Let’s face it, selling is really hard. I came to that realization very early in life when I was a teenager and started getting interested in girls. I often stumbled around, trying to find the right words to get a conversation going or to ask someone out. Boy, did I feel awkward!
When I was lucky enough to sense a girl was interested in me, I tortured myself trying to figure out how persistent I should be in my romantic pursuits: Was it too soon to call to ask her out? (I didn’t want to seem too pushy.) After the first date, how soon should I ask for a second? (I didn’t want to seem too desperate.) We’ve all been there.
Fast-forward 10 years, after I embarked on a career where I sold a range of financial products and services. I suddenly found myself facing similar challenges. Once I met a prospective buyer interested in what I might have to offer, I tortured myself over the same issues I encountered in my years as a teenage Romeo: How aggressive should I be in asking for an appointment? If I was successful in arranging a first meeting and it went well, how assertive should I be in asking the prospect to “take the next step”? When and how hard should I push to get the prospect to “sign on the dotted line” and commit to my product or service?
Do these scenarios sound familiar? They should, because most salespeople confront these issues constantly.
What’s the solution? What’s the best way to get insights about sales strategies you want to pursue and the likelihood of success using those strategies?
Personally, the approach I have found most effective is quite simple: Get an outside opinion — and maybe even two or three more. Specifically, review the situation and your proposed sales scenario with someone you trust. This could be your manager, a colleague, a friend who is not in the business, your spouse or a relative. Explain what happened to get you to the point where you are right now. For example, you met a potential prospect at a convention and you want to follow up, but don’t know the best approach or the right time to initiate contact. Or maybe you just submitted a quote to a prospective buyer and you’re desperate to follow up, but don’t want to seem so pushy that you repel the person.
These challenges come up all the time in sales. Getting another person’s reaction to how they might respond to your next move will help you fine-tune your sales strategy and perhaps even view it in a different light. It also could prevent you from doing or saying something that could potentially sabotage a sale or relationship.
Six steps to optimize feedback on your sales pitch:
- Describe the facts and circumstances of the sales scenario as thoroughly as you can, being careful to maintain anonymity and/or confidentiality as needed.
- Be as objective as possible about how you believe your prospect is perceiving or responding to your overtures from both best- and worst-case perspectives. Try to share your appraisal of his or her personality and business style.
- Ask for advice on all manner of communication you might use, including an in-person meeting at the office, a casual drink after work, a phone call, a text message and/or email.
- Role-play your next move with your advisor and set up the scenario where you try to pitch your proposal to the prospective buyer.
- Ask your advisor to be blunt and honest in his or her response and guidance on your proposed actions. Explain that flattery or kindness will do you no favors.
- Get additional opinions and points of view if necessary. Just be careful not to overanalyze the feedback. At the end of the day, you need to be comfortable and confident in the position you choose. Believe in yourself.