By Dave Mattson
I’m going to let you in on a secret. There are hundreds of consultants out there that will tell you they fully understand Twitter and other trendy “social media” tools. They will also tell you exactly how they can help you use these tools—at a steep price, of course.
Well, most of them are blowing smoke.
The fact is, we live in a time of rapid technological change and a great deal of confusion. Nobody knows what tomorrow may bring, in terms of technological change, but also in terms of the economy and foreign affairs.
Sales professionals need to remember this whenever they are talking to a prospect because an awareness of these realities will make them smarter and more sympathetic listeners.
And the skill of listening, I’ve learned through the years, is much more important to sales success than talking. You can lose a sale by talking too much, but you’ll never, ever lose a sale by listening too much.
Unfortunately, most salespeople yak and yak and yak because they think that’s how you “capture the prospect’s interest” in their product. But prospects aren’t interested in your product. They are interested in their own problems, and it is the sales professional’s job to share that interest—and to show how the product can make their problems go away. You don’t do that by droning on and on about features and benefits.
It’s also the sales professional’s job to help prospects become aware of problems they aren’t even aware that they have. And the way to do that is to listen carefully and ask questions—leading questions. Only when you’ve understood what the prospect is saying should you start to talk.
Remember what I said a moment ago about Twitter? Just as people these days are worried about really big things, like the possibility that we’re headed into a repeat of the Great Depression or that we could face another terrorist attack, they are also worried about smaller things, too. Like whether their careers will be wiped out by tidal waves of technological innovation.
Most businesspeople in positions of responsibility live with a kind of quiet dread. Once they have reached a point in their careers that they can make significant decisions about the products and services their companies purchase, they are at an age that the pace of technological change scares them. And they can’t talk about this confusion and anxiety for fear of seeming “out of it” and professionally vulnerable. This is their “pain.”
You should never exploit these anxieties, but as a sales professional, you need to understand them. The questions you ask can, in subtle ways, probe the depth of their anxiety, with a specific goal in mind. That goal is to make them understand how the product or service you represent can remove some of their worry. Once you’ve convinced them of that, the sale is all but made.
The world is scary place. The pace of change, uncertainty about the future, and the worries of day-to-day work create a lot of tension. Your prospects are experiencing pain and facing a lot of problems. You can be part of the solution.