I was having breakfast at a hotel this morning before a speech. A business/sales meeting was occurring at the table next to me. I couldn’t help but eavesdropping to what was happening. In 30 minutes, I saw everything good and bad about how companies sell.
On the seller’s side, there were three people, while the buyer had two. The leader of the selling team was clearly smart, wise, and brought a tremendous amount of value to the table. While I’m not sure what he was talking about specifically, he clearly knew what he was talking about. He also told a good story.
The buyers listened attentively and said: “This sounds great. We’ve got a budget and we’ve got to stay under, so we need to know what the price will be and know that you can do it for a certain price.”
The tone changed completely, though not in an obvious manner. The seller, realizing that he had just encountered an “objection,” began to justify the offering. He made some really excellent points about how his offering, while more expensive than others, saved material costs in other ways. He added that the buyers needed to pay attention to the total cost.
While the seller still held the knowledge, he lost all of his strength of position. He became a “sales guy” rather than a resource. While I had to leave before their meeting ended, it had taken a turn for the worse, as the seller was discussing different ways the he could decrease “the investment required.”
While the seller may still have gotten his sale, he could have gotten it so much easier, without reducing his “investment” (code word – price). How? By starting out asking questions about the buyer’s constraints, problems and worldview. Had he asked questions he could have elicited the price concern before he provided his knowledge. He then could have made his “total cost” presentation much more powerful, serving to help the customer achieve their goals without violating their constraints.
The moral of this story – at your next meeting please, please, spend at least the first 15 minutes asking questions to understand the buyer’s world.