I often write about the need to provoke conversations in your marketplace. That doesn’t mean you need to yell louder and more often, as many companies do. You inbox is flooded with sales emails, and we hear it all the time on TV: “BUY, BUY, BUY!!! TOO MUCH INVENTORY!! EVERYTHING MUST GO!!”

We all recognize this theme. It’s become the mantra of the auto industry. Over the years, just about every industry has adopted this approach in some form or another. Fortunately, you’ve probably learned to tune it out most of the time.

The key here is you have tuned it out—you’ve become immune to the selling assault. The parents you see at the local swim club yelling across the pool at their children – they keep yelling and yelling, louder and louder. What happens? Nothing. The children just ignore them and the parents eventually give up.

Consider These Questions the Next Time You Prospect

  • Does your message focus on the need for change?

    There is merit in helping your customers solve critical problems or create timely opportunities. Both are important.

  • Is this change based on fact or impact?

    Remember, change only matters if your prospect can equate business impact to what you’re offering. Fact alone will not be a catalyst (it doesn’t matter if your “multiplicity graphometer” can run at “five times the blah, blah, blah…”). Decision-makers will not put their necks on the line for anything less than impact.

  • Is your change message positive or negative?

    Some of the challenges we all face in this economy have become self-fulfilling. The more you focus on something—the more your thoughts and actions follow. Have your sales efforts declined to match the pace and expectations in the marketplace?

  • Is your prospect insane, or are you?

    Have you become expert at explaining to your prospects the definition of insanity (you know, “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”)? If you find yourself repeating this idea, you’re doing more than just preaching it—you’ve become an expert in insanity yourself.

  • Are you provoking or invoking?

    When you call a prospect, does your introduction (the “value proposition” for those who prefer a more academic label) appeal to the prospect’s need to do things differently? Do you try and raise the awareness of the challenges in the marketplace? This approach invokes what the prospect already knows and wants to avoid. It calls to mind more of the same negativity that only compels your prospect to stay under the radar and do nothing.

  • Why not provoke?

    There’s a good chance your prospects have good relationships in place, so why not go against the grain and ask them something no one else is asking? Something simple, honest, and void of sales-savvy manipulation:

    • “Mr. Prospect, the economy is going to turn around at some point. What are you doing to prepare for the turnaround?”
    • “How are you evaluating your current vendors to make sure they’re ready to respond to your changing needs?”

It’s time to unseat the incumbent. Stop yelling at prospects from across the pool and hit them square between the eyes. Some have been in “hunker-down” mode for many months. Be the catalyst for new thoughts and conversations—possibly ones your prospects’ existing relationships haven’t sparked.