Buyers are skeptical of salespeople today.
And there’s a good reason for it.
Sales reps often waste their time.
Think about the last time you met with a prospective buyer. How did that conversation go?
You prepared your pitch. You created a snappy PowerPoint deck for the meeting. You considered every possible question or objection the buyer could come up with – and you prepared responses for each scenario.
And the conversation went in every direction but a straight line.
What we often forget is that we are not giving a commencement speech. The buyer isn’t a rapt audience, hanging on every word, waiting to be handed the right nugget of information that will change his life.
Buyers are people. With businesses to run. And families to support. And places to be.
By their very nature, sales conversations are never going to be linear because buyers’ thought processes aren’t linear. Their minds go where their concerns go – and while their concern might be how they’re going to use your brilliant product in their business, it’s just as likely that their concern might be getting back to work to complete that big customer order.
So what’s a sales rep to do?
I’ll tell you.
Throw out the PowerPoint.
Your Expertise Trumps PowerPoint EVERY TIME
Stop relying on a practiced presentation to land accounts.
“Death by PowerPoint” doesn’t happen just in internal team meetings. It happens in sales conversations, too.
YOU have the power to create opportunities that maximize your sales success.
- You have deep product knowledge.
- You understand exactly how your product can benefit the buyer – and make their life better.
- You have industry knowledge that can help the buyer, with or without your product.
You have everything you need to make the sale – but you also have everything you need to help the buyer and build a real relationship with him.
Maximize Sales Success in 5 Steps
A bad sales meeting is a waste of your buyer’s time, but it’s also a waste of your time.
Take these five steps to ensure every sales meeting is efficient, effective (for both you and your buyer), and leads to more sales.
1. Understand buyers’ needs
Your meeting isn’t about your product. It’s about the buyer.
Do as much research as possible before the meeting. Find out what’s going on in your buyer’s world. What’s happening in his industry? In his market? In his business? Did he just hire a new employee? Or let someone go?
Get a snapshot of your buyer’s situation before you ever meet with him. This will make the conversation much easier and help you zero in on the real benefits of your product for the buyer.
If you are unable to do this research beforehand, or if you weren’t able to get much information, then get the buyer talking about his work as quickly as you can. Keep the conversation focused on him. This has a two-fold effect:
- Your buyer will feel heard, which changes the dynamics of the relationship from “sales” to “helpful partnership.”
- It gives the buyer the opportunity to share his real problems with you – and it gives you the opportunity to solve those problems for him.
2. Add value – real value
There are three things that contribute to your success in sales:
- Your personal attitude and sales style
- Your product or domain knowledge and your ability to add value to your buyer’s life
- Access to the right tools and sales support resources
A weakness in any of those three areas could grind your sales conversation to a screeching halt.
Number 1 is all about mindset. Check out this Inc. article by Matt Ehrlichman for some great insights on the topic of successful sales mindset.
Number 2 is all about the time you take to know your product and your buyer.
Number 3 is all about choosing the right tool for the job – which many people get backward. Your sales tools should enable you, not add more complexity to the sales process. I wrote more about that here.
All three of those enable you to provide real value to your buyer.
Your personal attitude can make interactions with you a pleasure. Your knowledge can be a valuable resource to a time-strapped business owner. And the tools and resources you have at your fingertips can make answering questions and handling the sale seamless and comfortable.
Your ultimate goal should be to leave the buyer better off than he was before you met him. Whether or not he buys from you today.
3. Meet the buyer where they’re at – emotionally
If you’ve done your homework, you’ve got a good idea of what stage the buyer might be at in the sales process. He might be completely unaware he even has a problem worth solving, or he might be ready to buy.
Prepare to talk to the buyer in the stage that he’s at. If he’s in the early stage of awareness about the problems your product solves or the solution you provide, get ready to ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening. If he’s ready to buy, but he just needs to know “the deal,” cut straight to the point so you’re not wasting his time with a sales pitch he has no need to hear.
Surprises happen, of course. You might have scheduled a 30-minute meeting, and when you show up, the buyer tells you he only has 10 minutes. Or you might have prepared a 20-page PowerPoint presentation (please tell me you didn’t, though), only to find that the buyer is already really informed about your product. So be prepared to pivot, too.
No matter what, preparation is key.
4. Make the next steps crystal clear
After your sales meeting, both you and the buyer should walk away with clear next steps.
“Send me some information and I’ll look it over” is NOT a clear next step, by the way.
If you’ve …
- Done a good job of understanding your buyer and their real needs (not what they think they need – but their actual needs)
- Earned your buyer’s trust by respecting their time (and not killing them with a slow death by slide deck)
- Shared information that is actually useful to the buyer in their everyday life
… clear next steps are easy.
Place the order. Call the accounting department for payment. Meet the buyer’s construction team next week.
If you’ve walked away unclear about what the next step is with that buyer, don’t worry. But don’t get pushy, either. Bide your time a little and set up another meeting with him after you’ve had a recent success with someone else in their industry or position. That will help him see your offer in context, and it will also help you uncover his needs a bit more.
5. Take the meeting to the buyer’s workplace
Where did you hold your last sales meeting with a new prospect?
Was it at a coffee shop?
Coffee shop meetings are a favorite of unexperienced salespeople … and a favorite of buyers who have little interest in your offer, but high interest in a free pastry.
Sure, it seems like a good idea. It’s neutral ground. Coffee shops are friendly territory.
But they’re also distracting. And unprofessional. And coffee shops don’t give you a glimpse into your buyer’s real life, which would be so valuable to you.
Instead, try to always meet with buyers in their offices or workplaces. It sets the right tone for everyone, and it will give you valuable information about your buyer and how your product will fit into his real life.
By all means, take your existing customers to their favorite cafes, and continue to build those relationships in that relaxed environment. Just don't take your prospects there!
Buyers Are More Educated, Now – but You Can Still Add Value
Stop practicing your pitch and start listening for opportunities to help your buyer.
Stop thinking of staying one step ahead of your customers, and start thinking of how to use what you know to empower them.
To be successful today, sales teams should be resources for customers – not gatekeepers. Be that valuable resource, and your buyers will show their appreciation by buying, then referring people to, then championing your product.