Silence is not golden for sales reps. It’s deadly.
Give the average sales professional a question, an objection or even an outright refusal and chances are they have something to say. In fact, beyond having an innate ability to remember a lot of product details and persuade others to see the value, sales professionals have a very particular gift of the gab.
This is important because customers tend to feel more confident in their purchases when they’ve established a strong, human connection with someone they feel is ready to support their objectives and deal with any issues before, during and after they’ve done a deal.
Inevitably, though, sales reps are eventually going to walk into meetings or get on phone calls where customers and prospects don’t really give much back. They may be naturally reticent. They may be uncertain (or embarrassed) about what to ask a rep. They might be going through a professional or personal issue that’s weighing on their minds.
When pitches become too much of a one-way monologue, though, it doesn’t provide sales reps with a lot to work with. It means they wind up robotically working through their slides or pitch and have nothing other than a yes-or-no question to ask at the end: do they want to buy?
The normal advice in such circumstances is to ask more (or better) questions throughout the pitch. That may work, but you also don’t want to turn a meeting with a customer or a buying team into what feels like the third degree. Just as marketers and service team members need to think holistically in The Age Of The Customer, sales reps might want to reimagine the buying experience to provide different opportunities to spark conversations.
When meetings are booked, sales reps may include an agenda in their invite -- but in many cases the agenda consists of what they will be talking about, not the customer. Make it clear where they might be expected to give more details about their business objectives, their big pain points or any obstacles to making a purchase they foresee.
If it’s relevant, you can also prime the conversation with any pre-reading they could do (as long as it’s not so onerous it feels like a chore). It could be as simple as sending along an infographic with statistics on which your pitch will be built.
Sales reps tend to learn a lot about their customers, and if there are common details that tend to be helpful in ensuring a product meets their needs, ask those you’re meeting with to search for them prior to the meeting. This will be a lot more effective than bringing the questions up during the meeting and then having to book a second meeting just to get those answers.
Long before a meeting gets booked, reps should be using the information they have in CRM like Sales Cloud -- of course, without it they likely wouldn’t have gotten the meeting to begin with.
Once you’re in front of the customer, use that data to build questions around, rather than just your pitch itself. Even if you’re nearly 100 per cent cure your CRM data is accurate, running some of it by the customer -- even what kind of business they’ve done with your firm in the past -- can elicit extra details or nuances that enrich the selling process.
Even the quietest customers will be quick to correct data about their firm, or add points that bring clarity about who they are and what they want. It also shows you’re treating them like an individual, and that you care about getting the details right.
Customers may not want to give a lot of details away about what’s happening in their organization until they’re certain they’re likely to work with you. This could be based on legitimate confidentiality concerns, so you don’t want to push so hard for answers that they feel threatened.
If you’re selling to similar firms in the same market, though, there are lots of other topics that can move the sales conversation forward:
This can be a lot less awkward than small talk about sports or movies that customers know sales reps might use with every other customer. You can get specific and relevant about their interests without putting them on the spot.
Companies pay lots of money to send their best people to training and educational opportunities that make them better at their jobs. A sales pitch might not seem like an equivalent, but depending on how you use CRM data, reps are in a position to offer a number of teachable moments about what other customers have gone through.
Rather than just lecture, however, set up what-if scenarios about business problems and invite your customer to fill in some of the blanks about how customers have solved them.
Keep this light and don’t make it too long in your overall meeting, but there is some genuine fun in trying to figure certain kinds of questions out. It can even be as simple has sketching out a business problem or situation on one slide, itemizing some of the options that were considered and asking for an educated guess before moving onto the next slide.
When all else fails, see if there are some avenues to let customers communicate without making a sound -- or even letting on who they are.
There are many apps and other tools available, for instance, to let groups “vote” on polling questions anonymously. These can be done at the beginning, middle or end of a pitch, but asking something in the middle -- like which of the most common objections they agree with -- could really guide the second half of your discussion.
Don’t want to use technology? Maybe ask for a show of hands. Suggest they write down questions and hand them in when the meeting is done. Do it as a “feedback form,” the way you might during a marketing event. And of course, they can always email questions and concerns afterwards.
In the end, you can’t force customers to speak up, but you can always show you’re eager to listen and engage in a dialogue. And no matter how that discussion plays out, the data you collect in Sales Cloud will be richer for it.