Jim knew his product information and enjoyed prospects who asked a lot of questions. In fact, he thought, the more questions they ask, the better. An in-depth answer for every question.
“Excuse me,” a male voice asked from behind him.
Jim turned to find Mike Swaing, a prospect who had been in for five visits and had not yet bought anything.
“Hey, Mike, good to see you again,” said Jim, offering his hand for a firm handshake. “What questions do you need answered . . . I’ve got the rest of the day for you.”
“Well . . . ” began Mike, “I think there’s not really much more for me to ask. We’ve spent so much time together on my last visits, I think you know more about the product than anyone I have ever met.”
“Thanks,” responded Jim, putting his hand on Mike’s shoulder, “I feel it is my obligation to fit in as much information as possible in the time I spend with customers. That way they can make the best decisions.”
“I appreciate that . . . I really do. You certainly are the most knowledgeable person I’ve run into. But I’ve got some bad news for you.”
“I gave my boss all the information you gave me, and he went and bought somewhere else. I know you spent a lot of time talking to me, and you can be sure that I’ll recommend you to others. Thanks.”
Jim just received The Good Human Award. This award is given every day to salespeople who educate prospects and never let the prospect talk. If the prospect gets to sit back, occasionally ask a question, and get a free product education, the prospect sees the salesperson as an educator — NOT as a salesperson.
Jim is a bit confused as to what his job is. If Jim had been hired by the company as a trainer or educator, then Jim’s approach to prospects would be appropriate.
Why do so many salespeople get sucked into the educational approach to sales? Because prospects ask questions and salespeople are comfortable answering questions. Both the prospect and the salesperson are comfortable with their respective roles. And sales, unfortunately, do happen with the educational approach. It is unfortunate because this approach only reinforces a destructive line of thought in the salesperson’s mind.
Gee, the thinking goes, if I sold X number knowing so little about the product, imagine how many more I could sell if I knew a lot more and demonstrated this knowledge to every prospect and customer.
There is nothing wrong with knowing as much as possible about what you are selling. It is, however, a mistake to demonstrate to every prospect and customer the extent of your knowledge.
When a prospect, or a customer, asks you a question about the product that goes beyond the basics, don’t answer the question. Instead, take the question and reverse it.
“Given the cost of your product, how could we get the most out of it?”
“That’s an excellent question. By ‘get the most out of it,’ tell me a bit about just where you think you see yourself using this.”
By taking this approach you are politely forcing the prospect or customer to educate you, which is exactly what you want.
The prospect’s job in a sales situation is to tell you what he needs. The only way that happens is if the prospect talks and you listen.