The Real Cause of a Lost Sale May Be All in Your Imagination

Become a better sales coach and sales manager today.

Think of the objections you hear that prevent you from closing sales. Are you hearing these reasons directly from your prospects & customers or is it all in your imagination? Discover the leading cause of lost sales, pipeline constipation, missed sales targets and forecast inaccuracy.

8-Steps to Creating a Coaching Culture by Keith Rosen
Whether it’s around your sales efforts, during a conversation with your customer, boss (or kids), or when trying to uncover ways to best manage your team, certain assumptions can dramatically affect the results you seek to achieve.

Rather than uncovering the real barrier to the sale, assuming the objection or root cause of a problem becomes a detrimental process that spreads like a virus throughout every conversation or sales call. These assumptions are not based on the facts but rather the salesperson’s assumption of the truth.

Ironically, here’s where your experiences can become your worst enemy. Salespeople often fall into this trap when creating solutions for their prospects. During a conversation with a prospect, they uncover a similar situation or problem that they have handled with a previous client. So, they assume that the same solution will fit for this prospect as well.

The problem arises when the salesperson fails to invest the time to go beyond what may be obvious and explore the prospect’s specific objectives, needs or concerns in order to truly assess the facts and their unique situation.

“I Already Know The Answer”

If you’ve ever been in a situation that feels strangely familiar or if you have dealt with a problem you feel you’ve handled many times before, you may fall into the all too common trap of ‘already listening’. That is, because you feel you ‘already know’ what the facts are in that situation because you’ve  already ‘been there’ before, consequently, you have, in essence, ‘already listened’ to the conversation without the conversation actually taking place!

For example, thinking they know this prospect, the salesperson provides them with the features and benefits of his product or service that he perceives to be important, without considering that person’s unique needs. Once you think you know what the right answer is, the best solution or the reason that’s preventing the sale, the salesperson makes the mistake of replacing what the facts are in that situation with costly and dangerous assumptions. And when you assume the facts, which are often based upon your experiences with other customers, you then stop listening and are no longer asking the right questions to validate whether or not your assumptions are actually the truth!

How Often is Price the REAL Objection?

How often do salespeople assume the objection or blame a lost sale on budget, price or the competition, rather than gathering the facts to uncover the real reason as to why they don’t buy? Have you ever been in a situation where you have heard this from your salespeople or said this yourself?

“They didn’t buy because of price. It’s hard to sell when you’re product is a commodity.”

The fact is, when speaking with a qualified prospect or customer, price is a valid objection only about 15% of the time! For example, when I coach salespeople, here’s a common conversation I have when attempting to get to the real truth or the root cause as to why they weren’t able to win a particular sale.

Seller: I lost that last deal. It was a price/budget issue.

Coach: Is that what the customer told you? (The Million Dollar Question!)

Seller: Well, not exactly, I tried reaching out to them by phone as well as by email but I never heard back so based on my experience, I assumed it was price.

The next time you’re speaking with your boss, family, employees and especially your customers, rather than assuming the root cause of the problem, objection, how the person makes a buying decision, what they know or what they want to hear, follow these suggestions to create more selling opportunities.

1. Identify the Knowledge Gap

That’s the space between what people know and what they don’t know. Instead of assuming what your customers know, start assessing what they don’t know and what they need/want to learn in order to fill in this gap and ensure clear communication. What may seem old or common sense to you is quite often new information to them.

Use the right, precision based qualifying questions up front to uncover what information is most important to them. For example, when presenting to a prospect for the first time, rather than assume they want you to go through your 250 slide presentation in painful detail because you think it’s important, ask these questions to eradicate your costly assumptions.  “Just so I don’t sound repetitive, how familiar are you with our company and products?” “What information would you like me to share that is most important to you when making this decision?”

After all, once people hear something that they already know or something that’s not important or relevant for them, think about what happens to their listening. They shut down.

2. Be Curious

Question everything! Unfortunately, we often become hardened by our experiences; the same experiences that lead us to certain conclusions that are really costly assumptions such as, “All that customers care about is price” or “Our product is a commodity. There’s no way to distinguish ourselves or sell on value because it’s all the same” or “This product can only be sold face-to-face” or how about, “We’ve tried getting into that company before. They’re loyal to their existing vender and will never look at other solutions.”

Since you’re in the business of providing solutions, invest the time to uncover the unique objectives, priorities, unmet needs or current challenges, as opposed to providing common solutions that you assume may fit for everyone. For example, the words “Frustrated, successful, affordable, reliable, efficient, cost effective, great service and quality,” can be interpreted in a variety of ways and often carry a different meaning for each of us.

When you hear a prospect make a comment such as, “I want a quality product that will generate the results we need at an affordable price,” use this as an opportunity to explore deeper into what they want or need most. Questions such as, “What results do you expect that are most important to you?” “What would you need to see in our solution that would be compelling enough to explore the possibility of changing venders?”  “How do you determine what an affordable solution would be?” “What is the process you typically go through when making a decision like this?”

These questions allow you to clarify what you have heard or go into a topic in more depth so you can become clear with what they are really asking for. Most important, questions like these enable you to align the way you sell with the way your customers like to buy.

3. Clarify!

Make each prospect feel that they are truly being listened to and understood. Use a clarifying question when responding to what you’ve heard during every conversation. Rephrase in your own words what they had said to ensure that you not only heard, but also understood them. Then, confirm the next course of action. Examples: “What I’m hearing you say is… Is that correct?” or “Tell me more about that.” or “Given our conversation, what stands out as most important to you? or “What do you see as the next step?”

4. Just The Facts, Please

“I told the prospect that I’d follow up within a week. Two weeks later, I figured I missed my chance and they went with someone else.” Sound familiar? Effective salespeople don’t guess themselves into a sale. To ensure you’re operating with the facts, ask yourself this,

Do I have evidence to support my assumption or how I’m feeling?

Enjoy the peace of mind that comes from gaining clarity rather than drowning in the stories that you believe are true.

5. Recall Your Learning Curve

Think back to your first day on the job and the time it took for you to learn a new skill set or become a subject matter expert in your field or around your product and service. Chances are, you’ve probably experienced some frustration during the learning process. After all, at one point, all your knowledge was new to you. This holds true for managers, salespeople, as well as your customers and prospects. Support others by being empathetic throughout their learning curve and be mindful of how they learn, how they make decisions, as well as how they like to process and evaluate the information they receive.

Recognize that learning and wisdom are results of experience. You’re more knowledgeable than you think, so don’t assume that your sense is common. You’ll notice that many communication breakdowns and much of your frustration will be immediately eradicated.

Eliminating these costly assumptions will enable you to make better decisions, uncover new, critical insights and information  and prevent the breakdowns in communication that act as a barrier to achieving your goals and sales targets. Once you focus on truly seeking to understand every person’s point of view, level of knowledge, and thought process, you’ll experience fewer problems and recognize greater opportunities that you’ve never noticed before.

Photo Credit: Lasse Kristensen