Do you talk too much? Many salespeople do. How do I know that? Because I use to do it! But more significantly, when I visit a store and indicate my interest in something it seems the sales clerk takes that as a cue to talk too much.
Recently my wife and I took a short trip to Key West. During a casual walk into several shops we came upon one that sold knick-knacks and souvenirs made by Mayan Indians. I bought a few small dolls for my granddaughter. On the way out, a painted flute caught my eye and I thought it would be a nice gift for my son, who plays several wind instruments. The proprietor saw me discussing it with my wife and immediately chimed in with comments on the great sound from the flute. He then motioned to several other instruments for sale, including a small drum. In fact, he started playing it and talked about how it could make several different sounds. After about two minutes of this my wife looked at me and said, “No,” and we left the store. I was unhappy as I wanted the flute, but I was also thinking, “You talk too much! You just talked yourself right out of a sale.”
Often, we in sales tend to think that it is our job to get somebody to buy something. And we jump into the sales process with great ideas that end up killing the sale. Or we manage to plant ourselves squarely between our prospect and where we want him to go. Why is it so difficult to let the prospect sell himself? A few principles apply here
1. Make your great idea the prospect’s great idea. How do you get a prospect to discover the need for a change? Ask questions. Appropriate questions will allow you to test the waters without muddying the waters – and safely measure the prospect’s reaction. Example: “Does your son only play wind instruments or does he have an interest in percussion also?” If the prospect responds positively to your question just say, “Tell me more.” Now the prospect will explain his thinking and begin to sell himself.
2. 70-30. Let the prospect do MOST of the talking, about 70% or more. You should do 70% of the listening. This is counterintuitive. Innately we think that we must educate our prospects by talking, presenting, and persuading in an attempt to “capture the prospect’s interest.” But if the prospect wanted a rundown on the technical details of your product he would likely just visit your website. “Selling” is not about “telling.” It’s about helping the prospect relate your product to satisfying his wants and needs. What’s the best way to do this? Again, questions, thought provoking questions. Such as, “How do you see this flute complementing the array of instruments your son currently plays?” To implement 70-30, think like Socrates; he was one of history’s greatest teachers and he talked very little, he just kept asking questions. Another great teacher, Galileo, said, “We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.”
3. Detach yourself from the outcome. Would you trust a scientist with an “agenda” over one with a simple quest for the truth? Surely not. When you take your car to a mechanic for a problem you certainly want to believe that he will investigate and find the exact cause before he starts suggesting expensive repairs and part replacements. Alabama coach, Nick Saban, teaches his players to focus on the play at hand, not on the end of the game. He said, “Thinking about anything other than what we have to do to prepare to play the next game, to minimize our errors and maximize our performance is out of the question.”
From these analogies, we should infer that when we start a sales call the truth is we don’t know if what we have is what the prospect really wants or needs. Prescription without proper diagnoses is malpractice. If you are honest with your prospects, occasionally, you may just have to say, “I don’t think what I have and what you need are a match.” If you zero in on the sales process and not “scoring the big sale,” the outcome will take care of itself.
Joe Jones’ 1960 song, You Talk Too Much, was a major hit. Maybe he hit a nerve with us. Don’t hit your prospect’s nerve by talking too much. Remember The Four Seasons who sang, Silence is Golden!
To learn more about Why Sales People Fail And What You Can Do About It, download the free ebook here.