Resist the temptation to “impress the customer” with what you can do. Don’t force solutions, the key to effective selling is understanding real customer challenges.
Part of effective selling is being enthusiastic. To grow your sales, you need to be genuinely excited to share what you have to offer. Your enthusiasm needs to be kept in check, however. Don’t let your excitement (look what we can do) dominate your customer meetings. Get back to the basics. Asking questions, being a good listener, and discovering true customer needs.
I just heard a story in which a rep was in a customer meeting, along with her manager and a corporate representative. The rep told the story of how the executives just could not wait to “impress” the customer with all of the things they could do for him. Basically “look what we can do!” Ignoring the customer’s true needs, these executives laid out a plan of how they would deploy various tactics to make things better for him. The only problem: The customer did not perceive these as challenges! The sales team skipped the key element of listening (i.e. empathizing) and jumped right to a conclusion. These sales executives were effectively designing a solution for a problem that did not exist. This can be a terrible mistake. Sometimes these things in your customer’s world are in fact developed and implemented by the customer themselves. They may in fact be proud of their own solution. Framing that same situation as a “problem” is along the lines of calling their kids ugly! The customer ultimately described this situation as “The Circus Coming to Town”.
It is absolutely true that your role in sales sometimes requires you to “peel the onion”. You may need to reveal challenges that are not readily apparent. There will be times when the customer needs some help uncovering their challenges (and perhaps admitting them!). But keep a lookout for signals to identify where you are treading on thin ice. You will get cues as to whether you are entering a “protected” realm. In these cases, trying to “solve” this “problem” will only lead to resistance, and push the customer further away.
Keep asking questions, try to reveal the pain points but don’t get hung up with too much “look what we can do“. You are working to gain your customer’s trust as a solutions provider, not becoming their “knight in shining armor”.
Guide the customer, do not “push” them. It is a subtle but important distinction that will impact your results (and income!).