Your sales prospects and customers don’t care about you


I have been in sales and marketing for about 20 years.  I have worked for several telecommunications companies, both large and small.  My background and experience has given me the good fortune to work with many companies similar to yours.  The product I sell has many great features that I’m sure will help you and your company.

So, quick question; at what point did you stop caring about what I was saying? My guess is right away.  Heck, even I was bored pretty much immediately.

In sales, as soon as you start talking about yourself and what you think is important, people stop listening.  It’s not about you.  Prospective customers don’t care about you.  Now, don’t misunderstand; they may like you as a person.  I’m sure you are quite likeable.  But, when selling to retail or business customers, the only thing they are concerned with is solving their problems or achieving some objective.  This problem or objective can be a business problem or it can be a personal situation, but the selling interaction needs to revolve around them.  The problem might be a complicated business data requirement or it could be that their cousin Jim has a newer, faster smartphone and Jim keeps teasing him.  It depends on the situation. Everybody that is buying something is either resolving a pain or trying to bring some pleasure into their lives.

One other thing that prospects don’t care about is the features of whatever it is you are selling.  Obviously, the features are important but only as they are able to make their problem go away.  They don’t buy the features, they buy the end result.  Using the approach of, “This device is packed with features. Let me show you what X manufacturer has come out with in this model.” can be a deal breaker.  It’s not about what the salesperson wants to say (despite the awesome product training they just had), it’s about what the potential customer needs.  What they don’t need is to waste time or get confused listening to a sales pitch on features.  For many, the features all sound about the same anyway so how does this help them make a decision? What prospects do need is to have a solution to their problem and a well-informed salesperson is in a great position to provide this solution.

So, what is this super secret that keeps the conversation about the prospect, that makes sure you are providing the solution that responds to the needs of the potential customer, and that guarantees you are not wasting their time or yours?

Questions.  Learn to ask the right questions. Wow…I bet that is a shocker.

As simple as it seems, the right questions are the only way to know the truth and it is an area where so many salespeople struggle.  They have so much information stored in their heads they feel that it just has to come out.  Maybe they should ask some questions first?  And not just superficial questions where you are not really paying attention (Questions asked…check!) and are just waiting for an opportunity to “sell”.

Asking the right questions will establish if the potential customer has a problem you can fix, how that problem is affecting their business or them personally, has the means (i.e. money) to invest in something that will resolve the problem and is looking to do it in a reasonable timeframe.  Once you know this information, then you can use your knowledge of the industry, features, competitors, prices and so on to give them a professional response; a solution.  Or, if they can’t afford your product or are not able to make the decision any time soon, then you can decide if you should spend your time with them or gracefully move on.

So, if a potential customer says, “I think I need a new Blackberry?”, does anyone have any suggestions on what to do next?

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Posted on December 2, 2011, in 'We Get Retail' Business Tips and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. “How did you like the last one?” and then from there…

    I worked as a journalist before working retail (and writing a book about it)…this gave me a huge advantage as I knew that every customer has a story to tell and they want to be heard. They are not the least bit interested in being “sold” anything. They want to be listened to, carefully and thoughtfully. What a wild idea.

  2. I like the starting question. Your customer’s must have loved working with you. As you said, everybody does have a story. They just need to be made comfortable and asked compelling questions so they will reveal their particular truth. And then, as you said, they need to be actively listened to and engaged.

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