Sales Management Digest

Don't Let Fear Kill Your Sale
Larry Chambers
Many selling situations put both seller and prospect in an adversarial position. This creates fear. Here are some strategies for calming your prospect's buying fears and your own potential fear of losing the sale.

The Salesperson's Fears:

A salesperson may have had an unpleasant encounter, so he or she decides, "I'm not good at this."

After a number of rejections, the salesperson pulls back, quits or will do anything else to try to keep from having more unpleasant experiences which might further sabotage his self-image.

One tactic top salespeople use to overcome this fear is to create a mental image of themselves making the sale.

Football star Joe Montana used this technique with the San Francisco 49ers football team: If Montana had a bad series of downs, he immediately blocked out any thoughts of throwing an interception. He stopped and mentally recreated the problem plays as successes. He saw himself throwing the football perfectly and focused on the times that worked.

Although it may be difficult to remember to do this, especially after someone just said, "No," salespeople can use this tactic, too.

The Prospect's Fears:

The prospect is anxious about making a mistake. If he works for a company he may fear criticism of his decisions. He fears that the service he purchased wasn't what it was represented to be, or he may fear the loss of control. As a result of years of dealing with the salespeople who may not be professionally trained, customers have developed a strong sales resistance. This is especially true with big ticket items, like insurance or investments. Salespeople can expect prospects who have developed techniques to counter being pushed into making a buying decision. Buyers look to fill their needs - not the salesperson's.

When The Two Fears Collide:

In the traditional model of selling there is a point just before the close when the prospect feels maximum sales pressure. His guard is up and he is the most resistant. He is operating out of his fear of being pushed into making a bad decision. At the same time the salesperson's fear of rejection is at its peak. Fears for both parties are at the highest point at the same time in this model. This is why most salespeople have a very low closing ratio when following the traditional sales models.

The Traditional Sales Model:

This traditional model is transactionally driven. It allows a salesperson to spend only about 10 percent of call time to build rapport while a full 20 percent of the time is spend qualifying the prospect and 30 percent presenting the product. When you have reached this point, you spend the balance of your time closing - early, often, and hard.

Now, we are going to reverse the sales triangle. This is not to say that the original model is a poor method of selling. It works great for low ticket items where a mistake is not that big a deal.

Another problem with the traditional type of selling model is that it requires more conversation on the part of the salesperson. The professional spends little, if any, time asking questions to determine the prospect's needs. Unfortunately, this is the most widely accepted model of selling.

Needs Model of Selling:

In this model the first 40 percent of your time is spent developing a relationship with your prospect and building trust, by asking well thought out questions, and listening carefully to your prospect's responses. Your spend the next 30 percent of your selling time identifying your prospect's needs, concerns and objectives. Your evaluation of your prospect's situation should lead naturally into the presentation of the product. Spend the following 20 percent of your time discussing the product - as a solution.

At this point, the close becomes very comfortable as a result of the process and, because you have spent time discussing concerns and needs, your prospect's fears have all but vanished.

At this point, your fear of rejection is very low. In this model, because there is rapport, trust, and the prospect realizes the salesperson has taken the time needed to identify his needs, concerns and objectives, both salesperson and prospect are ready to close.

This model, by design, allows the product to become the vehicle that will help the prospect get from where he or she is now to where he or she would like to be.

In the traditional model the salesperson spent his time thinking. "What am I going to tell this prospect about my product?" In the second model, the salesperson is thinking about what questions he needs to ask his prospect. He has moved from his personal operating environment to the customer's. At the same time, the salesperson has eliminated one of the major obstacles to closing - fear.
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