That morning Bill woke up with laryngitis. “Great,” he croaked at the mirror, “the big sale is today, and I sound horrible.” Stopping off at the pharmacy on the way in for some lozenges, he found his voice in even worse shape. While he could talk, it was just barely above a whisper and for not more than a few sentences.
The other salespeople, once they discovered Bill was silenced for once, thought it quite funny. In the past, Bill was known for loud and long sales talks. Now they all wondered how long it would be before he decided to pack it in for the day.
After blowing off the first two prospects, Bill decided that trying to talk as if his voice were intact wouldn’t work. Besides his throat feeling like a combination of coarse sandpaper and a fresh burn, the painful sound of his voice was enough to drive away even the most dedicated buyer.
What the heck, he thought, I’ve got nothing to lose. When I approach a prospect, I’ll whisper that I’ve lost my voice and that she should ask me questions. I’ll jot the answers down. Who knows?
At the close of business that day, Bill was not the top producing salesperson. But, to be straightforward, Bill had never been the top producing salesperson. What he had accomplished, though, was nothing short of remarkable; he had beaten his previous best day’s sales total by 112%.
Bill made the sales because he physically could not speak more than a few sentences. As a result of his not being able to “commandeer” the sales situation, the prospect had the time to make her own decision. In this case, the sales were made by the prospects.
Perhaps Bill lost his voice because he spends so much time talking the prospects into occasionally doing something. Would it be more productive to talk less, and as a result, see more prospects?
Bill may well be using the “talk-’em-into-signing” method of sales because this is all he knows. As a result of his illness, he may have discovered another, more effective method.
This is not to suggest that salespeople become mute and resort to writing down the answers to questions. But it does suggest the possibility that there is virtue in not trying to talk the prospect into the sale.
Prospects and on-going customers do not care to be on the receiving end of a one-sided conversation. While the salesperson may know a great deal about a product, what the salesperson knows may not be the reason why a prospect buys.
The only method a salesperson can use to talk less is to ask more questions. As a result of asking questions, the prospect does most of the talking. Initially, unless a salesperson is used to asking questions, this is difficult. Most salespeople’s questions are those which lead the salesperson into launching a one-sided conversation.
Instead of asking for yes, no, or one-worded answers, ask questions that give the prospect a chance to talk.
Instead of “What can I help you with today?”, ask “I appreciate you stopping in . . . whatever brought you down today?” And, regardless of what is said in response, turn it into a question.
Instead of “What price range are you looking for?”, ask “Suppose I had what you needed to solve the problem but at more than what you could see spending . . . how could I help you?” This one is tough to say, but it’s amazing the results you will get.
Prospects want to make decisions — the more you talk, the less chance they have to make one.
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