B2B Sales: Do You Need to Talk More Than Your Prospects Want to Listen?
Have you ever felt a sigh of relief when that unwanted - and probably intrusive - sales conversation finally comes to an end? It’s easy to recognise the problem when you’re on the receiving end. The sales person on the other end of the phone or across the table simply won’t shut up…
But what about your own organisation’s sales techniques - and what do your potential prospects think about them? The problem, of course, is that many sales people need to talk more than their prospects want to listen - and so they don’t realise the damage they have done until the prospect has ruled them out of contention for the capital crime of being boring.
Born With Two Ears and One Mouth - For a Good Reason
It’s an old cliché but sales people, along with the rest of the human race, were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason - to remind them that they ought to listen more than they talk.
This is why tightly scripted telemarketing calls - or any other form of sales planner where more emphasis is placed on what you want the sales person to say rather than what you need them to find out - are so ineffective (as well as being an awfully tedious experience for the prospect on the receiving end).
The simple fact is that in any complex sales environment, it’s impossible to know what to say to your prospect until and unless you have managed to identify an issue that they are interested in learning more about. And then throughout the conversation you need to sustain their interest and earn the right to continue the dialogue.
Research Before Calling
Your sales people should never find themselves asking questions that they could have found the answer to with a few minutes web-based research. It’s much more effective to ask about the implications of what your sales person has managed to discover.
Why “20 Questions” Doesn’t Work
Preparing a series of standardised “solution selling” questions - no matter how well chosen - isn’t very effective, either, unless the prospect learns more than the sales person through the course of the conversation. Your sales people need be prepared to give something back - to share some learning with the prospect - for every piece of information they receive.
The information the sales person offers in return for each question answered needs to be something that the prospect is likely to find of value, and which would justify the prospect wanting to either continue the conversation, or to take the next step in the sales process. It can be as simple as a short customer anecdote, or an important industry statistic.
When Your Prospects Really Want to Listen
The “listen more than you speak” rule should only be abandoned when your prospect has clearly signalled their desire to learn more, and to listen to what your sales person has to say. But even then a good sales person should be regularly checking to ensure that the information they are sharing remains of value to the prospect - and they should regularly seek the prospect’s reaction to what has just been discussed.
But here’s a word of warning: I’ve seen telemarketing scripts and other call plans that robotically spit out the same old phrase - something along the lines of “want do you think of that?” on such a repetitive basis that it becomes jarring, and is too obviously a closing technique. Coach your sales people (or your telemarketers) to find ways of varying their request for prospect feedback.
Don’t Pitch - Tell Stories
Another highly valuable technique for establishing natural sounding conversations which make the prospect want to learn more is to coach your sales people in the art of storytelling. Of course, the best sales people do this as a matter of course, but my recent article on “top sellers are storytellers” offers a framework for equipping all your sales people to have more effective conversations with their prospects.
Time to Listen Up?
So - are your sales people talking for no longer than their prospects want to listen? And what initiatives have you used to help ensure that their conversations with their prospects serves to advance the buying process rather than the onset of selective deafness?