From Wikipedia, flow “is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
You’ve had the experience of being in state of flow on sales calls and demos. Everything is working. You find it easy to build rapport and establish an environment of trust and confidence. The meeting goes smoothly because your questions follow a natural progression, eliciting valuable information from the client about their problems and needs, making it easy to propose a solution the client is excited about.
Then there are the other calls. You know, the ones where absolutely nothing goes right. The ones where you hope you’re just having a nightmare and a buzzing alarm will soon come to your rescue. But, alas, it never does.
The sales call gets off on the wrong foot from the get go. You fail to make a meaningful connection with the client. You can’t find the right questions to ask, and even when you do they don’t seem interested in answering them. And you struggle to find a real problem or opportunity around which you can create significant value.
What Not To Do
When faced with a situation like this, don’t make the same mistake many salespeople do. Don’t just keep pushing forward. Don’t put your blinders on and ask more questions or review more features in the hopes that things will magically get back on track. They won’t.
In fact, keeping your head down and plodding along is likely to have the opposite effect. You’re only going to get more frustrated causing you to become less engaged and less focused on the client. The client will do the same. They’ll become disconnected and disinterested, hoping the end is near.
This is a painful experience for everyone involved.
Try This Instead
Avoid sales calls like this by following a few simple steps.
1. Start with clear intent about the purpose of the meeting. Are you there to sell something or are you there to determine if there’s a fit between what the client wants and what you provide. In other words, can you create value?
The reason many sales people end up in ‘head down, blinder mode’ is because they’re focused on the former. By focusing on selling something you miss opportunities to connect with the client and have a dialogue that fosters a productive meeting. Your tunnel vision keeps you from being able to make the adjustment necessary to keep the meeting on track.
2. Learn how to hit the ‘reset’ button. When you get the sense that something is missing – the client seems to be disinterested or you’re having trouble connecting – it’s time to stop the meeting and reset. Here are two examples:
When you have trouble getting the client to offer information:
“Doctor, if it’s ok, I’d like to pause for just a minute to share what I’m hearing so far. Although we’ve talked about your current situation and some things you might want to accomplish, I’m not sure we’ve identified the specific problem you’re trying to solve or opportunity you’re trying to capture. I apologize if I’m not asking the right questions to help you verbalize that. If you had to say in one or two sentences what your primary goal or objective is, what would you say that is?”
When the client seems unimpressed with your product and its features and benefits:
“Doctor, is it ok if we pause for just a minute. At this point, I’ve given you a pretty good overview of my product/service and I want to make sure we are headed in the right direction. Based on your reaction, I’m sensing this might not be what you’re looking for, but I don’t like to assume that. What are your thoughts so far? Where should we go from here?”
Sales people hesitate to use dialogue like this because they’re afraid the prospect is going to say, “You know what? Now that you mention it, this isn’t really what I’m looking for.” But wouldn’t you rather know that now before you invest more time and energy showing your product, creating proposals, and chasing them for another appointment?
The key with any attempt at ‘resetting’ with a prospect or client is transparency. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge what you’re observing or experiencing during the sales call or product demonstration. Give your prospect a chance to do the same. It makes no sense to continue unless you’re sure that you and the client are in sync.