Technology professionals, perhaps more than any other group, tend to have open minds. Our industry is driven by innovation, and we are perpetually wrangling updates and seizing the opportunities that a new development enables for us and for our clients. We recognize that when we become too set in our ways and too resistant to change, those are the points where our businesses are at risk of being overtaken by more forward-thinking competitors.

So, we keep our minds and eyes open — at least when it comes to technology. When we get away from tech, however, our ability to keep an open mind can waiver, and we might not even realize it.

We see this happen in sales all the time, and the more competitive the landscape and the more valuable the prospects become, the worse it gets.

The challenge here is complex. On the one hand, we recognize the importance of targeting the right prospects, so we build a filter (formally or informally) that helps us to weed out the prospects who will not be a good fit based on a potentially long list of criteria. Then, we recognize that the most valuable prospects likely already work with an MSP, so we know that we have to deliver a sales experience so persuasive that it can unseat the incumbent and break through the noise of every other MSP pitching the prospect.

And then, under all of this, we assume that we are the best option for the prospect. In some situations, that is not the case, but we charge forward anyway in the name of getting the sale.

As we juggle the symphony of agendas and concerns, we lose sight of the one thing a salesperson should do above all else: Listen.

All of the factors and considerations I just described influence which direction we take a sales conversation before the prospect has uttered a single word. Yes, you can research beforehand to learn about the prospect, but you are not actually giving the prospect a chance to contribute. And that’s what the average salesperson will do. They will burst through the door, talk and talk, trot out a half dozen value adding points, ask a few leading questions, slide a proposal across the table, and leave.

What a great salesperson will do

Great salespeople, on the other hand, treat the first meeting as an exploratory exercise. They are genuinely curious to hear about the prospect’s work and needs. As a result, they ask sincere, open-ended questions, and they spend much of the meeting listening. This approach can feel counterintuitive at first because on the surface it can appear as though you are not pitching enough. In reality, you are treating the prospect with a level of mutual respect she may have never experienced before, and that openness, that willingness to listen, speaks volumes about you and your work.

To do this, your mind has to be open to listening and reacting to what the prospect has to say. To keep your mind from inadvertently closing, try the following in your sales process:

  • Do not over prepare. Too much pre-study can influence how you think about a prospect before you have ever met. The exact level of research necessary here will vary from salesperson to salesperson, but know that asking questions that you already know the answers to is often a sign that you are doing more to show off your research than to actually hear what the prospect has to say.
  • Accept that you will not have all the answers. In an open conversation, a prospect is likely to ask you questions that you may not have the answer to, and that’s okay. It is not a sign of weakness to say you don’t know and have to find out. In fact, it can be refreshing for a prospect to meet someone who does not fake their way to a half-hearted answer.
  • Let silence linger. When we are always looking for our chance to jump in and talk, we often stomp on conversation threads that may have continued in a productive direction. When your prospect talks, give them the space to continue talking or encourage them with a “tell me more about that.” Most salespeople never give the prospect a chance to go deeper. When you do, you will likely uncover powerful nuggets that help to drive the sale.
  • Identify your own bias. Reflect on your sales process before and after and look for points where you jumped to conclusions. If you can root out these assumptions, you can start to open new doors.

Keeping an open mind can take a lot of work, especially in a high-stakes environment like MSP sales, but it’s a skill worth practicing. The longer we sell, the more likely we are to build up layers and layers of assumptions about what a prospect needs or about who our best customer is. From time to time, we need to scrape that away to allow our prospects to truly be heard. If we don’t, our thinking narrows, and we can miss out on game-changing sales.

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Photo:  OPOLJA / Shutterstock.

 

Brad Stoller

Posted by Brad Stoller

Brad Stoller is National Director of Business Development for The PT Services Group. Brad is responsible for helping prospective clients understand PT and their appointment setting capabilities through a consultative approach. Before joining The PT Services Group, Brad was a State Farm agency owner, providing insurance and financial services solutions. Over the years, he has been a serial entrepreneur, building and developing businesses in real estate and marketing.

One Comment

  1. Nice article Brad. Very simple and effective

    Reply

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