From time to time, I work with sales teams or leaders who have begun to implement Customer Aligned Selling™ in their organization, but who are struggling with getting the results they want to achieve. Many times, the problem is that they have not completely adjusted their mindset and approach to sales calls. They are still unwittingly repeating some old habits that are counter-productive.
Here are three hard-to-break habits, and what you can do to help your reps overcome them.
1. Talking first and asking questions later.
Starting a sales call with a presentation makes customers ask about price too soon. This is because the sales rep has not established value and the buyer doesn’t see how your solution will be helpful in their particular situation. When such key factors are unknown, customers try to find a connection through price.
Make sure your sales reps understand that the sales process doesn’t actually begin until the prospect has shared a problem or a goal. You don’t even have a qualified prospect until this happens.
A salesperson must engage the prospect in a needs-based discussion before making a presentation. Anyone who pitches without listening first is taking a shot in the dark and has very little chance of presenting something that resonates with his buyers.
2. Using the same all-purpose sales pitch with everyone.
If your reps have a sales pitch they have memorized and deliver by rote, they have very little chance of connecting with everyone they will need to connect with to close the sale. They should be engaging each individual buyer based on his/her level in the company and job function.
The higher up in the organization, the less technical the conversation should be. Senior people will send a rep down the chain if he uses jargon they don’t understand or speaks the language of a subordinate. Reps should focus on achieving goals, solving problems, satisfying needs, and impacting revenue, expenses, and risk.
Coach your reps to ask the people they meet about specific goals related to their position, for example:
- CEO – growth, return on equity, and return on assets
- COO – growth, operations, customer retention, and no downtime
- CFO – protection of assets, return on investment, and cash flow
- General Manager – reduction of waste, less downtime, increased productivity
- VP of Sales – increased gross margin, shortened sales cycle, increased revenue
3. Telling the buyer you have a solution for his problem.
This is really a deal-killer if your reps are still doing item #1 above. Telling the buyer you have a solution is arrogant. The offense is even worse when you have assumed you know what outcomes he is looking for without asking.
A successful sales rep engages customers in a discussion that leads them to a vision of all the things his offering could help the organization achieve. He/she knows how to ask questions that begin with “how,” “why,” and “what if.” This not only helps the rep uncover the customer’s true needs and desired outcomes, but it helps the buyer get a mental picture of what using the product or service would be like and what it would do for his company.
Telling a story about how your product solved a problem for a client in a similar situation and then asking if that solution would work for your customer can be an effective way to help buyers reach the conclusion that what you’re selling is what they need. The key is to discuss, not tell. Teach your sales reps to remember, “I do NOT have a solution until the buyer tells me I do.”