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Can you send me some information please?
This is a standard question I hear a lot when starting an engagement with a prospect. A reasonable question and one which, when we have our happy ears on, could be seen as a positive sign. The syllogism could be “All companies who have signed wanted information at the beginning of a process. He wants information. Therefore he will sign.”
But let’s be honest. This question could also mean other things:
- First option: “Please do go away, I am busy but I am polite so I am pretending to be interested by asking you information”. Us human beings do not want to disappoint other people so we frame a no by a request for information
- Second option: “We are actually looking into building this internally or bringing a supplier for this exact issue. Please do give me market intelligence so I can use this internally or to drive a hard bargain with your competitor”. Unless one sells a completely unique solution, there is a competitive market and therefore this is a possibility. Again, very fair question by a prospect and I, for one, have of course used it.
- Third option: “I am genuinely interested but we have not yet established a relationship that makes me comfortable to share what I am interested in. And I want to make up my mind myself”
So, how to differentiate those prospects that are really interested and, in a pressurised context, are worth investing time into. Whether we have 5 prospects or 300 (where resource prioritisation becomes critical and a hard look into the “not so good” and the “good” prospects is certainly needed), lead scoring has to be data-led. To be specific: two types of data are worth taking into account: the data that we have to ask to prospects and the data we don’t have to ask.
Let’s start with the hard bit first.
The data we have to ask:
I’ve mentioned we need to ask a lot of questions in sales. The more we ask, the more we understand what the possible buyer is doing and working on (as known as empathy). No need to draw here the list of typical questions one should ask in a sales engagement, it’s a rather long list and it’s of course specific to every single organisation.
Some concerns that could arise are, for instance: “Maybe they don’t want to give us this information”. “Maybe they will tell us to go away if we are being too demanding.”. Actually, a buyer and a seller are part of an even relationship. The (possible) buyer wants information. That’s normal. But and it is a big but, the seller is entirely allowed to ask questions/information too.
Here is a possible (albeit very simple) scenario/script which can help qualify the prospect, understand why he wants information (remember the 3 options above) and make sure sales effort are properly aligned (I don’t believe in scripts in sales calls, this is just an option). Here goes:
Prospect: “Could you send me some information?”
Me: “Of course I can. I am glad you ask. But when you are asking me to send information, what specifically would you want to read about as, honestly, we have a lot of documentation and I would hate to send you irrelevant information.
Prospect: “Well, we discussed X, Y, Z. This would be of value.”
Me: “I see, it does make sense and these are issues many of our customers face. So that I understand clearly, with regards to X, Y, Z, what specifically is of interest and, to an extent, why these as opposed to T, U, V which we also discussed earlier?”.
What is happening here?
Well, going this way helps to drill on the issues and the prospect can elaborate on the reasons why she / he wants information. And what isn’t relevant so to be efficient for the next meeting.
Then, I will send some information in a more informed manner. And, doing so, it is natural to expect something back in this two way relationship. For instance, finding a way to avoid being in this situation where I have to chase. I have ended up in the so-called death valley (it’s silent in the death valley, nobody responds to emails and phone calls….) even if the prospect said that it was an “interesting meeting”. So, how to establish reciprocity and avoid ending in this very silent place. Well, I like to bring the future forward and agreeing with the prospect what will happen.
Let’s finish the conversation.
Me: “Ok, I will send you information about X, Y, Z . This is relevant because, as far as you are concerned, reason A, B, C. And you also mentioned T, U, V is not something worth discussing further. Now, we are both busy people and it will take time to digest what I sent you. Once you have read this document, is it fair to assume you will have a more informed view on whether or not there is a fit? I appreciate you might come back to me with “sorry, this isn’t for us”. Or, alternatively, in our next interaction, we could work out the activities and people to engage to define for good if [insert product / service] can be relevant we problem X, Y, Z. Are these the two possible output reasonable to expect?”.
Prospect: “Indeed, that’s reasonable”
Me: “Great, in the case of there is a possible fit, should we pencil a date in the diary? If you work out there is not a fit, we can always cancel it. What about [date 1 or 2]?”
Prospect: “[Date 1] works great.”
Me: “Finally, before we finish for today, I need your help. I assume you do have a fair amount of reporting to do for your boss. I also do and, frankly speaking, that’s what I call “the not so funny part of doing business”. But I know I will be asked to report on our conversation. Could you help me with some information that my boss will ask me for?”
Prospect: “Sure, shoot” (People usually like to help other people)
Me: “It’d be good to know” and then I go on with 4 or 5 key qualification questions, from quantified ones (specific to a product) to specific timing (it’s a top prio internally, it’s not, it could be) or people involved in the process (who is involved in similar conversation, who is the person usually signing this type of project if they go ahead, etc…).
There are 3 important things in the (rather simplified) dialogue above:
- The future is brought forward , it’s agreed what will happen (and when) once the information has been sent and, theoretically, there will be no need to chase.
- There is an information gathering on what interests the prospect (X, Y, Z because of A, B, C) and what does not interest the prospect (U, V, W). So a focus on where the problems are and aren’t.
- There is a qualification of the prospect with the required information that I can then put in the CRM.
The data we don’t need to ask:
Good news, the hard bit is done!
Now to the easy bit. The data we do not need to ask but we can collect and which helps to further enrich the profile of prospects. The only thing that is needed is a sales infrastructure in place to measure. I actually detail this in a separate blog post focused on sales ops.
Voila. Not rocket science but, in the same time, not necessarily easy all the time!