In today's challenging economy, selling is a difficult job, right? Well, not always. Sometimes prospects signal that they're ready to buy--right now--and if you're not listening carefully, you might easily miss the opportunity.
Such events generally happen right at the beginning of the sales cycle, when you're having your first conversation with a prospective customer. The prospect says something like:
These are clear signals that the prospect has already decided to buy. Unfortunately, they're signals that are easy to miss if you aren't listening carefully.
The problem comes from assuming that every sales opportunity will follow a similar or identical process. For example, suppose your sales process looks something like this:
If you're not really listening during the first step, you might not hear that signal that the prospect has already assessed needs, has a solution in mind (yours), and is ready to negotiate terms.
Instead, it's all too easy to let the momentum of your sales process carry you from step to step, even though those steps might give the prospect a reason NOT to buy.
For example, suppose you're selling an inventory control system. If you're not careful, the initial conversation might go something like this:
See what happened. All of a sudden, you're bringing up issues that might raise more questions in the buyer's mind and actually make the buying decision MORE difficult. It's throwing away a golden opportunity.
While the conversation above sounds a bit cartoonish, I guarantee you this kind of thing happens all the time. In fact, it's the single most common sales error according to Thomas Ray Crowel, author of the book Simple Selling.
I even experienced this situation myself a few years ago. When my dishwasher broke, I called a locally-owned appliance dealer with whom I'd had good experiences in the past. I was actually holding my credit card in my hand, ready to buy. Here's my memory of the conversation:
The sales guy was so focused on his process (which was based upon in-store upselling) that he missed the cue that he had already made the sale. Anyway, I followed his advice, got online and ordered a dishwasher--from Home Depot.
That's why it's so incredibly important to listen--really listen--to prospects. If you don't, you end up losing the sales that were low-hanging fruit.
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