asking them questions will help us understand their problems and provide the right solution. This approach doesn’t work today. Unfortunately, they’ll still answer your questions, but with one word or inaccurate answers. After a while, they just want to get rid of you – they’re sick of answering the same questions over and over again. In order to be great, we need to receive better than the one-word “check the box” answers. We need to understand the back stories of the answers. “Why is IT so involved in security?” “Why is your executive management so opposed to hosted services?” Unless you get answers to questions at this level, you’ll lose. How can you get your prospects to answer so transparently?

Don’t start the meeting with questions – start the meeting about you and your expertise.  I know this is different than everything you’ve heard in the past, but this is a different age and different type of prospect. You have to establish yourself as an expert by illustrating how you’ve helped other companies in their market or similar to them - then they’ll answer your questions in a candid and helpful way. Once you do this, then explain that you need to ask some questions to make sure they’re a fit before moving further.

Think about this approach for a moment. You spend a few minutes illustrating how you’ve solved their problems before and that you understand their business. Then, you let your prospect know that you’d like to ask a few questions to make sure they’re a fit. Now your prospects have a reason to provide complete and honest answers – they want to be a fit for your solution.

Don’t start the meeting with
questions – start the meeting
about you and your expertise

Depart with confidence

I’ve seen hundreds of very good sales presentations ruined at the end of the sales call. The sales person performs well in every way possible – positioning themselves as experts and professionals. When the presentation is over, they transform into a desperate child looking for validation with comments like this: “So, what did you think?” “How does this compare to our competition?” “Do you see any reason you wouldn’t move forward with our solution?”  In the 1990s and before, these comments were called closing questions. Today, they’re annoying and somewhat pathetic.

After you’ve shifted their attention to you, positioned yourself as the expert, and received honest and open answers to your questions, you don’t need to know what they think. They think you’re a superstar, and you need to act like it. Here are a few tips:

  • When you’re done and it appears the questions are coming to a close, announce “I have to run to another appointment. However, before I leave I want to make sure you’re OK with these action items.” This statement illustrates that you’re in demand, but still secures the action items.

  • Pack up and leave, say goodbye using each person’s name, and head to your car.

  • Get in your car and get out of there. If you’ve got to check email on your smartphone, wait until you’re out of sight. Do not sit in the parking lot for 15 minutes like you’ve got nowhere to be.  

In conclusion, winning full engagement from your prospects is tougher today than ever before.  Twenty years ago, you were their source of intelligence, and they looked forward to sales calls. Not today. Google is their go-to source for information. Your sales call is simply an interruption - unless you follow these four strategies. If you do, you’ll be able to create fully engaged customers and completely differentiate you and your company from the competition.

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Chris Peterson Sales and Sales Management Consultant, Trainer, & Professional Speaker, Vector Firm

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