Your strategies for interacting with prospects from the time you first meet them to the time you make a presentation can have a greater impact on your likelihood of closing a sale than the actual aspects of the product or service you have to offer.
Following are three unproductive strategies that are so commonplace in the sales arena that they've become accepted as the norm.
Failing to Provide Value
During initial meetings with prospective clients, some salespeople, whether by design or lack of proper preparation, don't communicate anything of real value. Sure, they talk about their company’s capabilities. They talk about their products and services... and the associated features, functions, benefits, and advantages. But they don't convey any knowledge or insight about the prospects' challenges or goals that the prospects didn't already possess.
These salespeople are afraid that if they give away too much information, prospects will use it against them. They believe that prospects, armed with the knowledge, will figure out ways to accomplish the outcomes they desire without the salesperson's product or service.
What they fail to recognize is the difference between discussing concepts and revealing the specifics of implementing those concepts. It's OK to discuss concepts. In fact, it's desirable, especially if it helps prospects develop new perspectives on their challenges. After all, prospects must buy into the concept before they'll buy the product or service to implement it.
If prospects don't learn anything new by meeting with you, are you contributing any real value to the meeting? No. And, if you're not contributing any real value to the meeting, will prospects have compelling reasons to do business with you? Again, the answer is "No."
Focusing Presentations on "What" Rather Than on "How"
For some salespeople, the vagueness of their initial prospect meetings carries through to their eventual presentations. They fail to establish clear connecting links between the elements of their proposed offer and the specific aspects of the prospects' requirements. Instead, their presentations focus too narrowly on their product or service, their company's capabilities, and in some cases, on themselves. Much like the magician who waves a magic wand in the air and then, with a puff of smoke, produces a rabbit, the salesperson “waves” a rhetorical magic wand (a long list of features and advantages) and then, with some verbal smoke, produces a solution.
On the surface, those sorts of presentations are impressive. They typically include lengthy proposal documents which are often accompanied by a host of multimedia presentations filled not only with charts and graphs, but also illustrations and animations—all designed to support that which is being presented. But on closer examination, they fall apart. Prospects not only want to know what you are going to do, but more importantly, they want to know how you are going to do it. You must be crystal clear about how you are going to accomplish the outcome the prospect desires. If you don't establish a clear and unambiguous connection between the "what" and the "how" during your presentation, you'll lose the opportunity to the salesperson who does.
Failing to Present "Elegant" Solutions
Some salespeople have a tendency to over-complicate their offers. This occurs primarily for one of two reasons. Some salespeople believe that they must present complex solutions in order to establish intrinsic value. That is, they believe that the greater the number of elements to the offer, the greater will be its perceived effectiveness... and the more readily it will be accepted by the prospect.
Other salespeople over-complicate their offers to establish financial value—to justify the attached "price tag." They include a number of "value added" elements which may be helpful, but are not essential to addressing the prospects' needs. They are included for no other reason than to bolster the perceived value of the offer and thereby substantiate the required investment.
What these salespeople fail to recognize is that prospects actually appreciate "elegant" solutions. Elegant in that they are well-ordered, simple, and concise. Elegant solutions make it easy for prospects to connect your product or service to the outcomes they are after. The easier you make it for them to establish that connection, the more likely you are to make the sale.
If you find yourself engaging in one or more of these "commonplace" strategies, consider this: commonplace strategies are for commonplace salespeople who are satisfied with commonplace results. If your results have been all too commonplace, perhaps it's time to change your strategies.