When business is slow, the temptation to tell your story to whomever will listen is great. After all, talking to someone—anyone—is more productive than sitting at your desk waiting for a potential customer to call. Right?
Be choosy about the people to whom you “tell your story.” Use your existing customer base to identify the characteristics of your best customers. With that information, develop a profile of your “ideal” customer. Then, search out prospects that most closely fit the profile. You may meet with fewer people, but you’ll close more sales.
2. You’re not sufficiently selective about the prospects with whom you meet.
Expressing an “interest” in your product or service is not a strong enough reason to schedule an appointment with a potential prospect.
Find out why prospects are interested and what sparked their interests before you schedule appointments.
If prospects’ “interests” aren’t backed by recognized needs or desires for your product or service—now or in the immediate future—then there’s no compelling reasons to meet with them. The objective of scheduling appointments is to start the selling process…not to make friends or have pleasant conversations.
3. You don’t command control of prospect conversations.
Prospects must not only have recognized needs or desires for your product or service, but they must be willing to discuss the reasons behind the needs or desires.
To prevent the conversations from meandering in several different directions, make it clear at the time you schedule appointments that the primary objective of the meetings is to determine if your product or service is appropriate to meet the prospects’ needs, and that the focal point of the conversations will be to explore and understand those needs.
4. You don’t ask “tough” questions.
To thoroughly qualify opportunities, you must be able to identify core aspects of situations, define elements at the center of controversies, uncover root causes of problems, discover carefully guarded information, and obtain rarely volunteered commitments. You won’t be able to accomplish any of those tasks without asking tough questions.
And, you must be willing and able to ask those tough questions confidently and consistently, knowing that you may not like the answers you obtain…because they may serve to disqualify the opportunity. But, knowing sooner, rather than later, that continuing to invest your time will lead to a dead end will permit you to disengage and move on to seek out better opportunities.
5. You rush to make presentations.
Many salespeople are too eager to make presentations. They view them as opportunities to establish the value of their products or services by demonstrating their unique aspects. You can’t establish value, however, until you have determined which aspects, if any, are relevant to the prospects’ situations.
The real purpose of presentations is to confirm your ability to deliver the solutions prospects are predisposed to buy. How do you know what prospects are predisposed to buy? You determine it by thoroughly qualifying the opportunities.
Until you have learned the specific reasons prospects would buy your product or service (rather than a competitor’s), uncovered the resources they have available to make the purchases, discovered the criteria by which they will make their decisions, and (assuming you are willing and able to meet their decision criteria) obtained their commitments to make those decisions, you should refrain from making presentations.
Making presentations before thoroughly qualifying opportunities will almost surely guarantee that you leave those presentations not with decisions, but only prospects’ promises to “think it over.”
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