When it comes to evaluating success for salespeople, it's often focused on one thing: the win. Asking for the customer's business and getting a quick and enthusiastic "yes!" seems, at times, to be the only thing that counts.
This mindset, and the aggressive behavior that it drives, comes at a cost. According to HubSpot research, only 17 percent of salespeople consider themselves "pushy" compared to 50 percent of prospects who see them that way.
If you want to be a more effective sales leader, getting the sale right away might win you the commission but lose you the relationship, your credibility and even referral potential.
So what mindset is more effective for salespeople than "Win the sale now"?
Here's a mindset I learned in coaching school that has stuck with me: "The person who is most attached to a particular outcome has the most to lose."
In other words, if you are completely and deeply committed to a situation turning out one specific way--and that one way only--you have a lot invested in a single result. What does this mean for salespeople? It means that making the sale right now is one good outcome of a sales conversation. But if it is the primary way you're measuring success, you're going to experience a lot of failure, setbacks and rejection.
So, what are some productive, positive alternative outcomes for a sales meeting that you can proudly attach yourself to? Here are my three favorites:
1. Gaining some useful insight.
Salesman and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar remarked, "Every sale has five obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust." If your prospect gives you some clues to help you better understand and strategize a way around those roadblocks, you'll be better prepared to make a more effective sale down the road.
Ask your prospect questions like, "Who are some of your favorite service providers or vendors to work with and why?". Or offer "It sounds like you don't need us right now. What would need to change on your end for our product to be useful for you?" You might even empathize, "Seems like budgets are tight right now. What's that like for you?" And then really listen. You'll get some useful nuggets to save for the right time. That's a win.
2. Getting a warm referral.
Maybe your prospect isn't the decision-maker, but wants to connect you to the person who is. You might say, "I'm so glad I had this opportunity to sit down with you to learn more about your business and your decision-making process. It seems like the person I should be speaking with next is Jamie. Is that right?"
Or perhaps your prospect isn't in the market for your product or service right now, but knows someone who may be. Try, "I appreciate your candor. Thanks for letting me know that our service isn't what you're looking for right now. I'm wondering, based on what you've heard about us, whom you know who might be in the market for this." And then stop talking.
Whether it's making the right connection within the organization or obtaining a new, qualified lead, both are wins. And when the lead comes with a personal introduction (which you'll offer to draft), you're already ahead of the game.
3. Securing the next touch-point.
The worst outcome of a sales meeting isn't hearing "no." It's hearing "no, and don't call me again." Even if your prospect isn't going to buy what you're offering now, he or she may buy what you're offering down the road. Say, "Let's stay in touch. You never know when things might change on your end, or when we have something new to offer. How about if I reach back out in 6-8 weeks. Does that timing work for you?" I usually get a "yes" -- and then I put the reminder in my calendar ASAP.
Sometimes I hear, "I think I'll have a better sense of things in six months. Will you reach out then?"(Even better). And what if you hear, "Thank you, but we're already working with a firm we love and trust"? I might say, "I'm so glad you've found a great partner you can rely on. That makes our whole industry look good!" And then, I send occasional articles and emails to stay top of mind because things can change! The prospect's demonstrated interest in being in touch with you again is a reasonable indicator that he or she may buy it from you when the time is right.
"To build a long-term, successful enterprise," says sales trainer and speaker Patricia Fripp, "when you don't close a sale, open a relationship." Attaching yourself to outcomes that serve a longer-term strategy also serve a longer-term vision for the care of your sales relationships.