It’s official! Even with the drastic changes in the sales landscape over the past decade, success in selling still depends on what it used to and has always done: adequate preparation. This verdict derives from professors of strategic sales from leading business and management universities globally, backed by practical, primary research from observing over 800 sales people in live sales interactions. A stinging indictment came forth: only 37% of salespeople were consistently effective. What’s more, some of the behaviours of the remaining 63% actually drove down performance. Of the many useful findings from it focusing on these two will enhance sales success: pre-meeting preparation and active listening
Let’s face it: many salespeople thrive on winging sales meetings. And these include non-sales sellers like panellists and interviewees at job interviews and also talk shows. There is nil preparation. And just what is included in preparation? The first is outlining the objective of the meeting; there are sellers who will read this and wonder what other objective besides closing that a sales meeting would have and I invite them to interrogate how well that myopic objective continues to serve them. The objective of the first contact with a lady that a man is interested in, is usually to get her number. The objective of sales meeting could be to determine the buyer’s current position. Preparation will also include setting the agenda of the meeting. The first response to, “There’s a meeting tomorrow at 9am” is usually a roll of your eyes and a dreary, “What’s the agenda?” The same applies to sales meetings; having an agenda focuses the meeting, and it’s the seller’s responsibility to set the agenda based on the purpose of the meeting. The third aspect of preparation is what questions to ask that will offer useful insights into the intended purpose. Unless you want to be mistaken for a stalker, the first question to the lady you want, wouldn’t be, “What’s your number?” much as that is the objective. Likewise, if you’re selling elevators and the purpose of your meeting is to diagnose the buyers needs, “hat kind of elevators do you currently have?” is a more useful opening question than, “Did you know that, our solution is the most preferred in the market?” And insightful questions bring us to the second finding towards success in selling: active listening.
Again, let’s face it; most sellers thrive on hearing, not listening. In one typical study, researchers found that physicians interrupt the majority of patients in the first eighteen seconds the patient speaks during an appointment, which often prevents the patient from describing what brought her to the office in the first place. And it’s no different even in professional selling. There is no point is preparing all these insightful questions purely for show. After all, they are only as useful as the responses they yield. I once read somewhere that if you’re doing all the talking, you’re selling, and if the client is doing all the talking they are buying. Let them talk. It sounds easy but it’s not. People fear long pauses, and loud silence. Yet it is in these moments that insightful revelations derive-when the brain is allowed to ruminate. And as the buyer talks, write down the responses, repeat back what they have said and at the end of the meeting summarise the salient points agreed upon. Listen actively.
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