The single biggest, most common, and most expensive mistake made by salespeople occurs when they go to their solution too early. The biggest cause of this mistake is the apparent readiness on the part of the prospect to hear about the solution.
The nature of most small and mid-market organization's sales and marketing efforts leads to the primary contributor of this problem. 80% or more of the time, salespeople begin their interaction with the prospect after the prospect is looking for a solution. When they first meet with a prospect, or when a prospect first reaches out to them the conversation typical begins with the prospect asking them about their solution.
In my 25 years of selling and advising others in the sales process, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that just because the prospect asks about the solution, or appears ready to make a decision does not mean that the prospect is actually ready. Quite the contrary. At this point in the process, the prospect is not ready to understand the value of your solution, or the difference between what you do versus what your competitors do.
When the sales conversation begins with the prospect asking about your solution, the most effective thing you can do is to slow the process down. Ask the prospect why are they looking for a solution. Spend time clarifying and deepening your understanding of the issues and problems that the prospect has that leads them to believe that they need your solution. Ensure that they understand what's causing the problem every bit as much as they understand the solution and the results they desire.
The time you spend gaining a fuller understanding of their issues will also help them gain an understanding of their issues as well, and even more importantly gain an understanding as to how your solution is different and better than that of your competition.
When I share this advice with salespeople, they all nod in agreement. When I ask what prevents them from acting upon this advice, the number one response is, “Well, the customer is asking me to explain what we do; they don’t want to take a step backwards.”
Please know, digging deeper and diagnosing IS NOT taking a step backwards. It’s taking a giant step forward by demonstrating that you are not merely a peddler of products, but a true advisor that will enable them to solve problems and achieve critical results.