It has always fascinated me, how in many situations, I watch from the outside and observe how badly things are going wrong for some poor fool who is just about to put himself in harm’s way, and yet feel powerless to help. It’s a memory I have from childhood watching the Saturday matinee of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. Our brave gent dressed in his dandies, struts out of the door onto the moor just as it is falling into darkness with an eyrie mist is rolling in. With a jaunty step, he looks back over his shoulder at our damsel and says something like “don’t worry my dear I have this all under control”. He then stumbles into a pit, losing grip on his snub-nosed revolver, and ends up staring into the jaws of some horrendous beast. The camera cuts away and we hear a blood-curdling scream as our hero is devoured by the pooch with the big fangs and bad breath. It did not matter how much I screamed at the TV “don’t go outside in the dark you plank; you are going to get munched” our hero just carried on regardless. Still, I suppose it makes for good TV....
I have experienced a similar sensation it in my sales management career as I watched a poor salesperson get minced by a frustrated prospect. As our hero or should I say salesman begins to deliver his 38 slide PowerPoint slide show, beautifully constructed with every feature of his product eloquently called out, prospects ears begin to turn red. (I have always found this to be a good leading indicator of an impending eruption and subsequent tongue-lashing from a prospective customer) In similar fashion to shouting at the TV in my youth, I would try to surreptitiously signal the poor guy that a storm was heading his way. This is difficult to do without blowing the opportunity or making the sales guy look really stupid. I find a swift kick in the shin, under the table and then full on glare to signal shut up you burke, works well most of the time. However, it is also true that some sales guys (especially if that have put a lot of effort into building the slide deck) will not be put off by a love tap under the desk. In fact, in some cases, I doubt if a smack round the back of the head with a baseball bat would be enough to stop our intrepid salesman making his pitch. So our board member who does not care a jot about our beautiful feature list because he is in the middle of defending an aggressive takeover bid becomes.....a tad emotional, well let’s be frank in some cases I have seen a normal placid pleasant guy turn into a raging monster...... or as I like call them for the purposes of this blog a Werewolf!!
To avoid enraging a prospect until they appear as a werewolf, it is essential to focus on the why of the prospect pain. Why he is losing market share, why his product is not selling, why the new legislation that is being introduced is going to hurt him unless he takes measures. Then you can talk about the how you can help him. I do not mean the what you sell, I mean how your solution will help him. How you can help him stop losing market share or how you can help him avoid legislation pain. Then you can tell him the what. The what is your product pitch that reminds the prospect why you are there, then how you will help him and then and only then what your product or service does. Why How What that’s the way to win a sale and avoid having to grapple with a werewolf.
This contribution is from Tony Wand who has been a working sales professional for many years as well as also providing energetic and creative motivation sessions for major organisations such as HP and British Telecom.