By Steve W. Martin
Interviews with buyers illustrate seven important lessons about the mistakes that salespeople make.
- They’re not trusted. Customers can think of a salesperson as a supplier, a strategic partner or a trusted adviser. Just 18 percent of the salespeople that buyers met over the past year would be classified as trusted advisers.
- They can’t communicate with senior executives. Salespeople frequently meet with lower-level personnel at a client company—but their conversations with executive-suite decision-makers ultimately determine the success of the deal. Unfortunately, buyers report that fewer than 1 out of 3 salespeople can hold an effective conversation with senior executives.
- They can’t clearly explain how their solution serves the buyer. Different strategic values for buyers include increasing revenues, decreasing costs, gaining a competitive advantage and standardizing operations to reduce risk. However, buyers say that only 54 percent of salespeople can spell out how their solution affects their client’s business.
- They’re too self-centered. Buyers feel pressured by self-centered salespeople. Instead of focusing solely on revenue, salespeople should concentrate more on helping buyers accomplish their goals.
- They use the wrong closing strategy. Hard-close techniques, such as “This is the last time we’ll be able to extend this offer and we need an answer now” were least effective. Rated highest were soft-close techniques, such as “If you spend another $100,000, you will receive an additional 10percent off the entire order.”
- They don’t calculate the buyer’s risk in the deal. Not surprisingly, the information technology and accounting industries have less risk tolerance than marketing. And creative fields, such as fashion and media, have more risk tolerance than government or health care. Salespeople should understand these dynamics as they seek to assuage buyers’ concerns about risk.
- They can’t establish a personal connection with the buyer. In any sales conversation, an equilibrium can be attained in which the buyer respects the salesperson’s conviction without being offended by his persistence, thus, enabling the relationship to grow. Buyers cited five key reasons this chemistry doesn’t develop:
- The salesperson is too pushy.
- There’s a difference in communication styles.
- The salesperson’s personality is very different from mine.
- The salesperson is too eager to befriend me.
- There’s an age difference.
Steve W. Martin teaches sales strategy at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.