…and it’s probably not for the reasons you think! No, where our opinions differ is over that tweet you can see on the left. I don’t know the history behind it but I have seen it used a lot and it fills me with dread that someone will actually try to follow Mr West’s ‘advice’.
One of the key skills required in sales is that of qualification. Some sales people forget (or don’t know) that qualification is not just about keeping prospects IN your pipeline, it’s also used to drop people OUT of your pipeline.
At its’ simplest, the qualification question can be ‘Is this person likely to buy my offering or not?’. Assuming the answers is ‘yes’, there follows the intricate dance of the buying/selling process wherein information flows in both directions. What often isn’t appreciated is that the type of information required by the buyer will change depending on how far he is through his process.
In the very early or ‘awareness’ stages, the buyer will be looking for basic confirmation that you can meet their needs. This can be provided by a white-paper, a checklist or simple brochure, an educational webinar and so on.
Having passed this stage, the buyer starts to evaluate your offering in more detail. At this point, they will want a case study (ideally closely related to what they do), a more detailed brochure, a product webinar, a demo video and so on.
Looking good! We’re now approaching the purchase stage. At this point, the sales person will be providing a detailed offer, a live demonstration, a free trial, maybe even a sample contract. All the while, the buyer is digging deeper and deeper, seeking to reassure themselves that what you are offering meets their needs, both in terms of the product or service itself and in terms of the peripherals. I mean things like terms and conditions, payment terms, delivery terms, after sales care, you get the picture.
If I give you ALL of this information at the very beginning, I’m doing two things that don’t help either of us. Firstly, I’m overloading you with information that is irrelevant at this point – how does that make you feel about me? Secondly, I’m giving away information now that could have been of use to me in the later stages of the process – now I’ll have to create some new information; oh, but you’ll want that at the beginning as well.
As you haven’t allowed me to find out what is really of interest to you, let me add in all the other things my product can do, ‘just in case’. You’ll probably never need them but it’s what you wanted, remember.
If I give you ALL the information at once, the decision you make is NOT to buy from me. I’ve failed to do my job. Your next tweet says something like “Don’t drown me in irrelevant information, just give me the stuff I need and I’ll make my own decision.” You’ll most likely not look at my products again.
So I have two requests to make.
Salespeople: when you qualify someone, particularly if it’s your first contact, do so sensitively. Establish where, or if, your contact is in a buying frame of mind and don’t, just don’t, impose your timescales on them and try to hurry the process. If you push too hard, you could be starring in Kanye West’s next tweet!
Prospects: the salesperson is only doing their job by trying to qualify you. It will take the shortest amount of time to qualify yourself out of their pipeline, if that’s what you want. You won’t get bombarded by information you don’t want and the sales person will move on to the next likely-looking prospect. Of course, if they don’t do it sensitively you have my full permission to jump all over them in your largest boots. Your tweet could be the star of my next blog!
Do you have any good, bad or indifferent experiences to share? You don’t have to name names if you don’t want to.
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