There are two kinds of sales meetings: the guy that wants to talk to you and the guy that doesn’t.  The guy that wants to talk to you will be easy to engage in your standard ice breaker questions.  The guy that doesn’t lets you know by not playing ball with these questions.  Reps often take his short, clipped answers as their cue to launch into their demo as fast as possible.  Doing so makes that sales call a self-fulfilled failure.  The right Tell Me’s, open-ended questions designed to give you a road map to a client’s pain points and readiness to buy, might warm up Mr. Frosty. Today’s post will talk about two different types of Tell Me’s and when to use them.

What do I mean by a prospect that wants to talk and one that doesn’t?  Sometimes you find yourself in a sales situation where the prospect is “pre-sold.”  They know a little about your product, perhaps they’ve heard a good reference, already done a trial or read your research, and believe it might work for their students.  This person might even have contacted you for that appointment.  These meetings should be on a Qualifying Tell Me Track.  Qualifying Tell Me’s sound like this:

“Tell me what prompted you to look into [your solution].”

“Tell me what interests you about [your solution].”

“Tell me what would make a successful implementation of [a product like yours].”

“Tell me about the process for purchasing programs like these in your district.”

If you asked these questions to a prospect that doesn’t want to talk to you, you can imagine they’d have negative or very terse response. “We don’t really need any more xyz right now.”  This prospect is usually someone you’ve sold a meeting to. Good for you, this is what you’re supposed to be doing. Often when you sell a meeting, the prospect has little to no information about your product, or possibly holds some misconceptions about it.  They may regret having agreed to talk to you as they see it as a waste of time, this isn’t something they can see working for their students or budget.  They might be in “defense” mode when you start talking, saying things like “Let’s see what you’ve got,” or otherwise hurrying you to just get to your dog and pony show.  This situation calls for a Trust Tell Me Track, in which you need to first build trust and credibility.  Trust Tell Me’s sound like this:

“Tell me what you feel could be improved in [your focus area].”

“Tell me about some of the challenges you are facing as you work toward that improvement goal.”

“Tell me about the most important priority to you in this area.”

“Tell me how you measure success in reaching this goal.”

Do you see the difference?  You aren’t giving Old Frosty a chance to pooh-pooh your product or say we don’t need help in that right out of the gates. You are just establishing rapport and searching for a pain point you can work with.  It won’t succeed in disarming the reluctant prospect every time, but it will work far more frequently than just launching into your demo, leaving a marketing kit, and being shown the door.

Be sure you’re reading the situation correctly to know which way to proceed.  You might be thinking, why not just always start with the Trust track every time?  Yep, if it works for you, that’s one way to go.  Observations tell me however, that reps feel more natural and comfortable opening meetings with more Qualifying Tell Me’s than Trust Tell Me’s.  It feels weird to walk in cold and say, “Tell me about your challenges,” especially if you’re selling a not-so-paradigm-shifting solution like supplemental curriculum.  Subsequently, I feel like this strategy is more practical for the average B2E rep.  You simply might feel more comfortable pulling out the Trust Tell Me’s only when the more cut to the chase talk track could get “We’re all good there” types of responses. 

Most of you know the body language and pre-meeting cues that lead up to a meeting with the guy that doesn’t want to talk to you.  Consider it a great first step if you do manage to get that prospect talking about their challenges and ways they are trying to solve it.  You’ve earned a bit of trust and hopefully earned a few minutes of open-minded listening where you at least can accurately define your solution.  Plant that seed and know when to get out.  With a “hostile” prospect, that’s the best you can hope for, and will allow you to live for another pitch down the road where you use what you now know about his challenges to suggest an implementation that might appeal to him. 

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