Prospects Aren’t Really Prospects

Sales has a goal: find a prospect with a need and sell a solution. You can call it anything you want, use all of the fancy terms about serving your client, be a Trusted Advisor or a Relationship Manager, do whatever you can to understand need and make nice. But at the end of the day, your job as a seller is to place your solution.

Unfortunately, we do it the long, hard way: we assume – and this is a baseline assumption in the sales industry – that when we notice a ‘need’ that our solution can fulfill, we have a prospect. Yet we consistently close 7% of our ‘prospects.’ Obviously our assumption that a prospect with a need which our solution can resolve is a specious assumption.


What we forget is that the ‘need’ has been sitting in a buyer’s environment (I call it their system) for some time. Sitting somewhat comfortably, or it would have been fixed already. Not only that, but the environment has created work-arounds – jobs, rules, relationships – that keep the ‘need’ in place daily. It’s most likely not sitting there waiting for you to come along and fix it. And unfortunately, sales treats the identified problem as if it were an isolated event.

But we show up, assuming because there is some sort of lack that our solution can resolve, that we have a prospect. We do everything we can to get in, find ‘the decision makers,’ understand, promote, pitch, and promise. But it doesn’t work, because the prospect may not be a prospect.

1. This need may be sitting comfortably-enough and not causing any conscious problem. Do you have any extra weight on you? Why haven’t you gotten a gym membership? What about your anger management issues, or your fights with your spouse or kids? Done anything about those?

2. The need may have been there so long that it’s determined just one part of the givens. Oh – we’ve always used our own tech team to design our sites. Yes, our in-house trainers do a good job.

3. The need may be in one area but needs buy-in from adjacent groups who don’t care about changing. So what if the L&D team wants new software if the HR person thinks everything is fine.

In order for a prospect to make a purchase, they would have to change something – most probably a string of somethings. They would need to get buy-in to do something different. They would need to be willing to change a few things around, and have the ‘things’ be ready,willing, and able to change (For example before you got a gym membership you’d have to be willing to get up earlier, eat healthier, get your wife to walk the dog, take lunch to work, etc. It’s a system that behaves like a house of cards.).

How can you determine if a seeming prospect – a person or group with a lack that your solution fulfills – is really a prospect? S/he may not know either, and may tell you there is no need when with just some decision facilitation they can recognize the need. But to do that, they’d have to consider the internal change issues first. After all, this is the very first thing a prospect considers well before they actually consider buying anything. And sales doesn’t manage it.

Use Buying Facilitation™ to help your prospects determine how they’d move forward toward change. Show them how to determine how to get buy-in.

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