It’s No Time To Be Sheepish

By Beacon Staff

If you’ve ever coached a kids’ baseball team, you probably remember reminding players to take the bat off of their shoulder, at least during the early going.

Leaving it on your shoulder requires too much adjustment to hit a pitched ball. Most young players can’t adjust fast enough at that age. Not asking the right questions in a sales situation is the same sort of thing.

Like letting a “meat pitch” cross the plate without a swing because the bat was on your shoulder, not asking questions leaves money on the table.

Can you really afford that?

I don’t mean be a hard sell pain in the keester. No one likes that. No business learns anything from their clients by sending out salespeople who act like that.

Be helpful, inquisitive and thorough. Be sincerely interested how your customers use your products and services. You might be missing an entire market just because you aren’t listening.

Ask what they need, talk about what they really get out of your product / service, how they use the things you sell them, and so on.

One of the most important parts of selling is helping the client figure out exactly what they want (and need) instead of selling them crap they don’t need or want.

An unfilled hole

Speaking of, I received a sales call last week.

The salesperson almost seemed embarrassed to sell their product. Maybe it was a rough day. I know the company hasn’t been on solid ground with their client base for some time – and that includes me.

Despite that, I’m already their client and their next big product is now available.

What do you know about your long time customers?

After 15 or so years of using their product, I’m clearly vested in what they sell and they should know it.

As a result, they should know tons about my business.

Yet they don’t.

They should know what aspects of their product are most important to me.

Yet they don’t.

So when they call, it’s like any other cold call. That or they simply assume I’m ready to buy because they called. Bad idea.

As a long time customer, they just need to determine my objections to purchasing their new stuff and sell me the big new thing.

Instead, they just ask for my money as if they really don’t care one way or the other.

My response is something like “I’m not quite ready” (which is the truth). Because I do what I do, I don’t shut them down cold. Instead, I pause and leave the opening, hoping they’ll run through it.

Yet they don’t.

What should have happened?

Ask something like: “I’m sorry to hear that, but if you don’t mind, could I ask a few questions?”

Me: Yeah, sure.

“Is there a problem with our products or services?”

“Is cash flow tight? A lot of folks are stretched a little thin right now, so we’re doing what we can to get our product / service into their hands so they can use it to make more. Perhaps our payment plan would help. Would you like to hear about it?”

“Is there a specific reason why you prefer to wait? It’s OK if there is, I’d just like to know if there’s something we can do about it.”

Me: Yeah, blah, blah, blah.

“So if I fixed that situation, would you be ready to buy?”

At this point, we arrive at Sales 101. Either I say yes (giving them a shot at fixing whatever “it” is), or they find out the real objection, and the cycle continues as they learn more about my business.

All the while, the vendor is learning what drives my purchases and how they can help me get to where I want to be as it relates to their product.

Yet they don’t.

By now, I wonder if my business matters to the vendor.

Are you training your staff to ask questions? Are they being inquisitive? Caring? Curious?

More importantly, are you finding out what is really important to your clients? Are you making sure that there isn’t some way to get them what they really need, even if cash flow is tight?

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him via email at mriffey at flatheadbeacon.com.

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