Friday, May 18, 2012

How Winning Sales Arguments Lose Sales

Traditionally, sellers walk into the prospect with a presentation listing the many reasons their product should be bought. They present their case to the prospect, giving arguments and evidence much like a lawyer in a courtroom. They then listen to the opposing case (the objections from the prospect) and rebut them as best they can. The whole process becomes about winning a courtroom debate with the prospect. Sound familiar?

Now, in my limited experience in a courtroom, there are basically three parties involved in a typical case: the judge, who hands down a decision based on the merits of the arguments which are presented by the other two people, the plaintiff and the defendant. What’s different about selling is that the “judge,” or prospect, also happens to be the “opposing attorney!” He’s responsible not only for making a decision, but for arguing against it. Not that he can’t be objective, but the odds aren’t with you. That’s one reason closing ratios are typically so low for many salespeople.

But losing the case—or getting a “no” from the prospect—isn’t the toughest part. It’s the fact that once this “judge” hands down the decision, it’s pretty final. There’s not really any appeal in traditional sales and it’s pretty hard to come up with a new case and get back into the courtroom with it. You usually give all your best reasons to buy during the first presentation. To get a second chance to pitch your product, you have to first overcome the prospect’s attitude that he’s “heard it all before.” You have to offer something new to get back in the door.

When you sell ideas (solutions to the prospect's needs), though, you’ve always got a reason for the prospect to see you again—because you can always come up with a new idea. Remember that an idea isn’t a product—it’s a use, a solution to a discovered need. So, as long as you can come up with different ideas, you’ll be able to get back in to see the prospect with them. You’re not coming back to make the same old pitch; you’re offering something new.

Of course, part of your presentation includes the reasons your product will satisfy the prospect’s needs. You do need to make your arguments. But if you structure your presentation the way I suggest, the prospect will focus on the desirability of your idea instead of on the reasons for buying your product or service. Your “arguments” will go unanswered. And you’ll have the opportunity to present them again as you come back over and over again with new ideas. Same arguments every time, just new ideas to get you in the door.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

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