In sales conversations, many sellers work hard and practice what they are going to say. This is great. I would never discourage anyone from preparing. But before we focus on what we are going to SAY, we should prepare what we are going to ASK and how we will keep the attention on them.
It’s so easy to talk too much throughout the conversation, isn’t it? Some of these scenarios may sound familiar:
- You secure an appointment with someone you really wanted to reach and then start the ‘pitch,’ watch their eyes roll back in their head and realize you blew it.
- You are in a sales call and they ask ‘What do you have today?’ (Yes, this still happens.) And you launch into the features of your product or service and why everyone should have it.
- You are in a networking function and make the rounds telling everyone who you are and what you do and collect a LOT of business cards.
- You are at a trade show and you repeat the same script over and over to anyone who might stop to listen.
In each of these situations your ability to present and review your solution is important. Yet to really be heard and have the prospect (or networker) want to hear what you have to say, ask them for information first.
Ask relevant open-ended questions that get them talking about their problems, opportunities, wants, or needs. Then when you have earned the right to be heard by listening and summarizing, connect the description of your solution into how it is relevant specifically to THEM!
When I talk too much I reminded myself of an appointment I had with a lead. It was a prospect referred to me and I took my time to prepare and eliminate distractions. During the conversation I was focused, asked questions, paraphrased, and took notes. He was more than happy to talk and share a lot of information with me. Unfortunately our time was up and he had another appointment. He suggested we talk again so he could learn more about what I do.
I thought it went well but was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to explain how I could help him and wondered whether I had established any credibility with him.
I was assured that the meeting went well when I spoke to the referer and heard feedback. The result of me listening and him talking? The prospect thought I was brilliant and couldn’t wait to talk again.
Being considered brilliant was a good outcome for the first meeting. And all because I asked and listened, I let him be the star of the conversation. My time for talking would come later.
By listening and focusing on him, he was ready to hear what I had to say during our next meeting. And connecting what I could for him specifically to what he told me engaged him and led to a quick purchase decision.
I don’t know about you, but this is a lesson I need to constantly remind myself—to be heard I must first shut up.
Nancy Bleeke founded Sales Pro Insider in 1998 to help companies improve their sales, customer service, coaching, and teamwork results with conversations that count. Her book, Conversations That Sell, was awarded a gold medal for Top Sales & Marketing book in 2013 and is quickly becoming a must-read for sales teams.