Salespeople want to make sales. They are motivated to sell. They almost all try to sell, and many of them do a great job selling.
But selling is not just about dedication, gift of gab, affability or desire. Sales is about knowledge—product knowledge and knowledge of the customer and their needs. Sales needs to make it easy for the customer to buy the product. When these elements get out of kilter, errors occur, miscommunications rule and prospects become distrustful and ultimately disinterested.
In these cases, Sales is overtly killing sales instead of just killing it.
Common Sales Errors and Solutions
Let’s take a look at some common sales errors and how they might be fixed.
1. Talking About the Solution Before Fully Understanding the Customer’s Problem
Sales reps spend a lot of time learning about products and the marketing strategies behind them. Most of this involves features and benefits; less of it involves how the product really addresses specific pains that the prospect might be experiencing.
If Sales does not understand how the products address and mitigate issues for your prospect, they will talk about things they do understand. Too often, these are of little interest to your prospect.
A CPQ solution featuring guides the sales rep and buyer down the scripted interviewingpath of maximum mutual interest. Every question and every answer is germane to identifying, understanding and solving the customer’s problem.
2. Not Listening to Customers
Closely related to the first problem is the problem of not listening. Some folks hate awkward silences while some just love the sound of their own voice. Remember the old TV commercial, “when EF Hutton speaks, people listen”? Not so much in most businesses today. Customers want to be listened to.
Physicians in training learn how to listen to patients describe their symptoms. Part of this is listening to determine if the patient has an unspoken agenda related to the visit. Sales reps must learn to do this as well.
CPQ will guide the conversation toward a productive conclusion using interviewing scripts. The answers supplied by the customer will drive the conversation as they are recorded and entered by Sales. Attentive listening is built in because the system requires it in order to answer the questions. The difference is, each step in the conversation is deliberately conceived to supply a foundation for the next question and all of the questions that follow.
3. Responding to Questions Without Knowing the Answers
The costs of configuration errors can be significant.
A friend of mine was a highly effective salesperson in the early days of the PC. Some of our products were based on computer technology that he was simply clueless about. However, that didn’t stop him. For every technical response required to every question related to compatibility, solution deployment or hardware requirements, he would always go with the one term he knew: the RS-232 Interface. His answer was always, “Our system uses the RS-232 Interface, so I’m sure we’re good.” Or, “If you guys are okay with the RS-232 Interface, then everything should be fully compatible.” Or perhaps, “I understand your concerns with the operating system, but doesn’t the RS-232 Interface ameliorate that?”
All of the technical specifications, requirements, co-reqs and dependencies, as well as other technical information, can be built into the scripts within CPQ. Your engineers are actually supplying this critical information for use by CPQ. Your prospect will get the right product spec’d to their needs. There’s no need to depend on a sales rep swallowing his or her pride and admitting ignorance.
4. Not Following Up With Customers
Is there a sin of greater gravity than not following up? Does anything transmit “we don’t care” more loudly and clearly than letting a prospect hang, waiting for an expected response? Does anything say “no time for you” like a sales rep that does not follow up as promised?
Customer portals, high-quality collateral and relevant website content are essential to customers who are trying to get their questions answered and placing themselves in a decision-making position. This is what guided selling is all about. Allowing the customer to serve themselves is a good thing. They get the information they need quicker and Sales is free to pursue selling.
5. Hovering Over Buyers
In a restaurant, hovering waiters ask you 10 times how the meal is. In a car dealership, hovering is standing 10 feet away, watching every move you make and interjecting little comments about each automobile in which the prospect displays even the least amount of interest. In business, it can be calling a prospect who is currently or recently visiting your website or placing a daily status-check call to a customer who is thinking over a proposal. In fairness to Sales, it is a close thing and customer perceptions do vary in this area. The next contact should always be planned into the conversation during the current discussion.
CRM will help you schedule follow-up calls as appropriate to each situation you encounter. No one likes to be badgered, and as we’ve discussed, they equally do not like to be ignored.
Technology is key to treating your prospect exactly how they wish to be treated. We will explore the final five sales-killing behaviors in our second installment.