As you gain experience in the world of sales – learning the “ins and outs” and “dos and don’ts” you eventually need to master the principle of situational awareness. A successful salesperson understands that the close is not the most important part of sales. The most successful salespeople embrace the interpersonal elements that go beyond the numbers. Let’s explore one of those elements, and explain why it will make a powerful addition to your skillset.
Situational awareness is defined as knowing what is going on around you. To be aware means to be in touch with your environment – and to react to any cues given.
The nuts and bolts of situational awareness
This is a crucial concept to understand in sales. Many salespeople are too deep into their process, presentation and demo to effectively read the situation around them. Additionally, they can’t gauge their prospect’s reaction and feedback. Being too focused on what you’re doing (selling) can diminish your ability to have a meaningful conversation with your prospect. While many believe that situational awareness is only important for in-person sales, it is, in fact, even more important over the phone. You have less control over the phone, as your prospect can easily become distracted. Therefore, gauging their feedback is even more important – and more difficult.
What is the key, in that case? Well, it’s not necessarily just “going with the flow.”
The key is having a systematic process which you have memorized flawlessly. When you deliver your pitch, you are almost having an out of body experience – which is to say your mouth is on autopilot while your mind is focused only on your prospect’s reaction. Learn to interpret body language, attention span, and engagement. In a face-to-face, are their eyes wandering? If so, that’s a bad sign.
Having a systematized, repeatable process will allow you to command the sales conversation. Further, it allows you to keep checking in and adjusting “on-the-fly” to your prospect’s reaction and feedback.
It goes without saying that when a prospect is engaged in a sales conversation, the prospect’s buying temperature will be heightened. In engaging the prospect, you will flush out real needs which you can address, rather than giving a “one size fits all” sales pitch. As you read the prospect, your sales pitch should gradually model the prospect’s needs and desires. The key is to work in the moment – and push that hot button.
How do you work in the moment?
It’s all in the mind
Mental modeling (prior to engaging the prospect) is another main component of situational awareness. You need to understand that there are only so many ways to skin a cat. In other words, there are a limited number of ways your sales conversation will go. By having a baseline understanding of who your prospect is, what it is you are trying to sell them, and what business they are engaged in, you can plan a skeletal trajectory of the call.
Make sure that you set expectations. This is necessary to avoid confusing your prospect. However, the point of contention here is that the above practices will keep the call moving forward, and when you go in for the close, it is more of a natural progression as opposed to a sales-y tactic.
As you systematically move through the conversation and adjust to your prospect’s feedback and reactions, you build trust within the prospect. Trust leads to a desire to engage in mutual business – your original goal, and the goal of any salesperson.
This is known as cracking the buyer threshold.
The buyer threshold is the scale by which your prospect decides whether to invest. Many sales calls end with the dreaded: “let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.” We all know that’s a nice way of saying “get lost.” That response is the result of complacency. Your prospect was unmoved by your presentation, because you did not increase their buying temperature to the degree required to advance the sales cycle.
Close, close, close
Going in for the close is an expression that is often thrown around a lot in sales. It refers to the end of a sales presentation. However, going in for the close should be more readily referred to as striking while the iron is hot; closing only when your buyer is ready to buy. This cannot be achieved without getting your prospect up to their buying threshold.
The end of the sales presentation is not always the close. Most salespeople have experienced the “knee-jerk” objections from said prospect, that is a sign of complacency and ultimately, you missed something.
On the other hand, your prospect might not go for your close and ask a question or respond with a proper objection – questions or reservations regarding your presentation. Those objections are real, and they don’t necessarily mean that you have lost. In fact, if your prospect starts to ask specific questions, that means they were engaged and are showing you their buying intention.
Keeping your prospect’s awareness piqued throughout the presentation lowers the potential buyer’s resistance and increases their buying temperature. Once you achieve this, you go for the close – you strike when that iron is hot.
More salespeople need to understand this. If you make the conversation substantial and genuine, you steer it towards a natural close. Your prospect would either invest or have a frank discussion with you as to what contingencies must be met prior to investing. In this scenario, you are in a much better position to further engage the prospect. In contrast, forcing a sales-y close will only foster an adversarial type relationship with your future client.
Take a step back from the close and the bottom-line of sales. We all inherently understand what that is already – and it’s often overemphasized. Focus on developing your sense of situational awareness. Like any other skill, it takes time, practice and dedication to get good at. Once you commit to the above principles, however, you will notice a tangible increase in your prospect’s receptivity and interest. Most importantly, you will prompt a mutually beneficial business relationship that will grow over time.