Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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The Wrong Assumptions Can Kill a Sale

April 9, 2014

Are you losing some sales that could be saved by changing your own thinking going in? Here are four things to look for.

A child psychologist or development expert could probably give you the answer for this: At what age do we humans start making assumptions? These thought patterns probably start pretty young. Dad is in the kitchen; maybe there’ll be food. Mom is putting on her coat; she’s going outside. My brother pulled the cat’s tail; she’s going to hiss.

ImageAs sales professionals, we can’t avoid this natural tendency to assume. But we can learn to check our assumptions about clients before we go into sales settings. See if you recognize yourself in any of these four statements.

I shouldn’t ask prospects direct questions that might make them uncomfortable.

This involves a judgment call on your part. But if your prospects seem amenable, it’s OK to ask questions about their business. They’ll tell you if they don’t want to discuss it, or you’ll at least sense that they’re uncomfortable. You may be able to glean useful information this way, and it shows that you have some concern about the success of the prospect’s business. Try:

  • What are your company’s biggest problems right now?
  • Who do you see yourself competing with?
  • How are you doing compared to this time a year ago?

An old manager of mine used to preface such questions with “Can I ask …” It softens what can be tough questions a bit.

Prospects always make low cost a high priority.

Undoubtedly, some will. But some buyers will weigh others factors equally in the mix, like customer support, quality and company reputation. Perception plays a role in it. Why is this so inexpensive?, some may think. Others will balk at a higher price. It’s a delicate balance.

I should have all of the information that I need about clients before I meet with them.

You should do your homework, of course, so you have a good sense of who clients are and what they might need. But leave yourself open to the possibility that you might learn something as you draw your prospect out. Go in with a tentative plan, but be ready to turn on a dime if you discover a new angle or need.

Prospects know everything they need to know about my company and products.

They certainly know more than they would have 20 years ago, before the web became a hotbed of reviews and word-of-mouth. Your job as a sales professional has become less about educating and more about engaging. But you undoubtedly have insight that they don’t – in part, because of the interaction you’ve had with other prospects and the more informed questions you’ve fielded.

You can assume that they’ve at least looked at your website and maybe some user comments. So make sure that you know what people are saying so that you’re not blindsided. Browse online sites where your products or services are discussed and look for any negative chatter. Type your company name and words like “complaints” and “reviews” into a search engine to find any of these pockets residing in out-of-the-way places.

There’s one major assumption that we all occasionally fall prey to: I’m not going to make this sale. Find the sweet spot between being overconfident and exuding pessimism. After all, you can safely assume that your customers are reading your attitude as well as hearing your words.

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