Sorry it didn’t work out this time, but I have to say “no.”
I tried to buy from you, but too many things got in the way. You made too many sales mistakes that ended up losing you the sale. This has happened to me more times than I’d like to admit in the last few months. If you’re trying to sell to me, and you’re willing to change a few things in your sales process, we have a good shot at making it happen next time.
Reading this letter is a great start. If you want the next time to turn out differently, here are a few things you can do to tip the scales in your favor:
- Research me before you call. If you’re reading this, it seems you have the energy and forethought to figure out what, specifically, will help me buy. This is good. Don’t forget to incorporate this research into your sales process, starting with our first conversation. Get my company name wrong and I’ll notice. Kick off with an example of how you’ve helped a manufacturing company and I won’t really care.
Ask more questions. I research and plan before I buy. You’ll find I already have a good sense of my needs, desires, and specific buying criteria. If you don’t ask questions to find out what’s important to me, you’ll miss things on the list.
Last week, I was looking at marketing automation technologies. I researched. I read. I had my functionality desires and my criteria planned out.
Then I called a provider.
Before I got to share any of this with the salesperson, she launched into a long demo. She showed me every little detail of her favorite features. I had to interrupt just to tell her that I didn’t care about what she was showing me so I could ask questions about other features.
I left the call wanting to learn more. I planned to call back later and try to get someone else. She didn’t seem to get what I needed (because she didn’t try), and I didn’t know if her technology was the right fit.
After you ask, open your ears. After you start asking questions, don’t forget to put on your listening cap. Asking questions to uncover needs is a core part of any sales process. Then, articulate back to me what you think I need, what I’m hoping for, and what it will look like when I succeed.
Do this and I’ll know you didn’t just ask, you understood. (Follow these 5 tips to balancing talking and listening in your sales conversations.)
Make recommendations. I don’t need “yes-men.” I need help working through challenges and coming up with the best ideas. I expect you to be a subject matter expert. You should show me new ways of doing things, and bring solutions to the table. Too often, this doesn’t happen. (Hint: Read the 10 Rainmaker Principles and pay attention to #5 and #8.)
Don’t be late. You lose big points in my book if you’re late for meetings, late for calls, or late with documents. If you say you’re going to do something by a certain date, do it. If you’re late when you’re selling to me, I’ll be worried you’ll be late when you’re working with me. Not good.
Provide examples. I’m a visual person. I learn through examples that I can see, and not just hear. Show me how you’ve helped other customers who were in the same situation as me. Share results. Let me see and read them. Do this and I will envision myself walking in the shoes of a very happy and successful person that you helped.
Get this to happen, and you probably have me.
Show me the money. I’m a mix of Skeptical Steve and Analytical Al. Even if I’m the one starting the discussion, even if I’ve done my research, I might not be sold on doing something. Unless you help me see the business case during the sales process for why I should work with you, you won’t win my business.
Follow up with me. Working in a small business requires me to spin many plates at a time. Priorities shift regularly. If I don’t respond to you, it usually has nothing to do with you (assuming you followed the tips noted here).
It has everything to do with me. I’m not going to chase you down, but if you continue to follow up with me, you will help me keep your item on my to-do list.
If you don’t, I might just forget that we even spoke.
Don’t twist my arm. I don’t play games and I don’t like it when sellers try to play games with me. Hard-nosed closing techniques never sit well with me, and they don’t sit well with most corporate buyers I know.
If these expectations are too high, stop right now. Don’t pick up the phone. Lose my number.
If, however, this all sounds reasonable to you and you're confident you can avoid these sales mistakes, give me a ring. I’d look forward to hearing from you.
P.S. What problems or mistakes do you experience during the buying process? Share them in the comments here.