This is the next in my series on the biggest sales mistakes you can make—and we’re going to address a bad one: overtalking.
There are several aspects to this major error:
- Talking more than your prospect.
- Asking non-intelligent questions, and not listening.
- Talking only about the superior features of your product or service.
Talking More than your Prospect
If you really believe in your company, product or service, of course, you want to talk about it. You want to elaborate on it. You want to tell the world how great it is. And you talk…and talk…and talk. Some people talk so much they don’t even take a breath or allow the customer to intervene. They just machine-gun out their feature sets.
Some of that, I believe, can come from insecurity. So make yourself more secure in your product or service by learning all about it and what makes it superior. Then you can, with some deliberation, explain it to the prospect, taking the time to carefully listen and understand what they’re interested in.
Of course, when the prospect asks you for information, that’s a different story. You’re not beating down the door and flattening them with your explanation.
With many of today’s sales being conducted long-distance—online with video conferencing software (much of the time with the video turned off)—the dynamic is radically changed. Your prospect is not sitting across from you and it becomes a challenge to “read” them. None of us have been trained to interact with people we can’t see.
This is the first time in history that someone can sell to another person halfway across the world without being able to see them. Even back in the old days before the internet, when we only had the phone to talk long-distance, sales weren’t conducted that way except for small transactions. Big deals were only possible face-to-face.
That is now totally shifting, and today we have salespeople that have never actually seen their customers. They might meet them by chance at a trade show or conference, but the sales themselves happen online.
Because we don’t have a historical background for selling this way, we have no studies or statistics to support it. We don’t have handbooks for it, or courses. We don’t have a firm handle on what works well and what doesn’t. Selling this way is becoming widespread, though, so we’ll definitely have studies, statistics, and training for it in the near future.
Selling this way, you’re assuming a high risk because you can’t evaluate their reactions, can’t see anybody language. In fact, you don’t really know if the person is actually who they say they are. Fortunately, I believe that most people are honest, though, and are who they claim.
But it certainly can happen that a prospect isn’t being totally honest about their evaluation process. They might be lying about their company (saying they have 50 staff when they have only 2) to get a better price. Or they’ve already done a preselection and are simply using you to force another vendor’s price down.
Intelligent Questions…and Listening
Because so many of us are selling blind, asking intelligent questions and carefully listening to the answers becomes crucially important. As Carl Jung said, “To ask the right question is already half the solution to the problem.”
Asking the right questions, of course, qualifies your prospect and informs you of their actual issues. But it also informs you as the seller of whether or not you’re wasting your time chasing this opportunity. Nothing is sadder than a bad opportunity that you beat like a dead horse until you suddenly discover that what you’re offering and what your prospect needs don’t meet.
How do you figure out if you’re heading in the right direction with your sale when you’re “flying blind”? By asking very intelligent open-ended questions, and then carefully listening to the answers. As the prospect talks, you can properly evaluate how your product or service fits in with their needs.
Formulating open-ended questions is something you can learn. Here are a number of websites that demonstrate what these are, and offer great examples:
Beyond that, I’ll give you a simple, basic lesson on creating such questions that will help you a great deal: instead of using the word “why” substitute “how.” For example, instead of “Why do you like those results?” ask “How do you like those results?” The word “How” is softer, kinder, and the answer to it will give you a clue to their decision process.
Avoiding Long-Winded Feature Descriptions
Lastly, you should understand, right at the outset, that a prospect isn’t really interested in “how a feature works.” A feature is actually an overall part of a solution, and your prospect wants a look at the bigger picture. They not only want to know how a feature works but how it interacts with everything. Just having a feature presentation, your prospect can miss the major point, which is how can your solution push their company to the next growth rate, or to its next plateau.
So in sales, don’t be an overtalker! Ask intelligent, open-ended questions, take the time to really listen, and avoid long-winded feature descriptions.