prospectingYou can’t make a living off future promises.

It’s tough to shut up. We’re salespeople. We get paid to talk up our solutions. But we must also sell them.

We’ve all made this prospecting mistake: The customer told us her challenges. She described in wrenching detail what consistently goes wrong and how these problems are affecting her business.

Aha, we’ve got the answer. We know our solution will fix everything. We jump in and demonstrate (in wrenching detail) how our product will solve every one of her problems in no time. The customer nods enthusiastically. We leave knowing we got the deal.

Well, no. We didn’t.

What could possibly have derailed this slam-dunk deal? We jumped ahead to the easy part of prospecting—offering solutions—and didn’t take time to demonstrate the impact our solutions could make on the client’s business.

The Problem with Your Prospecting

In Jill Konrath’s tell-all post—“Is This Person Sabotaging Your Success?”—she shares the story of Alex, a sales rep who kept repeating this common sales mistake. She writes:

Alex kept … assuming decision makers just needed reassurance that his technology could solve every problem they faced. What the decision maker really wanted, however, was to meet objectives. Alex should have kept his focus there and kept exploring the business issues. 

Instead of promising easy fixes, Alex could have asked:

  • What other problems are you facing because you can’t get IT to make the changes do you need?
  • What impact does their lack of urgency have on meeting your business goals?
  • What issues are created when you have all those old versions of proposals out there?
  • How does that affect your distribution channel?
  • How else is the lack of up-to-date info on your sales portal impacting your ability to drive revenue growth?
  • What difficulties do you run into because you can’t do this easily?
  • Who else is impacted?

By jumping ahead to the ease of the solution, Alex never helped the decision maker understand the value of making a change.

(Read the rest of Jill’s post.)

Don’t Let Your Excitement Take You Off Course

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to sales or a veteran. This scenario happens to all of us. And yes, to me. I got so excited when a sales VP told me his biggest problem was that his sales reps didn’t generate enough qualified leads. That’s the #1 issue referral selling addresses, so I launched into an explanation of how referrals could solve all his problems.

Sure, I took time to ask lots of questions and intrigued him enough that he introduced me to his regional head of sales. (Round 1: won.)

That’s when the sales process began all over again. I was careful to ask insightful questions and demonstrate the value to his team. But I could see he was still skeptical. I thought I addressed his skepticism, but I didn’t get the deal. The only competitor I had was “no decision.” (Round 2: lost.)

I dissected every move. I was at fault. I was pushing for buy-in, but it wasn’t there. I should have walked, but I didn’t. I was the one who didn’t qualify my own lead. Lesson learned. Lesson not forgotten.

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