I’ve been delivering sales seminars for 20+ years. When I ask salespeople to tell me how they sell, they rattle off the steps of their sales process. When I ask how their customers buy, they are stumped.
This disconnect between selling and buying is the root cause of many sales problems.
For example, I was hired by a large financial institution to evaluate their investment advisors. I went in as a “mystery shopper” (with my client’s approval) to meet with their top salesperson, and interviewed advisors from two competitor firms.
All three sales consultants were effective at building rapport, making me feel comfortable, and creating a perception of caring. Yet they all made a common sales mistake: they tried to move me through their sales process instead of joining me in my buying process.
I describe what they did as selling too fast. What does that mean? Here’s a recap of my first face-to-face meeting with my client’s investment advisor (the labels are mine, the actions were the advisor’s):
- Build trust: The advisor began by learning a bit about me, before sharing about himself, his money management background, education, etc. It was an effective opening.
- Identify needs: The advisor got me to talk about my financial goals, and that I was dissatisfied with my current returns and performance.
- Present solution overview: He explained that his firm’s approach was to minimize risk while maximizing returns. He explained that his approach to determining his clients’ needs was to create a Personal Financial Plan.
- Close for next step: The advisor recommended we meet again in a few days, and asked that I bring account statements of my current investments.
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This advisor made five mistakes as he sped through his sales process:
1. He didn’t take the time to find out why I was unhappy with my current investment advisor. Had he asked, I would have told him that my portfolio hadn’t really changed much for years. This was before the financial collapse, but even so, the markets had changed and holding onto the status quo told me my current advisor was lazy and took my account for granted.
2. Since he didn’t ask why I was unhappy with my current advisor, he forfeited one of the most powerful tools a salesperson has: getting prospects to think about the negative consequences of not making a change. With a simple question like “what will happen if you leave your investments with your current advisor?,” he could have gotten me to think about continuing to trust my money to someone asleep at the switch.
3. He didn’t take the time to ask more questions about potential additional needs I may have had. Usually, the first topic discussed with a prospective client is his or her greatest concern at that time. By getting customers to think about other needs, you not only create a greater sense of urgency, but add to the potential value of the solution you offer.
4. He didn’t ask me how I would make the buying decision. That meant he didn’t learn that I was going to be interviewing two of his competitors… which meant he didn’t know he should have been planting seeds to answer the question “why should I choose you” long before I asked it of him.
5. Failing to ask about my decision making process also meant he didn’t learn that my wife would be a co-partner in the decision. Had he known, he could have sped up my buying decision by requesting a meeting with both my wife and me.
A lot of salespeople think I’m crazy when I say they can sell faster by slowing down their sales process. But once they stop to think about sales opportunities they lost in the past, or current opportunities they are trying to close, most realize that they have been moving faster than their prospective customer.
Slowing down means taking the time to ask more questions, probing for more needs, getting the customer to think more deeply about the benefits of making a change and the costs of inaction. A slower sales process pays off in a faster buying processbecause the customer sees the urgency for action and gives you the chance to more demonstrate why your solution is the best match to their needs.
Slow down each sales conversation, and you will sell faster.
Kevin Davis (Reno, NV, president of TopLine Leadership, Inc.), is the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!, available now wherever books are sold.