Many years ago I was about to replace our account manager for one of our large key clients. At the same time, the intention was to discuss a new need they had where we may be solving by using our new exciting (and expensive…) product. The former key account manager, a very experienced and wise business man – my mentor, was with me in the meeting.
After presentations, I started out talking about our solution and there was a fruitable and interesting dialogue. A couple of hours later the meeting session was ended and I felt I’ve got some really positive response from the client. I was hoping for a fast sales process.
My mentor told me I would loosing this deal because I talked too much. Keep your mouth shut, he said, and start listen. If you do, our client would have been sharing his fear, real need and pain. Now he didn’t tell anything about that. How can we solve anything if we don’t know what to solve? Then he told me a joke: What’s the similarity between a crocodile and a sales rep…?
I’ve just came across a blog post by Nancy Bleeke: Mouth shut, Ears opened. Bleeke tells the same as my mentor did. If you just listen and observe nuances in tone, choice of words or body language, you will gain so much more. Bleeke states that people would talk if you let them. I thought I did, but I didn’t. And you’re so busy talking and putting focus on your own pitches, you haven’t got the state of observation of the tiny messages your client is sending out. It’s about communication, but while the sender is ON the reciever is in OFF mode or vice versa.
My mentor was right; I never got that deal. Lesson learned: The sales letter comes last in sales, not first. If It’s not broken, why fix it? But you need to check first if it’s broken. Then investigate the complete environment around the broken thing; pain, fear, urgency, opportunity and so on before you can go on building your case.
The process would be something like this:
- Build the relationship
- Learn what the real needs and desires are about
- Create your solution for these needs and desires, based upon benefits
- Identify objections to your solution
- Gather proof your solution is the way forward
- Develop your guarantee it will be
When this is ready, only then comes the sales letter. It’s not any adracadabra. It’s a structured behaviour that has been working in sales since start of mankind.
Connecting to my blog post Early Customer Buiyng Process in a Social World I pointed out this behaviour also would be working in the new digital social world. Building relationships on a global level have never been easier using LinkedIn, Twitter and similar tools and following groups and forums will give you information about real needs and pains. Providing solutions should be more like giving advices and experiences without having any expectations of getting anything back.
In a lively discussion you will gain a lot of objections. Use them and train your self meeting them. Learn how the objections may develop your own solution. Finally, try to get buzz from different sources and people in your network, that will get stronger proof and guarantee.
Following the recommended behaviour you sooner or later will discover the major part of your sales process would go on without sending any sales letter at all. By the way, it’s no use sending sales messages in such forums anyhow. But it’s worth waiting for.
Keep listening and observing and your deals will go smoothly into your arms.
Oh, was just about to forget to tell you the right answer of the joke; what’s the similarity between a crocodile and a sales rep? Both have a big mouth and no ears…
Checkout the Sales Scenario app for iPad, thanks.