As a sales person, what could be better than when customers or prospects agree with you? You’ve had a great conversation and they agreed that you can help them solve their problem(s). Of course they did! Why? Because the conversation was so generic, you could have been speaking to anyone – make money, save money – what I call “generic speak.” People you call on may choose to keep certain things close to the vest, hesitant to divulge too much information too soon. Or, they may not be qualified to give you more specific information.
Customers and prospects can be cautious of providing you with details on what they are trying to accomplish, by when, how it affects their overall business KPIs, their top priorities, etc. The reasons are numerous, but in many cases, it has to do with the fact that they see you as a sales person who is only looking out for themselves – to make quota and make money. This makes sense since many salespeople have not built credibility with the people they are trying to help.
Your customers or prospects may tell you they want to reduce cost or increase their numbers of customers, or need faster reporting or a more efficient process. But why do you stop asking questions and just take that for face value? Now, as I stated above, you may not have earned the right to ask more specific questions when they provide you with this generic speak. Or, they may believe they’re giving up leverage if you knew all the specifics, which could make you charge more for your products and services. In any case, it’s your job as a sales person is to understand why they’re being so generic and willing to agree with you. Ask yourself these questions:
Are we at the right level for them to provide the data we need?
If not, then who should we be talking to?
Have we built up enough credibility to ask these questions?
If not, then what can we do to change it?
Are we forecasting a deal that continues to cascade quarter to quarter?
If yes, then who can we talk to and how can we change it?
The more generic speak you use, the more your customer will agree with you. It’s true that you may be one of the top performers who collaborates with their customer/prospect to ensure you’re on the same page, working together to build a business case. But, if you are asking to confirm generic information, then you’re making it very easy for them to say yes. And, easy for you to say you collaborated with them. But, it will not suit your end game.
Figure out the reason why you may be getting the generic speak from your customer/prospect. Then, try to figure out how to best gain the specifics you need to ensure your customer’s success – fully understanding their business goals (from what to what and by when) and their priorities. Not only will it help you to know if you’re working an opportunity that has legs, but you may be also helping out the key stakeholder get the budget they need by building a business case that helps executive management attain their specific priority business objectives. Remember, as a sales person, you sell all the time. However, your customers or prospects do not.
So, be careful with customers or prospects who agree with you too easily. Their generic speak may truly be that they are working a project and don’t really know or care how it links to executive management goals and priorities. Or, it may be a screen to keep you, the sales person, at bay. Which one is it? Get to the bottom of it.