Before the Internet and social networks, buyers relied on salespeople to educate them about their product or solution. These days, buyers are as much as 70% through the initial research stages before they engage sellers for further conversation. This presents a problem for the salespeople who, when they get the meeting opportunity, waste time going back to the beginning. In other words, they want to roll into their feature/benefits pitch, but the buyer has been there done that. Now to be fair…not all information on the Internet can be trusted, and you do need to know that your buyer truly does understand what you offer. I think of this as validating what they already know versus assuming they know nothing.
Buyers are more interested in working with salespeople who operate at a higher level than those who merely read off a spec sheet or bore the buyer with a demo. Highly consultative salespeople listen carefully to what the buyer has to say. They are also the ones who spend the time learning about the buyer, what they care about, the challenges they face, as well as do their homework to better understand the company and the buyer’s industry as a whole. In doing so, sales meetings are highly productive and demonstrates to the buyer that their time has been valued. Time is something in short supply for buyers. They have too much on their plate as it is. If you are the seller who can give them real value for the time invested with you, you win.
When it comes to selling some things have not changed. Sales leaders want:
- More leads in the pipeline
- More leads converted to qualified opportunities
- The sales cycle to shrink so that deals close more quickly
I personally believe that bullets 2 and 3 could significantly improve if sellers mastered one particular skill. That skill is listening. Selling is about solving problems, and that requires listening, which is a big problem for many salespeople who are notorious for:
- Talking too much.
- Talking all about themselves, their company and their product.
When a potential lead presents itself, the first critical step is to qualify. You have to be sure there really is a potential for business before investing your sales time. Getting a fast no is the second best thing to securing a quick yes.
One of the reasons leads are often not well-qualified by salespeople is because they think if someone agrees to a meeting – that’s a qualified deal. Not even close. You need to know if the buyer is being driven to buy because of a mandated priority to change something. You need to know if they have budget and can afford your fees. You need to know what the decision making process is and how many others need to be involved. To get the answers, you have to ask the questions and then listen.
The problem with listening is that much of the time people are simply waiting to pounce with their reply. Active listening requires setting aside the sales agenda to be truly present in the conversation. If you are working with someone qualified to make a purchase, it is important to be listening to them and responding quickly to their needs throughout all phases of the sales cycle. Ultimately, this leads to speeding up the process and deals close more quickly.
When someone contacts me about the possibility of purchasing our social selling programs, I do not pitch the moment we say hello. I also don’t waste time talking about my company. They’ve spent time checking me out already. What I spend the time on in a meeting is discussing their objectives, the problem they are trying to solve, what an ideal outcome would be for them after the training, etc. About 15-20 minutes into the conversation, with me doing very little talking, we are usually then brainstorming ideas for a program that would meet their needs. I want to paint a picture for the buyer of what’s possible. And I’m able to do that because I’ve already researched them and their company. I’m able to talk about their business with them and show that I cared enough to prepare myself and not waste their time. That’s how sales are won my friends.