To close with confidence, repeat back the problem to the customer

It is not enough to think you’ve understood the customer’s problem. No. Repeat the problem back to him to confirm. Miscommunication costs, not just immediate, but future sales and, unfortunately, trust. “I want a kioo in my cars (lifts),” so the mzungu prospect told the lift selling company salesperson. They had a good laugh at his use of Kiswahili.

The cost of miscommunication

That’s until, six weeks later. (Their cars are made to order from Germany and shipped here). When they arrived, each with a mirror (kioo), the cable snapped and the sale came crashing down. The now red-faced customer thundered: “What’s this? I didn’t say we wanted a mirror, I said see-through glass!” Millions of shillings, six weeks, and five unwanted cars later, it turns out that, that’s what he thought kioo meant. What seemed like agreement on both sides was, in reality, a misinterpretation of the customer’s needs.

Now if only the salesperson had sought to clarify with, “And by kioo you mean mirror?” Or, more conclusively in the summary, “So if I got you right, you want five cars (check), each with a mirror for the rear wall (wrong), with (these specs) (check), to be delivered within eight weeks (check), in line with when the shafts will be ready as per the construction timetable. Is this correct?” At this point, most likely the (mis) understood meaning of kioo will be clarified. That, and any other misunderstood requirements.

Read: How to avoid communication breakdown while selling

The power of repeat back the problem technique

Repeating back the problem to the customer is a simple yet greatly overlooked technique to accelerating the close to the sale, building trust and sustaining the sale. The customer feels heard and understood and naturally trust is developed. Further, because it is weight the customer needed to lose and not medication they needed, the solution lasts longer than if medicine was prescribed and the problem persisted because of a misdiagnosis.

Further, a simple, “If I understood you correctly, you said you want report writing skills training to improve your staff writing skills, yes?” Yes. “Out of curiosity, why would you prefer report writing as opposed to written communication skills?” Don’t be surprised if this stops the customer short. “Is there a difference?” he might ask and suddenly the real problem manifests. Turns out his staff are knowledgeable about report writing but need help with grammar, sentence structure, and sequencing – written communication skills.

Miscommunication isn’t just an inconvenience—it’s a costly mistake that can have far-reaching consequences. Beyond the immediate impact on sales, such misunderstandings can damage relationships, erode trust, and ultimately hinder future business opportunities. According to one study 82% of customers say that they’re more likely to trust a company with their information if they can explain their needs clearly. And when you repeat back the problem to the customer, you do just that.

Read: Boost sales by aligning yourself to buyer’s selfishness

repeat back the problem to customer

The Importance of Confirmation: You can close a bigger sale by repeating back customer problem


In the fast-paced world of sales, assumptions can be dangerous. It’s not enough to think you’ve understood the customer’s problem; you must actively confirm your understanding of it. One simple yet powerful technique is to repeat back the customer’s concerns in your own words, ensuring alignment and clarity. It could open up a whole new sale.

For instance: You: “So, Mr. Juma, our software offers seamless integration with various platforms, ensuring maximum efficiency for your team. How does that sound?” Juma: “Hmm, that’s great, but what about data security? That’s a top priority for us.” You, pausing to reflect: “Ah, I see. Data security is crucial for your company. Let me make sure I understand your concerns correctly. You’re looking for a solution that not only enhances efficiency but also prioritizes data security, is that correct?” Juma, nodding: “Exactly. We can’t afford to compromise on security.”

And with this pain point identified, focusing the close to it, increases the chances of you getting the sale. Unfortunately, the converse holds. Wrong problem definition, leads to friction-filled attempts at closing.

Read: For a faster close, inflict buyer with his pain of his real reason for buying

When you repeat back customer problems, you demonstrate empathy and attention to detail. You show that you’re actively listening and invested in finding the best solution for their needs. Moreover, by clarifying any potential misunderstandings upfront, you pave the way for smoother transactions, closing with certainty, and stronger relationships down the line.

Building trust through clarity: Repeat back customer problem

Trust is the foundation of any successful sales relationship. When customers feel heard and understood, they’re more likely to trust your expertise and recommendations. Echoing the customer’s concerns in your own words to confirm understanding does just that.

For example: “So, the purchase decision will ultimately be made by the CEO but only if the Head of IT okays it? And not because it has anything to do with IT but because he has the CEO’s ear in decision making matters. Is that right?” Yes. “Thanks for this. I’ll do as you say. Let me seek an appointment with the Head of IT.”

Read: 3 ways to create a buyer aligned sales process

On the other hand, miscommunication breeds doubt and uncertainty, undermining the trust that’s essential for closing sales. By prioritizing clear communication and confirmation, you can build trust with your customers and differentiate yourself from the competition. Whether you’re selling products or services, the ability to articulate and address customer concerns effectively is a key differentiator that sets top performers apart.

Strive for clarity by repeating back customer problem

In the fast-paced world of sales, clear communication is non-negotiable. Miscommunication can cost you not only immediate sales but also long-term trust and loyalty. By making a habit of repeating back customer concerns and confirming your understanding, you can avoid misunderstandings, build trust, and ultimately drive greater success in your sales endeavours. So, fellow sales professionals, I leave you with this question: Are you prioritizing clear communication in your interactions with customers?

Read: Seek first to understand, not to close


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