“I have to tell you, Walt, I don’t understand why your salespeople are always leading the division in sales.” Bill stopped speaking and stared off towards a group of the company’s salespeople at a far table. He and Walt were having dinner at a local seafood restaurant. Glancing at Walt, and seeing no comment coming, he continued, “You even got Cecilia, my worst salesperson ever, to be a producer. I was ready to punch her ticket and send her on her way. If you aren’t going to tell me the secret, at least tell me how you got her producing.”
“There’s no secret, really,” responded Walt.
“How did you do it with her, then? I mean, I pumped so much product knowledge into her head that I even learned things I never knew before.”
“Let me ask you,” replied Walt, “did she know the product line?”
“Know it? She could recite chapter and verse.”
“Exactly. That’s why she couldn’t sell.”
“Come again . . . that makes no sense.”
Walt looked at Bill and wondered how long it was going to take him to decide to retire. When Walt started with the company, Bill had been the ace number one salesperson. Shortly thereafter, he became Walt’s manager. That was seven years ago, he thought to himself. How fast the years went, and how much had changed.
“Cecilia knew the product line so well, that when I first started working with her, that was all she knew. She could have written the manuals, but writing manuals doesn’t sell. That’s what I told her.”
“Ignorance is bliss?” responded Walt in a sarcastic tone.
“No . . . but when she and I first started together, she’d bury the prospect in details before she even knew what the prospect’s problem was. In short, she needed to learn to shut up, listen, question, listen, then sell.”
“Look, I started you out the same way, product, product, product. Look where it got you.”
“Understand,” responded Walt. “But that was then. Our prospects are much more knowledgeable now. Cecilia was so full of information to give, that’s all she did. She wasn’t selling; she was lecturing. Do you buy from a lecturer?”
“I don’t understand how you manage your people,” replied Bill shaking his head, “Don’t get me wrong, it works. Your numbers are incredible.”
Walt’s salespeople listen. Bill’s salespeople lecture. Walt’s salespeople lead the company in sales, month after month.
Prospects, unless they have been hiding under a rock for the past 15 years, have so much more information available to read, see, and hear than ever before. This information has been showing up in their offices long before the salesperson ever shows up. Then, when the salesperson does show up, what is the prospect’s point-of-view?
Chances are the salesperson is sitting there because the prospect agreed to meet with him, not because the salesperson “talked his way in.” Think about this. Prospects have an almost unlimited number of ways to keep from ever speaking with a salesperson unless the prospect decides it’s time to meet.
So here you have a prospect who initiated the meeting about a product he thinks will solve a problem. The prospect sees the meeting as a necessary step in getting a solution. What might he start to believe when the salesperson launches into a monologue on the product line?
“Hey, I have this problem. I think your product will solve it. I called this meeting and now you are boring me to tears with information I don’t need to know about. Why don’t you ask me what I want to find out?”
Indeed, why not ask the prospect?
Add to this mental framework the simple notion that everyone believes there is less time in the day than there was before to get the job done. All you have to do is read The Wall Street Journal to find out what major corporation just announced a 40,000 person lay-off to get that feeling in the pit of the stomach that the day is very short. If you can’t get it done yesterday, then maybe the company will decide you are “surplus.”
Salespeople who shut up, listen, question, listen, perhaps question again, are the ones who sell product in a consistent fashion.
Prospects don’t have the time for a monologue. Don’t train salespeople to give one.
Prospects already have most, if not all, the information about what the salesperson is selling. Don’t train salespeople to add to this glut of information.
Prospects want to believe that the salesperson understands their unique problem. Train the salespeople to uncover what this problem is.
Prospects don’t have time to be buried. Why train salespeople to bury them?