Tim was in trouble on this one. After finally getting in to see the prospect, Tim felt like he was backed into a corner and being poked to death.
“Tim, you said the service on your product was first-rate. Just what do you mean by that?”
And Tim spent five minutes answering.
“And another thing, I’m not going to tell you my budget because every time I do that, the proposal comes in within $10 of the top budget number. Why should I tell you?”
And Tim spent six minutes answering.
“Well I still won’t tell you the budget number, and let me ask you this, how do I know that your service really is that good? Every salesperson who walks in here tells me the same thing. Don’t bother with references. Unless you’re stupid, you’re only going to give me references that are happy. Right?”
And Tim spent ten minutes answering.
“And my last question, Tim, or at least I think it’s my last question — the last time I bought something from your company was three years ago. You want to know why it has been three years? Simple. No one from your company, until you, bothered to ever call me to see how things were going. It was slam, bang, and gone. How do I know it’s going to be any different with you?”
And Tim spent fifteen minutes answering.
The prospect had constructed a box made of questions and put Tim right inside. Tim was reduced to having to defend himself, his company, and what some salesperson had or had not done years ago. None of the questions being asked by the prospect had anything to do with making a sale. The questions were being asked for the exact opposite purpose — to keep the sale from happening.
When a prospect constructs a box of questions that reduces the salesperson to coming up with one answer after another, the chance of making a sale is small. Three things are happening from the prospect’s point of view.
First, the prospect is in control of the sales presentation. Prospects who control the sales situation generally do so to keep the sale from happening.
Second, the salesperson is blindly giving information away without having the slightest idea what is going on. In short, the prospect is seeing the salesperson as someone to bully into submission, and the salesperson is allowing it to happen.
Third, should the price of the product ever come up, consider the prospect’s perception at that point. “I’ve bullied this salesperson on everything else and succeeded, why not price, too?” While the prospect might not state it so boldly, the situation is just that — the salesperson is waving a white flag.
Ideally, a salesperson should never go into the box. But it will happen even with the most experienced and successful salesperson. The goal is to recognize it when it happens and stop it.
Instead of just responding to one question after another, stop answering them and start asking why the questions being asked are important.
Tim should have responded to the question of service by asking, “Why is first-rate service important to you?” He’d get a painful moment of silence and then an answer from the prospect. Just by asking the question Tim would regain control. The typical prospect response at that point is, “Service is important because . . . ” Once the prospect finishes, Tim could then innocently state the following and then wait for a response, “So, I guess you’ve been burned in the past on the service issue.” If the prospect says he has, Tim could even more innocently ask, “And what happened as a result?”
Tim is out of the box and back in control. In addition, he is also getting from the prospect exactly what the prospect considers to be first-rate service.
Going into a box is a waste of time for both the salesperson and the prospect.