It’s hard to sell when your customer doesn’t get a word in edgewise. For all your lecturing, demo-ing, and just plain showing up and throwing up (ah, what a wonderful phrase), you finally come up for air. And the client is still looking at you.
No comment. No interest. No way are they going to buy whatever it was that you convinced yourself you would try to sell them.
Because they weren’t interested in buying in the first place. And now they are mentally kicking themselves for ever letting you into their office or taking your phone call.
Put yourself in their shoes. All your lofty rhetoric adds up to one question in their minds: “So what?”
If what you are discussing doesn’t answer that question, you have no business trying to win business with that customer.
Recently, I was part of a team coaching a young man who was perfecting his value proposition: the “pitch” for a business competition. Once he got going with his spiel, he moved right through the value proposition into the sales phase into the lecture about all the great features and benefits. It was an absolute train wreck. I still don’t know how he could get so many words out of his mouth without breathing!
He finished his techno business spiel. I just sat there. And said nothing. He didn’t know what to do with my silence. He became very flustered. Which is my point. Entirely.
Finally, I asked him: “What would you like me to do with this information?” More silence, more confusion. I think he felt I should have jumped up and shouted “Hosanna in the Highest” and asked for a contract to sign. Sigh…..
I encouraged him to take a deep breath and lower his shoulders from where they had crept up around his ears, during his presentational zeal. I asked him to consider how his frenzied delivery made me feel? (Honestly, I almost had a panic attack).
And then I asked him “So what?”
“So what?” is a call to action every business person, technical or not, should be accountable to.
You might say, OK, well, this was an entrepreneurial competition, these folks have never been in this situation and they don’t know any better. Cut them some slack.
The trouble is, I was on the receiving end of a real, live demo presentation recently, by a real live company filled with professional business people. The same thing happened. This was not a coaching session. This is a business trying to gain my support.
I like these opportunities to observe the sales process in action. I patiently listened while the virtual demo proceeded. It was solid information, delivered rapid-paced, without breaks, without time to ask questions. I don’t think the presenter took time to breathe.
At the end of the presentation, I asked: “What would you like me to do with this information?” And went silent. And so did the folks on the other end of the phone. They didn’t know what to do with that question. And if they, the professionals, don’t know what the objective of the conversation is, I’m not going to rescue them.
If your customers are silent during your presentations, you have a problem. Selling isn’t performance art. People are not going to applaud after you complete your solo act.
Selling is a conversation – the type of conversation that your customers don’t yet realize they want to have. With you. Because you offer relevant and valuable information.
You cannot establish relevance via a monologue. So calm down and breathe. Talk with them. Establish context and priority.
Your customers have so much more to tell you than you ever had to say at them.
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. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools. You can download the first chapter here.