Last year around this time I was conducting a sales meeting for over 80 sales people from a billion dollar company. The company was facing strong competitive threats for the first time in years. I decided to engage them in an exciting two-part workshop. For the first part of the workshop, I had them act as if they were the competition and asked them how they would put the other organization (or themselves) out of business.
They broke into teams and spent the next 20-30 minutes coming up with a strategy to steal even more market share from themselves. My main objective was to get them to look at themselves with a critical eye and exploit their own weaknesses – the very things they might not be willing to talk about during their sales meeting.
When the groups came back, they were eager to share all the ways they could defeat themselves. They poked holes in their own processes and took advantage of their own weaknesses. They talked about areas where they were dropping the ball and other areas where they were getting crushed.
After everyone had a chance to share, we had a long list of all the ways the competition was beating them. Then, we got back into groups and started to develop how to counter and go back on the offensive. This was the second part of the workshop.
Years ago a guy by the name of Barry Maher wrote a fantastic book called No Lie: Truth Is the Ultimate Sales Tool. In the book, he talked about “making the skeleton’s dance.” He said you should routinely look at all the negatives about doing business with you. These might be things your competitors would tell a potential customer about you, or the objections your prospects bring when trying to decide if they should do business with you. Barry said the key was rather than keep the skeletons in the closet; you need to make them dance. To do that, you routinely turn all the potential negatives into positives.
Prospect: “Your consulting fees seem higher than what we’re used to.”
You: “Of course they’re higher. The ROI is demonstrable, as we’ve discussed, and the last thing you need is another consultant. You need someone with expertise in this area. You work directly with me and get unlimited access without the worry a clock of a clock running.”
Prospect: “They’re a lot bigger than you guys. Are you sure you guys can handle a job this big?”
You: “Yes. We’re a lot smaller, and thank goodness for that. We only take on a handful of projects of this size each year, and we do that with good reason. It allows us to give each and every client the type of support a project like this deserves. Some of the big guys are juggling dozens of projects like this at any one time, and that’s why they have higher incidents or failure rates.”
All salespeople know that quite often when somebody says the price was too high, they’re just being polite and not addressing the real concern. Finding these ‘unvoiced’ concerns and handling them is what expert salespeople do so well, and that’s part of the reason the skeletons exercise is so powerful. You can literally say things to your prospects like, “You haven’t mentioned it, but a lot of people I talk to are concerned about the fee structure when working with us. It’s not going to cost you $1M, but we’re certainly not the cheapest by any stretch. Has that been a concern to you or your group?”
Your challenge for this week:
If you don’t know it already, identify the objection that puts fear into your salespeople’s hearts. The objection that once uttered means the sale has failed. And then figure out how to turn that into a positive. Find a way to make it something you’d be proud to lead with. Make that skeleton dance!