In sports, a blooper is a preventable error that favors the other team, like when the players score against their own side.
In business, similar blunders end up favoring the competition—particularly during buying conversations with potential clients.
It’s not always a shortfall in your company’s product, price or service that ruins a potential sale. Often, it’s an inadvertent comment that puts customers off just enough to make them choose your competitor.
Unfortunately, salespeople are usually oblivious to committing these offences, so they keep repeating them—over and over:
1) Insulting intelligence. If a customer is in a position of authority in their company, they’re probably at least somewhat streetwise. That means that any kind of pushy, manipulative sales approach is going to backfire.
Enter every buying conversation assuming that this customer is an intelligent, well-intentioned grownup. Your comments should include a healthy dose of, “You probably already know,” “At your level, you’ve likely experienced” and “For you this is obvious; the challenge is your staff may not be aware.”
2) Insulting the competition. If your potential customer is currently doing business with your competitor, it’s fine to compare your offerings. But be careful not to criticize the competition. After all, the customer decided to do business with them. So slamming the competition is tantamount to telling the customer they made a stupid choice.
3) Ignoring objections. If you propose a solution that ignores a customer’s objection or concern, you essentially admit you weren’t listening. Be transparent in how your proposal either addresses a prospect’s concerns, or provides extra value that could outweigh their concerns. Never act like you didn’t hear or value someone’s initial objections.
4) Knowing it all. It takes time and effort to gain trust, but you can lose it in an instant. That happens when you stray out of your own area of expertise and claim to be an expert in an unknown topic. Ironically, one of the easiest ways to gain trust is admitting ignorance about anything the customer seems to know a lot about. Showing respect by deferring to their knowledge and expertise makes them more receptive to yours.
5) Ignoring the influencers. It’s easy to focus on the key decision maker—presumably the buyer. But by focusing on that bag of money, you unintentionally insult the people who may have more say in the matter than anyone. No one should feel like they’re being ignored.
6) Not listening. Contrary to popular opinion, the most important part of a sales pitch is not your value proposition—it’s demonstrating that you understand the prospect’s unique circumstances. That requires asking pointed questions that help them see for themselves where there are opportunities for improvement. Verify your understanding with statements like, "Sounds like you [summarize their situation]."
Effective selling has less to do with pushiness and manipulation, and more to do with good manners and respect. Allow your competitors to blunder their way out of their customers’ good graces and send them straight into your capable hands.
Here’s to you not dropping the ball.
This article is based on the bestselling book “Influence with Ease” by Jeff Mowatt, Hall of Fame motivational speaker.