One recurring challenge that consulting partners often share is how to better lead sales conversations.
On one hand, you want them to put your prospect first and show you are focusing on helping them, and not just winning another business. On the other hand, you want calls to be productive and move the deal forward.
Many consultants go wrong when they lose sight of their main goal. What both you and your prospect want from the conversations is to exchange value and learn if and how you can help each other. It's business-oriented.
Of course, it helps to be likable. No one wants to work with a person without empathy and (at least a bit of) a sense of humor, where every interaction turns into an unpleasant experience. But if all you do in a call is to be pleasant, you become nothing more than a distraction for your prospect.
If you have a good positioning and an effective marketing engine, prospects who agree to talk to you have at least a basic idea of how you can help. But when you give people space, they talk. And this is where the conversation can get unproductive.
There's a reason they are talking to you. They are not the experts in solving the problem or improving their situation. As a matter of fact, they don't even know what the real problem is. Often, there's more value in problem-definition than in problem-solving.
So it's your job to ask the right questions and guide the conversation in a way you can add the most value to. And this means that, sometimes, you will have to interrupt prospects.
Now, there are many ways to do it. But you must use the right language, so you interrupt them politely and in such a way they understand it's for their own benefit. Here are some suggestions (credits to the amazing Alan Weiss):
- "Can I stop you right there? You've said something I think is important, and I want to make sure I understand it."
- "Excuse me, but I think you've said in three different ways that attrition is the major issue, is that right?"
- Pardon me, but can we discuss that last point further before moving on?"
- May I summarize what you've been saying, to make sure I'm on the right track?"
You can't control the outcome of your sales conversations, but you can control the process. Interrupting prospects might feel uncomfortable for you at first, but will increase your perceived credibility and result in more productive interactions for both parties.