May 152011

Selling: Six Mysteries of Selling Solved

Selling: Becoming more familiar with what’s going on in your prospects’ heads will explain some common mysteries of selling

Selling: Article, By Kevin Davis,| Thu, 03/31/2011

If you follow a sales process that does not match the steps of the customer buying process (change; discontent; research; compassion; fear; commitment; expectations; satisfaction), you end up making inadvertent mistakes. When you become more familiar with what is going on in the customer’s head at each step of their buying process, you will be able to explain some of the most common mysteries of selling, including:

  • Why so many of your telephone prospecting calls fall on deaf ears. Most salespeople include in their approach call a “benefit statement,” which is two or three generic customer benefits that attempt to create interest so the prospect agrees to an initial appointment. But the vast majority of prospects are either Change or Discontent steps when you call them. They may or may not be aware they have a problem, which means they are nowhere near having the kind of explicit need for a solution that would allow them to respond positively to your pitch. Describing benefits is a match for a customer’s state of mind much later in the buying process, in the Comparison step. In talking about benefits off the bat, you’re out of sync, steps ahead of your customer – and, unfortunately for you, buyers rarely skip steps.
  • Why customers ask you early on to give them a “ballpark” price. In the Needphase, buyers are trying to determine whether the discomfort they are feeling is a serious enough issue to warrant attention. They are asking, “Is this a big enough priority that we should explore purchasing a solution?” By asking you to give a ballpark estimate of the cost, they are looking for data that will enable them to compare cost versus benefit, and judge whether it’s worth going further with their purchasing decision. If the price seems reasonable compared to the seriousness of the problem, they are more likely to continue along the buying process. If it is expensive relative to the perceived impact, they may bring the process to a halt.
  • Why customers fail to recognize the full value of your solution and resort to pushing back on price. As salespeople, most of us have been trained to present our solution as soon as we have identified the customer’s needs. Trouble is, that usually occurs when the customer is in either the Discount or Research steps. That means we are discussing our features and options when the customer still only has a vague notion at best regarding the urgency of the need, let alone what an ideal solution would look like. Until they fully understand their needs – including the consequences of inaction– and they have a vivid mental picture of a solution, they are not in a position to appreciate the value of what you’re offering.
  • Why nothing happens after an initial meeting that seemingly went great.  Following an initial meeting, the person you met with typically reaches out to another decision maker and, you hope, effectively sells the other person on why their organization should further examine the issue. Yet few salespeople provide their prospects with sales tools (matched to where they are in the buying process) that they can use to persuade other decision makers that a need may exist. A sales brochure is not the answer here. You need to provide more persuasive tools for your prospect to sell others on your behalf.
  • Why customers go silent at the eleventh hour. It’s happened to every salesperson I know: they develop a good relationship with the client, focus on needs, develop a proposal, deliver a strong presentation, get positive signals from their supporters within the account… and then, just when they think the sale will go through, they suddenly can’t get the prospect to return their phone call. This happens because it’s rare for a buyer to go directly from comparing options to committing to one solution. Customers “go silent” because they are in the Fearstep, experiencing doubts and concerns about everything from making the purchase at all to what others may think of their choice. When you learn to anticipate fear and maintain communication, you can take action to prevent it from derailing your sale.
  • How competitors sneak in the back door. When salespeople present their product or service during the customer’s Research step, they arrive at what they consider “the close” at the precise point the customer begins his or her Comparison step by talking to other potential suppliers (the competition.) The salesperson’s sales process concludes and communication with the customer is lost, just when their competitors’ sales process is beginning. Not good.

Kevin Davis, author of “Slow Down, Sell Faster!: Understand Your Customer’s Buying Process and Maximize Your Sales,” is president of TopLine Leadership, Inc., a leading sales and sales management training company serving clients from diverse sectors. For more information about the book visit


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Tom McDonald,; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752

selling, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC