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Pruning the 'Waffle' Tree

February 29, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 168

Most people don't want to be told what they already know, or what they don't want to know, least of all sales prospects. Yet so often we greet our customers with a barrage of statements... our whole approach becomes product-focussed rather than customer focussed. I guess it's a bit like a pharmacist dispensing drugs to cure an ailment that has yet to be diagnosed by a doctor who hasn't yet consulted the patient. In selling terms, it simply means that we must first collect relevant information from the customer before we start firing irrelevant information at them.

Salespeople involved with technical products like computers often fall victim to this 'mouthful of megabyte' syndrome until they learn to appreciate that holding back their highly prized product knowledge - if or until it is actually needed and understood - is a virtue worth having. It is certainly more effective than running off on a tangent, talking up unwanted product and technical features, usually complete with confusing jargon and buzzwords, and completely oblivious to the real question: 'What does the customer need?'

Unrelated data (information that isn't applicable) can be just as frustrating to our customer as irrelevant data (information that isn't appreciated). We must keep in mind that our customer may not want or need all the information we believe is important, and having it presented to them anyway could leave them totally bored, or worse still, annoyed with us. All they want is a solution to their specific problem, confirmation that the product will do what they want it to do for them, and assurance of what it will mean to them. To be rather brutal about it, perhaps we should accept that people rarely care about what concerns us; they are fixated on whatever it is that directly concerns them. In my sales training sessions, I get a little brutal about it myself, and usually finish up delivering a rather passionate sermon on the subject. It goes like this...

Patience is a virtue here. As you ask your qualifying questions, you must listen to every answer and to all of every answer. Second-guessing, based on how other customers may have responded to your questions is a common tendency. You must avoid it, and the best way to do so is to seek their feedback on your understanding of their expectations. A quick point-by-point summary will do it. This will allow you to confirm that you really are in tune with their needs before you re-launch into your 'monologue'. From a process point of view, this is a key point to remember - a good summary of your understanding of their needs will always provide a smooth and timely transition from the qualification to the presentation stage of your sale.

However, applying this self-discipline is easier said than done. A natural inclination to prattle on about aspects of your company, product, or service that have little relevance to your customer is quite understandable. It is probably because you are rightfully proud of who you represent and what you are selling. You think that your customer would be dying to hear about these things, so you tell them. However, most of us do need to work on our self-control here, because it really doesn't matter what is important to us. What counts is what is important to the customer. Although this is just plain common sense, and we would never create this atmosphere deliberately, sometimes our own pride of knowledge is just a little hard to reel in.

The best incentive to stop you from doing this is to realise that you are wasting valuable selling time. By focusing only on what your customer wants, you can shorten your presentation, a far better option than shortening their temper. I know I am labouring the point, but unfortunately it is all too common, even amongst the sales force veterans. We know from bitter experience that it is a major cause of lost sales in virtually every form of selling, and most of my trainees readily confess to it.

Good technique and discipline here will set you apart from the vast majority of salespeople, and it would be wise to remember that, despite the wonderful aura that surrounds it, product knowledge has its downsides - having too little of it, and using too much of it!

About the Author: In a distinguished career spanning half a century, Keith Rowe has managed the full journey from shop floor to boardroom. Along the way, he has headed the Australian sales and marketing operations for three of the world's largest Consumer Electronics manufacturers - Toshiba, Sanyo and Sharp.

Keith is not just a successful businessman. He is an accomplished speaker and trainer, specialising in interpersonal skills. His latest book - the KNACK of Negotiating - is essential reading for all those involved in commercial buying and selling. It is available in all the popular eBook formats, from Apple iTunes to Amazon Kindle.

© 2012 Keith Rowe - all rights reserved worldwide

Source: EzineArticles
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