Avoid Costly Consequences: How to Keep from Assuming You Know Why the Customer Doesn't Buy
Every once in awhile, we all seem to hit a brick wall. No matter how hard we try, we just can't seem to close the sale. Before panic sets in, think about -- even list -- the customer objections that prevented the sale.
As you compile the list, be sure to distinguish whether these are the objections you actually heard from the customer, or whether they are your assumptions as to why they didn't buy. There is a difference. And it's usually the difference between whether you make the sale and whether you don't!
Rather than uncovering the real barrier to the sale, assuming the objection becomes a detrimental process that spreads like a virus throughout every sales call. Assumptions are not based on the customer's truth but rather on your theory of the truth. Sometimes, these assumptions take over during sales periods when there is considerable pressure to sell what's marked down or in stock. Other times, we're just too busy to give the customer the time she deserves. We try to hurry her to make a decision and, unwittingly, hurry her right out the door.
We often fall into this trap when trying to create solutions for the customer by selling what we want to sell, instead of listening to the customer's wants. Sometimes, it's as subtle as assuming a problem from a previous customer applies and its solution will work for the current customer. The situation creeps up on us when we fail to invest the time to go beyond what may be obvious and explore the customer's specific objectives or concerns.
Thinking that you know this customer, you provide her with the benefits of your service that you perceived to be important, without considering the customer's particular needs. The next time you catch yourself assuming the objection -- how the customer makes a buying decision, what she knows or what she wants to hear -- follow the three suggestions I outline below.
Identify the knowledge gapThe "knowledge gap" is the space between what the other people know and what they don't know. Instead of assuming what they know, start determining what they need to learn in order to fill in this gap and ensure clear communication. What may seem old or common to you is new to them. Remember, you live with floor covering everyday, but the customer usually doesn't buy that often.
Use probing questions up front to uncover what's needed to fill in the blanks. For example, try this line of questioning: "Just so I don't sound repetitive, how familiar are you with...?" Even when customers say, "I'll know it when I see it," they rarely do. Choose a general topic about a new product or service to break the ice and find out what they're really looking for.
Be curiousQuestion everything! Because you're in the business of providing solutions, invest the time necessary to uncover your prospect's specific needs or objections, as opposed to providing common solutions that you assume may fit.
For example, the words "frustrated," "satisfied," "affordable," reliable" and "quality" can be interpreted in a variety of ways and often carry different meanings for each individual. When you hear a customer make a comment like, "I want an affordable, quality job," use that as an opportunity to explore deeper into what she is really saying. Questions such as "What does affordable look like to you?" allow you to clarify what you've heard, or go more in depth into a topic so you can suggest a custom solution that's a perfect fit for the client.
Just the facts, pleaseMake each customer feel that he or she is truly being listened to and understood. Respond to what you heard during the conversation by using a clarifier. Rephrase, in your own words, what they said to ensure that you not only heard but also fully understood them. Then, confirm the next course of action.
By using this technique, you begin to eliminate the communication barriers and proceed to gaining the customers trust. Only when you have achieved that trust, can you begin to open the door to the sale.
Eliminating the common-sense trap will prevent you from making faulty assumptions that cause breakdowns in communication and act as a barrier to more sales.