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Overheard on the Street – On a “Sell” Phone?

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A Salesman, traveling on Amtrak, placed a cell phone call to his client to follow up on an opportunity.

Let’s listen to one side of the dialogue:

“Hi. This is I’m calling to check up on the project to see if I can be of any help in moving it forward and check on the status.” (He listened to his client). “Well, I’d really like to see it move forward and help you. I think we could do a lot with you guys,” the Salesperson continued. (He listened again to his client). “Well let me know if there is anything we can do.”

While I didn’t try to eavesdrop, he was sitting next to me, and it was impossible not to hear him. My reaction was neutral.

His next call really got my attention. This was a call to his colleague.

Let’s listen to the one side of this dialogue:

“I just called X and it doesn’t look good. I was told it looks like the competitor is going to ‘step up to the plate’ and they were going forward with them.” He listened for about one minute to his colleague and said, “I didn’t want to press too much.”

From the first conversation I had no idea this Salesman had gotten such bad news. I did notice he was very polite in tone to both his client and to his colleague. But what was missing?

He missed a chance to 1) save the deal, and/or at least 2) gather competitive and client information. He needed to “press” a lot more than he did.

It was clear he had been proposing on a piece of business. I assume he had given time, resources, and ideas to this client. While a client may not choose us in spite of these things, we have the “right” to try to find out why they don’t. Since this did not seem cast in stone yet, the Salesman might have been able to save the opportunity or reposition himself to at least stay in the running.

At a minimum, he should have:

  • Acknowledged what the client told him, showing some concern without being critical or defensive
  • Asked what the client meant by the competitor “stepping up to the plate”
  • Listened and drilled down – why, when, what will the competition do
  • Asked how his contact feels about this direction with the competitor
  • Asked where the other decision makers stood
  • Positioned benefits/ideas
  • Checked on where things really stood
  • Ended on an action step – i.e., if the deal merited it, go and see the client and leverage his/her team – “We want to come out and see you this is so important to you “
  • With acknowledgment and a positive tone and prefacing such as, “I know the competitor not doing was a concern to you. May I ask how the competitor is proposing to handle (the area where the competitor had not been willing earlier to step up to the plate)?” The Salesperson may have gotten important information to help save the deal.

    Clients expect to be asked “Why?” and “What?” when they tell you any important news.

    In thinking about it, besides “pressing” in a consultative way, there was something else missing from the first phone call. There was absolutely no rapport in the client call. There was no brief client chat, no use of client’s name, no benefit stated, and no time check to see if it was a good time to check in with the client.

    The learning points are that if there is a chance to win deals in a competitive marketplace, we must be more assertive, have established rapport, and make a second and third effort.

    It’s not easy to stay composed when you get bad news. As salespeople, it is important to be ready to acknowledge, question, and find a way to reposition.

    When you get “bad” news, take a breath, remain consultative, and ask questions to find out why – and hopefully start to change the situation or at least gain competitive information.

    Linda Richardson: President and CEO of Richardson, training consultants to corporations, banks, and investment banks globally. Richardson has 110 professionals, 15 regional offices in the United States, and presence in London, Australia, Singapore, Latin America, and Asia. Clients of Richardson include KPMG, Federal Express, General Mills, Tiffany & Co., Dell Computer, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Citibank, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, and Kinko’s. Visit http://www.Richardson.com.

    Linda Richardson Answers Sales Questions: Click Here For Free Answers

    Overheard on the Street – On a “Sell” Phone?
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    About Linda Richardson
    Linda Richardson: President and CEO of Richardson, training consultants to corporations, banks, and investment banks globally. Richardson has 110 professionals, 15 regional offices in the United States, and presence in London, Australia, Singapore, Latin America, and Asia. Clients of Richardson include KPMG, Federal Express, General Mills, Tiffany & Co., Dell Computer, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Citibank, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, and Kinko’s. Visit http://www.Richardson.com.

    Linda Richardson Answers Sales Questions: Click Here For Free Answers WebProNews Writer
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