How to Better Qualify Stalled Sales Prospects

How to Better Qualify Stalled Sales Prospects
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Stalled Sales Prospects Can Be So Frustrating
Stalled sales prospects — it’s one of the most perplexing and frustrating challenges salespeople face. Your sales prospect initially showed a lot of interest, they claim to be authorized to make the final decision, and they have the budget to buy from you. And yet, as the days and weeks wear on, they are still not pulling the trigger. What can you do to better qualify stalled sales prospects?

What Gives?
The sales prospect has gone dark.  What gives?  If you’re looking for answers to that question in your prospect’s behavior, you may not be looking in the right direction.

The problem most likely lies with you and your sales team — here’s why it’s your problem but not your fault, and what you can do about it.

The Impact of Anticipated Buyer Regret
According to our microlearning experts, our minds are chock-full of mostly unexamined biases that can skew our decisions. You’ve probably heard of some of them: confirmation bias, affinity bias, recency bias and so forth. Here’s another: anticipated regret.

What’s that? The name gives a clue.

When we make certain decisions, we’re aware of the fact that they could go wrong. Part of our brain is already regretting what we’ve done, in anticipation of the decision not turning out well. Anticipated regret can change a decision, or even make us forgo making any decision at all, for fear of being sorry for it later.

The Research
Behavioral research shows what a powerful phenomenon anticipated regret can be. One groundbreaking experiment was led by researchers from France’s prestigious National Center for Scientific Research Center and the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging at University College London.

  • The researchers had 15 people play a gambling game while monitoring their brain functions by MRI. In the first set of rounds, participants saw only the outcomes of their decisions — “you won” or “you lost.”
  • But in the second round, when participants lost they were told how much they would have won if they’d chosen another answer.

In other words, they were made to feel bad, to experience regret. In those moments, the MRI reports showed that their brains lit up in key areas involved in decision-making and emotional processing.

But here’s the kicker: The greater the regret, the more likely that they’d try to avoid further regret, by sticking with safer choices in the future.

So how does this apply to being able to better qualify stalled sales prospects?

The Inability to Handle the Truth
Sales management training data tells us that as salespeople progress through the sale process with each potential target customer, they must periodically decide whether to challenge the prospect with risky questions — including “Are you ready to move forward?” This sales qualification process makes sense, but also feels risky.

What if you offend or turn off the buyer?  You may tell yourself that it feels too soon, or that you should play it safe until the “time is right.”  What’s really happening, though, is that you’re afraid to hear the truth — for fear it will reveal the sale won’t happen after all.

Your hesitation to press the prospect is simply to avoid an uncomfortable truth that you may not be the best fit for your buyer.  Strategically this is a faulty strategy as you never want the second best poker hand.  Your goal as a salesperson should be to get to “Yes” or “No” as quickly and professionally as possible so that you can invest your time in your most likely opportunities.

So, the problem is with you and your sales team. But because it’s a function of a cognitive bias common to all human beings, it’s not your fault.

How to Better Qualify Stalled Sales Prospects
Once you’re aware of this bias, you can free your mind to ask those risky feeling questions — those questions that help you better qualify prospects that fit with your unique value proposition. In addition to realizing that it is a waste of everyone’s time to slow-play the sales qualification process, one thing you can do is to soften the way you ask difficult sales questions.

For instance, in our solution selling training workshops we teach sales reps to ask “Is there anyone else that you need to consult before committing?” to effectively challenging a prospect’s statement that they are the decision maker.  If you’re challenging their assertion that the company needs to make a purchase soon, you might ask: “What would happen if you didn’t buy now?”

The Bottom Line
Don’t let fear of hearing the truth deter you from asking necessary qualifying questions. While it may feel good to have a stalled deal in your sales pipeline, top solution sellers know when to move on and focus on better opportunities.

To learn more about how to better qualify stalled sales prospects, download 30 Effective Sales Questions that Matter Most

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