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Listening Is the Key to Sales Success

President and CEO of SmartBank, Billy Carroll
August 8, 2019
Chief Marketing Officer at New York Public Radio, Lisa Baird
August 27, 2019
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Listening Is the Key to Sales Success

A successful sales process is the lifeblood of most businesses. You can have the most innovative product in the world, but if your sales force is not good at getting in the right doors and convincing your prospective customers that they need to buy it, all is for naught.

Your customers are probably not searching the internet hoping to uncover a wonderful new product that they didn’t know existed. They are focused instead on the problems they face and on how to best alleviate their challenges and their most pressing business concerns. They rarely have the time to conduct a thorough search for a solution in the midst of their busy days of putting out fires and performing their day-to-day operations.

Sure, your website should be easy to find and should contain updated, relevant content. But that’s not what will close the deal for you. What will make the sale is your ability to get in the door at the time your prospect has identified a need that you can fulfill, and just as importantly, once you are in the door, being able to convince him/her that you and your product is the right solution to the specific problem or need they have.

So, what do sales people most frequently do wrong? They don’t listen!

It’s important to be fully prepared to present yourself and your product in the most compelling way possible and to think through in advance what questions you maybe asked and what obstacles may exist relative to purchasing your product or service.

However, once you have prepared for the meeting – including understanding and being able to convincingly articulate your product’s differentiation from others in the marketplace – you should resist the urge to “deliver a speech.” Think about your role in a sales meeting as one of “hosting a discussion.”

Here are some effective ways to do that:

• Start the meeting by asking what your prospective customer most wants to accomplish in the meeting.

• Think about their business, not yours. Focus on how you can solve their specific problems, not on how wonderful you and your company/products are. Talk about your prospect’s needs first, not why your product or service is the best.

• Don’t prepare a cookie-cutter presentation. Learn about your customers’ business issues, industry trends and competitive landscape. Speak their language.

• Once you become engaged in a conversation, be sure you are tuned in enough to really connect on your prospect’s terms. Listen carefully for conversational clues as to what those terms are (i.e., which seems to be most important – price, superior performance, delivery time, etc.?).

• Remember that new business presentations rarely go exactly as planned, so be prepared for various contingencies, such as an unexpected person in the room, a question that is unrelated to why you think you are there, etc., If you don’t know the answer to a question you are asked, it is okay to say that you’ll need to do more research and then get back to them.

• Make your prospect feel heard and demonstrate a clear understanding of the business issues he/she has presented to you, and then summarize those issues as part of your “sales pitch,” always tying your product’s advantages directly to your prospect’s stated needs.

• Finally, be sure to ask them to hire you or to buy your product! Let them know that you want their business and that they will be glad they made the decision to engage with you.

Selling is all about making personal connections and giving your prospects clear-cut reasons (that matter to them) to do business with you.

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