3 Pitfalls of Ineffective Selling
Tom Stimson
May 5, 2015

And What to Do About Them

Your sales team is not converting high-quality opportunities and you need to get to the bottom of it. If we know the symptom, we can diagnose the problem and apply the most effective counter-attack.

The most common symptoms of ineffective selling are 1. Customers buying on price, 2. Quoting drills, and 3. Not closing deals.

When customers insist on shopping on price, we know that this is partly from a lack a good value perspective but we also need to take into account customer insecurity. Our most effective response is to ask better questions, specifically to uncover the moment that price became important to the buyer. There is no substitute for thoughtful intuition in a sales representative, but developing some scripted questions can help less experienced reps delve into the buyer’s thought process. Without Thinking Questions, sales reps become order processors.

Sometimes the customer seems to want version after version of the proposal. This is a byproduct of an unqualified opportunity being allowed to move forward. Customers often use your proposals as a tool to better educate themselves on what you do, what their options are, and how choices affect pricing. Sellers need to preempt Quoting Drills with some polished examples of your work and sample budget ranges. Help the customer narrow down their preferences and budget range.

Perhaps the most frustrating symptom of all is failing to close the deal. Especially after multiple meetings, umpteen variations of the proposal, and far too much time and energy invested – not winning the project is a major let down. These kinds of failures often lead to more desperate selling and pricing plays on the next opportunity. Inability to close deals can generally be traced back to poor listening skills. Some salespersons take any positive response as a confirmation and fail to convert affirmation into signatures. Other reps simply miss the closing opportunity because they were not listening! They did not stay connected to what the customer is saying. Connective Listening will better identify the next step in the sales process. Sales reps must learn to stay in the conversation and not plan their next response until they have processed what was just said.

Great salespersons learn to balance Thinking Questions, Connective Listening, and Value-based Examples into the right solution for every customer – The Perfect Fit. When the customer wanders into the pricing zone, the rep knows to ask better questions. If the buyer is vague about needs, then the seller can share examples with pricing options to narrow down the choices. If the discussion doesn’t move towards confirmation, then smart sales reps adjust their listening. They recognize that they probably missed something important along the way.

About Tom Stimson
Tom Stimson MBA, CTS is an authority on business and strategy for small- to medium-sized companies. He is an expert on project-based selling and a thought leader for innovative business processes.
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