Imagine that you’re single and out at a bar, looking for love. You spot an attractive stranger across the room and decide to approach and strike up a conversation. You say hello, introduce yourself, and then immediately start asking personal questions: “Are you single? Did you graduate from college? How many children do you want to have? How do you feel about the New England Patriots?”
You shouldn’t be surprised if this stunning stranger frowns, refuses to answer, and leaves without giving you their phone number. While these are vital facts to know about a future romantic partner, this aggressive approach is a recipe for rejection. You have to get to know each other first, build trust, and then you will slowly – and organically – learn this important information.
If you know this is a terrible way to get a date, why would you jump right to qualifying questions on a sales call with a new prospect? What is true in romance is also true in sales – you can’t start out a new relationship with a checklist of questions for everyone. Instead, you must build personal connections with new prospects in order to close deals.
Much like you want to have a good opening line when approaching someone at the bar, you should have an interesting first line to say when you call a new sales prospect. Do some research before the call to find out an interesting fact about them, their company, or their position. Instead of jumping right to the qualifying questions, you can say, “I saw that your company recently hired 40 new people. Sounds like you’re growing fast!” This opening line will get the prospect’s attention, maybe make them smile, and keep them engaged and on the phone with you. You don’t have to be a standup comedian, but you do need to get them to like you and want to talk to you before you try to find out how compatible your product is with their business.
Too often, sales reps have BANT or another acronym pounded into their heads and forget to actually listen to what the prospect is saying and how the conversation is progressing. Instead of flat out asking for a checklist of sales requirements right away, try to slowly draw information out of the prospect over time in a normal, casual conversation. You’re a human being, not a robot, and talking to you shouldn’t sound like you’re reading from a set script. Work on qualifying prospects with a relaxed, interesting conversation that flows naturally. Much like you would on a first date, you can ask prospects to tell you stories about their business that will reveal key information about them. Eventually, you will gather enough information to determine whether they are qualified to buy.
Empathy is incredibly important in sales and relationships. You have to be able to imagine yourself in the prospect’s shoes and understand what they want and need. If you’re only worried about how quickly you can sell to them and hit your quota, this relationship will go nowhere. Instead, you need to take what you’ve learned about them in conversation and use that to build their trust in you. Be honest and advise them on what you think their business really needs, not just what would be good for your sales numbers. This means your product may not always be the right solution for a prospect – some prospects will be a great fit, and others will not. Much like how a first date may lead to a committed relationship or may be the only date, some sales calls will lead to a deal, and others will not.
If you want to find the perfect customer, your ideal prospect, and your sales soulmate, you have to stop acting like a robot with a checklist of qualifying questions. Instead, talk to prospects like a human, be likable, honest, and build their trust in you. Sales isn’t just about qualifying prospects, it’s about building honest and powerful relationships.