If we don’t fully understand the reason for a prospect's statement, the purpose of their question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities.
In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey has a quote… “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.” I think that statement is especially true for sales professionals.
When we coach our clients, we try to get them to understand and remember these three tips when in conversation with their prospects and clients:
- The statement they make isn’t the actual statement.
- The question they ask isn’t the true question.
- The problem they have isn’t the actual problem.
So, as your prospects talk about their main concerns, your job is to determine the following: Is this a symptom or a problem? Problems get solved, symptoms are tolerated. I was working with a prospect and he kept saying he needed to fix his cash flow problem. The more we talked, the more it became clear that cash flow wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was he missed out on an opportunity to purchase one of his competitors. The symptom was cash flow, the problem was missing opportunities to acquire market share. We focused on fixing his true problem.
One of the ways, and really the only way, to bring clarity to the conversation is by asking or saying the following when we hear prospects make statements or ask questions:
- Tell me more about that . . .
- What happens if that problem isn’t fixed?
- When you say (insert statement here), I’m not sure I know what you mean.
- Many people ask me that question for a variety of reasons; I would like to hear yours.
We also need to listen to emotionally charged words such as . . .
- Need to fix…
- I’m going to…
- We simply can’t tolerate…
- Others include: worried, upset, mad, frustrated
These are emotionally driven words and emotion drives sales. Facts and figures justify sales, but emotion drives it. If we don’t fully understand the reason for the statement, the purpose of the question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities.