How to Beat the Status Quo
In a sales situation, you're not just competing against salespeople from other companies. Your fiercest competitor will usually be the status quo. In other words, the first step towards convincing a prospect to buy is getting him to make the decision that he needs to do something at all.
It's usually hard to convince prospects to let go of the status quo because any change involves risk, and risk is a pretty scary thing.
Unless there's a real issue with the way things are set up now, prospects will either not buy at all or will delay buying as long as possible, even if they really like your product.
If a prospect will talk to you at all, he probably realizes that he has some kind of problem that your product may be able to solve. However, he may not consider it a terribly urgent problem. Most salespeople have run into prospects who say they want to buy, but who keep dragging the process on and on and coming up with new reasons to put off the final purchase. Such prospects are usually not convinced that their problem is urgent or particularly troublesome, so they put off fixing it until they absolutely have to.
So before you get too far in the sales process, it's important to find out what the prospect thinks he needs, then dig a little deeper and see if you can determine his actual needs. Once you have that information, you can enlighten the prospect; convincing him that his needs are actually quite acute will motivate him to speed up his buying process.
You still have to prove that your product is the best solution for his problem, but at least he won't leave you hanging for months with a series of lame excuses.
Beating the status quo comes down to showing the prospect how much it will cost him to do nothing, and then comparing that with the cost of purchasing from you.
If your product will cost less than maintaining the status quo, you will have overcome a huge hurdle in closing the sale. And if the numbers don't add up, at least you'll know that you should cut your own losses by moving onto the next prospect.
The mistake that many salespeople make is assuming that the prospect is already aware of his needs and how much they will cost him if left unresolved. In reality, salespeople often have a much better understanding of the prospect's situation than the prospect does himself. After all, salespeople talk with prospects in similar situations all the time, so they have the benefit of extensive experience with the same kind of issues. Individual prospects are, ironically, likely to be far less familiar with the typical issues that plague people in the same situation that he's in.
When you're uncovering the prospect's real needs and determining their costs, it's important to make this diagnosis a joint effort between yourself and the prospect, not just something that you tell him about. Saying that the need he shared with you is likely to cost him $300,000 a year will not convince him that what you've just said is the truth. On the other hand, if you ask a series of questions and your prospect fills in the blanks, and then you take that information and use it to come up with a cost estimate, your prospect will know how you came up with that figure and what's more, the end result will be based on information that he himself gave you.
Sometimes, even after you've worked out all the costs and benefits with the prospect, he will still be reluctant to buy. That usually means that he is concerned about hidden costs or other risks that may be associated with buying from you. In that case, you need to offer him assurances or otherwise reduce the perceived risk of going ahead with the purchase. That will usually be all it takes to finally getting him moving towards the close.