by Andrew Milbourn
CEO of Kiss the Fish Ltd and Chairman of Kiss the Fish Training Ltd
My team of sales experts spends a lot of time ‘coaching live’ with sales execs of all levels. This involves us watching what happens and then offering advice and recommendations to enable sales execs to improve their performance metrics.
Here are the top five mistakes we see that your sales team members may well be struggling with without realizing it. Go out with them to a few meetings and check it out for yourself.
- They show up with the intention of ‘trying to sell.’
“What?” I hear you cry – “Of course, they are trying to sell…that’s what I pay them for”…well if that’s the case, then I’m afraid you may well be the problem…you see, all the studies of the neuroscience of trust show that if I arrange to meet you and have the intention of taking money off of you, then you aren’t going to be that positive about our meeting.
So how should they be showing up?
Selling in this day and age is not about ‘winning an order’ – of course, that is what we want the outcome to be, but the subconscious communication of most sales-people tells the buyer that they don’t really care what happens once they’ve won the order – they want the order to hit their targets.
Successful salespeople ‘help people to buy’ and to buy the right thing for their organization. This means that you, the manager, should be equipping your team with a real understanding of the value you bring to your clients and potential clients. When a salesperson is preparing for a meeting and when they are in reception waiting to go to meet the prospect, they should be ‘thinking like a buyer’, not thinking about how they can ‘stitch someone up’. When a salesperson is in the room for the benefit of the other side meeting, go well, and conversation flows. Trust is established early on, and together they can ‘explore’ if the products that are being presented really match the solution the buyer wants and needs.
Once a collaborative conversation takes place, value can be understood in the buyer’s terms, and price finds its place (see below for more on this).
- They start selling (talk about product and price) far too early in the call.
Most of the failure in closing happens because the salesperson loses control early in the call and can’t find a way to construct a deal based on value – it is just technique and hope. A salesperson may well start the call with the best intention and have a list of questions in their head, BUT..once the call starts, a buyer may take control by asking a question of their own which the seller feels compelled to answer.
A simple rule of any conversation says whoever is asking the question is in control.
A buyer may interrupt a conversation with a simple question such as ‘Tell me about your company?’ or ‘How much is it’? – Now, of course, a seller can’t ignore these questions, but the mistake people make is that they take it as a cue to start talking, and once started, they can’t stop. Such one-way speeches are actually far more boring to a buyer than any seller realizes. This is because, without an emotional connection, the listener’s brain will switch to facts/figures and arguments very quickly. So when I talk about my company, and you haven’t really ‘liked’ me or ‘trusted’ me, I will only fill your head with information with which to ‘beat’ me. So a buyer analyses the information and compares it to other competitor products, which leaves the salesperson beaten before they even get into their stride.
As a simple rule, if a ‘problem’ hasn’t been understood by the seller, then clearly there is no consultative sale or even a solution-based sale…it is just ‘hit and hope’ which never works.
- They simply don’t ask interesting questions.
Selling is difficult because to be successful, the seller has to build a trusted relationship– often with a stranger, and quickly. The best way for this can happen is to ask questions that the buyer finds stimulating and relevant to him/her as a person and as a buyer. This means the seller has to stop thinking about what he/she needs to know in order to sell and start thinking about what the buyer needs to know/consider in order to help them buy. I hear questions such as ‘What is your budget?’ it drives me mad…why would a buyer find that engaging? They clearly know their own budget, so it can only be a question that is asked to enable the seller to have the advantage. No wonder most meetings end up in combat rather than collaboration.
Early in the call, we need ‘rapport’ building questions to build the connection; in fact, there are five types of questions that a seller should be skilled at using and asking – most only ask 3 questions, let alone use five types of questions.
- They never understand the value of their own product, so they can’t differentiate their offer.
We see it so often – it always comes down to ‘price’! And yes, all the studies show that whilst buyers always say they need a low price, they buy on value, not price. Our experts say that in any market, it is never more than 15% of buyers who buy just on price.
There are two problems here: firstly, sellers don’t understand what their products and the company service levels deliver in terms of value to their clients. Secondly, they don’t know how to ask questions about how the buyer views value.
Tragically most CEOs don’t understand the true value of what the company sells…they are simply not customers curious enough to find out. We talk to customers and ask them why they buy from a particular supplier – you’d be amazed at what we hear and how much value buyers put on things that sellers give away for free… next-day delivery, storage, financial stability, etc.
- They leave money on the table.
We get asked to run programs on ‘closing’ all the time; in fact, it is the single biggest problem the sales manager complains about ‘, my team can’t close’ etc. It is tragic to say that most salespeople struggle with closing because of what they don’t do early in the call, not what they don’t do at the end!
We see meetings end with ‘money on the table’ and the seller totally unable to propose solutions to problems. Buyers put up objections because they need to find out if the solution in front of them is really what they need. Without a value-based discussion and clarity on what is being delivered for the buyer’s benefit, buyers are left to ‘do the work’ themselves. It is inevitable that if a product is more expensive than a competitor, the buyer simply won’t be able to work out why they should pay more if a seller can’t relate the value on offer adequately.
So – sellers leave the room with money on the table that they should be taking with them (for the buyer’s benefit).
HOW MANY OF THE ABOVE MISTAKES ARE YOUR TEAM STRUGGLING WITH?
At Kiss the Fish Ltd, we help salespeople by coaching them in what we call ‘coach-based-selling’…it helps buyers to buy rather than helps sellers to ‘stitch them up’.
Risk – Free
We offer a flexible approach where you control the budget; You can have one of our experts for a day or a week, a month or a year; it’s totally up to you, and don’t worry, we won’t oversell – honesty is one of our core values.
We would love to help you and your team be the best you can be, so get in touch with one of the regional heads of KTF for a no-obligation discussion in which we will offer some insights that we know will prove helpful.
Andrew Milbourn, CEO