Super Bowl week continues, and so shall our loosely-tied-to-football intros.
In the NFL, time of possession is measured by how much game time the team is on offense. And generally, winning it is a good thing. In sales, there is a time of possession battle as well, but it’s measured by who is doing most of the talking. The seller wants to lose by getting the prospect to talk a lot. The idea is no one likes to listen to a sales rep rant for 55 minutes in a one hour meeting, plus the prospect will reveal pain.
I recently heard Steve Richard, Managing Partner at Vorsight and a sales thought leader, give a presentation where he touched on time of possession. Steve explained that when consultative and solution selling came to popularity, the goal for reps was to lose the time of possession, and lose it big. Potentially 80% prospect talking, 20% rep talking and asking questions. But as sales has evolved, buyers are becoming weary of calls that feel like a survey or interrogation. Today, according to Steve, the ideal mix is much closer to 50/50 time of possession. But the rep isn’t just asking questions; he/she is adding value to the prospect by sharing information that helps the prospect’s business (i.e. not just explaining features).
Balancing time of possession is definitely a part of the art of being a sales rep. It’s knowing when to ask a question and when to challenge the prospect’s thinking.
Want to win this battle? It’s simple. Next time your prospect stops talking, just follow these four steps:
- Empathize – Relate back to your prospect. Confirm that you’re not only listening, but also that you care
- Restate – Replay back the key part of that your customer said in your own words. Confirm that you really, really get it
- Say something smart – Now that you understand their problem, tell them how others customers of yours have solved it, or maybe about a blog you recently read on the topic
- Ask a question – Toss is back to them to get their reaction to both your summary and your smart thinking
Don’t dwell on any of these; they should all happen quickly to keep the meeting conversational. Remember, no one likes 5 minute monologues.
Here’s an example:
Prospect: “We’ve been in business for 47 years making widgets. Customers have always come into our store to buy but now they are looking to our website more. The online sales have gone up 3x in the last year, but it’s not enough to make up for the decrease of in-store sales. We need to find a way to make more money online.”
Rep: “That makes a lot of sense (empathize). So if I heard you correctly, your online sales are up 300%, which is great, but not enough to hit your overall goals (restate). A lot of my customers have run into the same challenge and have found abandon cart initiatives to help increase sales by 20% (something smart). Have you run any tests with abandon cart marketing? How much do you need your online sales to grow to hit your goals (ask a question)?”
In this example, the prospect will not only feel like they are being heard, but also that they are getting valuable advice from someone who truly understands their challenges. The enticing questions at the end will keep the conversation rolling smoothly, and the sales rep will stay on the winning side of the time of possession game.