Opening Closed Doors

You are ready for a spectacular year. You began reviewing the list of prospects who said “No” to you in the past, because you know that change occurs throughout the year. If your approach is merely to “touch base,” you have the same “plan” as every other salesperson.

Before making your next contact, spend time evaluating the history of the account and things you missed during your initial interaction that cost you the sale. Uncovering these areas will enable you to create a new possibility with past prospects. Here are a few ideas:

1. Determine why they didn’t buy

This is better done immediately after you are turned down, but it’s also a good way to get back in front of someone. Get your prospects to speak with you openly. Many prospects feel the need to disguise the truth in order to avoid “hurting your feelings,” and use generic reasoning, such as “high price, no need to change current vender, no budget available or bad timing.”

Uncover the real reason by asking questions about their goals this year and problems they are facing. Ask questions such as, “If you could create the ideal (solution/product/service), what about your current product/service would you like to improve or change?”

2. Do your homework

It isn’t enough to understand the problem and provide a solution. How will the economy or technology affect their businesses? How will utilizing your product/service help alleviate certain issues? Read up on press releases, annual reports or articles on the company you’re calling. If you want to create a new purchasing opportunity, determine your prospects’ current as well as future needs — needs that your prospects may not even be able to identify themselves.

3. Get their attention

What’s their motivation to listen to you, again? Develop a concise message you can send them (letter, e-mail) or deliver in a conversation describing the results they can expect from utilizing your product/service. Be creative. Uncover the one compelling reason that would motivate someone to speak to you again. Here’s how to open up the conversation. “After reflecting back upon our prior conversation, I have some new ideas I’d like to share with you regarding how our (product/service) can enhance what you’re currently doing.”

4. Become a resource

Don’t simply call to “follow up.” Stay away from calling with the intention to see if they’ve received your information or to “check in” to ask if they have any immediate needs. Is there something newsworthy that you can discuss which applies to them; a success story about a client you’ve worked with? Adding value to your product or service at no additional cost stimulates interest and exceeds your customers’ expectations.

5. Start selling measurable results

Most companies are now in the business of providing solutions. Prospects are more interested in the end result they’ll experience as opposed to what your product does. Can it be quantified? It can be greater productivity, lower overhead, monetary savings or an increase in their quality of life. If your reasons are not powerful enough to move someone from a state of inertia to interest or action, here’s your opportunity to give them an overhaul. Interview your customers to get a better understanding of their position and why they bought from you in the first place. Remember, people buy based on their reasons, not yours.

6. Stop chasing dead opportunities

Whether it’s a stubborn attitude or reluctance to accept that an opportunity is truly dead, salespeople sometimes spend too much time chasing accounts that don’t qualify as potential sales. Ask better questions to determine where the prospect stands. It’s also critical that you give prospects the opportunity to not only say “Yes” but “No” as well. Getting turned down can make you feel rejected, but it also allows you to move on to more promising prospects.

During every follow-up, the minimal objective of each contact would be to learn something new about your prospect, their company or their situation. You are looking for information that strengthens your relationship with them, provides an opportunity to leverage their relationships with other prospects or decision makers they can connect you with or moves your sales cycle forward. If you’re not able to achieve these minimal objectives, then you may want to re-evaluate why you’re following up with that person in the first place.

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