“I appreciate what you’re saying,” said Melinda to Paul, a new prospect being met for the first time in his office. “There’s one spot earlier you focused on that’s just a bit . . . well . . . unclear to me.”
“What was that?” he asked.
“When you said, or I think you said, that it would be good to not have to go to two different vendors . . . what did you mean exactly?”
“Oh, the usual. You know, the double paper work. If we were using your firm, we’d just have to place one order.”
“Are you saying that the paperwork for two vendors is that much of a pain?”
“Now that you put it that way, not really. Both of our current vendors give us quality product, good price, on-time delivery. Actually, we are very happy with them”
“So what you are saying is that at least currently, you’d have no reason whatsoever to change vendors.”
“Yes,” responded Paul, “that’s right.”
“Good,” said Melinda, “I’m glad that’s settled.”
Paul gave Melinda a quizzical look. “What’s good about that? You don’t make a sale.”
“It does seem odd, doesn’t it? Well, if we continued, you’d probably have told me to put together a proposal because that’s the polite thing to do.”
“Ah, my standard line to let a salesperson down, though few understand what I’m really saying.”
“I can appreciate that. There is something you could do, if you thought it appropriate.”
“And that would be?”
“Would you consider giving me a referral to two people you know personally?”
“Well, I don’t see why not. It’s so unusual to have a salesperson actually listen like you do. It would be a pleasure. In fact, let me do this. I’d like you to met Michael Brinder . . . let me call him and set up an appointment for the two of you.”
“That would be very nice.”
“What time do you have available next week?”
In making sure that Melinda understood her prospect’s needs, she discovered that what she first thought a pain was not. If she had continued, the meeting would have been a waste of time. Instead of it being a waste of time, she turned it into a profitable prospecting session.
How often does a salesperson hear what she wants to hear as opposed to what the prospect is saying?
A simple example of this is hearing a prospect say, “We are giving your proposal the highest consideration.” Many salespeople, upon hearing this, translate it into “Your proposal is one step away from being accepted in full, and you can start counting your commission.”
Realistically, being told you have the “highest consideration” is meaningless. It’s a polite way for the prospect to get rid of you for the time being.
In many sales situations, long before a proposal is ever done, a similar type of communication problem occurs. Consider the perspective of the salesperson. She is looking to see if the prospect has any pain. How the salesperson interprets the prospect’s statements determines whether there is pain or not. In other words, the “pain” may only be in the mind of the salesperson, not the prospect.
For the moment, assume this is the case. The salesperson now continues believing a sale could happen.
The prospect, on the other hand, doesn’t have the pain. What’s his mental state? If there is no pain, then why bother trying to fix something that doesn’t hurt? Why are you telling me to buy something to fix something that isn’t broken?
To push ahead in such a situation only serves to annoy the prospect more and more.
To keep what you want to hear from replacing what you actually hear, ask for clarification from the prospect on a regular basis. It’s very simple to do, and as a side benefit, prospects will feel in greater rapport with you.
“Is what you are telling me . . . ?”
“So what you’re saying is that . . . ?”
“Let me get this right. Are you saying . . . ?”
These are three of many lead-ins that achieve the goal of making sure you hear what the prospect is saying. When you ask these questions on a regular basis, the prospect will feel that here is a salesperson that really wants to do the right thing. Here is someone who listens to me. The level of rapport established is amazing.
To really understand what someone means, not what you hope he means, ask for clarification.