listening and salesYour sales pitch sucks. No, seriously. It does. Just the fact that you have a pitch sucks.

Before you get all defensive, let me explain.

In a typical sales process a sales rep finds a lead, they ask a few qualifying questions and they start the pitch.

The problem is that the sales rep does not know what the prospect actually cares about yet.

Have you ever listened to someone pitch you a service or product and they start talking about things that are of no interest to you at all? We have all been there. What do you hear when they are talking about features or benefits that are of no interest to you? “Blah, blah, blah.” You tune out the sales pitch and start thinking to yourself about what questions you can ask to get the conversation back onto a relevant path.

We have been taught over the years that sales is a one way process. Someone is interested in your product or service so you talk as fast as you can to cover all of the features and benefits, and then you hope they give you a buying sign to pounce on. The problem with this approach is that you have no idea what is important to the prospect. If you start to tell them about features and benefits before you know if they are interested in those feature and benefits then you run a huge risk of becoming a “blah, blah, blah” talking head.

The key to a great sales process is listening

Your job is to get to the bottom of what a prospect really needs. The only way to do that is by asking great open-ended questions that allow the prospect to talk and you to listen. A few of my favorite topics to ask a prospect about are: business history, how they make money, how the business has changed in the last year, who else they have worked with, their business goals, what internal resources they have, their target demographic, etc. These topics alone will fill up most of a sales call and should give you a great sense of whether or not your product/services would help them.

So does all of this mean you don’t pitch your prospects? No, of course not. It does mean your pitch needs to be customized to address the prospect’s specific needs. You can still focus on differentiators, but by the time you get to the presentation you should know what they need and if you have what it is they need. Frankly, if you do a good enough job listening, you might find they do not actually need you. That is huge! It saves you time and the prospect grief.

If you have done your job right, you should get through the survey of the prospect and be able to say, “Based on what you told me, I see a couple of options (explain the options a bit). Based on your specific needs of (insert what they told you here), I would recommend option #1. What do you think?” Now it is simply a matter of overcoming objections.

When you really listen and try to understand a prospect’s situation and needs, you are able to help them identify the perfect solution. That means you don’t have to give a pitch ever again. Now you can simply provide a solution to their problem as they see it.