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HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

4 Things Customers Don't Want to Hear

Just because your prospect is courteous doesn't mean he is interested. Use these tips to avoid boring your audience.
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This is part of a package on selling to prospects. Read the other part: 5 Things Customers Want to Hear.

So you're on a sales call, and the people listening to you are polite. They nod, ask questions, smile. At least, this is what is happening on the outside.

Inside, they are sleeping, mentally traveling, making lists, and counting minutes until the meeting or presentation ends.

In truth, you are probably droning on about things that are boring to your prospect. Some will have the mercy to tell you to move on, but most will commit the courtesy sin of pretending to listen.

What are the top ways to bore a prospect? Here's what customers tell me they don't want to hear about:

1. Your Company History

Really: No one cares about this but you. If it takes more than 90 seconds to hit the highlights, you are talking to yourself, not to your customer.

Remember this simple rule: Talk to people about what interests them. If you can directly connect the history to this conversation, then do it--but do it fast.

2. Lists

Whether you're citing equipment, locations, awards ... Just stop it.

I recently reviewed a commercial printer's initial presentation materials. The slides included pictures and descriptions of the entire inventory of printing equipment, capabilities, and production specifications. For a technical buyer, maybe you could include this in the leave-behind, but never in the presentation materials. Sure, there may be one person in the room who is interested--but you have lost the interest of the other attendees.

3. Years of Combined Experience

The prospect may want to know about your background; you're the person he or she will be dealing with. But faceless names and their unsubstantiated resumés are background noise.

Don't spend a lot of time on people who are not in the room. For people who are in the room, make three points: Why they are here, what insight the attendees can get from that person, and what that person wants to get from the attendees.

4. What Makes You Different

Whoa! All of the modern selling and marketing wisdom is focused on this powerful concept of differentiating yourself from your competitors. How can I possibly say that your prospect doesn't want to hear your unique value proposition? Isn't the whole point of an initial conversation with a prospect to convince them you are different?

Here's the problem: Your UVP tends to be focused on you. But customers want to know why it's relevant to them and to their business issues. Without the translation, it's just one more set of slides or presentation points in a long, droning monologue.

There's a Better Approach

In the accompanying story, I explain a few things that prospects do want to hear. But there are a few other simple things you can do to make these conversations better.

  • Ask a key question: "What is the single most important thing you could get out of our meeting today?" It takes away the guesswork and sets the stage for a great conversation totally focused on the client.
  • Declare a purpose: "In planning today's presentation, we focused on three basic ideas that we thought were relevant to our working together." This gives the prospect a preview of what the discussion will be and allows you to ask this follow-up question: "Did we plan correctly, or is there an additional area that you would like for us to discuss?"
  • Focus on the outcome: Start with the end in mind. Your expectation for the meeting may include a decision, an assignment of resources, an agreement for future exploration, or something else. So open the conversation by saying, "At the end of our time together today, we would like to accomplish the following ..." Set the expectation; seek agreement from attendees; then make certain you end the meeting with a return to that outcome. Simply say, "We started the discussion hoping to achieve this outcome. Are we there?"

This clarity, simplicity, and focus on the prospect are what buyers want to see more often.

Last updated: Jul 26, 2012

TOM SEARCY | Columnist | Founder, Hunt Big Sales

Author, speaker, and consultant Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account sales. With Hunt Big Sales, he has helped clients land more than $5 billion in new sales. Click to get Searcy's weekly tips, or to learn more about Hunt Big Sales.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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