OMG – Just shut up and sell!

You’ve heard the phrase “show up and throw up”, right?

If not, then you’re part of the problem!

Yesterday I was treated to one of the most egregious examples of nervous sales person babble I’ve ever experienced. Uhg. It was painful.

Too bad too… The service this guy was selling is something I need. Unfortunately for him, while I was listening him go on and on, answering unasked questions, I was searching the web for competitors to talk to that wouldn’t waste my time.

I did have some fun with it though. Eventually it got so ridiculous – I had asked a simple yes or no question about 10 minutes before and the guy hadn’t stopped talking yet – that I finally just interrupted him and told him I wanted to show him something.

I suggested that I confirm that I was understanding the benefits of his service by trying to sell them to him. That got a laugh and knocked him off balance a bit so, I asked him 3 simple questions. I can’t elaborate on what the questions were because that would give away the company he works for and I don’t want to cause embarrassment.

Bottom line: Recent experiences like this one show me that too many sales people still haven’t gotten the message – sales is not about talking, telling or teaching. Its about listening.

Your goal is to continue to ask the prospect questions about their world. Understand what’s working for them, what challenges they face, where they think they’re heading and most importantly, what are the greatest risks they see in the current world or in the future. What are they afraid of.

Why? Because people buy for emotional reasons. Especially in business, people buy things because its a piece of a vision in their head or they buy because they’re afraid of something. Either way, if you know what that is, then its easy to show them how your product or service can be a crucial part of the vision or protect them from failure, cost overruns, etc.

If you have the bad habit of prattling on with customers a bit too much, here are some suggestions:

Record your next sales call. Listen to it afterwards and try to write down the questions that all of your statements were in answer to. Even if the question was never asked, what was the question you imagined when you started your statement.
Be direct. Imagine that you’re extremely busy working on the biggest deal of your life and a new prospect pops up in your face. You don’t really have time to spend with him/her so, what questions would you ask them to determine if its worth your time. Now, start asking those questions first in every new sales situation.

After each sales call, ask yourself if you learned enough about your prospect to know what’s really eating at him. What keeps him up at night? If not, you need to ask more questions.

Use the 80/20 rule. You’re prospect should do 80% of the talking. You’ve got to get good at asking leading questions to get there.
Get used to uncomfortable silence. Sometimes you don’t get the answer you want. Sometimes you’re not sure what to ask next. That’s OK. The solution is NOT to start filling the air with statements about your products and services. A better solution is to ask something simple like “I know you’re busy, as am I. At this point, does it make sense for us to continue to explore possibly doing business together?” The reason a question like this works is that you don’t have time to waste on people who don’t want what you’re selling.
Your goal is to figure out if they’re likely to buy early by asking questions. If not, don’t try to change their mind unless you ask permission and they agree. Move on to the next guy.

Here are some resources to help you with the art of asking questions:

Open Ended Questions Tool

Jack Perry on Open Ended Questions

OK, enough already. Just remember what my Dad always told me about dating, “A big talker gets attention in a crowd but, one on one, girls love a good listener”.