“The person who gives answers before understanding the problems is very foolish.” — John C. Maxwell
Have you ever felt like you delivered a powerful and effective sales presentation only to realize that it did not connect with the prospect? This has happened to me on several occasions. I came into a prospect meeting ready, energetic and full of answers. Unfortunately, I later realized that my answers did not address the prospect’s problems.
If I asked you, what is the most important information to understand when you are meeting a prospect for a sales appointment, what would you say?
Typically, I hear answers like, “Product knowledge, features, benefits, competitive advantages, service philosophy, and more.” These aren’t necessarily bad answers.
However, none of this information has any impact or carries any value if you don’t first understand the prospect, their situation, and their perspective. Building solid rapport is the foundation of every great relationship. Most sales producers know this, yet they still miss the point.
Great communicators invest 90 percent of their time, energy and effort not in discussing what they can offer, but in how they can better understand the person or business they want to serve. If you want to succeed in building great business relationships, and this goes for personal relationships as well, you must be open and willing to see things from another person’s point of view.
I made this mistake countless times in my sales career and still fall short today. As a teacher and trainer, I often feel like I need to jump in with my “perfect” answer for a prospect or client even before I fully understand their needs.
Instead of listening, asking a question, listening more, asking more questions, and listening again, I keep falling into the trap of asking a question only so I could answer with a benefit, feature or advantage that I had already fully prepared to deliver.
This is not to say that you don’t need to be prepared. You should be prepared. But first, you must start where the prospect is.
Inventor Charles F. Kettering said, “There is a great deal of difference between knowing and understanding. You can know a lot about something and not really understand it.”
This happens in insurance sales all the time. You know the definitions, exclusions and coverage gaps, but you if you don’t fully understand how this relates directly to the person you are speaking with, it’s useless.
So how can you get out of your head, and into your prospect’s and client’s hearts?
I think there are three basic questions you can ask on every appointment that will offer great insight into someone’s heart.
What is your vision for the future?
What excites you the most now?
What is your greatest challenge?
These questions go beyond technical knowledge and will allow you to connect and find common ground. When you find common ground, a true relationship is formed. You can discuss big ideas, solutions and differences, and find ways to work together.
Every sales producer wants to find solutions to help their prospects address problems and needs. However, your products and services may or may not be the right fit for that particular prospect.
It’s up to you to ask the right questions to get to know your prospects beyond simply what you can sell them. The focus must be on their needs, their vision and their challenges.
Where is your focus? Who are you trying to serve? How can you begin to connect at a deeper level?
One of our country’s most effective communicators said it best:
“When I’m getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say — and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.”— Abraham Lincoln
Ask yourself: What do you do to connect at a deeper level?
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