Whether you are nurturing a professional relationship or a personal one, no one likes to feel like they are misunderstood or not being heard. Many times this perception, whether true or not, is the result of the way you communicate your level of understanding of the other person’s perspective and needs.
The same is true in sales. One of the biggest limiting factors in sales today is the failure to understand prospects on a fundamental level before an initial pitch. It’s one thing to conduct surface-level research on a business and give a canned presentation, offering bits and pieces of superficial customization. It’s another to present metrics and case studies to show how your solution is THE answer to the exact needs the prospect identified.
In a world where remote interaction has become the “new normal” for virtually all business collaboration outside of essential workers, you have the opportunity to stand out by hearing a prospect’s needs first. What are their challenges? What are their pain points? Then, you can show them not only how your solutions meet their needs, but how your solutions have already worked in the same way for others.
Here are a few considerations to make on the sales side when communicating with prospects that will help them see that you are seeking to offer a true and quantifiable solution:
Show, don’t tell, how your solutions meet their needs. If you went to the dentist for a cleaning, she would not show you a tire iron and try to convince you that using it every day would help you improve your dental hygiene. So why is it that in sales, the go-to approach is to try and sell a solution regardless of whether it is the appropriate one?
It is more effective to work backward. Rather than trying to shoehorn your solution to a generalized need (that may or may not even apply), seek first to understand the customer’s challenges and needs. From there, you can show them through case studies and solid data how your solution is the best fit. By truly hearing the customer’s voice and not leaning on a generic presentation that is used regardless of business, industry or challenges, you are showing the prospect that this relationship is reciprocal, but with their voice leading the charge.
We suggest starting with a preliminary conversation before that first pitch with the goal of hearing the customer’s voice. There is give and take. You will have taken the time to show them you are not just out to make a quick buck. You are looking to change lives by finding customers who can truly benefit from your solutions.
Non-verbals still matter. Yes, we are relying very heavily on verbal communication when utilizing remote tools for sales calls. However, that does not mean that we should ditch the active listening skills we know are essential to let others know we are fully engaged. When you have the opportunity to have your camera on during conversational aspects of your call, do it! Even if the other party chooses not to activate their video, keeping yours on shows them you are engaged and listening— nodding, taking notes, utilizing appropriate facial expressions— during times where there is dialogue occurring.
At the points in a presentation when utilizing technology or virtual tools, there’s no need to have the camera on. Just let them know you’ll be back up on the screen afterward. It is important to be certain your prospect or customer knows that when they are speaking, you are listening, and seeing you engage can help that happen.
Go back to basics. Anyone working in sales knows the importance of old-fashioned listening skills. We mentioned non-verbals above, but do not forget the equally important reflective and evaluative skills. These are powerful tools to help the information giver know that the receiver is getting their message loud and clear. It also opens up the opportunity for clarification and additional questions. This is especially true for those pre-pitch conversations with a prospect that we mentioned, where you are doing an interview of sorts to see how your solutions fit their needs.
Patience and understanding go a long way. Emotional intelligence is important now more than ever as we navigate conversations in a primarily remote environment. Always remember that the dialogue could be occurring in a person’s home where they are surrounded by children, pets and other distractions. Their business may be in dire straits after a year of declining revenue due to the pandemic. They may be under pressures you are not aware of. They may be stressed out from just looking for a solution.
Remember to respond rather than react if a conversation gets tense or starts to go sideways. Also do not feel slighted if the prospect asks questions you already covered in your presentation. You should set—and reset, if necessary—the tone of the call if it begins to get tense or sour. And back to those non-verbals—a smile can go a very long way.
In the end, it all comes back to truly hearing the customer’s voice. Stand out by standing back and letting their needs determine how you will show them your solutions.