Many peoples’ idea of the perfect sales call is wrong!

Let’s say you contact a prospect. They are happy to take your call. You have plenty of time to speak with them. You manage to tell them all about yourself and the benefits of working with your company. The prospect seems very positive about the conversation. You are pretty sure that, after a few more conversations, you will start to have the chance to quote on some jobs.

It would be easy to think that this is a sales conversation that has gone very well. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. This is a sales call that went badly! There is no commitment from the prospect. Worse still, there is no clear idea of how you and the prospect might be able to work together. Even without hearing the conversation in detail, we can quickly see that this dialogue covers at least three out the five biggest sales call mistakes.

So what are the biggest sales call mistakes?

  1. Talking

Most sales people love to talk! After all, being able to create a good relationship is a key sales skill. However, a good relationship isn’t just about what we say to someone. It is also about being a good listener.

Ideally, a sales person will only talk for 30% of a conversation. The aim is to encourage a prospect to open up and talk to you about their situation. But this will never happen unless we keep our mouths closed for a significant part of the time that we are with them.

One reason why prospects don’t always talk as much as we would like them to is because sales people commit the next error.

  1. Using closed questions

One common sales mantra is “always be closing”. The sales person is constantly told that they should be persuading the prospect to say yes. That means asking them questions where they will agree. It means asking closed questions.

Closed questions mean that the answer has to be a yes or a no. One example of a closed question is “Do you require good service from your print supplier?”. The other person is limited in what they can say.

The trouble with this type of question is that we never get to learn enough about the prospect. It is far better to ask open questions. An open question means that the other person has to talk. An example would be “What sort of service levels are you looking for from your suppliers?”. You can learn a lot from open questions as long as you are not carry out the next sales call mistake. 

  1. Accepting what the prospect says

It is very easy to agree with everything a prospect talks about. However, we should also be looking to understand everything that we are told. It s good to use probing questions so that we understand a customer’s reasoning. An example of a probing question is “Why is that issue so important to you?”.

In addition, it an also be very useful to challenge prospects. Their view of things isn’t always the right view! Your role is often to tell them how they can do things better. It is also often to tell them how you can help them overcome problems. However, the fourth mistake can make this much more difficult.

  1. Focusing on features and benefits

Using features and benefits is an out of date sales strategy. It simply doesn’t work in today’s sales environment. A good sales conversation will focus on the prospect, not on you.

Prospects are rarely won over by the technical features of your press. They expect the good levels of service and quality that so many sales people talk about. You are far more likely to win over a prospect by talking about their problems and challenges and how you can help them. This brings far better results than constantly talking about features and benefits. But these results only lead to converting the prospect into a customer if the fifth error is avoided.

  1. Failing to qualify the next stage

Every sales person should know what they want to achieve as the result of a conversation. It may be a meeting, a quote request or a factory visit. In an early conversation it is rarely being awarded work straight away, whatever we would like to think!

The purpose of your conversation is to encourage the prospect to take this next step. Equally, it is to find out if the prospect is prepared to take this next step. If they are not prepared to go down the path you want them to, it is time to end the conversation.

Lots of sales people make at least some of these mistakes

Most will also deny making them! This is perfectly understandable. After all, how many of us actually get to hear ourselves on the phone or in a meeting?

There is a simple way to overcome this problem. Have a colleague listen in to a sales call you make and give you honest feedback. Ask them to audit you on these five errors.

It is only when you receive this feedback that you know if you have any issues that you should address. It is at that point when you’ll be able to improve. You won’t be left with the delusion that you have made the perfect sales call!

PS If you’d like more practical ideas on how to engage with today’s buyers, download my free e-book “Ten Common Print Selling Errors and What To Do About Them” right now at http://profitableprintrelationships.com/e-book/ You’ll also receive my regular “Views from the print buyer” bulletin, full of ideas on how to sell print effectively.