Are You Talking Your Way Out of a Sale?

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Entrepreneur.com
Tuesday, April 27, 2010; 12:00 AM

What's the best way to answer the question, "So, tell us a little bit about your company?"

If you're like most salespeople, you view this as a sincere invitation to rattle off all those key points you've rehearsed, all those selling points and value propositions you've developed, tweaked and improved with each pitch.

But when customers ask that question, they are not, in fact, all that interested in hearing about you. It's not that they're lying to you, their intentions are good. The problem is they never went to buying school, and frankly they just don't know what else to ask you.

Unfortunately, they use the words "tell us about yourself"--and we hear it literally. They're not interested in your story--they want to hear about their story. This is often the fork in the road that can send you down the path of literally talking your way out of the sale.

How do you make your story their story?First, if the client asks you to tell them about yourself, you shouldn't embarrass them by refusing to do so. But you can quickly turn the conversation back to them. And once they start talking about themselves you have an opening to weave your story lines into theirs.

You may recognize this as a form of samples selling. Product salespeople know it well--instead of talking about the product's features,give the customer a sample.If you're selling cars, offer a test drive, if you're selling ice cream, hand out little wooden spoons.

The way you do samples selling in complex, intangible services is to actively engage the client in a discussion about their situation. Now, in the context of their situation, you can demonstrate your capabilities in a meaningful and relevant way.

You don't want to be a name-dropper or a show off (that's just annoying), but if you're having a serious conversation with the customer you'll easily find places to say things like:

"Ah yes, that's just what Intel did in a similar situation,""So, doesn't that leave you with just choice a and choice b?"Most of the time, that ratio is less than half, isn't it?""The majority of my clients choose to do X rather than Y; which way did you go on that issue?""Have you everthought of outsourcingthat process?"

Think of selling this way as showing, not telling. You are actively engaged in showing the customer how you fit into their story--and you're helping them tell that story going forward.

Let your competitors sell by telling their story. It won't work very well because the only story the clients are interested in is their own. You be the one to work your way into their story. Work your way into their story--don't talk your way out of it a sale.

Charles H. Green is the founder ofTrusted Advisor Associatesand a speaker and executive educator on the role of trust in professional services. He's taught executive education programs at Kellogg and Columbia Business Schools. Author ofTrust-Based Selling, and co-author of The Trusted Advisor, Charles has written for the Harvard Business Review, American Lawyer and the CPA Journal. He blogs athttp://www.trustedadvisor.com/blog.


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