Dan Smaida – August 25, 2016
Have you noticed a couple of things going on in the pipelines of your millennial sellers?
– Pipelines are full of prospects that look demographically appealing, but aren’t closing
– Salespeople are getting meetings and more meetings, but not enough forward progress
– Opportunities that were “sure to close” this month keep getting pushed out
Now, some of these are inevitable parts of selling – stuff happens. But these pipeline maladies seem to be more prevalent with millennial sellers, and my experience may be a good indicator.
The other night, I was with a mixed group that included some single twenty-somethings, and the topic of dating came up. The singles immediately started bemoaning the endless back-and-forth of texting, and how nobody seems to actually ask anybody out anymore. A look at their cell phones revealed this to be stunningly true – a ton of back and forth, but no actual forward movement. And this is with people who would have said “Yes!” if actually asked.
Are We Losing the “Asking Muscle”?
In the book Alone Together, Sherry Turkle argues that society’s evolution toward the planned, controlled world of online communication is leading to the deterioration of our ability to have spontaneous, unplanned conversations. She argues that we’re losing our ability to talk because of our reliance on screens.
One definition of spontaneous is “open, uninhibited, and natural.” Sellers’ ability to read the situation, propose a next step, deal with hesitation, and resort to a second option is EXACTLY where spontaneous conversational skills are critical.
Hiding Behind Text – In Love and Selling
In the book Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari cites a 2013 study from match.com that asked respondents how they would ask someone out on a first date. Some highlights:
52% of those over 30 would ask someone out on the phone. For those under 30, that number plummets to 23%.
32% of those under 30 use text, versus only 8% of those over 30. That’s four times as many!
I cite dating statistics because closing and asking someone out are the VERY SAME THING. You’re proposing a commitment. And while it’s easier for the asker to compose a thoughtful text or email from the safety of the office, the essence of gaining SMART commitments is in the conversation and negotiation.
Teaching Millennials to Close
Fortunately, your millennial sellers don’t have to be dating Casanovas to be effective closers. You can help them develop the muscles they need with three simple strategies:
Plan to close. Setting clear, SMART call objectives – in writing – is crucial. When sellers begin with possible ends in mind, they’re more likely to close.
Prepare the “money” questions. In my workshops, I ask sellers, “If you only had one question left before the call was over, what would you ask?” It’s shocking how seldom I hear an actual proposal.
Help your people prepare the money question, or it won’t get asked!
Practice – with feedback. Practice closing? Absolutely! Sellers need practice actually getting the proposal out of their mouths, and dealing with hesitation and objections. The more they practice, the easier the actual performance.
You’ve probably already said to yourself, “This is an issue for all ages of sellers,” and you’re right. But the problem is pronounced with millennials that have grown up using screens to communicate. Focus on basic closing skills with millennials and you’re helping them develop vital muscles that get sales results.