A Dozen Ways to Screw up Sales Meetings – and How to Fix Them
By Pam Holloway
Can you relate to this? You’re looking
across your desk into the face of a couple who would be perfect
clients for you. You know what you can provide is perfect for them
and you’re 99% sure they will accept your proposal. Then something
goes wrong. They walk, and you don’t know why. Sound familiar?
We’ve all been there, some of us more
often than others. Worse, many sales people will continue to face
that situation, and not understand what continues to go wrong. The
good news is, as disappointing as those situations are, they serve
as outstanding learning experiences. They also provide rare
opportunities to examine and improve the way we connect with our
prospects and clients. Over the past eight years, we’ve analyzed
this exact, specific point in the sales process. We now understand
how professionals screw up sales meetings - and how to fix
We believe that you can’t fix something
until you know it’s broken, so let’s begin with the 12 ways we
screw up sales meetings and see how to fix them:
1. Focusing on yourself :
You, your product, and your company are only valuable to the client
to the extent you can solve his problem or give him what he wants.
The client doesn’t want to hear your presentation of who you are,
where you come from, what you value and what you do. All of that is
completely irrelevant to the client outside the context of his
specific needs and wants. Those are what the client wants to talk
about. Get to them quickly. There really is one hard and fast
rule: It’s never about you – it’s always about
2. Talking too much:
Nearly every sales professional falls into this trap. You’ll be on
a roll and realize that you’ve been talking for a long time.
Unfortunately, when you’re talking, you’re not doing the most
important thing that is the critical to the sale – focusing on the
client! The safe rule of thumb for the ratio of listening to
talking is 80-20. If you’re in a meeting and find yourself talking
more than 20% of the time, just switch to a question and be quiet.
In general, you might want to examine your selling process and look
for ways to improve it. Remember, the key to selling (actually any
situation involving influence or motivation) is to ask questions and
help people come to conclusions on their own.
3. Not asking questions:
Questions are the heart of an effective selling situation. They
serve two purposes: 1) The primary purpose is to involve the client
and help him come to his own conclusions. Often, that’s the
conclusion you would have presented. The difference is, if the
client comes up with it, he believes it, but if you present it, the
client doesn’t necessarily believe it. 2) The other role of
questions is to elicit information that will help you frame your
product or service inside the client’s criteria and values.
4. Asking the wrong questions:
Some sales people ask way too many questions, or they ask irrelevant
questions. The client must perceive the questions as valuable and
relevant. The client must believe that your questions are
important, and that his answers will enable you to create a better
result for him.
5. Confusing them:
Our research indicates that the most common way for sales people to
screw up client conversations is by confusing the client. Here’s
how this happens: you deliver too much information, use terms and
references that aren’t familiar to the client, or you do a “data
dive.” Remember this – a confused mind will always say NO.
Confusion is uncomfortable and people don’t say yes when they’re
uncomfortable. Further, most people go into an analytical mind set
when they’re talking with someone who is a professional in something
they’re unfamiliar with. The analytical mind set always says no
until it has gathered enough information to make an informed
6. Excluding the real decision maker:
When you see more than one person across the desk from you, it is
your responsibility to connect with each one. At the very least you
must identify the primary decision maker and address them. Never
assume you know who the primary decision maker is. Too often in a
situation with a husband and wife, the sales person will assume that
the husband is the primary decision maker. Big mistake. Give equal
attention to each person.
7. Claiming credibility rather than demonstrating it:
Saying you know x or have y credentials isn’t relevant to the
client, unless you are able to show how those things help the
client. If the client hires you to fix his Lexus, your degree from
Auto Shop Academy is only of minimal importance. The real test is if
you actually have the ability to be effective on high performance
import cars. The best thing you can do is provide proof.
How can you gain credibility before you
get to demonstrate it? Simple. Use the Law of Other Messengers.
People believe what others say about you more than what you say
about yourself. For example, provide a book of endorsements,
display photos of you with happy Lexus owners, and/or show
certifications from Toyota.
8. Not speaking the “language”:
We honor our clients by presenting information in a way that matches
their mental preferences and personality. If I am a visual person,
it is your responsibility to recognize that and explain your product
or service in visual language. If I prefer structure and a process,
then it is your responsibility to provide the structure or
step-by-step process. To be successful at this, it is vital for you
to become proficient at reading your clients.
9. Making it difficult to work with you:
Companies and individuals lose sales because the process of doing
business is too difficult. If you ask me to fill out forms, provide
scads of data or answer lots of question, the value of the end
result will be reduced proportionately by the hassle of my
involvement. And, if you collect lots of information, you darn well
better use it. Recognize that my time and energy are valuable to
me. Anything you can do to make the process easy and painless
increases you chances that I will initiate and complete the
process. For example, life insurance firms often deliver
applications that are already filled out. Simply sign here please.
10. Not recognizing “hot buttons”:
Clients give you clues as to what excites them or angers them. Good
salespeople recognize both the negative and the positive “hot
buttons” and respond accordingly. For example, if you’re paying
attention to me, you will quickly see that one of my hot buttons is
someone telling me they know what’s best for me. If you do this
before asking appropriate questions or getting to know me, I’ll walk
away and you’ll have an adversary. The key to recognizing this is
simply to pay attention and read the client.
11. Not showing respect:
Once again, we go back to the hard and fast rule: It’s never about
you – it’s always about the client!. You may assume I don’t know
beans about cars or sound cards or financial planning, and that may
well be true. But, if you act as though I’m an idiot, you’ll lose
me as a client and gain me as an adversary.
12. Being needy:
We’ve all been needy at some point in our lives. We know what it
feels like, and we’ve seen how other people retreat from us. We’ve
done some fascinating research on the ability to read another
person’s emotional state. Neediness is a powerful emotional state
that is easily and quickly perceived by other people. When they
feel it, they get suspicious of your intentions. Needy people do not
focus on the best interests of the client. They focus on themselves
and satisfying their needs.
You can’t get to where you want to go until you know where you are.
You can’t fix a problem until you know what the problem is. What
you’ve just read are the descriptions of the most common problems
made in selling situations. The good news is, the solutions are
simple, and when you implement them, you become a higher quality
professional, attracting higher quality clients.
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