You’ve probably seen those giant funnel-like water slides at waterparks. You know the ones: you climb forty-two flights of stairs so you can swirl and plummet while hunkered down in a giant rubber donut with family, friends and terrified strangers. At first you go back and forth, again and again – the suspense building as you slowly – but inevitably – inch closer to the chute that will propel you to unseen thrills in the tube below.
But what if you just kept circling the top of the funnel? What if you never made any real progress toward your destination? Welcome to the salesperson’s nightmare: forever chasing prospects around the top of the sales funnel no matter how hard you work to make that sale!
Let’s take a quick look at why this nightmare is all too real, and how you can stop the futility of the “spin cycle”:
Why It’s Hard to Get Traction on a Slippery Slope
Sales is essentially about communication. By establishing a dialogue based on the prospect’s needs and how your solution can meet those needs, common ground is established, agreements are reached and the sale is made. Simple, right? Well…
Here’s where it gets complicated: Communication isn’t always clear, simple and unfiltered. So when your prospect tells you that your product sounds great and would definitely help the company solve a serious problem, you walk away from the meeting feeling pretty good. Just like working your way into the tube of that water slide, you are quickly on your way to an inevitable deal, right? But then something happens; well, actually, nothing happens except the endless circling. All the while, of course, you spend precious time and energy calling and emailing and communicating and connecting any way you can to advance the sale and get your sales manager off your back. Nothing works. Why? Here are two possible reasons: 1) Prospects are typically nice people who don’t want to let you down by saying “no,” and 2) despite the prospect’s encouragement, their “plate is full” and your solution simply isn’t helping them solve their most pressing challenges – their most nagging “pain” – today.
Converting “Nice People with Full Plates” into Customers
Over time, successful salespeople develop the skill to recognize when prospects are just being kind and encouraging as opposed to being candid about the true likelihood of purchase. This awareness can help you determine that a “hot” prospect is actually lukewarm at best. This understanding could also, however, help you shift the conversation to a deeper discovery of the prospect’s immediate challenges, concerns and priorities. And when you align your solution with these in a way that amplifies the need and creates urgency, your product or service becomes a true solution that can halt the “spin cycle”.
Of course, in a corporate environment with multiple decision makers, you will have to position your product or service as essential to each of them. To help them see why they should each accept your solution now, you’ll need to do your homework to find their individual triggers. Do you need to influence the Chief Financial Officer? Find out and communicate how your solution can positively impact the corporate bottom line. You might also need to find and solve similar areas of need for the head of Purchasing, the Chief Information Officer, the Chief Operating Officer, or anyone in the decision chain who might have veto power that could derail the sale.
The Bottom Line:
By listening well and doing your homework, you can position your product or service as a true solution to the serious and immediate needs of your prospects. When you do that, you can make the sale without getting caught up in that seemingly endless and vicious “spin cycle” at the top of the sales funnel.