If your prospect keep raising the same stupid objections and asking the same dumb questions it’s likely that your presentation is lacking or you are frequently talking to the wrong people. For new products, prospect objections are valuable data. Explore the implications and adjust your presentation and demo accordingly.
For New Products, Prospect Objections Are Valuable Data
For some clients we record our working sessions so that they can play them back later and we can listen to them and improve the quality of our interaction and improvisation.
What follows is a 90 second snippet from a recent working session that contains a true story about a conversation I had several years ago with a former co-worker who asked me to do him a favor and look at the demo of a new startup he had gone to work for.
Or download SmarterProspects (MP3) 90 seconds.
We have always talked about “early customers, early revenue.”
The new product introduction problem, the new product sales problem is a distinct problem from the scale up problem.
Getting those first six to twelve B2B sales is a very different problem from scaling.
Whether you want to it call it an exploratory approach or discovery driven sales, it’s a very different sales process than most sales guys are used to.
Very early on I got called in by a guy that I had worked with who had been VP of sales at a billion dollar software company who had gone to a startup. He had gone through 30 sales calls.
We sat down and he took me through the demo. He had two other engineers working with him and they some interesting technology. It was a little bit of a kitchen sink product but it was in an area where VP of sales had connections and they had had 30 visits to prospects.
And the demo went on for about 90 minutes. Afterward I said, “Can you show me the first version of this demo that you gave to the first prospect?”
They asked “What do you mean?”
I said, “Can you tell me how the demo has changed since you started showing it.”
He looked at me and said “That’s the problem! We need to find smarter prospects!”
True story. I realized that when he had worked in sales at large companies they didn’t turn the sales team loose with a pitch that doesn’t work. So most sales guys assume that what they need to do is handle objections not change the basic pitch.
For the most part for early stage entrepreneurs the objections are actually data: they offer insights for how to improve the pitch.
- If you are selling a product that is form, fit, and function compatible with existing offerings you can hire someone who has sold to your customers a similar product and probably do well if you check references and go on sales calls with them for a few weeks.
- If it’s a novel product or a new market you need to learn how to sell it before you can hire somebody to sell it for you. You need to develop the sales materials and appropriate checklists for qualifying an opportunity, planning a sale, and closing the opportunity. Once you have closed a few sales you and you have a basic process you can then hire a sales person and teach them how to sell your product. Not how to sell, but how to sell your product.
- Six to eight minutes is a good running length for a basic demo. If that triggers more questions or comments then you can take as long as the prospect is interested. But you need to get your key points across in the first few minutes.
- Don’t go into “objection handling” mode too quickly. For a new product, prospect objections are valuable data. The more dangerous reaction is a lukewarm one, indicating that a prospect may not be that concerned with the problem (doesn’t feel the need) or not engaged by your offering.
Related blog posts
- “Entrepreneurs need gumption to succeed.“
- “21 great questions for developing new products.“
- “Understand, Believe, Act.“
- “Kierkegaard on the art of helping others understand.“
- “Hiring a startup’s first sales person.“
Photo Credit Andrés Nieto Porras: El árbol de las ideas