Have you ever been in the middle of delivering a presentation to a prospect â€¦ when you noticed that he or she seemed to have completely tuned out of whatever it was you were saying? If you were delivering the proposal in person, maybe you noticed that the prospectâ€™s gaze was elsewhere, or that his or her body language was closed-off. If you were talking to someone via Skype or join me, perhaps you noticed that the prospect didnâ€™t pick up on your persistent verbal cues to join the conversation, or only offered short, polite responses.
What did you do?
Did you â€œsell harderâ€? Did you give up?
Dealing with a prospect who is noticeably disinterested in your presentation is one of those situations that salespeople often mishandle. The most common response offered in this situation — to turn on the charm, press forward to the bitter end, and hope for the best — carries a number of disadvantages. First, it (further) alienates the prospect. Second, it wastes precious time, and thus increases the likelihood that the meeting will conclude without any meaningful dialogue between the two of you. Third, it doesnâ€™t give you any information about what the problem is.
In many cases, you may not have to complete your presentation. Some prospects will make their decision, pro or con, before you complete your presentation. Others will want to hear every last word.
To determine to which group your prospect belongs, stop about two-thirds of the way through your presentation and take your prospectâ€™s â€œtemperatureâ€ to determine how close or how far he or she is from making a positive buying decision. The prospect may have already been â€œsold.â€ (It happens more often than you think.) Alternatively, you may still have some work to doâ€”in which case, the prospect will tell you exactly what you have to do to close the sale.
The â€œthermometerâ€ with which you will measure your prospectâ€™s temperature is graduated from 0 to 10. Zero represents â€œno sale,â€ and 10 represents a â€œdone deal.â€
Hereâ€™s what it might sound like:
â€œTom, I realize I have a few more things to cover, but before I do, Iâ€™d like to ask you a question. Based on what weâ€™ve discussed thus far, on a scale of zero to ten, where zero means youâ€™ve already made up your mind that my software is not the answer youâ€™re looking for, and ten means it isâ€¦and in a few minutes weâ€™ll be completing a contract and getting some implementation dates on the calendar, where are you?â€
Obviously, when you ask the thermometer question, you would like to hear a high numberâ€”preferably â€œ10.â€ But, what do you do if the prospect comes back with a very low numberâ€”1 to 4? You could work extra hard and be extra thorough in covering the last few points of your presentation and hope that will raise your prospectâ€™s â€œtemperature.â€ A better and less pressure-packed strategy, though (for you and your prospect) is to assume that, being so far along in the presentation and receiving such a low number, there is no way your prospect will get to 10â€”and ask for his or her advice.
For instance, you could say:
The prospect may give you exactly the information you need to fix the problem and come back with a new approach — which is something you probably wouldnâ€™t have gotten if youâ€™d chewed up a lot of time working your way through a presentation that wasnâ€™t going to result in a close. On the other hand, the prospect may confirm your suspicion that thereâ€™s simply no deal here, which gives you an opportunity to learn a valuable lessonâ€”how you got so far along in the development process and were so far off base on the prospectâ€™s needs.
Either way, you will get more information you can actually use — and spend less time spinning your wheels — if you make a habit of taking your prospectâ€™s temperature two thirds of the way through your presentation.