I was recently training over lunch with a group of professionals who are all very successful in their careers. As we discussed the importance of asking good questions during your interview with the prospect, so you understand exactly what they are looking for before you present your recommendations, one of the men in the room looked as though a light just went off in his head, who brings in a lot of new business shared this story.
When asked to do a presentation to a Chinese buyer looking to do business in the east coast of the United States, the team of people at this company decided their strategy would be to emphasize their global presence. They worked on a very detailed and elaborate presentation. After presenting to a board of people who flew in from China, they later learned they were not being awarded the account. The reason: the Chinese buyer was looking for someone with a local understanding of the US East Coast market.
The company that lost the account has a very good understanding of the local U.S. market. However, they chose the wrong angle for their presentation. Why? They assumed they knew what the buyer was looking for, without asking first.
It is amazing to me how often this happens. Somewhere along the way, we are taught, either by our internal “training” which typically addresses the details of the product or services we sell and why we are better, or we have had a few clients, or maybe more then a few, that tell us one particular part of the product or service is the reason they went with you. Though it is important to understand your product or service in detail, the most important reason for that is to create really good questions to see if those same reasons you believe are important, they also agree. They may not.
The moral of the story: You need to know what questions you should be asking a prospect so you can customize your recommendations to their needs. Sometimes the best thing we have going for us is all of our experience and knowledge of our product and service. Often the worst thing we have going for us is all of the experience and knowledge we have with our product or service because we assume we know why people buy. Well, we all know what happens when we assume. There are a number of types of questions you should be asking to dig deeper into the real reason someone will work with you over the competition. Or you can spend a lot of time working on a presentation “hoping” you’ve made the correct assumptions. Which approach do you want to take?
Greta Schulz is president of Schulz Business SELLutions in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is the author of “To Sell is Not to Sell” and a columnist for business journals around the country. Greta does corporate training for fortune 1000 companies and she has an on-line training course for entrepreneurs. www.schulzbusiness.com
August 19, 2012 //
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