You’d think that for a salesperson, talking a lot about their product would be the best way to win a deal. After all, how can prospects decide to buy (or not) unless they know what they’re paying for?

Yet one of sales’ biggest ironies is that the more you talk about your product, the less likely you are to actually sell it. While speaking with your prospects is absolutely necessary to close sales, it’s all too easy to slip from talking to them into talking at them. The five signs below are easy-to-spot indicators that it’s time to let your prospect take center stage.

1) You talk for more than half of each conversation.

In general, listening is more valuable to salespeople than talking. It’s the best, and in the early stages of a sales conversation, the only way to assess your prospect’s business pain, whether they’re being truthful, and their level of proficiency in implementing your product.

And listening early on sets the stage for the rest of your sales process. Don’t know what your prospect’s business strengths and weaknesses are because you never asked? You won’t be able to sell to their strengths or bridge the gap in weaker areas.

Can’t assess whether your prospect’s telling you the truth because you haven’t heard them speak enough to understand their voice tone? You won’t be able to distinguish between true blockers and brush-off objections.

Haven’t fully grasped the root causes of your prospect’s business pain? You won’t be able to position your product in a way that gets to the heart of a solution.

If you’re sensing a trend here, you’re right. Not listening enough severely limits your ability to sell successfully. It’s like trying to score a goal without knowing which team you play for.

2) You’re telling more than asking.

But it’s not just how much you talk, but also what you say that’s important. It’s crucial to get your prospect talking as much as possible so you’re familiar with their personalities and problems. And this is hard to do if you’re not asking questions.

Of course, eventually you’ll have to talk more than you ask. Once you get a clear sense of the problem your prospect is trying to solve and their priorities, you’ll take the reins. But before that point, err on the side of asking more than you tell.

Dive deep into areas that are important for your prospect and make sure to clarify anything you don’t understand. This style lends itself to a slower sales process than showing up with a pitch ready, but you’ll set yourself up for success in the long run by building a foundational understanding of your prospect from day one.

3) Your prospect isn’t engaging with you.

You (hopefully) wouldn’t continue to send email after email after email to a prospect who’d never opened or responded to a single message. And that principle applies to conversations as well.

If your prospect’s gone quiet, there’s a reason. Maybe they’re confused. Maybe you started talking about something completely irrelevant to their situation. Maybe you’re just not leaving them any opportunity to respond or ask questions.

Make a habit of pausing every few minutes to ask your prospect if they understand or simply give them an opening to speak. Taking your prospect’s temperature every so often is invaluable to making sales conversations helpful for them, and ultimately boosts your chances of closing the deal.

4) Your statements could apply to any prospect.

Q: Why are conversations about the weather so boring to us?

A: Because they’re impersonal and could happen between any two random people.

If you find that you’re making generic statements and struggling to resonate, it’s because you haven’t done enough discovery. Gut check yourself by listening to call recordings or reviewing meetings while they’re still fresh in your mind. Did the insights you shared apply specifically to your prospect’s situation, or were they overly high-level and universally true?

If it's the latter, dig deeper. While many of your sales conversations will run along the same lines, the nuances and minutia of every situation will vary. If you can’t get right to the heart of your prospect’s concerns, take a beat to circle back to discovery.

5) You can’t define your prospect’s problem.

Another way to check whether your sales conversations are productive for your prospect is to quiz yourself. Can you explain the deal to someone else on your team?

To test his understanding of a prospect’s problems, Dan Tyre, a sales director at HubSpot, tries to define three reasons his prospects would buy, three reasons his prospects would balk, and what the next step should be. If he can’t, he knows he needs to get on another call with his prospect to further understand what they want and discuss how to move forward in a mutually productive way.

Every word you say during a sales process is important. Every conversation you have is an opportunity to drive the process forward or derail it. With this in mind, it’s crucial to make sure these conversations count. 

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Originally published Dec 9, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017


Sales Communication