Buyers will only listen if they think they need your help

Let’s say you can clearly see that a customer is missing a trick in category. There is a gap in their range for a product that has shown huge incremental category sales where you have introduced it in other customers, say. It’s an open goal, a ‘no brainier’, yet still your buyer is not listening. Often the answer is in the buyer’s mindset and this is the secret of how hard you need to try with the front end of your sell.

Looking at the same actual customer data, some buyers would perceive a good performance while others would see a threat or missed opportunity. This is their mindset towards their own business.

We know the first step of selling is to understand what the customer needs. Account managers often conduct a performance review at the front end of the selling presentation, which usually loses its way. Some wishy-washy sales trainer has perhaps given them the impression that this review is just a backdrop to ask some fluffy questions.

Even if there is a punchline to the review, all too often I see 20 pages of information leading to the unveiling of a performance opportunity that the buyer already knew. It’s dull, it’s boring, and you are wasting time that would be better spent discussing your ideas. Focus!The purpose of the review is to make the buyer recognise and need the opportunity you are revealing.

So how much content should this opening review contain? It’s vitally important to gauge the mindset of the buyer. If they are confident they are already doing really well and don’t feel they need any help, then you need to use a concise comparative performance review to demonstrate how their performance could be even better – not too long, one or two pages should be enough.

Often, though, they already know they could be doing better or need to work hard to stay ahead. In this case your ‘look what a lot I know’ review is a pure irritation. Just remind them of the size of the opportunity, get a nod and move on to the ideas you propose – a much more fruitful discussion.

Remember that, once engaged, they just want to know what they have to do and how much they will generate if they do it.

Sentinel Management Consultants deliver sales, negotiation, planning and finance training courses for our clients worldwide.