Not too long ago I was asked to sit in on a meeting where two representatives from different companies were going to sell us on their services. My role was to take notes, keep my mouth shut, and get out of there as quickly as possible. Well, maybe that wasn’t my ROLE per se, but it was my goal, and I was sticking to it!
I listened to both company representatives explain their product. Each explained why they were the best, what they offered, and why they should be picked. Both of them tried to sell us in very different ways.
The first representative was very animated, was clicking lots of buttons…he seemed to be going 90 miles an hour. When people would ask him questions, he never really answered them because they always seemed to be “just ahead of the game.” I learned a lot of why they were the best, and what made them ahead of the game. When it came time to give a price, he said he would email us the breakdown.
The second representative asked us questions for the first 10 minutes. She wanted to know why we selected them, what our needs were, and what our current situation was. Then she went into her discussion of why her company was the best. She sprinkled the conversation with phrases like “when we work together,” “this is what you need based on what you said earlier,” “we can meet your needs.” She ended the presentation with, “Now that you see why we should work together and that we make the most sense, how do you see our relationship moving forward?”
Very different pitches, but they both left me nauseated.
I would like to offer some suggestions if you are in the selling business, because you can turn off a potential client very quickly by not listening to them.
1. Take an Interest
The first salesman was very interested in talking about his company, which can be good in certain settings (like the one I was in). However, he didn’t need to show us the whole pie. If a client is asking about certain parts, it shows their interest, so be willing to shift your discussion. Take interest in why the client is asking their particular questions. They don’t need to know what other companies you are affiliated with. That can be Googled easily enough. The client needs to know how you can fit their own unique needs.
2. Be an Active Listener
The second saleswoman did a great job in asking questions. However, it became clear she was running down her generic list of questions. Instead of truly hearing us and being open to asking us different questions, they were cookie cutter questions that were actually not helpful. Asking questions is vital, but it also requires you to be an active listener.
Active listening means that you don’t simply acknowledge that an answer was given. It requires you to fully concentrate on what is being said, responding appropriate with body language, asking additional questions for clarification, providing verbal feedback and remembering what the client’s answers were! Putting in statements regarding us working together may work for some, but it turned me off quickly because she was putting the cart before the horse and I still didn’t feel that she knew what we needed. We don’t know if we will use her company, it felt sleazy.
Be honest and upfront. I know that people don’t like to share price. If a client is looking at purchasing from you and you can’t even give them a ballpark breakdown, it shows you didn’t do your homework for them. Additionally, you are making them wait for one of the biggest factors on why they may hire you!
Solve, Don’t Sell
I remember when my husband and I sat down with a company and we were pitching them what we had to offer. We asked them a lot of questions about their needs, but we kept the focus on them. We were open about anything that was asked. Weeks later after they hired us, we asked them why we beat out our competitor. Their response was, “You weren’t there to sell to me. You were there to solve a problem for me and showed an interest in exactly what we needed.”
That response has stuck with me ever since. If someone has invited you to sell your product or service, then they have a problem that needs to be solved. Genuinely try to solve their problem! If your sole purpose of making a sale is for the commission, you will lose some of your best customers.