It happened twice this week. Two of my clients had nearly identical situations and both nearly made the same mistake. Let’s take Pete (not his real name) for example. He sells a consulting service to the federal government. He had met a high level official at a luncheon event and during the lunch conversation the prospect told him about a problem he was having. Pete promised to follow up to pursue it further and the prospect agreed that he was anxious to discuss the problem. When he got back to the office Pete immediately began the process of lining up a subject matter expert to bring along to the meeting he was trying to set up with the prospect. Luckily we had a scheduled coaching session that afternoon and I was able to talk him into abandoning that strategy and scheduling the meeting without the expert. The first advantage was that the meeting happened the following day as opposed to two weeks later which would have been the case to coordinate three busy schedules. There are many good reasons not to take technical experts on first sales calls here are the most important three reasons:
- CONTROL – With a technical expert in the room you are more likely to lose control of the conversation. The prospect will ask a question and the expert is off to the races explaining, advising and generally showing off how much she knows. The next thing you know the time is up and the prospect is educated but you haven’t had time to truly understand the compelling reason the prospect might have to move forward, or how much they are willing to spend etc. your team is usually so busy talking that you don’t follow your sales process.
- OPENNESS – If there are only two of you I the room the prospect is more likely to open up and tell you the real problem at a deeper level. They don’t have to watch what they say so much because “there are no witnesses”. They can relax and you can control the conversation and get the information you need.
I am not saying never to take experts on sales calls only to be careful not to take them too early in the process. You almost never need them on the first call since you are just there to qualify the prospect not to show and tell. Weak salespeople schedule a meeting then expect the combination of the expert and the product to wow the prospect and get him so excited they want to buy. This leads to pipeline bloat, poor forecasts wasted time and low closing rates.
So how did Pete make out? He met the prospect the next day. He uncovered a huge problem that needs to be solved in the near term. The prospect had scheduled the meeting for 30 minutes but the meeting lasted 45 minutes. Pete was worried about how he would carry the conversation without the expert. But as I predicted, once he got the prospect started on the problem the prospect went on and on about the problem and its ramifications. At the end of the meeting the prospect was convinced that Pete’s company could help him out of his mess. He scheduled another meeting to hear how they Pete’s company had solved a similar problem in another federal agency and they took the first steps in the acquisition process.
Pete learned a valuable lesson. Going to the meeting alone allowed him to control the conversation and the prospect opened up in a comfortable one-on-one setting. And what drove my point home to Pete was that had he brought the person he wanted to bring, it would have been the wrong expert. Now he can confidently bring in the right person to deliver a specific message to demonstrate a specific capability the prospect is interested in. Once that is accomplished, they will move rapidly to a new contract.
Get more sales tips by signing up for the free OPTMAL SELLING™ weekly video sales tip. Click here for more information.
Dan Caramanico is a salesforce development expert and he is the author of The Optimal Salesperson® One of Selling power’s top ten books for 2010 and Optimal Selling, Sales Conversations of the Optimal Salesperson.