As Published on Forbes.com
I was speaking at an event this past week. During the live Q&A session, one of the attendees, Chris, asked me about a current situation. “We have a client whose current vendor is not doing a great job for them. We’ve had great meetings. They seem to really like us. But, it just seems that they are never going to pull the trigger and do business with us. What should we do?” As I answered the question, I realized that Chris’ question gets to the root of why customers hate most salespeople.
Chris’ first focus was on the competition. Chris mentioned that the competition had aggressive pricing, was a bigger company than Chris’ company, and had invested more in marketing. Perhaps, Chris thought, that the competition was too stiff. I started by asking Chris about their biggest competitor in this particular account. I also asked him to explain what was most important to the customer in this decision. Chris said, “I think it is price.” This answer illustrated plenty. Specifically, it demonstrated that Chris had not had a discussion about the most important factor for the client. Instead, Chris was making assumptions.
I then shifted my question to what would happen if the customer did not make a change right now. Chris said, “We won’t get the business.” This is the classic example of Axis Displacement Disorder – When you think the axis of the earth has shifted and you believe the world now revolves around you. Everyone in the room knew that Chris was not going to win the deal. What I wanted Chris to consider is what would happen to the customer if THEY did not make a decision to change.
When I pressed Chris for this detail, it became clear that Chris didn’t know this either. If you don’t know why your customer needs what you are selling, then you are just focused on yourself. Chris missed an opportunity to have a discussion with the client about why it might make sense for the client to make a decision sooner rather than later. Instead, Chris was just hoping.
I then asked Chris what are the reasons why it might not make sense for the client to switch to their company. I got a blank stare in response. If you don’t know what would prevent your customer from switching from whatever they have been doing to your product or service, then you are flying blind. In fact, you should have as good of a handle on why someone would NOT do business with you as you would on the list of why they WOULD do business with you.
So many executives and sales professionals feel pressure from their bosses, their investors, or their spouses to make the sale that they overlook an important aspect – empathy. Empathy is the key to emotional intelligence. It helps us to connect with the other party, and helps them feel like we care about their situation.
On your next meeting with a potential client, make sure that you can comprehensively answer each of the following questions before even saying a word about what you would like to sell:
- What do they like about their current provider?
- If they could change one or two things about them, what would those be?
- What happens if the client does not solve this issue?
- How would we know if we are successful six months after delivery?
- Finally, be sure that you know why the customer would not switch to you.
Your goal at this point is to uncover what we call in Same Side Selling, The FIT. In other words, seek to Find Impact Together to see if there is a good connection between what they need and what you offer. This approach is highly effective because it demonstrates empathy and focuses on the client first, not what you are selling.
It’s Your Turn