Do you only hear what you want to hear? Beware that you may have “happy” ears! Every sales person has “things in their bag” that they can sell. Do you try to pitch your stuff and then find a problem it fits into? Or, are you trying to understand executives’ priority business outcomes before figuring out which products or services you can sell them? In either case, you may only hear what you want to hear, regardless of the approach you take.
When you pitch your stuff and then try to find a problem it fits into, you tend to listen for key words. When you hear those key words, you jump all over it. Sound familiar? Then you get your best and brightest internal resources coordinated and get that demo scheduled immediately. You may have done some level of discovery but, in most cases, you have not done enough. But the good news is, the prospect said some of your key words that triggered some clue that they may need your products and services. So like a good sales person, you are all over it. Why? Who the heck knows.
The problem is, many sales people don’t pay heed that they may be talking to a prospect who has a problem they can solve but has no authority to purchase because this person: (a) has no budget, (b) does not need it now, (c) wants to see what you have so they can use you as column fodder for their upcoming purchase with a competitor or their internal build, or… gosh, so many reasons.
In the end, you only hear what you want to hear. And when you do, you spend a lot of time and effort going absolutely nowhere. If you had asked some of the tougher questions, you maybe could have identified some of these issues earlier on and saved time. But it is tough when you are proverbially throwing stuff on the wall and hoping something sticks.
Most top performers sell top down. And when they take the time to understand executives’ priority business outcomes and then figure out which products or services they can sell them, they still may have a tendency of only hearing what they want to hear. The good news is, they are spending time talking to executives and other key stakeholders to understand their business goals, strategies and priority initiatives. But are they doing so by listening and seeing things through their lens or the customer’s lens?
If sales people see through their own lens and not the customer’s, then their business goals, strategies and priority initiatives are mainly about them. In many cases, you only hear what you want to hear and have trained your customers to only talk to you about things you care about. But, what if you asked executives questions about what they are trying to achieve from their point of view?
If you listen intently and are insanely curious, you should be extracting and confirming your customer’s two- to three-year plan. Then you should be collaborating on how your products and services can help them achieve their business goals. You may find out that: (a) over that time period, your products and services cannot help them attain their business goals, (b) they will not even consider going with you due to concerns of implementation risk, and/or (c) you can solve a part of a priority initiative but there are other products and services that have to be implemented before yours… and so on.
Whether you sell bottom up or top down, ask the tough questions up front to help you qualify in or out early. Be aware that if you only hear what you want to hear, you may spend way too much time on deals that will cascade quarter to quarter on your sales forecast. Or worse yet, they will never actually close.