Need a dose of reality? Most prospects today have come to expect that a salesperson will talk at them for too long and about very little, especially their needs.

According to Brian Lambert of Forrester Research, a global research and advisory firm, “Most customers find there are very few salespeople who can engage them in a way that creates a valuable meeting. For example, in a study of 299 executives, only 15 percent of buyers believed the conversations they have with salespeople are valuable.” Why the major disconnect? Lambert attributes this to customers and salespeople having different definitions of what a “valuable” meeting actually entails.

When buyers were asked what they perceive the agenda of the salespeople who call on them to be, they overwhelmingly described an agenda in which salespeople look for the need that triggers them talking about their solutions. But what customers truly want is a salesperson who is interested in understanding their business and helping them become more successful by driving their business outcome, meaning that [a prospect’s] needs become defined over the course of working with the salesperson.”

It is this disconnect between how salespeople define what customers value and what value means to customers that has long been a big part of the problem in selling. With self-educated customers, the gap of understanding between buyers and sellers is only getting more severe. We have known for a while that senior decision-makers don’t want a product pitch in which salespeople probe, listen for a “buzz word” and jump to their solution.

Customers want salespeople to help them identify their desired outcome and work backwards from that to create a shared vision of success that will allow customers attain the outcome they really need,” explains Lambert.

It may not always be obvious to prospects that they can use your products, but let’s say your industry experience tells you that they can. In this instance, you are looking for an opportunity to uncover your potential customers’ needs. You cannot create needs, but you can uncover them.

You want to do the unexpected with your prospects and sell, not tell. Remember that customers and prospects are most comfortable when they are part of the process and not part of the audience, so listen—don’t talk!

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Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant and chairman of The JF Corporation and CEO of Top Sales Associates. For more information and tips from Jonathan, visit http://www.topsalesworld.com/, or go to his blog at http://www.thejfblogit.co.uk/.