I’m all for quickly establishing some level of rapport with a prospect. If a prospect places you in one of her social groups, she’ll be more comfortable buying from you. But you’re a sales professional making power moves to take your game to another level…listening to a prospect talk for half an hour about golf courses in Africa won’t get you where you need to be.
Enter the Challenger Sale approach to selling. From the first point of contact with the prospect, you control the situation. And the prospect is grateful, because you quickly demonstrate that you understand her situation better than she does. Once that’s clear, you help her identify and come to grips with a major point of failure that could potentially destroy her business or leave her struggling in later life. This point of failure should of course be real, or else she’s going to rightfully see manipulation (or she’s a sucker, and manipulating suckers is a lame way to earn revenue).
A prospect will typically have several unknown points of failure. You’re of course going to focus on the point of failure that your product or service will best address. Leading the now-concerned prospect from the point of failure to your product or service will probably be forced and awkward for a while. The focus has to stay on her solving her problem — a shift to you solving your own problem of closing more deals will fully restore her wariness of being sold.
What’s a common unknown point of failure that solar could resolve? Many solar sales reps highlight upcoming exponentially-explosive electric rate escalation, but recent history doesn’t support that — average U.S. electric rate escalation from 1997 to 2015 was 2.2% for residential and 1.8% residential for commercial, which is in line with general CPI inflation of 1.9% from 2000 to 2015 (sources: U.S. EIA, inflationdata.com). I’ll save my approach for a future blog post (after I’ve tested it in the field!).
Reading the Challenger Sale and hearing positive feedback from sales professionals (including a SolarEdge rep, who told me yesterday that he “sleeps with this book under his pillow”), I’m convinced that the Challenger profile is generally the space to be in (vs. other typical sales profiles: the hard worker, the relationship builder, the lone wolf, and the problem solver). It’s not only likely to improve your close ratio, but also puts you in a position to change lives for the better while you’re at it. If you take this on, please let us know how your experimentation goes at Twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Bishop, 6/22/16