Just when we think we understand our clients, they go away. They put our proposal on the back burner. They specify the other vendor’s design. They don’t return our phone calls. They disappear into what my colleague, Jill Konrath, calls the “black hole” of sales.
Where did they go? What did we do to make them go away?
We make some assumptions during the sales process that we shouldn’t. In fact, my rule of thumb is: don’t make any assumptions at all. (That’s also one of the agreements in Don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements).
We assume our clients are in pain.
Therefore, we assume it is up to us, as technical and non-technical sales people, to drag them over their pain points so they come to the unavoidable conclusion to buy our solution. In this global economy, no matter how painful the situation, and how much your customers agree with you, your solution still has to fit into the overall infrastructure of their company, its major strategic pains, its priorities and its finances. Note to yourself: it is never about you, it’s about them. Did you take a 10,000 foot eagle’s eye view of the context into which you assume your client is going to be gung-ho to place your solution?
We assume we should be in selling mode because the customer makes an appointment to see us or conference with us.
They simply may have time on their hands. They may have been told by a higher up to “look into this” and are in a due-diligence mode so they can cross one more thing off their internal to-do list. Your willingness to show up and try to relationship build, end up sound like a brochure on legs, or ask for a chance to prepare a proposal is just a bunch of busy work. Note to yourself: it is never about you, it’s about them. Are you being regarded as a commodity and fodder? Something to think about before making your next appointment to fill your sales quota.
We assume our clients are ready to buy what we want to sell to them.
So we don’t listen to what they try to tell us during our meetings. We are so busy talking about how our product meets their needs and cures their “pain” that we don’t pick up on ways in which we can align our solutions with their real priorities. Or we don’t pick up on the fact that they really aren’t interested in placing a solution at this time. Note to yourself: it is never about you, it’s about them. And customers will avoid going outside for a solution. Customers will first try to fix their “pain points” using internal resources.
We assume our clients are ready to change.
Change means making a decision to move away from the status quo, or the way things are. Change means moving away from the stuff that got your clients where they are today. And it’s easier to make no decision and assume no risk for introducing disruption into the way things are, than to man the helm at the forefront of “change” in their organization. After all, they may think they are comfortable and secure in their current job. Why rock their boat, right? Note to yourself: it is never about you, it’s about them.
There’s an entirely parallel universe involved in understanding your customers’ motivations for placing your solution.
Take the time to understand the context, algorithm and history of decision-making in your client’s organization before you move forward with a premature effort to sell a solution.
It’s the difference between developing business and selling. And it doesn’t hinge on assumptions.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013-2016. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.