Over the past few decades, I’ve talked to thousands of salespeople. In my conversations with them, the same problems come up time and again as issues that everyone has struggled with.
At first glance, the questions might seem unrelated because they deal with different parts of the sales process—from the opening pitch to negotiations. But if you know what to look for, the problems all have something in common: They are all examples of what I call “speed mistakes” in selling. In every case, the salesperson’s selling process is completely out of sync with the customer’s buying process. Here are six examples:
1. Why do so many of my prospecting calls fall on deaf ears?
What happens in most prospecting calls? You call someone up and start pitching the features or benefits of your fantastic new product or service. When you call someone out of the blue it's unlikely they have even been thinking about the problem that your offering can solve. They don’t even know that they have a need yet, let alone being at the point of buying. To be more effective, emphasize the specific problems you can solve for customers, not the specifics of your solution.
2. Why do customers always say “give me a ballpark price” so early—sometimes in our first conversation?
At the beginning of their buying process, customers are doing a mental cost-benefit analysis either formally or informally. They want to know how big the price of fixing a problem is going to be relative to the perceived benefit they will see. If the price is bigger than the benefit, the buying process halts immediately. Answering this question is tricky because it’s difficult to price a solution until you know the customer’s requirements, but you have to come up with an answer that will keep the customer moving forward in the buying process.
3. Why does nothing happen after a great initial meeting?
Most major purchasing decisions today are made by more than one person. There may be a formal buying team in place, or the person responsible may seek the input and advice from others. Even if you had a great meeting with one person, there are likely others behind the scenes whose needs must be considered. Don’t try to push to close with the one person. Ask the first contact who else will be involved in the decision and try to meet with them as well.
4. Why do I always get so much pushback on price?
Assuming that you have set a reasonable price for your solution, customers will always push back on price if they undervalue your solution. This happens when you rush through your sales pitch and fail to develop a sufficient appreciation, in the customer, of their need to make a change. The bigger the need the customer sees, the more they will value a solution. You need to slow down in the early steps of your sales process to spend more time talking with customers about the problems or opportunities they see, the ripple effects of those problems and the consequences of doing nothing.
5. Why do my customers go silent at the 11th hour, just as it seems we’re about to close the deal?
What few salespeople seem to recognize is that fear is an expected part of the purchasing process—and it always appears right before the person is ready to make the final commitment. It’s highly likely your customers will go silent at the last minute—if you’ve rushed through your sales process and failed to anticipate and eliminate the typical sources of fear. Take the time to talk with your prospects before making a proposal or submitting a proposal and get their reaction to common fears your customers have to deal with. Then address those fears in the proposal and make sure to stay in touch with customers afterwards to deal with any concerns that arise.
6. How is it my competitors sneak in the back door when I’ve done all the groundwork?
We have all been in situations where we groomed a prospect, got them to decide they needed to make a purchase…then learn after the fact that they bought from someone else. This happens when salespeople jump to pitching features and benefits before identifying specific customer needs. The customer listens to a sales presentation thinking “Oh, yes, I like Feature A…but no, don’t need Feature B…not sure about Feature C.” From now on, let your competitors make this mistake. Slow down your own sales process so that you can tie the differentiators of your solution to the priority customer needs.
To avoid making the mistakes above, make the buying process the starting point of planning your sales calls. Most salespeople I’ve met haven’t given a lot of thought to the specific, predictable steps of the buying process. So, instead, they think of how they’re going to sell. Not good. Understanding your customer’s buying process is where selling should start.
Kevin Davis, president of TopLine Leadership, is the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster! Understand Your Customer’s Buying Process and Maximize Your Sales (Amacom Books). His company provides custom workshops based on the “Slow Down, Sell Faster!” sales model, as well as a 2-day Sales Management Leadership workshop for sales managers. Contact Kevin through his website at www.toplineleadership.com.