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When you’re in the middle of a prospecting discussion – that is, when you’re initiating the first real-time voice-to-voice engagement with a possible buyer – what is your goal?

The question sounds simple enough, but you would be surprised how many sales professionals get confused about the answer. Your goal is to give the person a reason to invite you into their circle, typically by scheduling a meeting with you. That’s it.

All too often, salespeople act like that is not the goal.

Suppose you’re on that initial voice-to-voice call. Suppose you share a powerful third-party story about a customer who started working with you because their previous supplier gave them a system that was not easy to use. And suppose the person you’re talking to says, “You know what, that’s been our experience, too. I’m frustrated that what we have in place today is just not all that easy to use.”

How do you respond?

Don't overcomplicate your life, or the buyer’s life, by starting a monologue. This is not the time for you to go into all the features and benefits and all the supporting evidence that proves beyond a doubt that your solution is easy to use. We call that kind of response from a salesperson “driving by the exit” … because it ignores the real purpose of the discussion: to give the person you’re talking to a reason to invite you into their circle!

No. Your purpose here is not to deliver a lecture about features and benefits. Your purpose is simply to set the next meeting. There are only three questions you need to ask at this stage to develop that pain indicator that has just shown up and solidify the reason for the person ought to invite you in. Those three questions are:

Can you give me an example/tell me more? Once you ask this they will stop and think for a moment, then begin to share with you the real-life situation behind that pain that they just shared with you.

What happened? Again, they will stop and think, and after a few seconds they will recount a fuller version of the situation where the problem showed up. At this point some emotions are likely to surface. That’s what you want. You want them focusing on the impact of the problem they’re facing.

Can I make a suggestion? When you ask this,the other person will, in all likelihood, say some variation on “Sure.” At that point you will close for the appointment by saying something like the following: “Bob, take a look at your calendar. Let's find a time where you can set up a half-hour for us to talk about this so you can tell me more about it.”

When they agree to this suggestion, and then give you the time and date to put on your calendar, they will be inviting you into their circle … which is what you were after when you started this discussion!

Don’t get confused about why you’re talking to this person! Don’t drive by the exit! Just give them a reason to invite you in!

John Rosso is the author of Prospect the Sandler Way.

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