Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz once said, "I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions." It may sound obvious, but all too often, entrepreneurs get so wrapped up in what they can offer that they forget to listen to what their prospective customers need. I've seen many sales calls backfire because the sales rep was so involved with his presentation that he didn't learn enough about the prospect.
Instead, every meeting, every introduction, and every opportunity with a new prospect should be centered on their needs, what they do, whom they sell to, and any personal or business goals they are currently focused on. Most of the time, if you help them get what they want, you can get what you want. Particularly during your first encounters with new prospects, you need to listen more to sell more. Here are three simple ways to do so:
Take the focus off yourself and turn it back on the prospect.
Always turn the conversation back to prospects when they ask you about your business or background. Answer them, but be brief. When you're asking questions and listening, you maintain control and start to build trust.
Talk to a variety of staffers at a prospective client's company.
There are many levels of knowledge that can be learned about an account. I've gotten into the habit of asking people in different positions at a company how they think their business grows and succeeds, what their challenges and obstacles are, and what they would do differently. It can be an eye opener, especially from an employee who's been with the company for 20-plus years, whether he's in reception or the C-suite.
Connect prospects to new opportunities.
Once you understand a prospect’s business goals and challenges, you can start bringing them together with other businesses in your Rolodex. These introductions might not have anything to do with your products or services, but can help establish you as someone looking out for their best interests.
One big upside to this approach? Once you discover everything about a prospect, you might decide the ROI is not great enough and walk away to work on more promising leads. If you continue pursuing the prospect, however, you'll have a much easier time presenting them with solutions that meet their needs.