Scene: The sales person listens patiently as the prospective customer describes her situation. Being the quick study that he is, the sales person figures out a perfect solution for the customer within the first two minutes of the customer’s description. The next few minutes of information reinforce the sales person’s ideas, and he is getting very excited to tell his customer all about his solution.
Finally, after about five minutes, the sales person can wait no longer. With enthusiasm and confidence, he lays out a perfect plan for the customer to address every one her problems. He describes his company’s capabilities, creating a very rational argument about how these capabilities are perfectly suited to the customer’s issues.
When he finishes talking, he looks to the customer expecting approval for coming up with such a brilliant solution in so little time. But, instead, the customer says, defensively, “I don’t know. That sounds like an awful lot.”
One of the easiest mistakes for a salesperson to make is to overwhelm a customer with his story. Customers don’t care about salespeople’s stories. They care about their own stories. If a sales person “dumps” his entire story on a customer, the customer won’t listen.
So how should salespeople deal with this?
As I wrote in an earlier edition of this newsletter, it’s important to Tear Up Your Elevator Pitch into little pieces… but not to throw those little pieces away. Your goal is to save those small nuggets of your story and bring them into a sales conversation only when it is appropriate.
Let’s say you sell cars, and you have just received extensive product training on your company’s new models. You’ve learned about the superior technology of the cars you are selling, and you are especially excited about the way the new engines deliver maximum horsepower with maximum fuel efficiency. You are taking an interested customer on a test drive of the new car, and you notice pretty quickly that he is really interested in cup holders, the sound system and the memory settings for the electronically adjustable seats. It may be tempting to tell your customer about the latest technology under the hood, but don’t. Tell him about cup holders, the sound system and the adjustable seats!
Your strategy should not be to tell your customer your entire story. It is to interest him in a story he wants to hear. Sure, you may eventually be able to talk to him about your company’s novel approach to fuel injection, but only if it becomes relevant to the conversation. Right now it isn’t relevant.
Or let’s say you are a screenwriter pitching a new movie to a Hollywood producer. If he’s asking you questions about the plot, resist the temptation to talk about character development. Now is not the time.
To create an effective sales conversation, you need to leave things in your pocket. Your pockets may be filled with all of those little pieces of your story, but you won’t be able to bring all of them into the conversation, so don’t try. If you do, your customer won’t hear your message.
The challenge is to know which pieces to bring into the conversation, and which to leave in your pocket. To do this, you need the following:
Pay attention, closely, to what your customer is saying, thinking, doing and focusing on. Let your customer be the cue telling you what pieces of your story to bring into the conversation.
Wait… wait… wait… keep waiting… and never jump the gun by bringing something into the conversation before its time.Patience is one of the best virtues a salesperson can have. Let the conversation develop. Nurture the conversation and gently guide it in the right direction. You may be rewarded with an opportunity to say what you want to say… but you might not.
Don’t tempt your patience. Don’t focus on your need to say something in particular during a sales conversation. A good salesperson can hold back and choose to leave an otherwise-important point in his pocket.
In can be very frustrating when a customer isn’t ready to hear something wonderful about what you are selling. But remember,if you tell him something he isn’t ready to hear, he won’t hear it. Moreover, he’ll feel disengaged. So, if it’s not right to say something, leave it in your pocket.