Photography by Will Marks
Feature by Greg Orth
Nothing happens in this world until something gets sold. This could entail selling to your children the need to clean their room or selling a million dollar piece of equipment. So why does the word “sales” have such a negative connotation? Sales professionals make the world go around. They really do. They spend their days developing relationships, attaining new business, and servicing clients. But how did this profession garner such a bad stereotype when selling is such a noble profession? It is because of bad salespeople who use unprofessional tactics which come across as pushy, self-serving, and disingenuous. Don’t like the stereotype? Sick and tired of chasing prospects? Not meeting your sales objectives? Improve your performance by paying attention to some of the smaller (but mighty) details.
Your strategies for interacting with prospects from the time you first meet them to the time you make a presentation can have a greater impact on your likelihood of closing a sale than the actual aspects of the product or service you have to offer. The following are three inefficient and unproductive sales mistakes that are made too often which can impact a sales professional’s success.
Not Establishing Trust
At the end of the day, selling is nothing more than two entities communicating with each other. This should be an equal, two way street of communication. When you approach a sales situation being arrogant, pushy, or abrasive, the other person will put up their defensive walls and the ending result is a one-way street of communication. This greatly reduces the success of the interaction as only one person is doing the talking. You must take time to build sincere and solid relationships with your prospects and your clients. When you establish these relationships, you start to build trust. Trust comes in many forms. Some interactions only allow us minutes to try and create a level of trust. Others allow us days, weeks, and even months to build it. How is your first impression? Are you dressed appropriately? Do you have a firm handshake? Do you look the person in the eyes? Do you make the other person feel at ease? How is your tone? What does your body language say? All of these little things have an impact. At the end of the day, people buy from people they trust. Are you earning it?
Not Actively Listening (Talking Too Much)
So you have all been approached or called by that over-zealous, over caffeinated salesperson who immediately dives into their sales “pitch” or presentation. They talk about how awesome they are, how awesome their product or service is, and how it will change your life forever. Oh, and if you buy right now, it will be cheaper because the price goes up on Monday. <Sigh.>
People don’t buy features and benefits, they buy ways to fix their pain or meet their needs. Sales professionals need to stop talking and start listening. Especially during an initial meeting, the prospect should be doing the majority of the talking and the sales professional should be listening. You should be asking questions to understand the needs of the prospect. Without this understanding, you will not be able to create a tailored solution to fix their pain and meet their needs. You can’t assume you know what a prospect needs unless you ask them. You have two ears and one mouth, are you using them proportionately?
Not Qualifying the Prospect
This is probably the biggest time waster in a sales professional’s job. How many times have you seen a salesperson chase after a prospect for days, weeks, or months only to find out at the end they aren’t going to buy anything? Too often. It is imperative that you qualify a prospect to find out, as soon as you possibly can, if it is worth pursuing them to be a customer. The quicker you can disqualify someone and close the books, the quicker you can move on to spending your time with prospects who will become customers. There are three critical pieces of information you need to gather to “qualify” a prospect.
1) Do they have pain that needs fixed? If so, can your product or service meet their needs?
2) Do they have the budget available to fix their pain? If so, is it enough?
3) If they have pain and have the budget, can they make a decision for you to get a yes or a no?
Only after all three of these pieces are satisfied should you continue your pursuit. This should also be done before any proposal or presentations made. Properly qualifying a prospect can save significant time by avoiding unnecessary bids and proposals. What do you think that would do for your business and for managing your time? If you find yourself engaging in one or more of these “commonplace” strategies, consider this: commonplace strategies are for commonplace sales professionals who are satisfied with commonplace results. If your results have been all too commonplace, perhaps it’s time to change your strategies.