The Curious Case of the Unsold Products

One of the perennial problems that salespeople encounter is that when their prospects don’t buy, they seem reluctant to explain why. There are a lot of possible reasons. Maybe it’s not their decision to make or maybe they don’t think you can deliver, and so rather than make the meeting any more uncomfortable than it is, they tell you that they’re going to “think” about it.

The trick is to find out what the real reasons are that are preventing the sale, and then dealing with them; but what do you do if they won’t tell you? What do you do if you’re left in as much of the dark at the end of the meeting as you were at the beginning?

 

They don’t know

Let’s start by stating the obvious. Sometimes your prospects don’t know. They don’t know why they don’t want to buy.

You are exactly the same way. You go to a car dealership. You’ve read the literature. The salesperson has answered all of your questions, and you can’t think of any others to ask. You’ve been on 14 test drives, morning, noon, and night, in traffic and out of traffic; on the motorway and in the countryside.

The dealership has the model in the right colour with the exact specs that you want; but you can’t quite reach the point where you’re ready to sign the contract.

There’s something holding you back. It’s your decision to make. Your husband, wife, or partner has even encouraged you to get the car.

The only thing that’s holding you back is you. Why? You don’t know, and the same thing could be true of your prospects.

This scenario is something that you’re going to have to learn to live with. At such time as you can figure out why you won’t buy, you may gain some insight into why your prospects won’t buy either. Then you can write a book about it.

 

Teasing out the real reasons

So there are times when prospects won’t buy and can’t tell you the reason because they themselves don’t know what it is.

There will be those prospects who know but don’t want to tell you. Of course, that doesn’t help matters because you can’t deal with their objections unless you’re told what they are.

How do you do that?

 

One way is by making them curious.

Think about any celebration where gifts are given: Christmas, a birthday or anniversary. If there’s a box wrapped in pretty paper with a bow and your name on it, aren’t you at least a little bit curious as to what’s in it? Don’t you want to pick it up, handle it, or even shake it before the appointed day to see if you can figure out what’s inside?

And what’s your reaction when you’re told most emphatically, “No!” or to put it down and wait. It’s all you can think about, right?

You can do the same thing with your prospects. You can get them to ask you to tell you about your products by surrounding them in mystery.

 

Create a mystery

Agatha Christie is the world’s most famous crime writer. Her books are among the third or fourth most popular in the history of publishing.

What one thing characterizes her stories? That it was impossible for the crime to have taken place.

On the face of it, it looks impossible. The room was locked from the inside. How did the killer get out?

Or the country house was cut off by bad weather. How did the killer get there, and how did he / she escape?

Or no one heard anything and they all had a credible alibi.

We in the UK love stories like that.

You could make up a set of stories to tell your prospect in which your product is the person who solves the mystery; that is, it’s the solution to the problem.

In so doing, your prospect becomes the detective. He / she is the one who is asking the questions. You only have to provide the answers, though you may help him / her to make the right enquiries.

 

Make it a game

Nowadays, we don’t play games much. Before the Internet, board games were popular; and before them, there were other games that involved very little in the way of props. One game that is still played now and again is called charades.

You know how it works. You have the answer. It’s a book, film or play. Maybe all three. Then you act out the words in the name or words that sound like parts of words that when combined will enable the others to guess the title.

That’s another way of teasing out the answer to a mystery.

 

Example

Let’s think about an example that we all face: Mobile telephones.

What’s the mystery? Which one to get? The “right” answer is personal. It will depend on your criteria. So we’ll leave that part up to you.

Let’s say that you’re selling these phones. How do you get your prospects to tell you why they won’t buy from you?

One way is to create a story that leads them to realize that your product solves their problem better than the one they use. Think of this as destroying their alibi; in other words, giving them a motive.

They might say, “I use XYZ brand because . . .” This leaves open the opportunity for you to say, “I didn’t know that. Tell me more.” That’s a non-confrontational way of taking control of the conversation. They will still think that they are leading it, when in fact you are.

You could “plant” a question in their minds by saying, “Is there anything you’ve ever wondered about? For example, have you ever thought that X would be a good idea or thought that Y would be a cool feature?” [These would be things that your product has, but not your competitors.]

It’s important that you don’t get too aggressive here. The goal is to get them to do the talking.

You could then summarize what you’ve learned, and then ask them if what you’ve said is accurate.

You want to be fully prepared. Carry as many samples with you as you can, but keep them out of sight. Or if that’s impractical, then carry an iPad or something similar so that you can show them your products online. You want to be able to do this as soon as they ask; but not before.

 

 

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Bob Hayward speaks at NRG Networks Swindon

Speaking at NRG events is always a pleasure - this session is about price resistant selling