As a sales person, you are in the following situation:

  • You are in front of a prospect who, on the surface, seems like an ideal fit for the product or service you provide.
  • You believe you do everything right in this meeting.  You establish rapport, commenting on pictures of the prospect’s family or hobby. You connect. You ask a few probing questions, and find out that the prospect has issues or pain around which your product or service can address.
  • You begin to ask questions around these issues, and the prospect answers indicate that one of your offerings is the perfect solution for these issues.  You spend more time getting details and suggesting ideas on how to address these issues.
  • Towards the end of the meeting, you go to set next steps of maybe a demo or proposal, and you sense a soft commitment, or maybe the prospect is “…busy and will have to follow up next month…”.
What happened?
Early in my sales career I learned a very hard but valuable lesson, and anyone who has been in sales for any length of time has learned the same lesson, illustrated in the scenario above.
Like a shark, we smell “blood in the water” and immediately assume that there is prey, ready for us to tear to shreds. So, we start swimming towards it.  We assume that we’ve found the prospect’s challenges, and the prospect has been sitting there waiting for us to solve them.

What we don’t realize is sometimes the “blood in the water” is simply that: “blood in the water”.

(Apologies for the rather gruesome analogy. It’s all I could think of at the moment!)
Incidents like the one described above are why clients view most sales people as arrogant, money hungry, or worse. We spend time using every trick in the book to connive and persuade the client to move ahead, not realizing that our proposal will be nixed later on because the client does not really care about it.  We don’t take the time to really understand what’s important to a client.  As a result, we work to sell the client a “hammer” when the client really wants a “screwdriver”.

Not only does the sales person loses out on the opportunity at hand, but they also establish a reputation with that client as yet another sales person that doesn’t really listen, that is more interested in what they have to offer rather than what the client needs to buy.

What we missed is getting to the issue of most importance to the prospect.  While we may have uncovered something, it may not be at the top of the list for the prospect.  It may be fourth on the prospect’s list of top three priorities.  We didn’t take the time to ask:

  • “How does this fit in to the bigger scheme of things for your group?” 
  • “What other things are filling your day?”
  • “Should we talk more about this, or are there other things that may be important to cover?”
  • “We can talk about a lot today. I’m curious as to what you would really like to get out of our time together…”
Take your time. Ask another question.  See where the issues you’ve uncovered stack up in the client’s eye.

Once you do, you are better equipped to propose the right solution at the right time.