The salesperson has been working on getting that live meeting for weeks. Finally, she gets in front of the customer. By now the customer is one of two things: they are either enchanted and curious, or they are  sick and tired of hearing from her and intend to end the barrage once and for all and get rid of this person. Which buyer is she going to meet? Sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it?

But hey, this is sales, this is the life we chose. So, what does the salesperson do with the few, very few minutes she has to impress the buyer? She talks too much and for too long.

Unfortunately, this is what most of us tend to do… we are so anxious to let the buyer know everything about our company that we go into one big information dump about our company. How long we have been in business. What we do.  How we do it. Our technologies. Some of our key people. Why our customers like working with us. And on and on and on.

Meanwhile, the poor buyer is only half listening. He probably has not heard one thing that he cares about. So, he is sitting there patiently, or maybe impatiently, waiting for you to finish. He is probably already thinking that he will not do business with you because you tend to talk more than you listen.

Sometimes, a polite buyer will try to be attentive, she will listen carefully, she might even try to figure out how she can translate what you are saying into something she can use. Or maybe not. 

Don’t you ever wonder how anything you’re saying applies to this company? Do you even know what this company does? What their end product is? Did you ever think about what you could do for them? How you could solve their problems?

The thing is, how can you even think about solving their problems without asking them what their problems are?

Always remember the  purpose of sales, the purpose of all business actually, is to find a need and fill it. It is to solve someone’s problems, to fill someone’s needs. And the only way to do this, is to know what those needs are. And you will never find out what those needs are until you stop talking and start listening.

That’s it, your job as a salesperson is to engage your buyer in a true conversation, as in a dialogue, not a monologue, a dialogue where two people talk to each other. And to further that, your job is to find out as much information about the customer and what that customer’s needs are. Then, and only then, can you even hope to start solving their problems and finding solutions to those problems on the way to making the sale.

The interesting thing is that the best way to develop an account strategy is to let the customer do it for you. And the best way to do that is by asking her the right questions.  Chances are very good that by listening carefully to his answers, you will be able to develop a strategic plan with the right  tactics to help you close the sale.

Here are some of those questions. Learn these  and ask them when as appropriate:

  • What are your needs?
  • What is the biggest problem right now?
  • What other problems do you have?
  • What are you doing to deal with these?
  • Who are you using right now?
  • Will they be able to handle your needs in the future?
  • How is that going?
  • What do you like about their product? Dislike?
  • What would motivate you to make a change?
  • How much would it be worth you to solve your problems?
  • How can we help?
  • What  can we do?
  • What is the next step?

Now, remember that this has to be a dialogue, a casual, or at least seemingly casual, conversation. If you start out by acting like Sergeant Joe “Just the facts ma’am” Friday in Dragnet, you will not get very far. It needs to be a casual conversation, just a talk.

Let the buyer talk, let him go on as long as he wants. The more he talks the more information you will have in the end, and the better your chances are of finding out what you need to know to make the sale.

Of course, you came to the meeting prepared by having done your homework. With all of the on-line resources at your disposal today there is no excuse for not knowing everything about your customer prior to even meeting them in person. Having this information in hand will help you a great deal during the conversation you have with the buyer.

In fact, like a good lawyer you should already know the answers to the questions you are asking. But even so, ask the questions because in the sales process nothing is a fact until it is validated by the buyer. 

You could know from your research, for example, that they just won a major program. But instead of telling the buyer that you know that, ask her instead if they have won any new business…and then sit back and let her tell you. Then, once that fact has been thrown on the table you can go on from there, asking about the program and what it will mean for her company and what new or additional products and services will they need? Now you’ll be on the right track to gaining the buyer’s confidence and his business.

To use the old but meaningful adage, “Nobody ever learned anything when talking” It’s only common sense.