January 20, 2010
One ploy prospects use to get rid of salespeople is to ask for literature or for a website to review. This gambit usually anesthetizes the salesperson's critical judgment just enough so he quickly agrees, while leaving him in a state of mild euphoria, believing he may have a possible live one. Only after numerous follow up calls that don't get returned, does the salesperson realize, once again, that he has been played. Yet sometimes our prospects are interested and want information to make sure they are not wasting their time. How then do we distinguish the interested prospect from the poseur?
One key to distinguish the real prospect from the poseur is at what point he asks for literature. If the first words the prospect utters after we deliver our value proposition is "send me some literature", or some variant of this, it is most likely a blow-off. To flush this out, respond something like this, "I'd love you to know more about what I do, but may I ask a question? Usually when someone ask for literature, it is for a couple of reasons. It is either a polite way of saying they are not interested or if they have some interest, it is not a priority that is likely to come front plate any time soon. I want to check in to see if either may be the case here so I don't waste everyone's time?" If he responds by saying it is not a priority, ask what would have to change for it to become a priority and how you can best stay in touch with him in the event that were to occur. If he responds impatiently to your question or tells you to send something out and he will get back to you if he is interested, respond by saying it appears this is not the best time for us to connect and disengage.
If you have a longer conversation with your prospect after which he asks you for literature or some equivalent, it may still be a dodge, so ask a different, but softer question. "Usually when someone asks me for literature, it is for a couple of reasons: they have a problem they hope I can help them with, or they want to make sure that meeting with me wouldn't be a waste of their time, or it is a polite way of saying they are not interested. I'm wondering which, if any, of these is the case here?" If he answers that he has a problem or wants to make sure he wouldn't be wasting his time, respond by telling him you don't know if the literature will help answer that question, so would he be open to talking for a few more minutes to see if it makes sense to get together." At this point if he still wants literature, agree to give it, but get a commitment from him to accept a follow-up call.
Another key to distinguish a contender from a pretender is his willingness to take positive action. For example, when an apparently interested prospect asks for literature, reply, "May I make an alternate suggestion that will save everyone's time and make it easy to say no? Let's schedule a time to meet. In the meantime, I will send you an email with links to relevant information. If after reviewing that material, you conclude that it doesn't make sense to meet, just email me back and say no thank you. It will end there. Would that work for you?"
This approach asks the prospect to take a positive action. And since this action is in his best interest (if he is truly interested), because it saves him time and provides an easy escape hatch, if he hesitates, or declines, you are most likely dealing with an artful dodger. Call the game. "When you say that wouldn't work for you, I think what I'm hearing upfront is that no matter what I send, you are not going to be interested. Am I off base in saying that?"
Today, we have to work harder to find opportunities. We can't afford to waste time or energy chasing shadows. Learning how to better deal with literature requests will keep us in the light.
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