I recently received a report on why companies lose in the selling process. The folks from AskForensics Knowledgebase did an extensive series of interviews dissecting why buyers did not buy from certain companies.
The results were interesting: the No. 1 reason was not because of price or after-market support, or even value of the product, service or solution. Sales teams lost the deals most often because of mistakes that the team itself had made.
Here are a few takeaways from the report.
1. Don't be self-centered.
Sales people are often perceived as talking about their company, not their prospect's company. Customers had a very negative perception to canned presentations and canned solutions, the report found. What prospects wanted was a demonstrated understanding of the prospect's business as well as a tailored approach to their needs.
In my own experience, customers have evolved in their desire from wanting consultative sales people to wanting expert sales people. Customers expect you to know what their pain is when you arrive because of your familiarity with their industry, supply chain management concerns, and market pressures. Ask questions that are specific, not general, coming from a perspective of expertise, not curiosity. As one of my clients commented about a sales person who had recently called on him, "The guy asked me what my 'pain' was. I said, 'If you don't know what my pain is, you shouldn't be in my office.'"
2. Don't rest on your product or service.
Your offering will not set you apart in a highly commoditized marketplace, the report found. Claims of better performance, more committed service and soft-savings are repeated so often by competitors in tight markets that sophisticated buyers can practically deliver the canned presentations themselves.
The companies that win deals come to the conversation with industry knowledge of their prospect's industries, and can translate the implementation of a recommended solution or product into real hard benefits inside of the prospect's business.
Another one of my clients spoke about her customer's feedback: "I like your company because your people know my monthly and quarterly [key performance indicators] for my division as well as I do, [and link] everything ... to my numbers."
3. Remember that little things matter.
One more insight from the report: The little things really do matter. The most common comments related to promptness, responsiveness and meeting time commitments. If you are late or slow in the selling process, customers expect you will be worse when you get the contract. Sales teams shoot themselves in the foot regularly by being either late or unresponsive through the sales process.
Selling in highly competitive markets is hard enough. Don't increase your own challenges by making these types of mistakes.