If your salespeople can’t answer this question, prospects and customers may either demand the lowest price or buy from someone else.
The No. 1 sales question buyers want you to answer: Why should I buy from you?
Selling to prospects and customers without determining their needs is irrelevant selling. Lack of relevance distorts your aim. It’s like shooting at a target with a gun that has a bent sight. And it can kill your prospecting efforts.
When salespeople survey their prospects and customers to find out what they want most, they may find that their prior assumptions are wrong. The two biggest misconceptions on the part of salespeople involve price and relationships.
A recent survey shows salespeople rated price and relationships as critical, while buyers listed both well down their priority list. Buyers placed more emphasis on quality, on-time deliveries and customer service.
More research also shows that about 90% of salespeople don’t adequately sell what their prospects and customers want most, because they can’t answer the simple question: Why should I buy from you?
The best way for your salespeople to answer this question is with two questions:
- What do you think are the top three things that customers and prospects value most when choosing to buy your product or service?
- What do you think is the least important?
Ask your salespeople to compare their answers to those of prospects and customers. Are the answers similar? If not, your salespeople will have a tough time convincing prospects and customers not to buy from someone else.
Prospects may initially buy from you because of your product features or quality. But after they become customers, their buying criteria may change. They may continue to do business with you because of your reliability, prompt deliveries, top-notch service, product durability or the fact that you stand behind everything you sell.
Staying abreast of these changing needs will help you deliver the sharpest, most relevant, most productive sales messages.
The biggest complaint prospects and customers share
The biggest single complaint of prospects and customers is that salespeople talk too much and don’t listen enough. Poor salespeople dominate the talking, while top salespeople dominate the listening.
It’s possible for a salesperson to talk too much, but it’s rarely possible to listen too much. When salespeople are excellent listeners, prospects and customers feel comfortable and secure with them. They buy more readily and more often.
Two things may stop salespeople from listening:
- They have a lot to say because they’ve developed so much expertise. They don’t understand that the fastest way to irritate a prospect is by talking too much and listening too little.
- They’ve listened to the customer’s side so often they can predict what the customer will say. As a result, they learn less about customers’ changing needs that effective listening would uncover.
Benefits of good listening
There are several benefits to listening that can never be gained by talking:
- It builds trust. The best salespeople are good listeners who seem concerned with customer needs and help them purchase the products or services in a cost-effective way.
- It lowers resistance. It reduces tension and defensiveness on the part of customers who realize they aren’t going to be pushed into making a purchase through force of words.
- It builds self-esteem for customers. It’s flattering for a customer to know that a salesperson is listening intently to what’s being said. It’s also good business for the salesperson.
Listening is not hearing
Listening is different from hearing. Hearing is passive. It’s what people do when a bore starts talking. Listening is an active activity in which salespeople pay genuine attention to what customers or prospects say.
It’s a skill that needs constant development. When salespeople listen more, what they hear sounds less repetitious and more meaningful.
Here are 10 approaches that may help promote active listening:
- Interact. Active listening is not a silent activity. Show that you’re tracking with customers by giving them short verbal feedback phrases like “I see” or “Go on.” Nod your head. Use body language to show the customer you’re interested in what’s being said.
- Don’t interrupt. Ideally, the only time you should break up the customer’s conversation stream is if you need clarification on what’s being said.
- Avoid distractions. Focus your attention on the prospect or customer. Communication is best in a calm, relaxed atmosphere.
- Paraphrase. Repeat in your own words one or more points the customer makes. Paraphrasing lets the customer know that you’re listening. It shows the prospect that you have a clear understanding of what’s being said.
- Restate. Repeat verbatim all or part of what a customer has said, while placing emphasis on one part of it. The main purpose of restating is to get prospects to give you more information. Additional information can be the difference in making a sale or not.
- Ask questions when something’s unclear. When forming your questions, put what you think the customer said in your own words. If you understand correctly, the customer will agree. If not, he or she will have a chance to clarify.
- Summarize. Active listening involves mentally summarizing points that have been made. Try to state these brief summaries at key moments in your presentations. Summarizing also lets you take charge of the direction of the conversation.
- Avoid arguing. A good listener is there to find out what the customer thinks and where she or he is coming from. If the customer wants to hear your opinion, he or she will ask. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to remain silent, especially if a customer is venting.
- Don’t be afraid of silence. It gives you time to think about what the other person is saying. Silence is a natural part of listening and not a space to be filled as quickly as possible with meaningless conversation. It’s a good idea to use this test: Will what you have to say improve on the silence?
- Remember the golden rule of listening. The rule is: It’s possible to say too much. It’s rarely possible to listen too much.