Selling is like walking through a minefield. Take one wrong step, and your deal can blow up in your face. Great sales people know how to navigate this minefield and successfully move sales opportunities to closure.
While there are many reasons why a sales opportunity can fall apart, below are five common traps that can explain many lost deals. Stepping into any one of these traps can significantly reduce your odds of moving a deal forward and closing the sale.
Trap #1: You didn’t build a strong relationship with the buyer.
You are probably familiar with the saying, “People buy from people they like.” This is because a strong relationship increases the influence your influence with the buyer, resulting in the buyer being more open to your message, giving you access to key decision makers, and sharing sensitive information with you. That’s why you need to build a relationship with the buyer before talking about your product.
While you probably already have good relationships with your customers, you should always look for techniques you can use to build even better relationships with your customers. That means developing rapport, building trust, and demonstrating your expertise to the buyer.
Building rapport is only effective if you are authentic, not “canned.” Are you? Are you empathetic? A good listener? Building trust obviously takes time, but do you ask yourself before every call, “What one thing can I do to help build trust with this buyer?” Examples include being reliable, responsive, or objective.
Finally, when you demonstrate your expertise to a buyer, their confidence in you increases. How much attention are you giving to demonstrating your view of industry trends? Do you have a deep knowledge of the available solutions? Are you sharing how others have solved similar problems with your solution?
Trap #2: You didn’t qualify the buyer.
Not every buyer problem you identify translates into a qualified sales opportunity that you should pursue. Skilled sales professionals have qualification checklist where they quickly assess the quality of an opportunity. For example
- What is your timeline?
- What do you see as next steps?
- How does your organization make decisions like this?
- Have you established a budget for this?
Think about an opportunity that didn’t close. How well did you qualify it? What gaps did you have in your knowledge about the opportunity and how could you have better-prepared qualification questions in advance? How can better prepare for sales calls to fill these knowledge gaps?
Trap #3: You failed to uncover an important problem.
Problems and concerns are the basic forces which stimulate buyer needs. If a buyer is 100% happy with the existing situation, then there’s no need for change. However, unless you ask, it’s unlikely that the buyer will spontaneously talk about problems or concerns.
If you asked too few questions focused on uncovering problems, say three or less, there’s a real risk that the buyer won’t reveal all the potential areas of need. Likewise, if you pay too much attention to too few problems, you may miss important buyer concerns. You can avoid this by reviewing a call plan with your manager and asking, “Can you think of problems or concerns I am missing?” After a call, ask your manager if they feel if there are problem areas you didn’t uncover. If so, concentrate on increasing the number of questions you ask targeting problems in your next calls.
Sometimes the buyer may have a problem or concern but will deny it. The most common cause of denial lies in the seller’s questioning strategy. If you ask a buyer “Have you had problems with……. before?” as your first question, you will probably receive a denial. Having once said “No,” it’s difficult for the buyer to admit to problems later. This is one reason why building a strong relationship (see above) is necessary early, particularly on the first sales call. This behavior creates receptiveness on the part of the buyer to share information with you.
Trap #4: You didn’t explore the impact of the problem with the buyer.
Simply identifying a problem isn’t enough. Buyers need significant motivation to even think about changing. As a sales professional, that means you need to help the Buyer quantify the extent of the problem and realize that the problem may impact different areas of the buyer’s business. For example, ask your buyers “How does that impact…? “What will happen if that continues?” Or, “What would be the impact of not achieving these goals?”
These are powerful questions because they help a buyer acknowledge the seriousness of problems. When buyers discover consequences on their own, they are much more likely to act than if they are being sold to by the sales professional.
Just as important as helping the buyer explore the impact of leaving a problem unsolved is discussing with the buyer the benefits of addressing the problem. That means asking questions such as “What would it mean to your bottom line?” Or, “Why is it important to solve this problem?” This helps your buyer develop arguments that he or she will use to sell your solution to the key decision maker internally.
In future calls, pay attention to asking questions that help the buyer explore the consequences – both negative and positive- of each problem identified.
Trap #5: You failed to connect your products and services to the buyer’s needs.
Assuming that the buyer has a problem they want to be solved, did you clearly connect your product or service to the buyer’s need? Often, sellers fail to do this because they lack application knowledge. You don’t see how your product or service can be applied to solving buyer difficulties. Always try to think of what you’re offering, regarding the problems it solves and the needs it meets, rather than regarding a list of features. Alternatively, it may be that the buyer simply doesn’t understand the benefits of your solution. Remember that buyers frequently fail to recognize benefits unless you are unambiguous and clear. That means avoiding jargon and explicitly linking your solution to the buyer’s stated need.
One common thread in avoiding these common sales traps is preparation. By properly planning for each call, including developing your questions in advance, you can avoid falling into these traps, and be in a better position to close the deal.