331 Be Very Careful With Your Chitchat When Selling
Manage episode 356598352 series 2952524
We salespeople love to talk. We are enthusiastic about our differentiation, our solution, our features, the benefits and a myriad other remarkable things about what we sell. Many salespeople have never moved out of first gear and are stuck there just telling the buyer all about their widget. The more advanced salespeople are asking questions and trying to become the trusted advisor, helping the client grow their business. Regardless, one of the biggest failings of salespeople and I definitely include myself here, is that we talk too much. We want to connect with the buyer, to build the rapport, the trust and so we do that by talking, talking, talking.
If you ever realise that the only sound in the room or online is your voice, then you are talking too much. This happens to me still. I get on a roll and away I go, all enthusiasm and belief and then it clicks – wait a minute – I am doing all the talking! It is time to ask a question, shut up and let the buyer do the talking. We know what we know, but we need to know a lot more about the client and their business and the only way that will happen is if we let them talk.
When we first meet the client we are not sure of each other. They are wondering if this meeting is a waste of time or not. We are wondering if we have what they need. Usually in Japan, the meetings start with some light conversation before we get into the meat of the discussion. If we are a bit nervous about this meeting then we can easily find ourselves talking too much and too fast. The early stage of the meeting is a chance for both sides to get to know each other and it shouldn’t be a one way conversation.
By letting them talk we pick up hints as to what type of person they are. I had a funny experience with the foreign president of a large well known global manufacturer here. I arrived early for the meeting, as you do in Japan, was shown into a large conference room and was patiently sitting there waiting for the president to arrive for the meeting. As he slipped effortlessly into his chair, he dexterously skimmed his business card across the table, like he was dealing me a poker hand. That was a hint. He was obviously brand new here and hadn‘t picked up anything about Japanese business culture as yet. I started with an effort to engage him in some very light small talk, to get to know him. He stopped me after about ten seconds of this and said “let’s get down to business”. I concluded he was a “time is money” Driver personality type and that I could be very direct with him and make suggestions which would be best for the firm.
Normally though, we conduct aimless conversations at the start of typical Japanese business meetings. This is fine because both sides are feeling each other out and the key is to make sure that this isn’t one-way traffic and that we are giving them plenty of chances to talk from their side. This sounds easy, but the temptation is to often project ourselves too strongly, trying to create a powerful, professional image with the buyer. The key is go in bursts and if you find your burst in getting too long, then switch the focus to them and off yourself. Some classic questions directed toward the buyer will be “How long have you been in this role”, “Are you originally from Tokyo?”, “Are most of the team back in the office now or still working remotely?”. The main course will kick off soon enough, but we need to get them talking, so the question content and answers aren’t that important at this stage. We can then bridge from these simple conversations into the needs of the firm and where they are heading in the business.
The other time we should be very careful is at the end of the sales process, when we are getting to agreement on the solution and what we can do to help. Often we don’t know when enough is enough and we keep layering on information to really nail down the sale. They have agreed and actually the best advice is to shut up about the solution and start talking about the next steps to get the execution piece underway. However, we can often start adding things which pop into our head at this point, to try and reinforce their buy decision. These contributions usually don’t add much value and in fact may snag the sale entirely. Too little information is bad, but too much information is also bad. We need to tell them enough to get agreement and not one skerrick more. We may inadvertently flag some issue which hasn't been an issue until we foolishly raised it.
It is a good thing to assure them that they have made a wise choice and to try and avoid any “buyer’s remorse” but be careful about how much we say. Just broad brush comments are fine, such as, “I am sure that this new solution will make a real difference for the organisation and we are here to do the follow-up to make sure it works for you”. That is enough, without getting into any more detail about the spec or the features etc. Avoid “overselling” where we keep piling on the value after the sale has been agreed. I know it is so tempting to add more, but let’s restrain ourselves. They have said “yes”, so we can move to the follow-up components and focus the conversation on those next steps. This is much safer and the buyer will be happy to be hearing about the concrete stages to come, so that they can organise things from their side.
If you find yourself blathering away and adding no value to the proposition then reset. Stop over-selling and drop the chitchat. We want to pivot into the delivery part of the cycle and we should only talk about that. It requires discipline, because we love to talk and we love our solution and before you know it we are off again. Try very hard to make sure that after the agreement they are doing more of the talking than us and keep the balance there. We will get ourselves into a lot less trouble if we do that.