In our most recent blogs, we’ve been reviewing Negative Reverse Selling and how it is very effective in creating great bonding and rapport with sales prospects. Negative Reverse Selling is a way of saying and doing the opposite of what the prospect expects from a salesperson, disarming them and creating trust with them. One of its more compelling techniques is called strip-lining, a method of using reverse questions to get the prospect talking, and you keep “throwing more line and let them swim”. However, you need to do this step right or it could backfire on you. When you do it correctly, prospects feel like they are in control of the conversation, and you have a better chance of making a sale. Practice this step frequently in low risk situations before using it on your biggest and best prospects.
What should you practice? Getting the fit right means executing as follows:
• Neutral prospects get very hard strip-lines, such as, “It sounds like you’re very happy and I should leave. Before I go, what do you like about who you’re doing business with now?”
• Negative prospects get hard strip-lines, but not as hard as neutral prospects. For example, “Based on what you just said about your current vendor, it makes sense to me why you’re not interested in switching your business to another company. We get great feedback like that from our customers, too, but your vendor sounds really good at what they do. I don’t know if you can do any better than that. There doesn’t seem to be much opportunity for us to work together here, is there?”
• Positive prospects get strip-lines that are just a light tug: “Thanks for reaching out to us. I have to say, your friend Bronwyn gets almost all the credit for having a great experience with us. She was very good about explaining the application problem, and that really helped her have a happy outcome with us. Since I don’t know your application, I’m not sure if I can help you at this point. Could you be nice enough to tell me about it?”
In all three examples, you’ll find three components. Look at each of them, and you’ll see how strip-line responses are structured.
1. The first component is a build-up (a compliment or validation of the prospect’s point of view). In the above, an example of that was, “It sounds like you’re very happy.”
2. The second component is a takeaway (a conclusion that goes in the opposite direction to what the prospect expects). In the above, an example was, “… and I should leave.”
3. The third component is a question (a continuation of the discussion). In the above, an example was, “Before I go, what do you like about who you’re doing business with now?”
Looking at the example above for positive prospects, notice the buildup portion of the response validates how well things went “with Bronwyn” and gives most of the credit to her: “Thanks for reaching out to us. I have to say, your friend Bronwyn gets almost all the credit for having a great experience with us. She was very good about explaining the application problem, and that really helped her have a happy outcome with us.”
The takeaway portion includes words to the effect that you’re not yet convinced you can help the prospect. “Since I don’t know your application, I’m not sure if I can help you as well at this point.”
The third part, the question, is pretty obvious; you ask a question to start to understand the application, the problem, and ultimately the prospect’s pain: “Could you be nice enough to tell me about it?”
When you strip-line a prospect using all three components of the technique, you are likeliest to uncover the most meaningful information. You now know what a good fit looks like. What does a bad fit look like? Let’s say a prospect calls your office and says, “I’ve heard really good things about your company. A friend of mine, Bronwyn, told me all about you, and I’m very interested in doing business with you.” Obviously, that’s a positive prospect. It wouldn’t be appropriate for you to do a hard strip-line since the prospect is almost ready to buy. Saying to the prospect, “You must have used some other vendors in our space. Why wouldn’t you want to use them now?” will not only confuse the prospect, but would probably ruin the sale. So that’s a bad fit. Instead, you’d want to use the approach I shared with you above, the one that begins “Thanks for reaching out.”
Sometimes the prospect says something that more or less does the buildup for you. In that case, you don’t need to do it, but you still need to do the takeaway and pose the question. For example if the prospect says, “I heard really good things about your company,” you could strip-line by saying, “That’s nice to hear, but we’re not for everyone. Would you like to tell me why you thought it might have been a good idea to call, and hopefully we find out that we’re a good fit”?
In summary: Strip-line very hard with neutral pros-pects, even sounding like you are getting ready to leave the sales call or implying that you think the sales call is over; strip- line hard with negative prospects; strip-line lightly with positive prospects.
Strip-lining is a great way to uncover pain because it’s extremely disarming and helps build trust. When you do it right, it doesn’t sound like you’re selling. Prospects feel like you truly embrace and care about their goals and pain. (As, of course, you do!) If you don’t uncover pain with strip-lining, then perhaps that particular prospect doesn’t have enough pain to do business with you. Strip-lining combined with other pain-finding Sandler approaches will put you in a different league from all those other salespeople who traditionally start with the hard sell, list off features and benefits, and offer prospects free quotes.