Interested Prospects Seldom Buy
by Jacques Werth

"Interested" is one of the most common words that salespeople use in their prospecting and selling activities. If you can get your salespeople to eliminate that word from their sales vocabulary, and replace it with the word "want," your company's volume of closed sales will rapidly increase. In most cases, just changing that one word can increase closed sales by at least 15 percent. This is easy to explain, and difficult for most salespeople to do. Here's why?

Closing is all about mutual commitment. Commitment can be either positive or negative. Rather than ask for a commitment, and allow for the possibility that the commitment may be negative, most salespeople avoid asking. Instead, salespeople ask prospects if they are "interested" - because they don't want to hear "No." And, many prospects often say they are "interested" - because they don't want to say "Yes." The result is two people spending a lot of time discussing your type of products and services with no commitment. However, your salesperson has made a de facto commitment to provide his/her time, expertise and your company's resources without any compensation. That salesperson is merely hoping that he/she will be able to persuade an interested, but uncommitted prospect to buy.

Note: In this article, the word "prospect" is intended to include existing customers.

Occasionally, interested prospects actually do buy - but not very often. Yet, most salespeople keep hoping that they will get better at persuading interested prospects to buy. That is referred to as "Random Negative Reinforcement." When salespeople are doing something that has a very small probability of producing a positive result, an occasional payoff will get most people to continue doing it. Gambling casinos make billions on that principle. They let the gamblers win a little - occasionally. The vast majority of people who put money into a slot machine will be encouraged by those small occasional payoffs. They keep hoping that they'll become skillful enough to beat the odds - until they lose all their money. That's one of the primary reasons that most people who go into the sales profession fail or perform at mediocre levels.

Prospects and customers decide to buy for their own reasons, in their own time. Visiting with them before they are ready is, most often, counter-productive. It's very difficult to develop the right kind of relationship when prospects regard your salesperson as someone who will waste the prospect's time, and their own time.

When your salespeople try to get prospects "interested" in what you have to offer, whether by enticing them with benefits or asking rhetorical questions about their current status, most prospects will feel pressured and/or annoyed. No matter how subtle your salespeople are and how interested they may be in a prospect's needs, most prospects will intuitively resist those tactics. Their resistance and their negative perception of the salesperson, his/her name, and your company name, will be imprinted in the prospects' memories.

We have done studies to determine the effectiveness of most prospecting and sales techniques. Here is the result of one of those studies. The longer a salesperson talks to a prospect who has not said "Yes" to an offer, the lower the probability that the prospect will ever do business with your company. Highly successful salespeople accept "No," the first time they hear it. However, they go on make prospecting offers to those prospects every few weeks, until they eventually say "Yes."

If your salespeople spend most of their time and resources with prospects who want your type of products and services now - prospects who make a commitment to buy if you can meet their requirements - you will have broken the pattern of Random Negative Reinforcement.

Once your salespeople stop wasting their time with low probability prospects, they will become far more productive. All they need to do is ask whether your prospects want what you have to offer. If they ask all of your prospects, often enough, you will begin a long term trend of ever increasing revenues.

Jacques Werth is president of High Probability Selling (HPS), a leading North American sales training and consulting company with a radical new approach to the sales paradigm. He is co-author of "High Probability Selling," one of the best selling sales books over the last six years. The new Japanese language version of HPS sold over 60,000 copies in it's first year and HPS is the fastest growing sales training company in Japan. Since 1989, High Probability Selling has trained salespeople in 76 different industries, including various commercial, industrial, and consumer products and services. Jacques can be reached at 800-394-7762. Visit for additional information.

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Copyright 2005 by Jacques Werth. All rights reserved.

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