Customer Experience News & Trends

Most say initial sales call has ‘little or no value’

Conventional wisdom says the first impression is the lasting one. Potential customers often say something quite the opposite.

In a recent survey by Sirius Decisions, prospects were asked to evaluate their initial meetings with salespeople. Here are the results:

  • 92% said the initial sales call was of little or no value.
  • 82% said salespeople had not done their homework in regardss to the buyer’s needs, and
  • 71% reported salespeople talked too much about their company and products and not enough about the buyer’s interests and needs.

The typical advice for making a better impression is to step into the shoes of the buyer. Easier said than done, as these four scenarios indicate:

  1. The salesperson follows a prepared script,  talking about products or services, not about buyer needs. As a result, the buyer may have to consider solutions that don’t meet his or her needs. Buyers look for fast, clear and simple solutions that are aligned with their needs. When they don’t get them, they usually move on.
  2. Buyers are skeptical that the salesperson can deliver as promised. When competition is tough, some salespeople overpromise. It’s much better to make realistic promises, and then keep them. Nothing destroys alignment faster than broken promises.
  3. Key buyers in the decision process had little or no contact with the salesperson. As part of due diligence, a seller should try to learn where who the decision makers are.
  4. All the vendors look the same, so the buyer bases the decision on price alone. When buyers perceive that all solutions are the same, they tend to base their decision on price alone.

Bridging buying with selling

Bridging buying with selling — and making a meaningful first impression — involves four distinct phases:

  1. Recognition of needs, so sales aren’t lost because a prospect isn’t aware of them. The prospect’s most important concern in this phase is to identify a need that justifies the cost of solving it. Some salespeople lose perspective in this phase, forgetting that their task is to build awareness of the problem, increasing the prospect’s consciousness of the need. A better approach is to listen for needs. A good question salespeople ask themselves in this phase is, “What is the prospect thinking?”
  2. Resolution of concerns, so sales aren’t lost due to customer anxiety. There are two dangers in this phase. One is to ignore or downplay concerns the prospects expresses in the hop they will simply go away. The other is to try to apply pressure. The most dangerous error at this phase is for a salesperson to sit back and hope or trust that those fears will resolve themselves.
  3. Evaluation of options, so sales aren’t lost to a competitor. In this phase prospects have recognized a need. Now they’re weighing the pros and cons, the strengths and weaknesses, of each option. A trap here is for salespeople to fail to recognize that the customer has perceived a need and is ready to look at options. A better strategy is for a salesperson to stay focused on the need to and ask questions that make the problems more serious.
  4. Implementation, so sales aren’t lost due to after-sales neglect. A buying decision doesn’t necessarily mean that the sale is done. The overriding danger now is for a salesperson to assume the selling job is done. Research shows that many sales are lost in this phase. Good after-sale follow-u[p and support solidifies sales immediately and for the future. The effective salesperson in this phase shifts emphasis onto installation, after-sale support and all other continuing contacts with the customer.

Adapted from Selling for The Long Run, by Wendy Reed.

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