Post by Ben Paul, Director – New Zealand
I need to talk about my stuff!
I’ve noticed a growing trend across many salespeople and professionals, the desire to talk about what it is we do and what we offer. Deep down, we all know that this is probably something of a conversation killer. Things may have been going along very well and then suddenly, the client or target, is subjected to the big sales pitch moment. Then the person you’re meeting is most likely polite, may even say thank you, that sounds interesting and perhaps even “why don’t you send me a proposal on that?”
If that sounds like your typical meeting or even a successful meeting outcome to you, be warned it isn’t. It is most likely that the client has asked for the proposal to store on file, or as a polite way to end the meeting (see this post on the dangers of jumping to your solution too fast). They may well have been engaged in a two-way conversation, and then once the pitch came in, the awkward silence hit and they felt compelled to fill it and conclude the meeting somehow.
So why do we feel compelled to push our message?
In many of the course or coaching sessions I’ve run, most people understand the need to be on the client’s agenda not our own. They even appreciate that doing this will help to build rapport and even trust. However, at key points they still feel the desire to talk about themselves, their company and the fabulous offers they have. There seems to be two key reasons why we do this.
- Organisational / Peer pressure. For the person off to meet the client or target, there is an awareness in the office that they have a big meeting coming up. Senior management may even give them encouraging words like “Good luck, come back with the deal signed.” Of course this is unrealistic and creates a wave of pressure and a need to try and force a close on something that is potentially a long way off being signed. Sometimes doing things the right way, takes time, it means working through all the client’s issues, and with management’s desire for sales and revenue targets to be met in the short term, this pressure can lead to meetings not going as well as they could
- How we get our confidence in meetings. Clearly in a big meeting or with a new opportunity it is likely the adrenaline is flowing. For many of us we get our confidence from what we call authority. This means that we are confident talking and discussing the things that we know about. The flip-side of this is that we are fearful of discussing anything that we do not know much or indeed anything about. However, the client’s world is most likely bigger than the products/services that you are offering, so to truly understand them it pays to be able to ask questions and help them with their thinking on a wide range of topics, many of which will fall outside your comfort zone.
How do we beat the urge?
So understanding the problem is relatively easy, management pressure or the desire to feel comfortable in our areas or expertise pushes us forward hastily; but how do we stop ourselves from falling into the “sales-pitch” trap?
- Take a colleague. Prepare for the meeting and ask your colleague to step in either with a verbal or non-verbal signal, if you suddenly start to pitch to the client. Quite often as a second person in the meeting, they will have heard more than you have (if you’re the main talker) so they will be able to ask the next question which is most likely to re-engage the client.
- Leave the brochures / capability statement at home. Think about it what’s the point of the meeting and asking questions if you have already produced a document that meets their needs? These things are generic, they are invariably of little interest to the client and they help to close future dialogue. If, following the conversation, the client requests further information, this is the perfect opportunity to find out what it is they are looking for and most importantly why. Then you can by all means send something that informs them based on their requirements and keeps you both in contact.
- Plan your questions. Instead of getting your confidence from authority instead aim to get it from impact. This means focusing on the structure of how you say things and how you conduct your meetings. In most situations it is really about focusing on the right questions to ask that will stimulate, challenge and above all help provide value in that meeting to the person you are meeting.
This post first appeared on Ben’s LinkedIn page. If you’d like to comment or join in this conversation, please visit the post here.