I was asked to help a salesperson who was struggling to meet his targets; I’ll call him Terry. In investigating him, I could see that his activity levels were good, the mix of new business prospecting and existing customer development time was good, he made a good number of presentations and plenty of offers. As such the usual causes of poor results weren’t evident. I asked about his product, competition and marketplace knowledge and was told again that these were all good.
“I’ll need to go out with him in that case” I said as I looked forward to learning more.
One thing I had noticed was that of the products he represented there was a skewing of results towards one product range, more than the other. His manager was clearly frustrated by this as they made a point of telling me that for them it was baffling as Terry’s knowledge was exceptional on the products he wasn’t selling and yet it was average for the team on the products where he wasn’t winning business. That gave me a clue of what to look at.
After a small number of sales visits I saw what I needed to.
On the calls where the topic of conversation was the product Terry knew lots about, the conversations were very much focused around the technical details of the product. Terry impressed the prospects we met who had clearly grasped that this he really knew his subject. They asked lots of questions and he gave some very valuable information, educating the prospects in the process.
Comparing this to the calls where his knowledge was less the conversations didn’t flow as well and they were inevitably shorter as Terry ‘ran out of things to say’.
Returning back to his sales manager I was asked if I could help. “Absolutely,” I replied. “Terry knows too much about the subject where he isn’t selling. Whereas for the product where his knowledge is only average, he runs out of things to talk about and the prospect knows he probably can’t answer their questions.” At this point the sales manager thought I’d gone mad and stated that what I was saying was counterintuitive.
“The difference,” I explained, “is that where his knowledge is less, Terry eventually hits the point where he doesn’t feel comfortable talking anymore. Then, with nothing else to say he’s left doing the only thing he can and is asking for business. With his ‘strong’ subject he’s so busy talking to them (and ‘showing off’ his knowledge) that he isn’t asking for their business.” He was effectively talking himself out of sales!
Remember that selling is about uncovering and matching needs. When you’ve done that your prospect will be ready to make a commitment. In some cases they’ll let you know that and close themselves, in many though, people (prospects) can find making decisions less easy and even difficult. In these cases as salespeople we need to ask them for their commitment. By talking past the opportune time to close the salesperson kills the opportunity. Terry just needed to recognise the time had arrived to ask for business and do it.
If you find yourself having similar challenges then my ebook The 7 Stages of a Sale (How to Get From Interested to Sold) can help.
I wish you every success!