Whether you’re cold calling, making an introduction at a networking event or navigating your first face-to-face meeting, it’s natural to let your inner salesperson take over when speaking with a prospect. Stop right there, though. While it may feel right to commence with our sales pitch, rattling off our qualifications, our offerings and our accolades, a true sales master knows it’s much more strategic to take a step back…and shut up.
Don’t worry. Silence won’t be golden for long. After initial introductions, make it your goal to ask open-ended questions that get the prospect talking. About themselves. Then sit back and listen. Studies have shown salespeople tend to be weak in the listening department. Rather than open their ears and their minds, they tend to simply close their mouths when the other person is talking – with the focus being when they can reopen their mouths and resume the sales pitch. Take a moment right now to throw that habit out the window.
Forrester Research talked to a slew of buyers to determine what made one salesperson exceptional, while another was unsuccessful. The results are revealing. There were seven skills that were important to buyers, though the value of each skill may surprise you.
Buyers’ top priorities (in order of importance):
- The ability of a salesperson to match their capabilities to the buyers’ specific situation
- The salesperson’s expertise, reputation and track record
- Whether the salesperson possesses the capability to address the buyers’ specific needs
- The salesperson’s ability to clearly and honestly communicate the value of their service/product
- The service quality or ease of doing business with the salesperson
- The salesperson’s focus on driving a business
- The economic value of the salesperson’s offerings
This list alone shows you that clients care about whether you’re listening to them or just waiting to talk at them. If this weren’t the case, price would be the top priority and the specific buyer situation would rank much lower. Read through these values a few times, then re-evaluate your own sales strategies until the two lists are congruous.