Sales success: Talk the prospect's language

Posted4/13/2015 5:00 AM

Conventional wisdom says most entrepreneurs would rather review production spreadsheets or polish their consulting concepts than make a sales call.

Assuming for discussion purposes that conventional wisdom is correct, it's not surprising the discussions Tom Latourette has often go like this:


"I had great conversations with them," a business owner will say. "We talked for three months. I gave them a proposal. Then they went dark. They didn't return my calls.

"Finally they told me they decided to work with someone else."

"When that happens often enough," Latourette says, "the question becomes, 'Is there another way?'"

Apparently there is, at least if you listen to Latourette. Based in Mount Prospect, he is Midwest managing partner of M3 Learning Inc., a Saratoga, CA sales support company. His task is to help the rest of us become better salespersons.

"No matter what line of work you're in, you're selling," says John McIlwain, vice president advancement at Aspire, an organization whose mostly West suburban facilities provide services for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

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To sell successfully, however, "You have to know who you're talking to, find out about their situation and adapt your message," McIlwain says.

"What we know isn't important until we know what's important to the prospect," Latourette says.

He suggests some pre-conversation research -- on competition, industrywide issues or company product concerns -- that can help frame a more focused sales message.

The goal is to place yourself in a position to lead the conversation.

"What I learned was how to flip the conversation," McIlwain says. Flipping the conversation allows you, the seller, to understand a prospect's concerns and flip the discussion to your positive sales message.

Denise Gierach adapts the Latourette approach and asks targets, "If we're talking three years from now, what has to have happened for you to be a success?"


The answer gives Gierach, managing partner of the Gierach Law Firm, Naperville, the information she needs to steer the conversation toward the legal services her firm offers. "How do I help them reach their goal?" is her business-building thought process.

McIlwain and Gierach clearly have paid attention to Latourette.

Like many sales consultants, Latourette takes varying approaches to sales success. One of the most interesting is his theory that selling must be both above and below the line.

"There are two sales you must make," Latourette explains. The first he labels a technical buyer sale -- for example, the product manager charged with fixing a problem your company can help fix.

he other sale, above the line in Latourette's scenario, is to the product manager's boss, who likely must approve the sale.

The boss' typically more comfortable role, though, is "to solve business cases. It's almost a different language," Latourette says. However, the research he suggests will make it easier to talk the boss language -- and ultimately turn the conversation to the benefits of your problem-solving processes.

• Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Listen to Jim's Business Owners' Pod Talk at © 2015 Kendall Communications Inc.

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