The salesperson has been working on getting that live customer meeting for weeks. Finally, she’s got it. By now the customer is either enchanted, curious, or just sick and tired of hearing from her and intends to end the barrage once and for all so they can get rid of this person. Which buyer is she going to meet? The situation sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it?
But, hey! This is sales; it’s the life we chose. So, what does the salesperson do with the very few minutes she has to impress the buyer? Often, the answer is: we talk too much and too long.
We are so anxious to let the buyer know everything about our company that we go into a continuous rant with details about our company: How long we have been in business, what we do, how we do it, our technologies, some of our key people, why our customers like working with us, and on and on.
Meanwhile, the poor buyer is only half listening. He probably hasn’t heard one thing that he cares about. He is sitting there patiently, or maybe impatiently, waiting for her to finish. He is probably already thinking that he will not do business with her because she talks more than she listens.
Sometimes, a polite buyer will try to be attentive. She will listen carefully, and she might even try to figure out how she can translate what you are saying to something she can use. Or maybe not.
Did you stop to consider whether, and how, anything you’re saying applies to this company? Do you even know what this company does, and what their end-product is? Did you ever think about what you could do for them, and how you could solve their problems?
The thing is, how can you even think about solving their problems without asking them what their problems are?
Always remember: The purpose of sales (the purpose of all business, actually) is to find a need and fill it. It is to solve someone’s problems and needs. The only way to do this is to know what those needs are, but you will never find out what those needs are until you stop talking and start listening.
That’s it. Your job as a salesperson is to engage your buyer in a true conversation, as in a dialogue, not a monologue, but one where two people talk to each other. Furthermore, your job is to find out as much information about the customer and what that customer’s needs are. Then, and only then, can you even hope to start solving their problems and finding solutions to those problems on the way to making the sale.
The interesting thing is that the best way to develop an account strategy is to let the customer do it for you. And the best way to do that is by asking her the right questions. Chances are very good that you by listening carefully to his answers, you will be able to develop a strategic plan with the right tactics to help you close the sale.
Learn these questions and ask them when as appropriate:
- What are your needs?
- What is the biggest problem right now?
- What other problems do you have?
- What are you doing to deal with these?
- Who are you using right now?
- Will they be able to handle your needs in the future?
- How is that going?
- What do you like about their product? Dislike?
- What would motivate you to make a change?
- How much would it be worth you to solve your problems?
- How can we help?
- What can we do?
- What is the next step?
Remember that this has to be a dialogue, a casual, or at least seemingly, casual conversation. If you start out by acting like Sgt. Joe “Just the facts, ma’am” Friday in Dragnet, you will not get very far. It must be a casual conversation; it’s just a talk.
Let the buyer talk and let him go on as long as he wants. The more he talks the more information you will have in the end, and the better your chances are of finding out what you need to know to make the sale.
Of course, you come to the meeting prepared by having done your homework. With all of the online resources at your disposal today there is no excuse to not know everything about your customers prior to even meeting them in person. Having this information in hand will help you a great deal during the conversation you have with the buyer.
In fact, like a good lawyer you should already know the answers to the questions you are asking. But even so, ask the questions because in the sales process nothing is a fact until it is validated by the buyer.
You could know from your research, for example that they just won a major program. But instead of telling the buyer that you know that, ask her instead if they have one any new business, then sit back and let her tell you. Once that fact has been thrown on the table you can go on to ask about the program, what it will mean for her company, and the new requirements of your products and services they will need. Now you’ll be on the right track to gaining the buyer’s confidence and his business.
To use the old but meaningful adage, “Nobody ever learned anything when talking.”
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.