Prospects and buyers have it easy. They get to say “no” in a a million different ways that sound like yes. We salespeople are so eager to hear something besides no, we imagine or report we heard yes.
At the heart of effective sales performance is measuring progress accurately so that we can make the right moves and give a reliable forecast. So, a critical selling “skill” is figuring out the meaning of what people tell us.
One useful approach is to suspend the (universal) obsession with closing (the sound of yes) and instead test for movement. For example, if a prospect tells you that you can talk to the management group you will likely report that back to your own boss as progress which will be heard as yes, looks like a sale to me.
But if there is no scheduled date and the management group remains unavailable to you, it’s a no i.e. there is currently no progress. Your job then is to secure the firm participation of the prospect (names, dates, agenda etc), or hard commitments.
You can be working on relationships or working on relationships that are currently in progress. Today, you might have dozens, possibly several dozen relationships, but maybe only one or two that are currently in progress e.g. the buyer has your name in their calendar and is giving you hard commitments.
Don’t keep looking for yes; look for small progress
Personal philosophy and beliefs drive a lot of the least effective selling instincts and behaviours. If we work to the notion that I haven’t heard no, so it could be yes or it sounds like yes, we will invest time with people who waste our time. If we look for – earn – shorter term, hard commitments from buyers we can measure progress objectively, that is neither yes nor no. It’s small progress against a timeline.
You don’t get progress, you earn it
You cannot simply go out tomorrow morning and demand hard commitments from prospects and buyers. You’ll have to earn the progress, by being a respected resource for them, someone worth talking to.