Hey salesperson, don't be a professional visitor

By Shane Woodman, zone sales manager
Muncie Power Products

Published in the August 2015 issue of Generation Next Edition.

When you think of a salesperson, what do you see? Does a picture of a used car lot, a furniture store, or someone ringing your doorbell pop into your head? You are not alone. Many of us have purchased a car, shopped for furniture, and told someone at our front door “no thank you.” That’s the image many of us have about sales.

Telling someone what they need, what they should get, or how you can help their problems does not exactly create equal business stature. Forcing the sale may not create the valued customer your business seeks. Try not to be a “professional visitor”; be a business partner and trusted advisor.  

Qualifying the prospect

When you make an appointment with a prospect, are they qualified? Or do you just stop into their business and ask for the contact name that you found on the internet and interrupt their day? Picking up that phone and making a cold call is something no salesperson enjoys doing, but it’s a necessary task to grow your business.

Take a look at the big picture. Allow the prospect to be as prepared as yourself. If they don’t want to meet with you, that’s a good thing. You can spend your valuable time qualifying prospects that truly need your help in solving their problems. Next time you drive all the way across town and try to create a meeting out of thin air and get rejected, that’s vital time you took away from yourself and the individual you pulled away from their daily activities.

It’s doubtful your sales manager likes seeing a sales call report stating, “They did not have time to talk today.” That can be interpreted as, “I never qualified the prospect. Therefore, I lost that time in my day for productive sales activities.” We aren’t perfect though. Those calls may happen, but when you make an effort toward eliminating them, you’ll see sales numbers increase. Quality over quantity, right?

These qualifying questions may help; ask them to yourself. Create some of your own as well, based on your own business needs.

  • Do they use our product or service?
  • Are they satisfied with their current service provider or vendor?
    • If not, what’s unsatisfactory with them?
  • Can we help with these issues?
  • Is it a standard annual bid where they may need three for a board?

The meeting/presentation

Now that you have qualified the prospect and understand what they need, does this mean you get to tell them about your great product or service? Maybe, but I’d wait until you are 100 percent sure there’s a real need.

What if they accepted the meeting to be nice? That means you’ll spend the next hour or so talking about how great your product or service is just to get a “no” at the end. Ask for a “no” at the beginning. That’s right ­– ask for a no. It may sound crazy, but again, you won’t waste anyone’s time.

If they want you to continue, that’s a small victory. This means you did a nice job qualifying them during your cold call. The presentation is the most exciting part of the process for most of us. We believe in our product or service and get to convey that to the audience.

The audience can be tricky. You may have a variety of personalities in the room. Let’s say you have someone in the room who likes numbers/data, someone who just wants quick facts, or someone who wants to see a full PowerPoint presentation about what you are selling. Pleasing everyone in the room is not an easy task. Before you spend your valuable time putting your presentation together, ask what they would like to see by giving them options. You don’t want to drag out the presentation with too much information or present too little. The audience knows what they want to see. Let it be as easy as asking and not guessing.

The proposal

Sales managers tend to ask about the likelihood of capturing the business. We say 90 percent because we feel we did such a great job at the meeting. A week later the account is closed in the CRM as a lost prospect. We didn’t realize once we left the meeting, the prospect called their current supplier and used you as leverage. 

Ask the prospect at some point if they are price shopping. Of course they will say no. You’ll have to do your best to see the bluff. Preparing that proposal could take you hours, days, or even weeks! Is that time you are willing to give up if they are just price shopping and not value shopping?

We are selling a product or service we believe in. The prospect needs to see the same value you do. This goes back to qualifying the prospect. When you ask the right questions throughout the process, you’ll be confident you submitted the proposal they seek.

Remember when I said ask for a no? If they are price shopping, that could be considered a no. Only put together the proposal if it can be done in little to no valuable time. Be sure to tell your sales manager they are not qualified, but you didn’t take any valued time away from your day putting it together for them. After all, we do get lucky sometimes!

The wait

The proposal has been submitted and is in review. You call your contact to check the status and they say it’s on their boss’s desk. What? We thought you were making the decision. Now we are hoping the person you sold can sell their boss.

You might as well close the account now, because that individual is looking at the price and wondering why you came in 10 percent higher. That’s just not in the budget for this year.

Try asking this question in your original meeting: “Other than yourself, who else will be involved in this decision?” Once you ask that question, ask it again. I’d recommend asking it once more after that. If you need to set another meeting to get in front of all decision-makers, do it. You will save yourself headaches down the road. Just remember that your time is valuable. These questions are asked so you know you are spending your time at the right place.

Remember – if you qualified the prospect, the chances of winning the sale increase exponentially. When you win the sale, take a look back at the process and see how you qualified them. You can repeat that process with the next prospect. You’ll learn as much from the losses, too. When you close the prospect account in the CRM, ask yourself what you missed in the qualification step.


The importance of our time is as valuable as a prospect's. The more efficient we can be with prospecting activities, the better the results will be. Remember, a NO is as good as a YES. Focus your time on those prospects who truly need you. Don’t become another “professional visitor”. The prospects/buyers appreciate the time you spend gathering their needs. They have important jobs. Their busy day doesn’t have a slotted time for salesperson walk-ins.

Ask yourself these questions and you might see your time spent in more valuable areas:

  • Did I qualify this prospect or just stop in and create a meeting?
  • Did I tell them all about my product after truly uncovering their needs?
  • Did I ask for a no?
  • Are they price or value shopping?
  • Did I uncover all of the decision-makers? Am I sure?

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